You must know that the gods have decreed that the lot of the living is to grieve. *
"23 schoolchildren -- now that's a tragedy." She says.
Yes it is, but the question is whether it's a singular tragedy, one to be distinguished from the endless daily tragedies of the endless days since life awoke, 9 American lives in South Carolina matter. Other lives elsewhere may not as much. The loss of a million may not count as much and regardless of their ancestry if it doesn't serve a purpose to point it out. Time on our tiny scale is measured in grief and longing and remorse and loss irrecoverable: agony beyond memory, beyond endurance.
The very presence of life that knows of death is a cruel tragedy, since not only does it all end in death and extinction and oblivion, in grief and horror and anguish and misery and pain, but all the more tragic for brevity: so short, so fleeting like the separation and annihilation of virtual particles in an empty place, so short as to rob the word fleeting of any meaning and yes, even infinity, yes, even oblivion shall die, Long gone, never was and just now - to whom does it matter? In the end, even infinity is a point without dimension where beginning and end are the same. And we talk of tragedy, of some cosmic purpose, some cosmic good some cosmic accounting. We see meaning and there is none. We see meaning to ourselves and to what we do and think - and there is none. We see meaning to hide the truth. Do we matter, do our lives matter, do they matter to the dead and in the long run, the short run, the infinitesimal run: to the cosmic viewer, we all are.
What props, what fragments of madness do we shore against the silence and infinite meaninglessness: unimaginably endless, indescribably violent, hostile, mindlessly indifferent -- and with what false dawn to we shelter our eyes from the endless abyss, provide ourselves with meaning in the bottomless foreverness of nothing?
What transitory and fungible gods did we imagine to say "let there be no more tragedy" when life is tragedy; by its nature tragedy, by it's limitation tragedy. Nothing is promised or given that isn't taken away along with the rememberer and the memory? Who of all the countless generations is remembered and which of us will be remembered in a trillion, trillion years in a cold and empty universe, still expanding into itself in its emptiness. What life is not tragedy when every tragically ineluctable finality seems like a possibility in the beginning? What will mourn or remember, what ghost, what God when all hearts are dead and forgotten. There is no "I" in the land of the dead. Oh lost and by the wind grieved and no ghost shall return home again -- nor ever will be there a time or place to grieve.
And we talk of justice as though it meant something other than vanity and egotism. We waste our moment being angry at what someone else thinks his moment requires -- the thousands and tens of thousands, the billions dead today and tomorrow and already forgotten or disregarded, but these 9, these 23 and all the generations long turned to dust and rubbish? It's a tragedy we will not endure without blaming this and that and whom and we mourn and we assume significance and seek healing as we approach the teeth and maw of the blind remorseless grinder. The luckiest are those with an instant to ask "what the hell was that?" before time is done, before time has jumped to forever and the universe then as though it never were. Lucky or unlucky, blessed or wronged: what is there in the hot gas and cold stone to care or remember?
Justice! We look for it, we treasure it, we squeeze the nectar out of it in our vanity. NINE people shot dead in a Church! And a thousand in a Mosque and a thousand in the street and a thousand blown to bits sleeping in their beds. In principio et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum and even that world has but a short time to live and will soon be gone forever. Can we mourn our ancestors, a million years dead?
Where was justice in our brutal history and brutal pre-history and where was there a love not lost, not eaten by death, not mourned, not debauched. Where the heart unbroken? Where is the injustice in Ebola or the Pox or the hipster parents who won't vaccinate? Where is the tragedy in the Diabetes, the heart disease, the cancer? Where is the outrage? Where is the demand that something be done? is it that we fear on command, grieve on demand, rage on request -- and then go out and make a purchase, say a prayer, slaughter a lamb? Our birthright is death and the thief and the murderer, the conqueror and the slave, the ugly and the adorable all come to the same end. How then do we think of justice, do we demand justice, do we define justice? I define it as vanity.
We pretend we're above it, that our lives mean something and something more than other lives. We pretend things are different here, that "normal" is outside of the universal suffering and death of all things living. Our lives matter and matter more than others' and that's justice. We kill children, but kill them elsewhere where it doesn't matter and there's always a purpose that has to do with justice and freedom and all the ugly words meaning vanity. Who will say, sitting in the ashes when we are gone "ah but they were righteous, they sought justice and closure and healing!" "They lived in perfect safety and equality and no one of them was ever allowed to be insulted." And even the ashes will die and the dust spread out forever in the darkness until it's gone.
*The South Babylonian version of the second book of the epic Sa Nagba Imuru, "He who has seen all things," Commonly referred to as the Epic of Gilgamesh.