A myth is an image in terms of which we try to make sense of the world.
- Alan Watts
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
- Matthew 6:26-27
There is a video on YOUTUBE of a Canadian golden eagle flying majestically through a cloud-streaked sky, cutting through the wind with an impressive wingspan, talons poised and beak slacked joyously. Suddenly the giant bird reverses its course and swoops violently down upon a meadow and grabs a child, about 10 to 14 months, and lifts it into the air. The voice of what the viewer could only guess is the child's father begins to shout, "Holy shit!", which is heard above the screams of its mother. The giant bird struggles to lift the weight and must drop the child about eight feet from the ground. It fortuitously lands unharmed, rolling over and crying hysterically. The eagle, hardly fazed by this failure, ascends again to seek out a lighter load for its prey.
A casual observer of this can be amazed, even titillated; it is nature at its most stunning, a balance of cold calculation mixed with random circumstance and vicious beauty. A more subjective view of the event engenders horror; the terrifying understanding that to live is expose that life to swift and brutal disorder. Either way, it is the way of nature, the random and sudden meeting between a hunting-killing machine and its unsuspecting victim, developed over centuries of evolution into something that cannot be stopped by merely eradicating it once, twice or a dozen times. There is always another and another and then another species that will swoop down until the realization that no plan or level of intellect or force or compassion can halt its progression. Only fortune could hope to shield life from it.
Succumbing to the reality of nature, to the vagaries of its relentless law of chaos, sparks horror and dread in the human heart. It is too much to bear, this sense that no one is either safe or in danger, it is merely life, existence, and therefore placed in the laissez-faire course of acting as predator or prey. It is the haphazard but perfectly functioning cruelty of the natural world; the world we live in, not the fantasy utopian dreams created by civilization's laws, religion and cultural myths, which have transformed the wildly unpredictable snake in order to conjure the evil tempter of Eden.
But the snake, as the great Native American proverb warns, is a snake, nothing more; not evil or devil or monster. It is the snake, sharing existence with us, the all-important human, who cannot help looking for a way to control the snake from being the snake.
And so, on the fourteenth day of the twelfth month of the year twenty-twelve, such a predator, as random and furious and sudden as the golden eagle careening towards the defenseless child, emerged to lay waste to twenty-six lives, twenty of which had not yet reached their eighth year in this unfettered chaos of existence. One young man, whose name is not important, as if anyone had bothered to name the eagle, walked out of the myth society had created to realize his true nature, that of the predator, and began seeking the truth of his being; a truth as random and horrifying as the heart that beat within him.
The survivors and the witnesses on the ground and on television, some housewives, others businessmen the news media and the president acted as humans do when the random chaos of existence unleashes its indefinable mayhem in places not normally if ever visited upon. There are tears and cries for explanation and security against it; as if in some strange way there is security against existence, as if there is some law to pass or prayer to offer or secure place anyone can go to avoid it.
But it is forgivable panic, since a significant portion of existence is the desire to preserve it and to also protect those who may need protecting against the forces of nature; like levees against the rising tide or measures to keep the billowing flames from devouring us. It is forgivable that humans cannot and will not ever accept that at any moment the predator will strike in the form of a storm or a fire or the troubled myth-maker manifesting carnage to wreak its blind vengeance upon the unsuspecting purveyors of illusion.
Perhaps in a moment of madness, I too would ask for forgiveness to have written that Penn State University should have been razed in the wake of years of child rape; bankrolled and provided without a peep from faculty and coaches in employ to protect, serve and educate; a systemic rape house for a pedophile they called colleague and friend, allowed, nay, enabled to unleash his random carnage upon the innocence of youth. And well, there are far more children being raped in churches and schools and homes across this nation and every nation every hour of every day than there are myth-crushing gunmen.
Maybe some forgiveness should be provided me for repeatedly pointing out that each and every one of us who call ourselves American provide money to our government to bomb villages and cities across the Middle East; hospitals and schools and playgrounds with innocent children being massacred, burned and mutilated. Our tax money pays for it and some of us even cheer it. And this has been going on unchecked for decades; here, there and everywhere.
But you can keep your forgiveness. I don't mind. I am just like you. I have been fed the same myths and illusions. The Bogeyman is in the closet. The Bogeyman wears special garb and speaks special languages and has agendas and ideologies. The Bogeyman can be spotted and ferreted out and made to stand down. There are cages to put him in and pills to quell his urges and science and medicine to explain him and a God to judge him.
But there is no Bogeyman and there is no closet or jail or drug or God that will keep him in check. He is next door and down the street. He sits next to you on the train and hands you your change at Starbucks. He lives in the inner city, the suburbs, the woods. He laughs at jokes and grits his teeth when he stubs his toe on the furniture .He has a blog. He has a dog. He goes to church. He owns a gun. He doesn't own a gun. He plays video games and he watches movies, like the guy passing him on the street and the other guy reading about the guy obliterating school children or his high school bullies or the girls who ignore him or the parents who don't love him or the guy he didn't vote for or the music he used to like but now sounds like a hollow shrill.
He is you.
He is me.
He is the eagle, the snake, the gunman.
He is nature.
He is existence.
The rest is myth, except for the parts that are illusion.