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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

WE ARE THE HOLLOW PEOPLE


April 18, 2010

NEW YORK – The homeless man lay face down, unmoving, on the sidewalk outside an apartment building, blood from knife wounds pooling underneath his body.

One person passed by in the early morning. Then another, and another. Video footage from a surveillance camera shows at least seven people going by, some turning their heads to look, others stopping to gawk. One even lifted the homeless man's body, exposing what appeared to be blood on the sidewalk underneath him, before walking away.

It wasn't until after the 31-year-old Guatemalan immigrant had been lying there for nearly an hour that emergency workers arrived, and by then, it was too late. Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax — who police said was stabbed while intervening to help a woman being attacked — had died.

"Is anybody human anymore?" asked Raechelle Groce, visiting her grandmother at a nearby building on Monday. "What's wrong with humanity?"

What is wrong with humanity?

We are the hollow people. Science would say there are great gaps between the nucleus of an atom and the protons and neutrons whizzing around it. Squeeze all that empty space out between atoms, between molecules, and you would have very little solid matter.

But we have allowed our self-focus to squeeze so much more out of us : compassion, empathy, love, a sense of community, and a sense of awareness of those around us as anything more than the backdrop in the grand movie of our lives.

Long ago, I wrote a YA fantasy for a young girl undergoing painful medical treatment. It was before Harry Potter became a movie wonder, but he was just becoming a hot literary property. She liked the books. She had questions of why people were like they were, of why God hesitated to help.

I wrote AN ORPHAN FOR LUCIFER so as to take her mind off her pain, both physical and mental. The murder of this good samaritan brought the ending of it to mind. And here it is

{ Blake, the orphan, is being tormented by Lucifer. The boy is trying to distract him long enough to get him away from a button that, if pressed, will set off a chain reaction in the volcanic Ring of Fire that runs all through the Pacific. Solomon, his angelic mentor, is forbidden to interfere in this new Job duel.}

He stood there studying me for a long moment, a cruel light growing in his eyes. Then, he walked down two steps, growing taller, more alien with each step. He stopped on the third stair.

"The rain forests are still burning, Blake. But no one is listening to the smoke detectors. On every channel, you can watch man, the pearl of creation, tear apart his fellow man. And what do you talking monkeys do? Why, you change the channel, of course. Why deal with the backlog of misery when you can just ignore it? It’s become a cliche even. But have you ever thought it through, son of Adam? Just where is your precious Father while all of this is happening? Where is he when I do this to you?"

He flicked his fingers, and it seemed like salt was poured into all my wounds. I howled in agony. Solomon whimpered and shook with rage.

Lucifer smiled smug.

"Or has it occurred to you that maybe He just doesn’t care. You were a mild diversion for an eon or so, then He just grew bored and tossed His toys aside."

He stepped majestically down three steps, his form blurring as his business clothes became a black chestplate draped over with a glowing white toga.

"Hollywood has me all wrong. As you say, big surprise, there, since they have so much wrong. You sons of Adam seek me out. Not the other way around. As have you, filled with foolish delusions of love and of a Father who simply just doesn’t give a damn."

I sucked in the pain enough to rasp, "I have a thought for you, too, sir."

He sneered, "Oh, I wait with bated breath."

I swallowed down the fear. "God and Evil."

He flinched as if I had slapped him. "What did you say?"

"God and evil, sir. Your questions all come down to that. Either The Father can do away with it, or He can’t. Or even more puzzling, He won’t. If He can’t, then He isn’t really God, is he, sir?"

Lucifer seemed to have gotten all eyes as I continued in a wheeze, "And if He can but won’t, then, He’s pretty shitty, isn’t He?"

Lucifer nodded slowly as his frown deepened, and I kept on, "But if He can and wants to, then why do you still exist?"

He murmured soft yet strangely harsh, "And your answer?"

"Something a Queen once told me : from the One comes two; from two comes the Three; and from the Three flows everything."

His face got awful to see. "I could make your death last an eternity, boy."

I shook my head and grinned lop-sided, "Everyone has been driving me crazy with profound, obscure answers lately. Thought I try it for a change."

He clenched his fist, and my guts went on fire.

"So much for change," I groaned low. "The one : love. But there really can’t be any love, can there, sir, without the two : free will."

"That’s your answer : free will?"

I swallowed dry. "Love has to be freely given if it’s to mean anything, right? And free will is pointless without the time given you to say the three."

"Three what?," he growled.

"Three words, s-sir. Actually, three words thrice. ‘I miss you.’ ‘I love you.’ ‘Please, forgive me’."

I thought he would roar in rage, but he exploded into deep, belly-deep laughter. "Then, my reign of terror will last an eternity, boy, for I will never say those words."

I forced the words out, "Everything has a limit, sir. Even The Father’s patience."

His eyes narrowed, and his words sharpened, "And mine."

He walked down three more steps and looked wistfully like some boy deciding which wing to pull off a fly first. "But the stories about me aren’t completely true. I am not without some measure of pity."

His eyes glittered with a mocking light. "Your musings are just that : musings. Look around you, child. You’re alone, all alone. No one but you and me -- and that impotent brother of mine, bound by the maddening will of He who would let you be butchered by me -- all for dark reasons that make sense only to a god that would play with us like tossed jacks."
He tried for a mask of sympathy, but that was all it was : a mask. "Just deny the Father who has already denied and deserted you. After all, it would only be fair. He left first. And just think : all that pain will be gone like yesterday’s empty dreams and beliefs. Just one simple sentence. That’s all I ask."

Somehow I found the breath to gasp out the words of Solomon, my best friend, "That’ll - be the day."

******

Things as you might expect, go from bad to downright terrible for Blake. But the orphan finds a way to win the new Job duel, with pain, struggle, and hope -- but isn't that much like life for all of us?

But can we win our own private Job duel? Not if we, like those seven New Yorkers, choose our own convenience over the welfare of others in distress. The twilight is descending upon our souls. Whether the night be filled with comfort or cold aloneness depends on the choices we make. Let them be wise ones.

And now, to leave you with a bit of beauty and some stirring music, here is Leaves' End with "Twilight Sun." In my series of novels, Samuel McCord is sometimes called "Twilight's Son."

10 comments:

  1. A sad commentary of the state of our collective soul.

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  2. Very intense! Have you ever had any of your work published?

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  3. The story of the homeless man reminds me of that story in the Bible about the Good Samaritan. It really shows us how far we have strayed from seeing ourselves in one another. The people who walked by expressed their free will by not helping the man...nobody can force love on anyone. Not even God.
    Our loss and more is the pity.

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  4. OK, have to confess that I zipped right past the entire ending you wrote, because I don't want the ending spoiled should I ever get to read the whole entire!

    And yes, your story and video completely makes me lose faith in the human race. But then someone else will tell of a random act of kindness, and I have hope again.

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  5. I read about this story yesterday and it broke my heart. That man helped a woman but no one helped him. Something's wrong with our world that this can happen and a hero can go unhelped.

    Jai

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  6. This was AWESOME. It was fortuitous that our posts were similar today!
    I really, really enjoyed this piece.
    It saddens me greatly that our society is lacking in compassion for others. It makes us seem more like animals than humans, although, even dogs can sense when someone is in need of help.
    Shame on anyone who would just pass by and do nothing.

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  7. I simply love the music in your video!

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  8. I encountered a homeless old man some years back, rummaging in a rubbish bin outside my store. He was dishevelled, bare foot and the clothes he possessed were torn and threadbare. As it was the height of winter, I locked up shop, leaving a sign on the door and headed out to buy the man a blanket, a warm waterproof coat and a pair of shoes.

    When I returned he had gone. However, many days later he reappeared going through the same rubbish bin. I said hello, as I would to anyone and discretely handed him my purchase.

    I can only imagine he was embarrassed, as he shuffled off empty handed. The following morning, the package was gone. I have often wondered whether he returned to collect the clothing later that evening.

    I hope so. I really do.

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  9. It breaks my heart that we as a society have come equate the advancement of technology with evolution. Until we display advancement of the soul, the true meaning of evolution will be lost on us.

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