Light and dark

One man with 23 guns in a hotel room. 59 concert goers killed on an evening out and growing. No discernable motive as yet. It throws into sharp relief this blog about an actor trying to make the best of a tricky career path. How can one man have 42 firearms – if we include the 19 more at home? How could anyone lose connection to their humanity and their consequence so much as to indiscriminately kill like that?

Winter is coming, and the cold is creeping in. I’m boiling a kettle for a hot water bottle and thinking about all those people and their families. People that bought tickets as presents and watched their loved one die. People who said “Don’t be late” to you and then waited with mounting horror, hoping you might come back. What sort of blank hatred can sustain a massacre of that proportion?

How the hell can one gambler buy so many guns unquestioned? I’m not going to open a debate about gun control – I know what an emotive topic it is in America – but it just seems impossible. It happened, though. The guy thought it through. Took his time. Went for maximum human cost and then took his own life.

I’ve been trying to write about my day but this just keeps inveigling itself into my consciousness. After the last few days, I’ve decided to ease off on the self obliteration and stop drinking altogether for a bit. Going to the shop tonight I had to wrestle with myself. I wanted a drink. Mostly I drink to take the edge off. The darkness and the cold have wormed their way into my skin, and my thoughts have been sharp images of gunshots, and a face in a hotel room window. It’s probably better in the long run that I work through my sense of horror at that man’s actions, rather than just numb myself to it. But I’m conscious that there’s a great big bottle of Brian’s home brew cherry brandy right there on the table. I could just reach over…

I suppose being a human is about managing these instincts and cravings. I’m not going to reach over and grab the cherry brandy for the same reason that you haven’t yet broken my nose when I’ve annoyed you. Even though you’ve really wanted to. We mostly learn to control our base urges. It doesn’t mean we don’t have them.

We all have the potential for darkness. We all have the potential for light. No matter how we persuade ourselves otherwise, it always comes down to a choice. Choosing light can feel harder, but it’s ultimately more rewarding. Already so many stories are emerging of acts of heroism and sacrifice in that untenable situation in Vegas. While one man took the darkest path imaginable after preparation, hundreds of others chose hard light on the spur of the moment.

We are afraid right now. We are under attack, we are told. Many of us are crammed into cruel cities and processed like chicken nuggets. We absorb flashes of hatred from good people in tube stations for walking slowly, standing wrong, existing. Right now, someone is howling outside my flat. “It’s only Maurice, drunk and angry again,” I think to myself. I go to the window and look down. He’s in company, getting out of a cab. He is filled with rage at his failing body. He never comes home sober. Often he has bitter rows with cab drivers. I decide not to help. “He’s got someone with him,” I say to myself, sit back in the sofa with the cat, and turn Leonard Cohen up.

We all need to try to do the difficult things that are kinder right now. You never know how much someone is hurting. We have to try to catch people before they fall so far down. We have to try to answer negativity with positivity. Not give ground needlessly, but seek to heal where we can.

I’ll start by not getting wiped out on homemade cherry brandy, and by looking after myself. If I look after myself I’ll be better placed to look after others.

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And, as if on cue, Leonard sings Villanelle for our Time:

“From bitter searching of the heart,
Quickened with passion and with pain
We rise to play a greater part.
This is the faith from which we start:
Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.
We loved the easy and the smart,
But now, with keener hand and brain,
We rise to play a greater part.
The lesser loyalties depart,
And neither race nor creed remain
From bitter searching of the heart.
Not steering by the venal chart
That tricked the mass for private gain,
We rise to play a greater part.
Reshaping narrow law and art
Whose symbols are the millions slain,
From bitter searching of the heart
We rise to play a greater part.”

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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