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Post details: Silence of the Angels

Silence of the Angels

There are 17,000 alcohol related car accident deaths in the United States each year. There are 9,000 murders with firearms. On top of all that 3,000 people die every year in a fire. And that's just the beginning. Dismal statistics surround us from dawn to dusk and throughout the evening news. So much so that we have grown somewhat immune to their ominous presence. But every now and then a tragic event protrudes from the daily noise of data streams with contours so brazenly shocking and so factually inconceivable that it shakes us out of our stupor and makes us question the very basic premises and principles on which our society is built. The shooting in an elementary school in Newtown, CT which took 27 lives, including 20 children, was a wake up call of that sort. The sharp and penetrating spear of its pain drilled deep into the numb layers of our subconsciousness and brought billows of half forgotten sediments uncomfortably close to the surface.

No doubt, guns will be featured prominently in the ensuing blame game. In fact, several scouting parties are hacking their way through the jungle of gun control laws as we speak. If the headlines of the past few days are any indication, we should get a pretty spirited discussion on just about any aspect of the Second Amendment. What strikes me as equally important, albeit commanding much less media attention, is a question of our mental health. We pride ourselves in keeping our bodies in tip top shape, but in the barrage of healthy living ads we seem to be neglecting our mental fitness altogether. Shouldn't we pay equal attention to grooming our psyche? Specifically, what we should very seriously ponder - at least until the next heinous news story diverts our attention elsewhere - is how did we allow for an environment in which a young mind can grow so barbaric that it would embark on a premeditated murderous rampage and execute whole classes of school children in chillingly cold blood.

Our soul is just as complex and fragile as our body. We simply do not understand all the ramifications of an intricate chain of dependencies which its functionality represents. We do not know what makes one mind grow perfectly healthy while another slips into intolerable extremes under the very same conditions. One factor which I think should make an appearance in the hypothetical debate is the emotionally barren milieu of mass media in which many of our children grow and develop. Back in the days of my larval stage, long before the advent of Facebook or MTV, I spent most of my summer holidays at my grandfather's farm in Northern Bohemia. There we flew kites, chased trouts in the local creek, roasted potatoes in a bonfire, watched the rye fields undulate during the harvest, climbed sandstone rocks and sometimes fell from them and scratched a knee or two. While playing in this slow rural setting, we had enough time to intuitively understand how important observing certain rules was, how important hard work was and by extension how important each and every life was. And the reason we absorbed all of this relatively well was that it had been presented to us in a natural unbleached form which our minds tend to process rather easily. I am afraid today's world dominated by the TV networks and the Internet robs our kids of something very precious. The organic experience of the countryside which can form a sense of perspective with the same kind of ease with which our bodies digest natural vitamins.

And it gets worse. Our inner world isn't the only victim of potentially harmful pollution - we should also carefully re-examine the role of drugs, especially those designed to remedy mental disorders and prescribed to children and young adults. Sure these magic pills are being nominally tested. But monitoring two groups of people for a few weeks while tracking some trivial response mechanisms is not good enough. Drugs affecting our cerebral functions are a bit more complicated than aspirin or alka-seltzer. There may be subtle long term damages which lay hidden deep underneath the veneer of social protocols until suddenly activated by a chance signal. Kind of like when you randomly swap two wires in your computer and for a while it functions in a perfectly normal way, until one day you do something slightly out of the ordinary and the whole contraption goes bonkers.

Pouring crude human made chemicals into the sophisticated circuitry of our brain is a recipe for disaster. You never know under what synaptic connection they will flap their dark wings. It's like allowing a second rate house painter with a broad brush to tinker with Rembrandt's finest paintings. It may all sound like a well meant act of healing, but unless all side effects are well understood, such efforts may very well turn out to be an embellished gate to the maze of unintended consequences.

And the only thing we can possibly get in return for passing through such gate is an occasional silence of the angels, echoing wildly in the moral hollowness which created it.


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