Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"No better demonstration of the folly of human conceits"

NOTE: This is cross-posted; it also appears on BlogOfOtt.

Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all of those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.


I started reading Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot on Saturday night; the book is inspired by photo of Earth taken by Voyager 1 in 1990. I took a break from reading a short time later, and I saw my ex-husband's Facebook status update about gunfire not too far from the house. Matthew was with him that night. Sunday morning, the media were ablaze with stories of mayhem on the 1100 block of East State Street, three blocks from Glen and Matty. I've spent way too much time, wasted too much breath trying to defend the city. I've said things like, "I've never felt unsafe," and "It's usually criminal-on-criminal crime," as if that makes it more palatable. And occasionally, the innocent are victims, and Saturday night's insanity seems to have claimed some unintended lives.

It was nearly 10 years ago that I moved back to the city with Glen, full of hope. But over time, that hope was eroded, replaced by rage and annoyance and stress. I had, on one hand, a deep sympathy for the knuckleheads who were ruining their own lives. I understand the dysfunctional cycles that brought them to that point. And on the other hand, all of those negative emotions I experienced were because of them. I hated them. I still hate them. Yep, I understand why their stories unfolded the way they did, and I also cannot fully grasp how so many of the neighborhood kids could allow their lives to become so meaningless. We live in such a wonderful age, at least partially because we can hold the universe in the palm of our hands, in the form of a smart phone. I know that they know that there is more to life. We all know that there are better opportunities out there. They choose to deal drugs anyway. They choose to fight over a filthy, crumbling patch of asphalt. But, they were babies once, full of promise and potential. The stupidity is maddening. The tragedy is gut-wrenching. Or at least it should be.

Maybe I have no right to say anything, from my little apartment in Yardville. But there are people I care about in Trenton, especially my own son, not yet 5 years old, who spends most weekends there. There is no salvation in the leadership, local or state, and the rest of the universe, for the most part, doesn't give a crap. Something has to change, and it has to come from the streets.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.