I live in a society where competition is regarded as the norm, cooperation something as secondary. The helpers or behind the scenes persons are often just as described, behind the stages and included in the “menial mentions” at parties. The “winners” are trained to take all the credit and glory. If they remember a few names at an event to thank, it may qualify for a miracle…
I’m listening to the audio book of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson currently. It’s a great story and I plan to pick up the novel at the library soon. I got a little lost in the house while the doctor was describing how everything was built during his tour. (He did this so the group could avoid getting lost, ironically, and learn each floor’s layout.) Hill House was built in concentric circles with the inner rooms having no windows or doors. Furthermore, everything was built slightly angled, about 15 degrees off–on purpose. The mansion was intended to catch you off guard, it seems, to perhaps idly trap you inside its interiors. It disoriented your senses, disturbed your balance.
I tilted my head at the windows and then at the stairwell, trying to catch just how everything was tilted. I couldn’t quite grasp it and I thought it was silly and dubious to waste a contractor’s time with such frivolity. A set of doors had closed earlier in the dining room and we were seeing if footsteps on the angled floors caused the doors to shut on their own. I sense these details are themes that will come back around in the closing pages. Ms. Jackson is a sharp writer and she’s leaving her bread crumbs in the pages, beguiling. I scurry along, following the group as we leave doors open behind us, turning our heads to check them before crossing into an adjoining hallway. One particularly heavy door has a stool put before it to make sure it stayed open. We’ll see if they’re closed or open when we return.
Horror is fine, it seems, if we can control it or try to make sense of it. When Halloween comes and goes, the decorations and ghost stories seem comical afterwards, don’t they? Horror movies can be paused; masks taken off and put into storage, easily forgotten about until next year. But what about real horror? What about people getting shot in a bar, running around defenseless in smoke curtains created by a stalking predator? What about Jews worshiping in their synagogue and being slaughtered? What about children and teenagers, coming to class and not leaving alive?
Our country averts its eyes back towards the rotting Jack-O-Lanterns. They stare back, gaping at our stupidity.
Humans are very good at killing each other. They’re also very good at justifying why they kill. I believe in order to kill a person, the human mind must firmly believe the other is exactly that–an other. The other is a stranger, different from you, and therefore inherently wrong because of their differences. The other’s existence is perceived as competition for resources that enable your “right” way of living. The other, therefore, becomes unworthy of resources, any semblance of mercy or even existence. This “reasoning” quickly snowballs into hatred, takes root in the soil of self-righteousness and grows tall and strong. Pretty soon the other is blamed for peripheral things, such as lack of work, a lack of prosperity or a lack of notice and regard that you clearly deserve. The act of killing is just a short step behind this hatred, patiently waiting to leap down from the rafters.
I think this is why the rabbi in the dusty sandals said murder begins in the heart. He knew; he told us. And yet we’re not listening. We’re killing, instead. Why? Because people who hate believe they are right to hate. And people don’t like to be told they’re wrong.
My flash fiction for Carrot Ranch. Mosey on over and see what all the hubbub’s about. Charli’s got some contests coming up, too, so check it out.
There’s quite a few lines from the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium that have stuck with me over the years. If you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend it. The script doesn’t blanch at the realities of change and death. The characters frequently toss out clever lines and understand what it means to laugh and to struggle. It’s a simple plot, one that revolves around a magical toy store, but it’s powerful. I think I like the simple, magical stories the best.
One of the more poignant lines, one that is towards the end of the film, goes like this:
Molly: Are you dying?
Mr. Magorium: Light bulbs die, my sweet. I will depart.
Join up at Carrot Ranch for this week’s prompt from Charli. Her story is especially poignant and thought provoking this week. America does not take care of its veterans.
As an introvert (an INTJ to be exact), I find American society at once demanding, garrulous and worshipful of charming extroverts. This perception of the perfect American finds its way into churches, bleeds over the pews, stains the carpets and infiltrates the very verbiage and conversational rhythms. Modern churches exemplify this particularly with stage lighting, booming mic’s, catchy tunes and coffee bars. And suddenly church is about working and collecting merit badges at warp speed. If you have lots of energy, bright eyes and agreeable conversation–you’re in!
If not, you’re a problem.