A film clip posted on my Facebook page showed a mother beating her two-year-old daughter with a stick. All the while, the child peered into the woman’s face, her round black eyes terrified yet tearless. No screams emitted from her throat.
What was the meaning of this terrified, voiceless submission? Had the toddler become so accustomed to these beating, she assumed they were normal? At the age of two, had she accepted suffering as her destiny?
Unable to rid the image of that tearless face from my thoughts, I thrashed in my bed much of the night wondering what to do. The incident had occurred somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa. That was all I knew. To whom should I file a complaint?
The next morning I returned to Facebook to learn if there was further news about the child. There was. The mother had been arrested. The youngster was taken into protective custody. Happy ending? Far from it. A lifelong tragedy will unfold for both parent and child.
Like the toddler being beaten by her mother, when I see how cruel we humans can be to one another and how the media exploits these tragedies for profit, I, too, am sometimes drained of tears. What a piece of work is man, indeed.
This truth, I do accept, however: the universe renews itself by endlessly devouring the present. All life ends in decay. Accepting this reality doesn’t mean we are helpless. Because we are aware and given our intelligence, we have the power to make our separate peace within the chaos. Instead of wreaking havoc upon each other in a grab for ephemeral power, instead of struggling to be masters of each other, we could choose to delight in the mystery of the universe. That should be ambitious enough for any lifetime.
I delight in artists and scientists because, like children, they live in a state of wonder– a state as close to Nirvana as anyone is likely to reach.
If curiosity were a force greater than greed or blind ambition, I am convinced that like the youngster who stands at the ocean’s edge for the first time and feels the power of the waves ebbing and flowing around its ankles, we would walk through life gobstruck.
Scientists at the Fermilab, a research center near Chicago that specializes in the study of high-energy particles, were recently gobstruck when they discovered the slight orbital wobble of a muon. A muon is a particle larger than an electron, which, because of its size, can penetrate matter more deeply than other subatomic particles. Because the muon’s wobble doesn’t conform to the expected norms of physics, the Standard Model, scientists speculate that other particles, yet to be discovered, are exerting their magnetic force upon it. If true, that wobble might point to the doorway of other dimensions.
What scientists hope to find if they walk through that doorway will be the building blocks of the universe–the immutable, indivisible, indestructible, and deathless core of existence. They want nothing less than to discover the particle or force which neither lives nor dies but can create.
Anyone visited by consciousness should be awestruck by the prospect. Call it God, if it makes sense to do so, though it has no congruity with religious idols. Nonetheless, for those of us who wish to see a way out of the violent world we have created for ourselves–a world where the remedy for gun violence is more guns; where we support wars to end wars; and where, when we are angered by the hopelessness of poverty, we beat our children—it would be comforting to know that at the center of it all is a quiet order, one we would do well to emulate.
I close this blog with the words of science reporter Virginia Heffernon. Her observation beautifully captures the mystery of existence, a place without tears. …in spite of all the dying around us, something of all we love might be imperishable, might still flicker and shine or wobble when the rest of our world is gone. (“Muonstruck,” by Virginia Heffernon, Wired, June 2021, pg. 10.)