Sometimes the matter looms large and obvious but more often there is just a lack of attention to the things that spring up brand new and shatter the comforting assumptions of life.
In Alabama, a 40-something woman biology professor is in custody and accused of fatally shooting three fellow academics and wounding three others, apparently because she was denied tenure.
Academia is not rife with incidents in which people "go postal" so to speak. It is a world of semi-colons and patches on jacket sleeves. It is overtly sane and civil, although anyone entering the groves of academe knows that sanity and civility can be sorely tested and is often poorly faked. There may be menstrual cycles, but academia is not a world accustomed to flowing blood.
And outside the academic arena, women are generally under-represented in the going-postal world in which violence erupts from some great anguish.
So, in Alabama, perhaps two bubbles of assumption and contentment were popped: An unexpected explosion of violence and a woman as perpetrator. Safe assumptions and presumptions were shattered and the mind was forced to surrender, to grow wider, to tear down old walls ... and, of course, create new ones -- new ones that would once again create a sense of safety and identity and meaning: Academia was not immune to violent bloodshed and women too were capable of being armed and dangerous.
Alabama shattered the mold, for those who were involved and those who might be interested.
But isn't it the same in every moment? -- Life, that deranged gunman or gunwoman, pops up and rearranges the mind's careful and barely-heeded assumptions. Bingo! -- everything is new, everything challenges what went before. Inattention suggests that the toothbrush we used yesterday is the same one we use today, but is it true? Inattention suggests that the love we felt yesterday is the same love we feel today. But is it true? Inattention suggests ... well, we process without much attention and move on ... until our attention is arrested in some sharp way, maybe delightful, maybe horrific.
Constantly rearranging, constantly rebuilding, constantly revamping, constantly finding whatever haven feels safest, sanest, and least open to some deranged shooter. But the shooter always arrives ... now and now and now and now ... until our Kevlar vests are pretty beat up.
It is worth it, I think, to pay attention to our habits of safety and the recognition that there is no safety. There is no safety because ("because," the mortar between the bricks in the safe havens we construct) the ego, that sense of self we long to preserve and protect ... well, where is it? Who is protecting what when the gunman or gunwoman rides into town, loaded for bear; the gunman or gunwoman that no thinking or emoting can parry or evade; the gunman or gunwoman who is after you and there is no escape; the gunman or gunwoman who is never missing, however much we may choose to ignore him/her; the gunman or gunwoman of this moment; the gunman or gunwoman who operates on a shoot-to-kill order?
In Alabama, the situation is loud as a gun shot.
But we ignore at our peril the gun going off next to our ear ... right now.