L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, June 29, 2012

Out of nowhere

[I don't know where this post comes from.  I don't know what got my thinking moved in this direction, but.... ]

I hate guns.  I hate everything about them.  I know we can't conceive of a world without guns, I know our laws guarantee a "right" to them.  I understand that people can get some sort of feeling of empowerment from shooting guns, can enjoy a thrilling transmission of power.  But even when they're used responsibly, when they're directed at nothing more sentient than a firing range target, I still hate them.

To me they're one of the most blatant symbols of our remove from the natural world.  That our machine-making minds have found a way to maim and kill - without effort - without contact.

If all I have to fight you with is a knife or a sword or my hands, if I have to look you in the eye and wonder the outcome, aren't I going to be a lot more cautious and rational when considering battle?  Just like a smart dog or lion or crow is going to make a judgement about whether a fight is worth it or not.  But if I have a gun - or a mortar or a big bomb - and you don't, I know I'll win.  Easy.  That core of a concept, our internalization of it, I think has had a sickening, dislocating effect on us as humans.

Violence is natural.  No matter how much we try to avoid it - usually a very healthy impulse - it's inherent in life and death.  In small and large ways.  But for violence to be understood, to be healthily processed by our puny human brains, I believe it has to present itself on a human scale.  The velocity of violence has to present in human time.


When I was living in San Francisco in the eighties, one of the many less-than-glamorous jobs I scrounged around to get was cleaning house for some people who had a t-shirt business in Mill Valley, across the bridge in Marin County.  The owner of the business always seemed more than a little paranoid.  Really kind of spooky.  He slept with a gun under his pillow.  And he was usually good about putting it away before I got dropped off - I was always alone in the house - but one or two times I had to pick up the gun and put it on the bedside table so that I could make the bed.  The only time I've held a gun.

It was so much heavier than I would have expected.  Heavy steel, machine cold.  Heavy.  Sickening, unnatural.  I found it very disturbing to even touch it.  It wasn't so much a fear I felt.  It just felt like an evil thing.  There are other weapons that can have another purpose, another life beyond violent intent.  A dagger or a sword can be beautifully decorated and ornamental.  It can be worn or hung on the wall and admired for its craftsmanship.  But I found no beauty in this heavy metal object.  And it was made for no other purpose.  For the few seconds it was in my hand, all I could feel from it, hear from it:  This is meant to kill with.  This is meant to kill with.


  1. Wow, what a story. I don't think I've ever touched one, maybe not even seen one in person outside of, say, a dueling pistol or something in a museum. That is some hugeness to hold in your hands. Thanks for putting it into words like this.

  2. Do you remember that the always charming Nancy Reagan slept with "a tiny little gun" under her pillow?