Thursday, April 13, 2006

numb

I’ve been gone for a long time. It seems like years since I’ve written here. Actually I think it’s only been a few weeks. I’ve been creatively challenged as of late. I just spent another week in New Orleans. I originally thought that a brilliant idea would be to bring my laptop with me and do a kind of daily log (blog, duh) of my experiences there this time. I brought the laptop. I even creatively found an open Starbucks to transmit from. I had my digital camera to record the images. I was all prepared to be the “live eye” @ 11. I wasn’t prepared for the experience though, once again. You know, I’ve already been, already “seen it all” I thought. And this time it really wasn’t much different at all. I’ve come to believe since returning home that this was exactly the problem. It wasn’t much different at all. It’s been almost a week and I’m just now, maybe, going to be able to put together a coherent thought. I’ve never more appreciated the sentiment expressed by Bruce Springsteen in “Jungleland”…. “and the poets down here, they don’t write nothing at all. They just stand back and let it all be.” I was speechless and unable to write much that would have helped to convey anything at all. I still couldn’t until yesterday as I drove down a street in my city where the businesses were actually in business. The houses had people. The roofs were on, the windows were in, and the lawns were not 3 foot high weeds. I can’t describe total abandonment of a culture other than to ask you as you drive through your daily routine, to imagine no one else sharing it with you. Oh the signs of others are there. The playgrounds where boisterous 5 year old boys would chase each other with sticks. The benches where curly haired little girls would have doll sized conversations and life was a tea party. The schools where balls bounced and bells rang and buses puffed out blue/gray exhaust. The convenience stores where the only thing convenient was buying lottery tickets. The “pay-at-the-pumps, the overstocked carts at Sam’s Club, and malls with early morning gray-haired and blue haired walking fanatics, are all there. The people are not. It’s quiet…it’s eerie, it’s unsettling, it’s humbling. Life as we’ve come to create it, to expect it, to experience it, no longer is a reality there. There are certainly people trying. The old people on porch swings are trying, surrounded by broken glass and waterlines on their homes, sitting and waiting for a sign of electricity, or running water, or mail even. They are waiting. The people of the French Quarter are trying, existing in a state of denial and you get the sense that the people there are content, not wanting to travel outside the boundaries of this part, lest their illusion be crushed. I haven’t decided whether it’s the destruction or the desolation that disturb me the most. I’m just disturbed all the same, not enough though that I won’t go back. I’ll be back. They need hearts that still break for them to help them beyond the numbness that is always threatening to overtake them. Don’t get me wrong, there are others there who are helping them. But they’re not there because their hearts are breaking. They tend to be there for “what’s in it for them”. There is money to be made in others misery. It’s sometimes our human tendency in a fallen world to exploit the exploitable. Fortunately, this element makes the sacrifice and sweat of those whose motivation is compassion shine even brighter in the darkness. Evil exists. Anyone who has ever doubted this can easily see it firsthand in New Orleans. Fortunately, God shines brighter still. There is some evil that even Satan himself in all of his angel of light glory cannot make attractive.