Can we believe we’re already 15 years into this new century? That’s quite a chunk of time. Fifteen years here and fifteen years there, and a few of those additions add up to a person’s whole lifetime.
How will we face Father Time — or whoever is there monitoring those remaining seconds — when we come to the last tick and the last tock of our clock? What kind of an accounting can we offer for what we did with our hours, our years?
If we had to write a headline to represent a year or a period in our life, or even our whole life, one that represents something significant or especially noteworthy along our journey, what would we write? Would we start with something like, “My wedding day — the happiest day of my life,” or “I still miss my mother,” or would it be more like, “A turn for the worse: Arrested for DUI (or Drugs, or Murder)”? Or would it even possibly be something like, “Racial prejudice led to my downfall”?
Several of those chunks of time ago, when I was in the Army, I worked alongside a male coworker who was my senior. We got along great and I liked him. I believe it was mutual, and it was all in the line of duty, since we never mingled outside of work. It wasn’t until years later, long after I left that assignment, that I learned he was Black.
It wasn’t obvious to me, and the subject of race never came up, and I therefore never gave it any thought. That’s when it dawned on me that if we didn’t KNOW we were of different races (if one considers the Black race and the White race two separate races), there wouldn’t be any RACIAL disharmony! We would all be free to like or dislike each other based on how we perceived each other to be. Yet, as we well know, if we harbor any automatic racial feelings, we never give certain people a chance; they never become real friends or even pleasant acquaintances of ours — we simply can’t or won’t stretch our mental limitations to sincerely accommodate anyone of “that race.”
So, as time goes by, if we carry those limiting racial feelings with us, we always expect the worst from “them,” are suspicious if “they” act aloof — or even friendly — toward us, and are quick to think the worst of “them” in a situation where it is “them” (the other race) against “us” (the race in which we find ourselves). And if we never upgrade those automatic feelings, we will go meet our Maker on that note, without a happy song in our heart.
Although this is a somewhat far-fetched example to use, I remember that in the story “Frankenstein,” or The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley, the “monster” (who was just getting to understand his own nature, which was quite different from the humans he encountered) wanted desperately to be like the kind and loving family he had been
secretly observing. Upon meeting him rather suddenly and without any softening commentary to explain his presence or his past deeds of kindness to them (he had been gathering their firewood for them daily, as a gesture of anonymous love), this first human family that the creature reached out to, swiftly departed their cottage in fear
(because of how he looked). He then wandered the wood in search of something else… not knowing what that would be, until he found another human.
As Shelley wrote from the “monster’s” mind, “I was scarcely hid, when a young girl came running towards the spot
where I was concealed, laughing, as if she ran from one in sport. She continued her course along the precipitous sides of the river, when suddenly her foot slipped, and she fell into the rapid stream. I rushed from my hiding place; and, with extreme labour from the force of the current, saved her, and dragged her to shore. She was senseless; and I endeavored, by every means in my power, to restore animation, when I was suddenly interrupted by the approach of a rustic, who was probably the person from whom she had playfully fled.
On seeing me, he darted towards me, and tearing the girl from my arms, hastened towards the deeper parts of the wood. I followed speedily; I hardly knew why; but when the man saw me draw near, he aimed a gun, which he carried, at my body, and fired. I sunk to the ground, and my injurer, with increased swiftness, escaped into the wood.
“This was then the reward of my benevolence! I had saved a human being from destruction, and, as a recompense, I now writhed under the pain of a wound, which shattered the flesh and the bone.The feelings of kindness and gentleness, which I had entertained but a few moments before, gave place to hellish rage and gnashing of teeth. Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind…”
Is this possibly what has happened to some members of the human race? Faced with a situation that involves some member of that “other” race, a situation in which something “bad” happens, and at that moment all the facts are not known and therefore cannot be considered for evaluating the full meaning of that situation, the event gives rise to
“hellish rage and gnashing of teeth”? And that person then vows “eternal hatred and vengeance to all… (members of that so-perceived offending race)”?
The “monster” continued to muse over his condition: “My sufferings were augmented also by the oppressive sense of the
injustice and ingratitude of their infliction. My daily vows rose for revenge — a deep and deadly revenge, such as would alone compensate for the outrages and anguish I had endured.”
Is it not in reconsidering one’s wounds, over and over again, and the supposed reason for those wounds, that one magnifies the offense and strengthens one’s resolve to take revenge not only upon the inflicter of those wounds, but upon all who “represent” that person or persons?
So it might seem and so it might be.
At the end of that story, the being created by Frankenstein felt he could not live in a world of humans. They were not like him; he was not like them. The differences between himself and all others was apparently his sad undoing. But in his case, he really WAS different, while all those we encounter are merely different versions of human beings, each one with his own personality, and his own charm… or lack thereof.
I’m looking forward to a year in which we can all put hatred and rage aside and consider that we’re all just members of the human family, no matter our color or race or anything else, even while we’re still perfectly free to dislike and not socialize with those who might present themselves with nasty, mean-spirited personalities and/or horrible behaviors and despicable deeds in the offing.
So (depending on one’s job and situation of course) taking on everyone as a potential friend or amicable acquaintance can be something to consider this year, even while exercising one’s normal and cautionary (not automatic) discernment to not let certain people “in.”
Remembering Dr. Frankenstein’s creation (perhaps from the original story by Shelley, not necessarily the movie versions) and how he was treated might help humans understand the need for friendship and acceptance between those who seem, or appear to be, different, if only by color of skin.
So while we all might wish for goodwill and brotherly love with no walls between us, no one ought to actually expect anyone to bring “evil” and possible-to-likely trouble into one’s heart or home in the name of that “brotherly love.”
Good health, much happiness, and genuine goodwill to all in the new year!