I was tearing down a deep flight of stairs surrounded by other heaving bodies. We were running, because we were told to. We were commanded to go to this place and we knew there was no choice but to obey. Over a loudspeaker, a voice told us we were to assemble somewhere below. We were told we had to partake in the activity, that it was mandatory for all. The mechanic voice added that we would have the option to leave – only if we had… comprehensive health insurance.
After reaching the base of the steps, I ran into an amphitheater filled with fluorescent, blue light. Many rows were filled, some were empty. In the center of the room was a swimming pool, larger than imaginable. The water was streaked with blood. In the pool were people, killing one another. Two children, boys, mutilated the face of a fat man treading water. Two others used their hands as bludgeons against each other, creating a whirlpool of red around them. A bloody bacchanal ensued, bodies cleaving at one another. No weapons, only their fists and hands and fingernails and teeth.
All around me sat people. Some jeered and pointed at the slow massacre below, eating popcorn – their sneers reminiscent of spectators at a Gladiator’s death. I turned and turned in circles to understand what was happening. Eventually I understood. We were there to pull one another nerve from bone and to watch everyone around us follow suit. To be a part of the viscera floating in a chlorinated bath. I looked at the people surrounding me and wondered at their willingness to witness the carnage around us. To not only witness it, but to celebrate it. To relish it.
Wondering what the outcome would be for myself, I debated waiting, horrified – for my turn. How long would it take for my turn to face someone (a stranger? Someone I knew?) in the water and be ready to kill them, or for them to kill me? Then, I remembered that I was one of the ones fortunate enough to have comprehensive health insurance. I started walking back up the steps toward whatever place I had come from, wondering if the revelers knew their fate- or cared.
When I woke up, it only made -in a strange, stitched-together sense- that in that pool were all my fears and anxieties. The unease of the rapid onslaught of technology and how it affects society. How it affects my mind. The furious division between different groups of humans across the world. That for some, the score between whatever team and another has more value than the importance of being kind. That seemingly, the wardrobe of the Kardashian family rates higher in importance than A Little Life and The Goldfinch and Pachinko. That I have to remove people from my “friends” list on social media for publicly and proudly posting racial rhetoric. That my fiance spends his work life watching beheadings and vitriolage, reading the constant stream of reporting on the most depraved and degenerate. Or at least, the ones that get caught. That my best friend, a high school teacher, feels the need to practice locking her classroom door and wonders about the lives of her students and herself in the event of a shooting. This article: The Root of All Cruelty?.
I can’t help but feel despair sometimes. Do I understand well enough? Or do I grasp nothing? I also believe there is goodness and beauty and strength and grace laced through all of this mess. I believe that we have the opportunity to be a source of light in abject darkness. This is not a requiem for all hope; it is a petition for acknowledgement that we actively have to avoid falling into the pool.