Fresh Eyes: Probing our darkness: Recent violence offers opportunity for self-reflection

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Kat Bodrieby Kat Bodrie

Darkness pressed against the other side of my living room window. I’d been scrolling through Facebook far too long, sneaking glances at the slow transition from daylight to nightfall, but I was riveted, pulled in by the kind of peace that idling on social media after a long workday can offer.

Then I saw the headline, trending on the right-hand side. The phrase “Paris attacks” instantly entered my vernacular. My Facebook friends posted their sorrowful and horrified reactions. How could anyone do something like this? What could we possibly do about it?

I didn’t post anything. Like a dog with a bone, I needed to hide away, gnaw on it. I needed to wait until reporters excavated more information, until I could gain some sort of spiritual or emotional ground on which to view it.

I’ve been keen on self-reflection for as long as I can remember. I’ve been particularly reflective lately since I started a new job in Jamestown. During my first week, the early morning drives from Winston-Salem were opportunities for me to bask in the sunrise, to absorb as much nature as I could before spending long hours under fluorescent lighting, staring at computer screens. By Week 3, I was a monster.

I’m no stranger to Triad traffic, yet I become incensed when someone changes lanes without using their turn signal, especially if they are simultaneously cutting me off. I morph into a miniature Hulk, cursing and gesturing, clenching my teeth and stomach. Who do they think they are? Why are they so intent on causing me pain and suffering? I’ll show them who’s boss!

During Week 4, I noticed myself becoming angry again on the drive to work: the tensed muscles, thoughts intent on revenge. I breathed, I let them go, I saw through my own pathetic pride. Who knows what those people were experiencing or what they intended? They didn’t seem to want to do me wrong; I was jumping to conclusions. Plus, it wasn’t just the people cutting me off or not using their turn signals who were making me angry. It was anyone who wasn’t driving the way I would have driven.

Before we jump to conclusions about people who are similar to those who have committed violent acts against others, or even if we have already — especially if we have already — let’s take a minute to check our own pride, biases and reactions. If someone looks different from us or lives differently or worships in a different way, they can still be good, ethical and moral. Hell, they are still people, with faults and strengths and idiosyncrasies, which we have, too.

The same can be said of those who commit the violent acts themselves. I admit, it can be difficult to acknowledge that they are people with hearts and minds, with lives that include eating food, loving friends and families, and having deep convictions, all of which those of us who celebrated the recent holidays have recently experienced. But if we shut them out completely, if we see them as an other — if we demonize anything, whether a country or a people or an individual or a public service — we should expect violence of a kind that tears not only them but us asunder.

Whether the heinous acts of terrorists or the everyday transgressions of our neighbors, darkness pushes against our living-room windows, but we must examine our own darkness to have any hope of basking in the sunrise.

Kat Bodrie loves red wine, Milan Kundera and the Shins. Her prose and poetry have been published in Slim Volume, Baby Lawn Literature, Pilcrow & Dagger and Coraddi. Her articles have appeared in Winston-Salem Monthly, Forsyth Woman and Forsyth Family.