by Katie Ladd
I can barely read the news anymore. I hear this sentiment from a lot of people. It’s depressing. It’s 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 “I” I was is no more. A new “I” is 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 God’s 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.