Tuesday 21 June 2016

A loss of innocence

What a week it has been. The appalling murder of MP Jo Cox has shocked us all and left many feeling bewildered and resentful about the whole Brexit mess. Two young children and a husband are bereft, while a community in Yorkshire has lost an elected representative who was universally applauded for her determination to make the world a better place. Following on the heels of the Orlando nightclub shooting, these events start to shake your faith in humanity.

Acrobats at Giffords Circus
Spectacular Giffords Circusa source of talent and wonder
It always baffles me that there are people at large who are so committed to inflicting terror on the rest of us. The only comfort I take at times like these is the outpouring of empathy and generosity from the general public. All those candlelit vigils and charitable donations raised in Jo Cox's name are a reminder that most of us are indeed well-meaning, rational and broad-minded. 

I spent this weekend with my family. We went to the circus and we picnic-ed on the banks of the River Thames. I watched my two young nieces run joyfully through long grass. Their joie de vivre was a welcome antidote to everything that has happened this week. They pried humour out of every situation and saw such wonder in the world, as only the very young can. A group of Canadian geese drifting down the river in formation proved fascinating. The dog shaking dirty river water all over us was hilarious.

Where does it start to go wrong? When does the world become an inadequate place, or at worst a target for destruction? The 18th century poet William Blake examined this dichotomy in his Songs of Innocence and Experience, where he juxtaposed the innocent, pastoral world of childhood against a darker, adult world of repression and fear. 

Tolerance and understanding would seem to be the only answer. As Jo Cox's husband, Brendan, has advocated, we mustn't give in to hatred. It can be an awful challenge sometimes, but we need to examine these tragic events from every angle and seek some way of preventing them from happening in the future. Things go wrong at the margins of society, not on the grassy banks of the Thames. There is always wonder and decency in the world, but not everyone seems to get an equal share.

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