Everyone wants a heartwarming story. Even the cynics who try to tell you that there isn’t one. We can hate humanity, loathe the darkest secrets, the falsities, the banality. We can stare down our noses in deepest disdain, but all we want is someone to prove us wrong. We spend our lives clinging to illusions, those rare moments in our childhood or the even rarer occasions in our adult lives when people, for but an instant, don’t seem so bad. Christmas treasures, family gatherings, images that grow more vibrant as time fades those around us and sharpens our longings for what we thought existed once.
Eventually we become angry at the phantoms. We blame our innocence and our naïveté until our past lies in ashes and all we can do is carefully excavate from the rubble the remnants of ourselves that we know to be true. Then we walk like relics across the landscape, hoping desperately to encounter some other crumbling, rumbling fossil and only finding the living.
We hate them most of the time. We begrudge them their humanity, or we make endless excuses for them, but deep down we hate them because our hope lies in them.
Every Christmas I wonder about it. I have what might be termed a messianic complex at worst, a narcissistic complex at best, but truly, most days and especially at Christmas and Easter, I find it to be more of an intense sense of empathy. I don’t actually care if Christ was divine or not. I don’t feel the need to argue with the supposed religious or intellectual. The labels too often to me are a contradiction in terms. But I can understand sacrifice and I know historically or intuitively, that over the past two hundred thousand years of our species’ existence there have been at least a handful of individuals who thought us worth dying for on some level much grander than taking a bullet for a buddy, or leaping onto a grenade.
This is the part that boggles me. These people have not traditionally been ignorant. No small town kid stuck in a happy family with a rosy tinted view of the world that needs saving. I try to imagine what would persuade someone not from here (and for those of you with trouble following the mad rantings, I mean earth) someone not from this stupid little human-infested planet, to come here. To live with them, to see humans in all their imagined glory and still decide at the end of it all that they’re worth dying for…worth living for.
The scholar in me knows that it could be as simple as myth. A story humans tell themselves to help them sleep at night, that of course they’re worthy, somehow, someway, they deserve saving. It’s easy enough to see in the increasingly commercialized incarnation of Christianity currently bleeding across the globe like one of Capra’s war maps. Between it and Political Islam…ick. Just ick.
I try to remember the people that I like. The few that I admire. The ones I love. The humans that I think are actually good people. That’s capital G-Good. But I keep thinking, man…sometimes there’s just collateral damage. I’ve always believed that while surely hypothetical, my choice was important. At the end of it all, would I die for them? Would I suffer for them? And maybe it isn’t important to anyone but me. Who knows? But there was a time when the answer was a great deal clearer.
Maybe we just need a good war.