A couple of weeks ago I started a post on Facebook, asking people to give me some possible blog topics.
The responses ranged from unicorns to the national debt to murder. In fact, the friend of mine who suggested murder simply wrote it. Murder. There in the list of other serious and funny suggestions.
Don’t know why it stood out, but it did. So this will be a post about murder. Macabre, I know, but let’s see how it goes.
It’s not going to be a post about guns…or video games…or certain countries and their propensities for violence.
No, this post is going to try and speak to the core of ourselves, our purpose and why murder is so damned destructive.
As many of you know (or don’t), I’m a Christian guy. My thinking springs from this background and heritage, both the good and the bad, and the ongoing story of humanity as one of love and reconciliation between God and man. I believe in truth, justice and love.
As it is, I believe that a higher power that created us. I believe we are created beings…attach millions, hundred thousands, thousands of years to that overall process–let’s not get into that here. But there’s the persistent idea for me that we are created beings.
The Hebrew and Christian scriptures talk about how we were created in God’s image. This is a topic of great discussion and is the basis for much of the urgings for us to treat others with respect and kindness. As we are each cast in the image of the creator, we should strive to respect and defend the lives of others. But being an image of God is not just physical, it speaks to who we are and how we are made up.
We were born with the biological ability to create. We can make more. We can add to the world. In fact, we were asked to do this. We were asked to participate in the ongoing creation of Creation. We can fill the Earth with others like ourselves. We are created beings who can create.
This yearning to create doesn’t stop with procreation. What separates us from nearly all animals is our ability to create other things as well. We can make tools like some other animals, sure, but also sonnets, poetry, buildings, statues, canvases. We celebrate artists and musicians, architects and builders–men and women who create and carve and sculpt. We are created beings, made in the image of the creator, who want to create.
But the world has evil, which corrupts and detracts from the goodness that is there. We can see it in the earliest examples of family. The first brothers, Cain and Abel, killed each other. The first family was dysfunctional. The very first. Killing and violence has been with us from nearly the beginning.
Killing itself is deconstruction. It is the ending of life. It is the termination of the ongoing creative process of the cells, thoughts and experiences of an organism. Killing is a violent and disruptive act.
However, murder is worse. It is the insidious evil intent that drives a thought-filled being to willfully conduct violence to end another’s life.
It is the opposite reason we were made. It is more than an act. Murder is the willful rejection of every purpose set in our hearts by God. It is a fusing of our minds and souls with violent hate–the most “unnatural” of mindsets. Remember, we were made in love, our souls forged from the wellspring of Godly love. We were carried and birthed into the world with great pain and sacrifice by our mothers. In living out our purpose, we create.
No wonder war is so damaging to the psyche. No wonder it fractures and ravages the mind. Have you ever thought about it?
It is because in order to conduct war (unfortunately necessary as it might be), those who would throw themselves into the maw of violence must steel themselves and kill off portions of their heart. Those who serve in uniform must take the natural divinely inspired respectful regard for other humans and replace it with an non-human image of those people.
In examining battle reports after WWII, it was discovered that roughly half of soldiers involved in combat never fired their rifles. They trained by shooting at circle targets, but when faced with the image of another human, they froze. They couldn’t bring themselves to kill. As a response, human-shaped silhouettes were later used, desensitizing soldiers to the idea of shooting someone in their (and God’s) image.
We talk about “them” in hateful terms. We stir anger and hatred in our hearts, cultivate it, nurture it, spread it. After a while, we are less uncomfortable with killing others.
In the end you have those “rough men who stand ready to do violence on their behalf” as George Orwell said. And we celebrate those men and women for their sacrifice to safeguard us all. But it sheds some light as to why so many are haunted by what they’ve experienced. Coping with this season of violence and death is, at its core, the antithesis for how we were created to live. It is why these men and women need our support even as they leave those chapters of their lives behind.
However, this process of becoming more comfortable with the destruction of others is not just something that happens in war or by deranged lunatics in our midst. This process of degrading someone’s humanity can happen within us every day.
From pangs of hate cultivated through our conversations come racism, oppression…anything that allows us to greet our brothers and sisters not with compassion and respect, but with disdain.
“They” are good for nothing. “They” take our jobs. “They” don’t believe what I believe. “They” do things that I don’t like.
Never mind God loves “them.” Every one of them. Never mind that, right?
We can choose to either build others up or, through malicious talk, work toward the end goal of reducing another person to a non-human. People often say “you shouldn’t use bad words…it’s in the Bible.” Sort of. The admonition against saying words in anger to curse (and thus make worthless) other humans is in the Bible. Those curses and angry words usually involve profane words. However the spirit behind this command is not to keep us from saying naughty words. It is the urging for us to not tear each other down in what we say–to not degrade the humanity of others by de-valuing them.
In small ways every day, we move away from the ideals of compassion and toward murderous intent. We may not think we’re cultivating murderous intent, but the movements are subtle.
Instead of rushing to the aid of those hurting, we grow complacent to let them suffer. Eventually we say we’d be better off without them. And if someone shipped them off…or shot them, that’d be fine too for all we’re concerned.
I think we can choose to see people as people. Bums, immigrants, people of other faiths, of other orientations. They are people. They are created in the image of God to create. They are loved.
Truth should not be compromised. And neither should love.
Don’t cultivate murderous intent, no matter how small.
People can be so mean.
Seriously. People can really go out of their way to fuss, cuss and generally put others “in their place.” I think maybe we’re in love with being that person in the movie who shouts down the antagonist or sits in comfortable smugness after telling off someone who was clearly wrong. I think we are programmed where any infringement on the sovereign territory of “our calm” should be met with a jolt of anger, hatred and meanness. Mess up my coffee order and I break your face. Ask me for something and I roll my eyes, laugh about you to my coworkers and not care if you hear me or not.
The meanness can show itself in many subtle forms. It can be a curt email. It can be several audible sighs during presentations. It can be in a condescending attitude over the phone. There are glares, frowns, head shakes or snide comments…all sorts of stuff.
The thing is it’s not necessary. Now, I’m saying this as a man who has endured a few infuriating customer service situations and a couple of bummer circumstances with military SNAFUS. Meaning I’ve had a lot of opportunities to fill up with righteous indignation. Many of my friends have looked at how calm I attempt to remain during these trying times and say, “You’re a better man than I.”
And while I appreciate that they are indirectly saying I need to get angry more often, I persist that a calm response is the wiser approach in situations.
I mean, seriously. Srsly. It takes as much effort to engineer a jerk thing to say as it does to let things go. It takes as much time (sometimes more) to chew out and curse than it does to say “thanks” and move on. What do we get out of one of these tirades? Satisfaction? Some sort of revenge? Fulfilment? Is there some committee out there silently keeping score? Does it get us a better job? Does it give us more friends?
When I was working retail and jobs in the service industry, I had a few doozies when it came to angry customers. Hell, as an Army journalist, I’ve been chewed out by every rank from E1 to O6 (parents of high school athletes are the most vitriolic). Every once in a while the situation was because of something I did, but most of the time the person was raging against circumstances completely out of my control.
When the angry customer was done telling me I’d never amount to anything and that I was an oxygen thief, that I had ruined Thanksgiving (actual story) or whatever else they had pent-up, I went about my day. I still had other customers to get to or other stories to write. I don’t know what the angry person thought would happen—maybe that I would collapse and weep, maybe that I would burst into flames. Who knows. After each tantrum, I would say my obligatory apologies and go about my life.
The Kingdom of God was still intact. I still had however-many credits toward a degree. My mom still loved me. I was good.
And, on the giving end of such an exchange, the few times I have blown my top and called down columns of fire from heaven to swallow up my bookstore-cashier-adversary, what have I really accomplished? I’ve satisfied some twisted prideful need, but I’m not any better of a person. Other than a few times with bullies in school, it’s not like rage or anger ever protected me or made me into a better person.
So when my coworker talks about how evasive, mean and terse a colleague is over the phone—how a simple “can you send me XYZ?” turns into a back and forth exchange where my coworker has to defend how and why her boss wants XYZ from our colleague’s boss—I shake my head. Why does it have to be so difficult? Why do we, the normal people—not prime ministers, not executives, not kings/queens, princesses nor princes—but people who aren’t bound by national consequence and are free to live and love as freely as the birds—why are we so mean?
Call me too patient all you want, but that’s not really an insult. I’m immovable in my self identity. I’m damn proud of where God has put me after 29 years. He’s even seen fit to bless me a bit—give me a job, a good clutch of friends. If I don’t see fit to erupt into a fit of rage at the Blockbuster guy, maybe it’s because not only would anger not resolve anything, but maybe it’s because I’m more of a guy who thinks the world could do with less meanness.