December 20, 2012
Least helpful of all were the comments by pious folk of various denominations that the Connecticut shootings prove “the existence of evil in the world.” You don”t say. Didn”t the previous administration put an end to all that, though?
The search for reasons and solutions is futile. Adam Lanza didn”t kill all those people because of anything; he was just crazy. Evil isn”t a problem you can solve; it’s part of the human condition, which you can at most hope somewhat, and imperfectly, to tame and corral. We are not here in the realm of cause and effect, of problems and solutions: we are in the realm of chaos, of purposeless randomness”an inescapable component of the universe and of the human condition.
Returning to the real substance of the matter”the bereaved parents” immense grief”I think there is a better, saner approach than the endless news din. Once the facts have been reported and public condolences expressed, I think silence should reign.
That was also the opinion of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Mourning her beloved brother Edward, who died in a sailing accident while visiting Elizabeth at the English seaside, she wrote:
…Full desertness,”¨In souls as countries, lieth silent-bare”¨Under the blanching, vertical eye-glare”¨Of the absolute Heavens. Deep-hearted man, express”¨Grief for thy Dead in silence like to death….
Our present civilization does not much favor silence. (I write as a frequent railroad commuter.) Silence can, though, be very expressive. Those great masters of verbal expression, the poets, have ways to make the careful reader pause for an instant now and then, these brief silences adding force to the line. Silence can also carry meaning, though there are cultural variables involved:
In response to the question ‘Will you marry me?,’ silence in English would be interpreted as uncertainty; in Japanese it would be acceptance. In Igbo, it would be considered a denial if the woman were to continue to stand there, and an acceptance if she ran away.
“Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (1987), p. 172
So be careful with those silences.
I shall now take my own advice and fall silent until the New Year, taking next week off. Readers here at Taki’s Magazine, and Taki himself, have been wonderfully supportive in my various tribulations these past few months, and I again express my heartfelt gratitude. From all the Derbs to all of you, a very Merry Christmas, and may you receive everything you wish for yourselves and your loved ones in 2013!