Archive for June 2015
There was a moment, in the aftermath of the obscenely tragic events that occurred in Charleston, South Carolina last week, when things could have turned out very differently.
In the hours after his arrest, during which time Dylann Roof admitted killing 9 members of a prayer group at Emanuel AME Church, he is alleged to have said, “I almost didn’t do it . . .because they welcomed me.”
In the media avalanche — the news stories, the media spin, the anger and the grief — those words stuck in my mind, and I wondered, “What if. . ?”
Dylann Storm Roof is a poster child for white supremacist, racial hatred. Possessed of a minimal education — he’s said to be a school drop-out — and with few (I’m guessing here) friends, if any; he, in all likelihood, never experienced any personal interaction with anyone of color. He had nothing of personal experience against which to gauge the validity of the hate-mongering, racist garbage that formed — that he allowed to form — the lens through which he viewed the world.
But there was a moment — maybe only a heartbeat of time, a nanosecond — when the lens cracked; not enough to shatter, but it cracked. And maybe, just maybe, if Dylann Roof had chosen to let that ‘heartbeat of time’ continue, things would have ended differently. But he didn’t, they didn’t. Dylann Roof chose, instead, to slaughter 9 innocent people; people who had welcomed him into their midst.
As I write this, somewhere (maybe a lot of somewhere), in some dank cellar meeting room or some abandoned building, men with an even greater hatred than filled Dylann Roof are holding up his picture and hailing him as a “hero”. And that fills me with a sense of shame.
I don’t know the answer to the Dylann Roofs of the world, and I doubt anyone does. I do know that taking down a piece of cloth from the South Carolina statehouse won’t do anything but allow some people to feel as though they “did something”. They didn’t. There will always be a Neandertal, white supremacist scumbag chumming the internet with bigotry and hate, waiting for the next under-educated, lonely, disenchanted boy to nibble his garbage.
Like I said, I don’t have an answer. I wish I did, I really do, but I don’t. All I have is this deeply felt, lingering sense of shame.
It’s enough to make me almost sympathize with Rachel Dolezal.
“There was never a great genius without a touch of madness”
According to the results of a study published in the journal, Nature Neuroscience on Monday, Ben Jonson actually was correct. According to the study, scientists in Iceland (of all places) report that “genetic factors that raise the risk of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are found more often in people in creative professions. Painters, musicians, writers and dancers were, on average, 25% more likely to carry the gene variant than professions . . .judged to be less creative, i.e. farmers, manual laborers and salespeople.” (Wonder why they didn’t include accountants?)
Kari Stefansson, founder and CEO of deCODE, a genetics company based in Reykjavik, said the findings point to a common biology of some mental disorders and creativity. He told the GUARDIAN, “To be creative, you have to think differently. And when we are different, we have a tendency to be labelled strange, crazy and even insane.” Stefansson’s comment seems (to me at least) to contradict the validity of the study’s findings, saying creative people are viewed as mentally ill more as a result of operating outside of established societal or cultural norms than because of any biological (or genetic) abnormality. And I’m not the only one who’s skeptical of the study’s findings.
Albert Rothenberg, professor of psychiatry at HARVARD UNIVERSITY, is not convinced. “It’s the romantic notion of the 19th century, that the artist is the struggler, aberrant from society, and wrestling with inner demons,” he said. In 2014, Rothenberg published, “Flight of Wonder; an investigation of scientific creativity”. He interviewed 45 science Nobel laureates and found no evidence of mental illness in any of them. He suspects such studies pick up on a different phenomenon.
“The problem is that the criteria for being creative is never anything very creative,” Rothenberg said. “Belonging to an artistic society, or working in art or literature (two of the criteria used in the Iceland study, as well as the results of a questionnaire in which subjects self-identified as “creative”; and who doesn’t want to be considered “creative”, in this day and age?) does not prove a person is creative. But the fact is that many people with mental illness do try to work in jobs that have to do with art and literature, not because they are good at it, but because they’re attracted to it. And that can skew the data.”
It’s easy to see the results of this study are going to be debated, hashed and re-hashed for some time to come. The discussion’s been ongoing for millenia, with no sign of letting up. So, take heart all my fellow “creatives”, especially all you writers out there, staring at your computer screens, thinking, “I must be crazy to think I could do this.” You’re not, then again . . .
This is my first attempt at learning about blogging from an established tutor (or group of tutors) so I’m a tad nervous. never know if I’m doing it correctly or not
Here goes. My name is Steve and I’m an essayist (of sorts). Actually, I don’t know if ‘essayist’ is the proper term; I write whatever appeals to me at the time. This covers a wide variety of subjects and topics of interest (mostly to me). I’ve been blogging, off and on, for about four years and have not been consistent in the practice. That’s one of the reasons I signed up for this course. . .consistency. I have none.
To give you some idea of how I view my efforts on this site, I encourage you to read “About Walking the Cat”. I think it’s pretty clear on what I do and why I do it.
That’s about it. BTW, to those who read my blog on a more or less regular basis, I apologize for intruding with this assignment.