The dog, with its appetite for used Kleenex, got into the garbage this morning. I spent several minutes trying to extract the soggy tissue from the bathmat, early-a.m. fingers failing to pull the fibres out of the fabric.
“Kind of a metaphor for what people are feeling right now, the sense of loss and sadness,” I thought. “You can try to pick up the pieces but it’s elusive, almost impossible, and it’s never going to completely go away.”
And then I thought, “Are you kidding me? You’re comparing the random violent death of children to dog-chewed Kleenex? Seriously?”
I forgave myself, and I hope you do too, because I don’t think I’m alone. Over the past several days, I’ve heard and read words from lot of people struggling to deal with the sheer awfulness of Newtown, trying to make sense of the senseless. There are those who have ordained themselves to explain why this happened, as if such a tragedy can ever be explained. No surprise that those who feel they have the answers also have agendas to push, and sadly often hate-filled agendas.
Newtown can’t be explained. It can only be felt. And so the job falls to the jumble of words to express those feelings. It falls to metaphor – even clunky, inappropriately trite metaphor.
But I think we need to recognize the power of those words in this time of inexplicability. I’ve heard people despairing for humanity, wondering how we can go on, how we can live in a place where this happens and is allowed to happen. Yet look what we can do! Just with words! Look how we can imagine and comfort and express our feelings. How amazing are we? How amazing is our potential for wondrous things?
Most of the blogs I read are humour blogs, and it’s these writers who seem to be having the roughest time. It feels wrong to be funny, about anything, disrespectful somehow. And it’s true. I feel it too. We felt the same way after 9/11. Remember the notion that irony was dead? As if that could ever be! Irony! The most sophisticated and subtly complicated notion in language. Go ahead: just try to explain irony. And yet we know it when we see it and it is devastating and powerful and often hilarious. How could we ever think of abandoning such a gift?
As part of the arsenal of language, humour may be the greatest weapon of them all. It can be used to poke or tickle, even heal. As humour writers, this is our role and our duty.
What do children do better than anyone else? They laugh. We never laugh more and with greater abandon than when we are children. Among the Top 10 Moments of New Parenthood, very few rank higher than that first time a baby laughs. She laughed? She laughed! She thinks it’s funny. She is… human!
I bet the children of Sandy Hook were great laughers. Their laughter is gone now and my heart is sick when I think about that. I want to cry when I imagine their final moments of terror. But we owe it to them to carry on their childlike sense of this world’s astounding wonderment.
Humans are magical, humans are brilliant, humans are terribly, maddeningly flawed. Let’s keep living and celebrate that gift by being creative, using our imaginations, sharing joy and making really atrocious puns.