When the exhaust of our jet engines – the ones borne of big machines put together by other big machines put together by our little hands -touches the freezing blue of the upper reaches of the sky, the mix creates a wispy wake: Artificial clouds. These are small things to our eyes, like untied shoe strings. Like untrained thoughts, the sort without a solution.
In the three days after 9/11, when virtually no planes flew overhead of the most industrialized country in the world, the temperature nationwide was 1.8 degrees higher in the afternoon, and comparatively lower overnight. Those little trails we tramp across the sky as we dart here and there, it turns out, block out the sun’s rays when it shines, and trap its heat after it falls. When we stopped catapulting ourselves into the air, even the weather changed.
It’s the little ones that trip you when your heart isn’t looking. It’s the little tremors of a day that change the world, for better or for worse. We invent pretend thirty-year wars with no bullets over very real giant bombs that could rip a planet in half, yet give short shrift to the bruises we make with our tongues. With our words. We kiss wounds into one another, with no comprehension of the collateral damage we inflict like a domino clacking against its sharp-edged neighbor.
A report today says humans are evolving at a faster rate than ever before. Africans have developed new genes providing resistance to malaria. Europeans are better able to digest milk as adults. Asians have dryer earwax than before. We are changing. We are being changed. And, in the end, we change things.
The child calls, and I can hear the exhaustion in his voice, if not the words he is trying to spit out between sobs. He’s saying something about fairness. About right and wrong. About being all alone.
I try to console the inconsolable hurt of not knowing where the pain is coming from, or knowing, on some level, that it comes from yourself. How do you tell a child that he is his own worst enemy, when it’s a concept most of us older than our years can never grasp? So I sit on the phone, too far away to offer an embrace, and tell him to take deep breaths. In and out and all over again. I convince him simply to breathe because, in the end, it’s the only thing we truly owe ourselves.
In the end, there is no defense against the world, just as there’s no defense for it against us. We can fashion ourselves into human weapons, train our bodies and our minds, but no martial dance or psychological attack can slay the tiny dragons blowing smoke into our already stained insides. We are always changing. We are always being changed. We are always changing things.
We have sharper edges than before, whittled by time and conflict. By the phases of human interaction: New truths, quarter-truths, half-truths and full-blown lies. We have developed a resistance to the diseases of our own self-reflection. We are able to more efficiently digest the beautiful cruelty of the world, and block out the tragedy of those we can’t touch. Sometimes, even the tragedy of those we can. We have become somewhat dryer than before, like upright-walking deserts with decorated fingers and toes.
In a dualistic world of sun and moon – day and night – wrapped in the clouds of heaven and the clouds of man, it is the little ones who are our assassins.
And our salvation.