It\’s just before 5pm. I\’ve just returned from the grocery store to pick up beer, onions, and ground beef. The cat is sitting beside me while I type this up. The groceries need to be put away, but I find that it is more important to get these thoughts down.
There was a woman outside the grocery store entrance, wearing a thin white t-shirt with no bra, black pants, way underdressed for a cold, dry, evening. She was attractive, quite beautiful, but tragically so. She had short hair which was fairly well-kept, all things considered. I have seen her once before, in the summer, walking barefoot along the same sidewalk, in a confused, solipsistic daze. This time, things were different.
I can still see her standing there. I\’m walking toward her. There\’s a crowd of four gathered behind her. She\’s staring past me, screaming. I can\’t make sense of what she is saying. I don\’t remember precisely what she said. —demons! There are demons here! Can\’t you see? They are all here…— It doesn\’t matter precisely what she said. It was her comportment, her countenance—her being.
This moment will stay with me. Another ghost joins the fold.
There go I but for the crapiscious will of chance. I am one traumatic brain injury, prion, or other meaningless misfortune away from joining that woman in hell.
Hell is place on Earth.
Hell is in my neighborhood.
I wish I could have gotten this on video. I wish others could have felt what I felt in that moment. It had the power of what Maslow called a Peak Experience, but it was in the other direction. The experience came with a message, and the message was this: You and your neighbors, in spite of your virtues and vices, may find yourselves in hell.
I have a lingering doubt whether or not this was \”real\”. It could have been art. Well, if it was an art performance, it was real enough. This moment was an accurate representation of a larger problem, repeated in too many people.
How many live in hell like this?
This woman needs help. There are many people like her who need help. Many of these people who need help do not have friends or family. Many of them have alienated every ally. Many of them are ugly in face and in soul; they are socially and economically useless. Even so, they deserve better than hell. The least we can do is better accommodate them; if we can, we should. —Social programs, church programs, community outreaches, it really doesn\’t matter, the more the better.
Reading today, Hanzi\’s The Listening Society:
\”A lot of the less-than-fully-functional people in society tend to out-depth most of us—or at least they have the potential to do so. [They have deep hearts, deep emotions, existential depth.] Broken and crazy people, for all their limitations, often live in greater worlds; they have walked to hell and back. A lot of them just stumbled on their way back.\”