Hi, Anna-Liza here. Here’s a warning–I’m
probably going to ramble.
I was listening to NPR and there was a pretty interesting interview with Michael Connelly, the author of a series of excellent police procedurals set in Los Angeles. It brought me back to thinking about something that has been on my mind for a while.
I love Los Angeles. I mean the city itself, and its environs–the dirty, vicious, beautiful, crowded, vacuous, intense, bewildering place of contrast and confusion and every kind of food and smell. (I love Houston and Denver, too–and San Francisco and San Antonio … ) While a part of me is in love with living way out in the mountains or the desert with the nearest neighbors being somewhere over the ridge, another part of me is in love with the beauty of toxic humanity.
There’s this movie, Once Upon a Time in Mexico. It’s violent and horrible and cruel, more than I can usually bear in a movie, but it is also exquisitely beautiful. (The fact that it stars Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, Salma Hayek, and Willem Dafoe hurts nothing). And the beauty of it would be completely impossible without the horror and cruelty–and, in fact, the horror and cruelty are part of the beauty. There are contrasts, yes, but they are also one and the same.
I am the most idealistic cynic you’ll ever meet. Or … you know, the most cynical idealist. I think the first is closer to correct. I have a very strong vision for what humanity is/will be capable of at our highest, and I have a very clear vision of what we are capable of at our lowest, and my cynicism is the learned response that the lowest will tend to win out at any given moment. And both of those awarenesses exist simultaneously and, frankly, it frequently sucks.
I have a reputation of being very accepting and non-judgmental about people. This is, in fact, pretty true. It’s not that I don’t ever judge, of course I do (hello! I’m human!), but I usually see those judgments as reflections of my own limitations. Sometimes those limitations are actually good, but more often they are just … limitations.
I just expect humans to be humans. Capable of divine moments of helping total strangers in need, and capable of murdering our own children for crying too much. All in the same package. That’s very painful, especially when I’ve been hearing/reading about too many of the latter things and not enough of the former. (Must stop listening to the news in the mornings. Bad for my outlook).
But the thing I keep coming back to is that, even in our ugliest, foulest, most kill-our-nearest-kin moments (or eons, let us not kid ourselves), there is beauty.
That’s easier to say when it’s not my own blood, or my blood’s blood, being spilled. I don’t want to make this in any way a condoning or endorsement of destruction, violence, cruelty. They are there, and they are our own creations, and very often created simultaneously with, and even as a result of, our creations of beauty and peace and loving. We are imperfect creators … or perhaps we are perfect creators who cannot see or understand perfection.
It’s just there, and it’s a source of both wonder and deep pain to me, and I really have no idea what to do with or about it. Accept it. Use it for my own growth and awareness (always and with all things). Ask God for her love and understanding as I struggle with acheiving some level of understanding. Rebel against it (rebel? Against what?) Participate in it. All of the above.
Frankly, if I didn’t have a deep relationship with the divine (always deep on the divine’s side, not always so much on mine), I would have given in to despair long ago. On my worst days, I can’t think of anything but the horrors of the world, and how the ties of blood and love so often lead to cruelty and torture and death, and can barely hang on to faith. But on my best days … my best days are are something I can’t even begin to describe, and I am grateful that I have them at all. The days when I can feel God breathing me, and know that, however limited my understanding, God’s understanding is limitless.