the monster in the mirror

monster surprise - July 28, 2014m
 

Sometimes a word can spread like a contagion…

I’ll hear a word used in a certain context on a news program…

Then, suddenly, it’s a common expression in our public discourse.

For example: the word “monster” now seems to be in vogue to describe those who commit heinous acts…

…acts that show no respect for the dignity of human life.

I’ll admit, it’s hard, if not impossible, to comprehend the mindset that drives such behavior.  Only an animal could act in such a way…

But no, animals are not wantonly vicious.  Animals are not evil.  Only monsters.  Only a monstrous psychopath would display such lack of empathy…

However, as I see it, monstrous acts can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes…

…and be committed by those who do feel empathy…

…by people who deeply regret their actions long afterwards…

…by people who have done good in the world.

Some of our most respected citizens and leaders, past and present, have done monstrous things…

…along with honest acts of kindness.

War demands we act monstrously.  In battle, you can not feel empathy for your declared enemy…

Yet, I wouldn’t call the men and women who go to war “monsters”.

Sometimes, it’s not so much what we do, but what we don’t do, that’s so monstrous…

It’s our coolness, our coldness.

On the other hand…

…even when we’re trying to help, we can sometimes be monstrous.  That’s likely to happen when we don’t really see the one on the receiving end—when we see a type, when we see a thing, instead of a human being like ourselves.

When I consider all the ways in which we may behave monstrously…

…I think it’s accurate to say most of us have acted like a monster, at some time or other.

With that in mind, I refuse to pin that word on any particular individual…

…unless that individual is Godzilla.

I’ll admit, this policy has caused me to bite my tongue quite a bit…

…especially when I hear of how one human being has tried to destroy another human being…

…not just physically, but mentally—to try to destroy the person’s spirit, the person’s soul.

What could be more monstrous?

Nonetheless, I will not call that person “monster”.  If I apply that label, I’ll be sinking to his level—because like him, I will be trying to strip someone of all that makes him human.
 

© 2014, Michael R. Patton
SOULTIME: the novel

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About Michael Patton

I am a poet, novelist, essayist, cartoonist, graphic artist, peace miller, new mythologist, and fledgling world citizen.... I grew up in Northwest Arkansas and have lived and worked all over the United States.... I'm self-taught, for the most part--which is like searching for the right door in the dark. It's an on-going process.... I don't want to write MY story, I want OUR story, so that's what I'm studying: the human story: past, present, future, in its many aspects--including the spiritual. I'm proceeding at a slow crawl.... I don't see the inner world and outer world as separate. By learning about myself, I learn about others, I learn about my world.... Conversely, as I struggle to understand what I see OUT THERE, I learn about myself.... But to be clear: I don't claim any special understanding. I'm still purblind, still only half-awake.... After frustrating experience with the publisher of my first novel, I've published on my own, beginning with e-books, with plans to move into print and audio. Even video.... Along with a second novel, I've now published eight books of poetry. Each poetry book focuses on a theme. For instance, the collection GLORIOUS TEDIOUS TRANSFORMATION is about the slow difficult wonderful process of change.... In that book, as with all my work, I try to be accessible to a general audience, while also striving to achieve a certain literary quality.
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