Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"violence is the solution..."

Last night, before bed, my 19-year-old son and I were floating down a river of conversation. I love talking with my kids, not least because they challenge my settled opinions and conclusions. The challenge is not always deliberate -- not loud-mouth, fuck-you rebellious. More often, what shakes the cobwebs from my rafters is a casual bit of thought that may strike me as utterly mistaken, but forces me to review ... what if this point of view were somehow correct and apt and nourishing and true? Seriously.

"'Violence is the solution to everything,'" my son approvingly quoted a drill sergeant who was part of the military-basic-training tableau that formed the single most compelling bit of experience in his recent life.

Beneath the cobwebs, I could feel the knee-jerk conclusions struggling to get out and assert themselves in forceful, self-important, philosophically-sound, old-fart certainty. I had a thousand responses on the tip of my cobwebbed tongue, a thousand thrones I might climb into and from which I could orate. But the fact was that I didn't want my son to agree with me any more than I wanted him to agree with the drill sergeant. What I really wanted was my son to agree with himself.

"Violence is the solution to everything."

My mind stammered and stuttered and considered claiming the authoritative, parental high seat.

And then my tongue came to my rescue, saying only, "Imagine what the world would be like if everyone agreed with you."

I could see the flicker in my son's eyes ... hadn't thought of that. He is a good-natured person, kind and perhaps a bit confused by his own kindness. Like any teenager (or adult either, I suppose), he is searching keenly for the "always" and "never" answers that will still the waters of life, the waters of "sometimes." It's a confusing search, as anyone who has been a teenager can attest. In later life, the questions dim as the cobwebs collect... cobwebs like mine ... cobwebs that rest on a wider experience and claim the role of "answers" to questions that never really got answered ... the chasms across which cobwebs were constructed as a means of outwitting some nameless abyss.

I like talking to my kids because they blow out my cobwebs ... or anyway some of them.

"Violence is the solution to everything."

The abyss.

An abyss inspiring my cobwebbed virtue to raise its righteous head. God knows I can put up a virtuous fight. But when has virtue ever been an empirical improvement on honesty? Instead of saying no-no-no to what clearly deserves a no-no-no, how about reconsidering the carefully-cobwebbed, carefully agreed-to assumptions? I like reconsidering, challenging, and getting away from times when I can do no better than to agree with others. It may be an irritating exercise, but it leaves things refreshed.

Such friendly cobwebs, the "always" and "never" crossing the abyss of "sometimes."

There is some food for thought in Claude Louis Hector de Villars' observation, "God save me from my friends. I can protect myself from my enemies."

But the paradigm is not complete. It is not entirely satisfactory. At best, it is another fragile cobweb: Always-never-sometimes? Not quite.

Heaven knows it takes a great deal of courage to face my enemies, whether literal or metaphorical, whether within or without. A literal enemy -- the Taliban or some other lately-selected foe, perhaps. An enemy within -- attachment or ego, perhaps. This stuff can require a boots-on-the-ground, shit-oh-dear courage ... grinding, frightening, determined, uncertain of the outcome, endless, cold-sweating in the event ... God give me courage!

But today I think I will nudge my son a bit further ... which is to say, I think I will nudge myself:

If it takes great courage to face your enemies, how much greater is the courage of the one who has no enemies?





1 comment:

  1. Violence does not cook the rice.
    Violence does not provide justice.
    Violence does not discover medicines.
    Violence does end discussion.