Sunday, August 22, 2004

"my place is of the light
this place is of the dark
I do not feel the romance
I do not catch the spark"

- Emily Saliers

Recently I met Anne Hefley online after noticing her blog on crablogs (where I'm also listed as a Baltimore blogger). Anne's ok now, but recently she was assaulted. A few weeks ago, Anne was contacted by a man who told her about how his son had also been assaulted but did not survive the attack. Anne then writes:

I then watched a documentary television show about New York City police, profiling a murder in New York City. I saw the victim, a handsome sandy-haired young man, and thought, "He looks like the type of guy that I would date." His face smiled up from his driver's license. The smile of someone who would never be able to do so again. A life cut short by complete losers who accosted him and a friend on the street and demanded what they didn't want to work for.One shot was fired, killing one Burke O'Brien. It's a senseless crime that is still unsolved almost a year later. The man had pointed me to the website of the show after it aired, and I mentioned in a return email how sad it was watching the parents come into the city to identify their son. Their world completely shattered into a devastating reality. In his return email, he said, "yes, that was me."I was at work when I got that response, and it shocked me. I had no idea I had been exchanging emails with the very person that I'd just watched on television and felt such empathy for. I wondered, why he had reached out to me? What could I possibly offer someone who had suffered such a loss? And then it became clear. I can spread the word. I can be one link closer to the police finding the killers. A chainlink of me and other bloggers who can shake the rafters and call attention to this crime and the subhumans who did it and are still walking the streets. Perhaps you brushed by them in the subway, or helped them at your retail job. Perhaps you are only a degree or two of separation from the people who did this or someone who knows something. Eventually, the net will close in if enough people are made aware.

Then, tragically, Anne just found out that Brien's dad, Mark O'Brien - who had contacted her - was just killed recently in a traffic accident.

And so I join Anne's quest to publicize this incident and perhaps in some way make it more likely that the police can catch Burke's killers. For more info see Seven Inches of Sense or Burke O'

But I also wanted to post this because it was just another reminder of how very tenuous and brief life is. The older I become, the more I realize this. It was also a reminder of evil in the world.

I do not understand God; I do not get God.

In the town where I grew up some time ago, a child died after being left in a hot car for hours. God could have arranged for someone to have found that baby but He did not. Why did he not? I do not understand. Someone once said that God must view death very differently than we do and I think that may be the case. We can hold nothing in this place tightly to our chest; it will be taken away.

Now I am not shocked that I don't get God. The finite cannot be shocked that she does not understand the infinite. I haven't yet read a theodicy that made me go, "Ok, now I get it! That makes perfect sense!" But if it were one of my dear ones that died in some similarly tragic way, well....

I think the late Malcolm Muggeridge did have a bead on things when he wrote:

How can I ever explain to those who insist that we must believe in the world to love it that it is because I disbelieve in the world that I love every breath I take, look forward with ever-greater delight to the coming of each spring, rejoice ever more in the companionship of my fellow-humans, to no single one of whom – searching my heart – do I wish ill, and from no single one of whom do I wish to separate myself, in word or thought or deed, or in the prospect of some other existence beyond the ticking of the clocks, the vista of the hills, the bounds and dimensions of our earthly hopes and desires? To accept this world as a destination rather than a staging-post, and the experience of living in it as expressing life’s full significance, would seem to me to reduce life to something too banal and trivial to be taken seriously or held in esteem.

In other words, the Christian proposition that he that loves his life in this world shall lose it, and he that hates his life in this world shall see it projected and glorified into eternity, is for living, not for dying. After all, it was a St Francis who truly loved the world he so gaily abjured, as his enchanting prayers and canticles convey; not a Pere Goriot who so cherished its commodities. It is misers and Don Juans who moan; spendthrifts and saints are always laughing.


All I can claim to have learnt from the years I have spent in this world is that the only happiness is love, which is attained by giving, not receiving; and that the world itself only becomes the dear and habitable dwelling place it is when we who inhabit it know we are migrants, due when the time comes to fly away to other more commodious skies.

Chronicles of Wasted Time

(Malcolm Muggeridge led an interesting life. He was the British journalist who popularized Mother Teresa in his Something Beautiful for God. He was a journalist in England for the Manchester Guardian. He was with the British intelligence unit serving as an operative during WWII with the MI5. He went on to become an editor of the famous British satirical journal Punch. I believe he became a Catholic while in his 70’s. )

If we are paying attention, I believe that there are reminders every day that we must be forever people.

But I frankly confess that I don't understand all of them. If and when you talk to God, please mention the O'Brien family.


Robbymac said...

When our first son died, I also felt "I don't get God." And being only a finite human, I still don't get God (sometimes more than others).

But during that very dark season, I felt that God was asking me "will you still trust Me, even if you don't get it"?

I have no rationale for my answer, but I said "yes".

Stephen said...

Thank you Robby; I have no words.

Joan said...

Mark O'Brien was one of my best friends. I was the last person to talk to him on his way home from a trip to the wilderness to reconnect with the memory of his son...not just his murder. He found peace on that trip. He was happier than I had ever heard him. The only thing that gives me solace in this whole tragedy, is that he had finally found a place to exist within himself where he wasn't only the father of a murder victim, but the father of five beautiful children whom he had done his best for as a single father and then released into the world to fly.
My post about him the day after he died...

Stephen said...

Thank you Joan.