Monday, October 9, 2017


Photo by BitterGrace, taken in October 2016

I looked out my kitchen window today and smiled as I watched a tiny bird hover uncertainly below a bottle of sugar water. There is reliable, instant joy in seeing a migrating hummingbird discover a feeder and commence feasting. It's a sacred moment.

An article is making the rounds right now about how the lack of childhood play and friendship helps create the angry, alienated men who commit mass killings. I have no doubt that the writer's theory is true. It feels true. Loneliness is everywhere.

But I also wonder whether kids get enough opportunity to nurture, and specifically to nurture the earth—to feed and protect living things that won't repay them in any way except through the miracle of their continued existence. How many children, especially boys, never get to know that pure pleasure of the spirit?

I keep thinking about what we know of the Las Vegas killer—his empty existence, drinking and popping Valium and spending countless hours in the heartless and utterly unnatural environment of casinos. It sounds like an excellent way to stifle a human soul. How many decades ago did that man last feel anything resembling joy? 

There's joy in nurturing wild things, and there's humility, too—true humility, which has nothing to do with shame or thinking poorly of oneself. You feel like a tiny, essential part of a great whole, which of course you are. And you know your fundamental powerlessness.

All these feelings work against the isolation and shame and twisted grandiosity that make violence look like release.

I don't mean to be facile. There's no simple answer, and it doesn't escape me that the impulse to kill is itself a part of the natural order. We are predators, and we've always killed our own kind. But we're also natural caregivers, hardwired to nurture and to take joy in beauty as well. We should foster those gifts in our children.