by Katie Ladd

I can barely read the news anymore. I hear this sentiment from a lot of people. Its depressing. Its filled with violence. Sometimes the news is a pornographic portrayal of personal tragedy – not news at all. Other times it is concerned with real issues carrying global impact, but, for example, I am left asking what can I do about a dead Syrian boy or a starving polar bear? What can I do? And so I look away. As quickly as possible, I look away. And that flinching is a confession, a deep and uncontrollable confession, a gut wrenching truth poured out in the deflection of my gaze. And it is a confession that reveals much.

Despite looking away, those images are seared into my brain. The II was is no more. A new Iis formed by the violence depicted in front of me, and also by the experience of the incomprehensible incongruity of being confronted by violence while sitting safely in my pajamas on my sofa eating tasty ice cream. The disparity can be too much.

That one little act – the aversion of my eyes away from the violence before me – may seem like a little thing, an act of self preservation, a way to keep violence out of my soul. But what it really is is a confession and an acknowledgement. The relationships and experiences that create my immediate world of safety and privilege also result in the deaths of innocents, human and nonhuman, all over the world. To look fully upon the consequences of acts that build my life is to confess their truth. Also, in looking away, I betray another deep truth, their suffering, regardless of how geographically distant it seems or variant in species the victim may be, is not distinct from me. I am bound in their suffering. The choice is whether to live aware of that interrelationality or to choose ignorance, like, you know, in the Matrix.

In process thought, there is no such thing as a human being, not really. Rather, we are human becomings. With each experience, we become. We take into us the experiences around us and they change us. And every experience everywhere and in every time is incorporated into Gods becoming, affecting and changing God. In The Fall to Violence,Marjorie Suchocki writes, I see rebellion against creation as the fundamental sin. Since God must experience the world, violence in creation also entails violence against God(page 13).

The death of that boy and the starvation of that bear diminish God and they diminish me. The violence that killed and is killing them also kills me, even as my cushy life is indicted in their deaths. When I look away, I admit this truth. As long as we allow violence, all are diminished, some more quickly and more disturbingly than others.

A deflected glance can be a powerful confession.

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  1. Jheri Cravens

    What I wish to say to the author, Katie Ladd, is that it is okay to look away. I do it all the time. The reason I do it is in order to preserve my strength. I don’t need to be told, or even reminded, of the child OR the polar bear. I am, all the time, extremely aware of not only the child and the bear but all creation suffering, ALL who suffer, everywhere; it is a central fact of my life. A confrontation with that which I cannot affect DIRECTLY, a situation over which I have no DIRECT power, no ability to effect change right there, right now, throws me into helplessness, a position from which I become less effective at doing that which I CAN do, right here, right now. I could not save that baby; he drowned in an ocean far, far away from the sphere of my direct influence. The polar bear too is out of my direct reach. But I believe, deeply, in the rings that proceed from a small stone that I threw into a large body of water; the rings that go on forever. Throw those stones, Katie, all day, every day, from wherever you are. Never stop throwing those stones, And when you are confronted with pain you cannot ease, looking away, not taking on what you CAN’T change, results in the conservation of the strength you have for throwing stones. Take in what you need in order to be informed and stop looking BEFORE it saps you. Empathetic people MUST take care of their own energy conservation, in an empathetic way. And the rings, your own personal rings, go on forever. Consider the creation of this article, a creation you can be proud of, for it raises a question of a serious problem that truly stops people. Can you see, Katie, that it is a BOULDER you threw out there?

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