surprisingly, Facebook CAN be good sometimes. i found this quote this morning and it fits so nicely with a lot of the ideas i've been exploring lately. i haven't read this book but i will quickly remedy that. this passage really struck me.
"But I began then to think of time as having a shape, something you could see, like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of another. you don't look back along time but down through it, like water. Sometimes this comes to the surface, sometimes that, sometimes nothing. Nothing goes away."
-Margaret Atwood, from the first page of Cat's Eye
especially the last sentence: Nothing goes away.
i've been thinking a lot about how memory brings The Past in to The Present moment... makes it alive again, lets it operate again... and that the operations of a memory can be just as inexplicable and confusing as the rest of human life and interaction. an overlapping of time. however, i must accept that The Past, even if it is awake in the present, cannot be changed. it cannot be erased or altered. it happened. it is final, in that sense, even if it is active.
and so... finding a way to walk with memories instead of letting them take the lead... finding a way to live with certain knowledges, certain insights, certain wounds, becomes the challenge. and not to scapegoat or become embittered. not to use The Past as a reason to run and hide or to become cruel, become malicious... not to trade places with The Monsters... not to join them.
as i study loss, grief, expressions and states of mourning, i see more and more clearly how sneaky and attractive and (possibly) a natural reaction for The Abused to long to become The Abuser. i see how slippery that particular slope can be. to hurt because you've been hurt...
but that isn't the only choice. no matter how victimized or traumatized a person may have become, it is still not license to become a monster. and i thinking specifically of murders and rapists here. specifically the people who tortured sylvia likens to death.
i watch that show 'Most Evil" a lot- the one where the psychologist explores killers' childhoods and examines the abuse these people generally suffered as a child in order to find a reason for why they became so violent later on in life.
it's very interesting and completely compelling and i think it's such an interesting practice, on the part of the doctor, to make a scientific argument for the existence of evil (a spiritually defined state). but he doesn't excuse it. there are many many many MORE people out there who have suffered in the same ways who do not turn around and react with such extreme violence and hatred toward others.
once you become a monster, you give up the right to the compassion we extend to victims. once you turn the corner and become The Abuser, you no longer get to expect the care and concern we offer to The Abused. because The Abused are the reality of these crimes. they are the mark, the proof, the evidence of another person's malice, hatred, and callousness. they are the people who bear this, who can speak as a witness... and so we must look at them, we must listen to them. or i must. i must because if i only look at the killer, the torturer, the abuser, and i examine their life solely, i will end up finding out that they were too, once, a child who was hurt... and that fact will wake up sympathies and confusions and torments in me that can be used distract me from the fact that they are not that scared child any longer.
they too became adults and made choices. and just as i am not allowed to sit here and blame the realities of my life on other people, and scapegoat my responsibilities on the actions of others, neither are they. if the past is awake in the present, i can have compassion for who these people were as a child, but also indignation and disgust for who they are as adults in the HERE and NOW.
and it could be that ignoring a victim's pain, refusing to hear their story, is a clear path to waking malice inside them. and so all the more reason to look at The Victim. all the more reason to try to understand them, where they are, their feelings, their insights, their knowledge. and i don't mean that as a preventative measure solely, but allowing art, science, and philosophy a set of ethics. all this learning and exploring doesn't matter worth a shit if it isn't beneficial inside daily life... at least at some point. there is absolutely no worth to examining why someone tortured another human being if we are unable to use that knowledge to either stop that cycle or to provide care to those who were made to suffer. i study atrocity in order to develop a deep sense of empathy... in order to be able to listen with my whole being... in order to move beyond fascination. fascination is step 1 in my practice. and not just my art practice but my way of living.
fascination must not be allowed to go so unchecked that we end up rationalizing horror. psychology can explain these horrors but it will never be able to explain them away. it will never erase what was done. it will never make it okay. it will never heal the wounds that we must learn to walk alongside of. it will never undo the pain of atrocity. the past is a FACT that can operate in the present but that isn't a license to do such grievous harm to others. it does not render a person's malice harmless. since when does understanding something turn it in to a positive? or even a neutral? understanding how someone became abusive does not change the fact that they are abusive.
and since we cannot change the past, we must deal with who these people ARE right now this minute. being beat up as a kid can't be used 30 years later to get you off the hook for becoming a monster. think of Hitler. he was once innocent too. he was once a scared and hurt child too. but that doesn't excuse The Holocaust and it definitely doesn't undo the trauma that so many others were subjected to as a result- sheer horror, complete degradations, entirely brutal malice. understanding what made hitler Hitler, doesn't change what happened. it doesn't undo what he did. it doesn't make charlotte delbo any less a victim or any less a survivor.
understanding HOW a person becomes monstrous certainly won't lessen the reality of the amazing state of pain sylvia likens died in.
and it doesn't alter the ripple that is sent out.
i think of the police officers and the detectives and the coroner who had to handle her case. they are traumatized too. and the ripple goes and goes and the story of her life lands in front of my eyes. i feel traumatized by these facts too. it isn't nearly the same degree as the coroner who had to write this stuff down, but it still exists.
i'm worn out now. i get long-winded when i get excited or when i'm trying to figure something out and see where i stand on an issue. more later.
these texts are an archive of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area from march 2007 - march 2015. it stands as a record of close to a decade of my life, charting the struggles i faced as an artist, daughter, and lover. messy and chaotic at times, eloquent and poetic at others, these texts are an index i am proud of. it was here in this electric box that i learned how to be honest about my experiences and the person i needed to become. it was here that i first learned the truism that words make the world and how to trust such a beautiful, rife, hard fact.
thank you for meeting me here in such tall grass.
my artist website is here.
my artist website is here.