Yesterday was a bad day. I was flipping through a photo magazine for a project at work when I spied a photograph that disturbed me. It was the one (I won’t link to it here, but you’ll find it easily if you Google) of a little African girl, starving, half dead, dragging herself across the dirt while a vulture stands by, waiting.
As I’ve mentioned here before, I no longer have any skin. Since Dash’s birth, I have no tolerance for suffering--of humans in general, but children most of all. So as soon as the subject of the photo registered with me, I closed the magazine and tried to forget it.
Two hours later, still overwhelmingly sad, I decided to read the accompanying article. I thought maybe there would be an explanation of how, after snapping the shot, the photographer rescued the girl and now, 20 years later, she had just completed post graduate work at Harvard and all was well. No need to be upset!
So I read. And he didn’t. Instead, he did nothing. Knew nothing of the fate of the little girl who made him famous. He killed himself later--I suppose from the shame of what he’d done (or, I guess, hadn’t). I only know a small part of the story and am scared to look for more. If I’m mistaken please set me straight.
Anyway. Yesterday was ruined for me. I know it’s ridiculous to admit, but all I did, every moment I spent alone, was cry. I cried at my desk and in the car on the way home. I couldn’t stop thinking about that baby. Her parents. Her story. I assume she died shortly after the picture was taken. I don’t know if she made it to the aid station. And my heart is broken.
And so here is where I start talking about things I don’t really know how to talk about. But I’m going to try.
I was driving home yesterday, crying and thinking about holding Dash and covering him with kisses and thanking the universe for this child and the ability to feed and comfort him; how sheer luck is the only thing that stands between the life I know and the life of that girl in the desert. I was despairing. But then, I had a flash. An image of that little girl ascending into the most cartoonish version of Heaven (clouds, blue skies) and being folded into the embrace of a giant, loving God (old, white beard, robe--apparently I get all of my religious imagery from the funny pages). And my chest opened up and I was able to take a breath for the first time in hours. I don’t know how to express in words the amount of pure comfort I got from that thought. So much that I returned to it, over and over again, all night and into today. It’s the only reason I’m not crying right now.
I’ve always had an ambivalent relationship with God. I say I believe, but quietly, I wonder. I read Joseph Campbell and I’m inspired, but if I’m honest, I’m bewildered by religious people. I tell myself that there must be more, because why else would we have any use for art? Why would we aspire? But secretly, it’s always felt like I was trying to convince myself of something.
I don’t know what that epiphany (I’m a little embarrassed to use that word, but I guess it fits) was last night. I don’t know if I really did have a joining of hearts with the God of my choosing, or if it was just a coping mechanism—my mind trying to protect itself from spiraling deeper into freefall. Either way, I think I’ll take it. I think I’m going to spend some time trying to nurture this little seedling of a relationship with a benevolent universe and its God. I’m going to take a leap of faith.