Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Baltimore, Burning

Wide shot of the Universe -- infinite distance, innumerable galaxies, inconceivable numbers of stars.

Slow zoom in -- a zoom that takes millions of years -- through a funnel of sparkling lights as the stars pass, drawn out to white lines; as swirls of light and color wobble past, 2001: A Space Odyssey style.

See a blue planet, swirled across with white wisps of cloud, imperceptibly spinning, half of it cupped in sunlight, half of it dark, floating and bending its own little private plot of space in the black infinity that surrounds it.

Zoom further in, and see green and brown continents surrounded by blue, spread across the planet's face -- continents that used to be shaped into one, now broken into massive puzzle pieces; now become the homes of those who named them and then who changed the names, again and again and who broke these continents up into imaginary, mountain or river-drawn lines and named them: states, districts, provinces...

Now watch the planet spin, around to the continent called North America and see the bottom part of this massive land, the part called The United States.

But don't focus on the middle area, where the plains and mountains are; where great forests sprawl ans where a once free-roaming people moved about and lived in synchrony with the land. No -- turn your eyes toward the Eastern edge of this country.

Zoom in even more -- see a busy area, filled with industry and states that hold great cities like New York, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Baltimore. What is that glow you see? Fires? Fires burning under a Universe of balls of gas called stars... But see them, anyway, because these fires were not set in motion by mystery, but by angry human hands -- they vibrate with intent. Zoom in to investigate.

1861 Riots in Baltimore
East Coast becomes Maryland...becomes a grey cluster of buildings. See the buildings from the top down. Move slowly down toward the dark streets. There are people there -- huge crowds, facing one another among the fires that drew your attention. One crowd is dressed in multiple colors, the other is clad in uniform.

Looking closer, you see this uniformed crowd as a line, each of them wearing dark helmets with glass coverings over the faces. There are maybe fifty of these helmeted figures standing in formation, holding Plexiglas shields, standing their ground against the other crowd.

Zoom further in, and see one young man, helmeted. Pass through the helmet and through the uniform, into his mind.

He is a police officer, under the stars of a massive Universe; under infinite distance, innumerable galaxies, inconceivable numbers of stars. Yet, within, there is another universe of infinite imagination; a universe of thought: he is soft-spoken and a constant self-critic but he is quick to praise those he admires; he is a thinker and a writer; he is a musician; he loves both great books and roller-coaster-ride yarns. He is a fan of The Lord of the Rings. He is kind and he is dedicated to his family and to those he loves and admires. He sang his first live notes in front of an audience of his high school classmates, at a little Catholic school in South Jersey, in a little jazz band under the direction of,

Once he was a student; now I consider him a friend. We once sat side-by-side, making music, since his school days.

There is a picture on the wall of my office, that he once drew on a piece of computer paper. A picture of a fantasy-style dwarf, in battle gear. It is very good, but it begins to yellow.

And now, he, this young man -- just now, as you read this -- stands in his own battle gear, facing an angry crowd. The "whys" are the "whys." At this moment, the "whys" are not our purpose.

At this moment, let's just consider this young man, under a universe, in a crowd, among the fires and amidst the cacophony.

Now -- zoom out again; out among the stars and then back in again. Pick your own person among the rioting crowd or among the police lines. Do this for your heart, not for your head -- a heart that beats on a planet somewhere in the silent vacuum of space. Who among the angry or among the duty-bound do you -- could you -- count as a friend? What books to they like? What kind of ice cream?

After that, think of the whys.

~ for B.G.

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