Living in the in-between

In Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Sanford Meisner on April 2, 2016 at 8:52 am

The easy part: agreeing with like-minded ones. Not only agreeing in a superficial way. Considering the like-minded ones right (since they share your views and comfort you in them if ever doubt arises). The unlike-minded ones being wrong, by definition.

I’ll set aside the more usual examples of this – the ones we practice every day in relatively well-controlled environments. An extreme, then, to illustrate the point.

Svetlana Alexievitch put twenty-four years into the gathering of testimonials from Russian men and women who were children at the outbreak of the Second World War, or who were born in its immediate aftermath. She asked them to recall an incident. The stories they dredge up are horrific and keep on confronting the reader with the incomprehensible figure of the Other. The ones committing the barbarous acts with gusto, relish and – yes – obvious pleasure at the pain and terror they inflict. Sadists, we call them, as if naming neutralized the shock and fascinated horror they exert.

Twenty-four years of gathering testimonials, then shaping them into a written document titled Derniers Témoins in French. (In English : The Last Witnesses: the Book of Unchildlike Stories.)

Emerging out of that reading into the here and now of both a real and a fictional town where the extremes are not etched as deep. Despite the We Are At War rhetoric of current leaders, immediate concerns provide plenty of evidence that most of our daily disruptions don’t involve immediate and serious threat to our life or limbs.

Back to the first paragraph of this post: temperamentally, I gravitate toward the more pleasant perspectives of kindness and cooperation as human qualities to practice and nurture. At least, I do so as long as jarring incidents don’t upset my composure. When confronted with unlike-minded ones, for instance. Who consider their world view is destined to knock the pins from under mine.

Things get trickier then. The balancing act, more daunting – even if, by world standards, the challenge is akin to hopping off a sidewalk rather than jumping off a cliff thirty meters high.


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