To be sure, a cityscape is not made of flesh. Still, sheared-off buildings are almost as eloquent as bodies in the street.
-Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others
A photograph of refugees streaming out of war-torn Yarmouk introduces an online article. A humanitarian advertisement displays a malnourished dog, mostly skin and bones, on the brink of death. A Facebook friend posts infrared photographs of helicopter pilots firing rounds into a group of footsoldiers.
Violent images inundate my daily world.
Which is disturbing. Infuriating. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve seen that I would rather not see. Maybe should not see. My gut reacts and screams these pictures should not exist!
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
-Lewis Caroll, Alice in Wonderland
My Childhood Demons
Peering out from beneath a pile of stuffed animals, I saw the shadowy figure sitting at the foot of my bunk bed. It stared at me from between the rungs of the ladder which led up to my snoring little brother; I felt the shadow watching me. A few days later, two more shadows would join the first and crowd around me.
I sunk further into my animals, desperate to avoid its gaze.
So goes my earliest memory and the beginning of my night terrors.
He was texting his three-year-old daughter’s day care center.
Immediate reactions, including my own, supposed that the shooter was somehow mentally ill, or stressed out from a grueling career, or maybe fed up with systemic disrespect – the impoliteness of an in-theater text being the “straw that broke the camel’s back” in some sad parallel to Michael Douglas’ William Foster in Falling Down.
The average person receives very little high-quality listening from other people, probably less than five or ten minutes a week. –William Miller and Kathleen Jackson
Listening is high art.
Sure, all of us are compulsive hearers – what with all of the televisions, talking heads, and fancy record players – but few of us listen and few are ever really listened to. Apparently we’re losing the skills, or maybe the attention span, required by this cognitively demanding process. So if you care about others, or at least want to resemble a decent human being, learn how to listen.
Let’s be honest. When Christian communities bequeath massive amounts of responsibility to their pastors and effectively cut off all chances at healthy/accountable relationships, pastoral ministry tends to attract the narcissists like sharks to blood and moths to flame.