right & wrong place & time

Last night, Pontheolla and I joined friends at a local eatery and bar to listen to Coconut Grove, a Charlotte, NC, based (but-close-enough-to-consider-Spartanburg-SC-home) band. They were great. The song list, wide and varied. The musicianship, literally and figuratively electric. The vocal harmonies, rich. The place was packed. The mood, highly spirited and responsive; folk happily singing along with the band. The proverbial good time was had by all.

And then, I don’t know why, the thought occurred to me. What if one of us in that room had a gun? And what if that one (or more?) of us with a gun, driven by whatever motivation – conscious and unconscious, whether long-ago experienced hurt coupled with misplaced, misguided anger or focused, targeted rage at someone or multiple ones there and elsewhere or for some other cause, clear or inchoate – opened fire?

Again, I don’t know why I thought it, but I did think it, if only for an instant, and then, I let it go, allowing myself to be reabsorbed by the celebratory atmosphere. So, it was that I was in the right place at the right time.

The same sadly cannot be said for my sisters and brothers in our human family of Orlando, Florida. They did not have the freedom to be festive, verily, to remain free from fear. For a gunman, Omar Mateen, was that one in a crowd who opened fire. They, 49 murdered, 53 wounded, were the victims in the latest mass shooting; for now (for a sorrowful, even cursory review of our recent national past raises the specter that it will happen again) the worse incident, as we humans count carnage, in American history.

The investigation continues. It may be proved that Mateen, who openly espoused Islamic State sympathies, engaged in an act of domestic terrorism. Or that he, driven by animus toward the gay community, sought to strike at the heart of our American liberties to love and live with those of our calling and choosing (for the murders took place at the Pulse nightclub whose mission, in addition to human joyful, peaceful celebration, is the promotion of awareness of the LGBTQIA community). At the proverbial end (and at the beginning and at the middle) of the day, I believe unfettered, unfiltered hatred was the defining impulse.

As I grieve for the dead and the wounded, for their families and friends, and for all who love the law of liberty and who, in mutual respect, are lawful in the pursuit of the liberties they love, I believe that the hostilities that inspired Omar Mateen to open fire also beat, pulse in the hearts of many. Thus, who among us knows or can know where and when will be the next wrong place, wrong time? I don’t know. You don’t know. No one knows. Perhaps it will be where and when Pontheolla and I or those we love or you and those you love will be some anywhere at some anytime.

When I was growing up, my father frequently advised, “Son, you’re only as good as your last good deed.” By that he meant to encourage me to do good (although his counsel also had the unintended effect of teaching me that my value rested on what I did, not on who I was; that action, indeed, achievement as the world judges accomplishment was greater than character). Moments in space and time of mass murder, coupled with all other catastrophes nature made or at human hands, reaffirm my belief that my last good deed, indeed, might be my last deed. Hence, this day forward, I renew my pledge to pray the strength of God’s Spirit to live conscious of and committed to love with unconditional benevolence toward all.

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4 thoughts on “right & wrong place & time

  1. Thank you for your words Paul.

    When I saw this blog pop up on my phone, I thought it would be your Sunday sermon that I so look forward to. To be perfectly honest, I was relieved that it wasn’t. I focused on every word you wrote. Soaking it in for comfort.

    As a secuity professional, whenever I am somewhere in a crowd, I always look for exits etc in the event that something bad occurs. But like you last night, I only tend to wear my security / worry hat for a second or two, then I go on with my fun and frolicking just as you did.

    Our last good deed….. It’s so interesting that we even have to think (at our relatively young ages) that a good deed may be our last. It’s so critical today as you point out, that we need to pledge to live our lives consciously to love one another unconditionally.

    I pray for all Americans to pledge AND for anyone who would struggle with such a pledge, I ask for an extra dose of God;s spirit so that they can view everyone as just other human beings, regardless of what they look like or who they love.

    thanks and love, on this sad day

    Loretta

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    • “…AND for anyone who would struggle with such a pledge…” – Amen to that! For it is a struggle, my dear sister, to commit to loving others, all others unconditionally. Yet, I believe, it is the only sacrifice that can alter the course of our sorrowfully declining human history of hatred and destruction. Loving others, no matter who, IS the thing for and to which I’m committed to die so, as long as I have breath, to live fully, freely, faithfully.

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  2. How heartbreaking that some people choose to make their last deed a horrible, evil deed that rips apart countless lives and leaves behind a trail of tears. It is also heartbreaking that we even have thoughts about gunfire or some other horror erupting when we are gathered in public, celebrating or just going about our daily lives. This morning, in church–and not for the first time–I wondered if we might be targets in the eyes of someone who would (for whatever reason) deem us worthy of their wrath, worthy of execution. And then, just as you did, I let released that thought from my mind, and turned my heart to worship. We must choose to go about our lives with loving intention.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amen, my beloved Caroline. For of we do not, CANNOT “choose to go about our lives with loving intention” then the forces of evil who/which mean ill toward all honorable human knowing and loving will have triumphed.

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