Staring into the Abyss

My latest project is a set of wedding shawls.  To set the mood, I put on some appropriate music to weave by - Handel’s “Water Music,”  including my wedding march of choice.

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But as I weave, I can’t help but think of the fourteen young people killed last week who will never have a wedding.  I think about how the milestones of our lives are wrapped in white cloth - christening gowns, first communions, weddings, and, yes, shrouds.  

And my thoughts spiral wider.  It’s not just fourteen children killed last week.  It’s 46 children shot with a gun every day in this country - seven of them killed every day.  

Spiral wider - over half a million children dead from violence around the world every year.

Wider still - over 800 thousand children dead from measles, whooping cough and tetanus every year - all deaths preventable with a simple vaccine.  

Soon I am looking into an abyss - so many children dead, all needlessly.  

We are drawn to the edge of this abyss - all of us.  And to stare into it is it’s own form of narcissism.  Because inside each of us is a fragment of the abyss.  Whether you call it original sin or biological imperative, it’s there. The capacity for indifference, selfishness, anger, violence, even absolute evil, exists in all of us.  

But staring into the abyss, as seductive as it is, is not helpful.  It’s simply dangerous, lest we fall in ourselves.  

So we turn back to our jobs, and the tasks in front of us.  We cook our dinners, and make our beds - grateful that we have food and a place to sleep.  We hug our loved ones, grateful that, today at least, they are safe in our arms.  To avoid the sin of indifference, we take the actions we can - writing and calling our representatives, donating what we can, making plans to march.  

I go back to my weaving.  I turn up the music - Suite 2, Allegro in D Major plays. And I think back to a day nearly 36 years ago, with more of my life ahead of me than behind me.  I think of the white dress, and walking down the aisle to meet my beloved waiting at the end of it.  Today my job is to weave a white memory for another woman, a woman I may never know.  As callings go, it’s not a bad one.  

But I will also speak up, and donate, and march, and certainly vote.  And I will do my best to stand well away from the edge of the abyss.