ok, not a book club. but “commitment free narrative club” doesn’t have the same ring. anybody game?
trigger warning: story headline sums it up.
& here is the extra short attention span version:
The hot, hour-long drive crossed through suburban sprawl and then into emerald countryside. [Maryann] Gray had the windows of her father’s 1969 Mercury Cougar down, and the radio tuned to the news. She was only fifteen minutes from the apartment, driving at the posted forty-five miles per hour along a wooded, two-lane country road, when she saw a pale flash and felt a bump.
The statement Gray gave to the police later that afternoon is written in the neat script a young student might use on a final exam: “A child (blond male) ran into the street from my left, running in front of the car. I tried to go around him (left) but couldn’t get by. I hit my brakes instantly + skidded to the left.” The signature at the bottom of the page looks as though it had been written slowly and with care.
In June, 2012, a forty-two-year-old paralegal living in Illinois, whom I’ll call Patricia, was driving home in the early evening when the sun suddenly hit her eyes. “I felt an impact, but a very strange impact. I thought maybe it was a deer,” she told me. Her air bags deployed, knocking her glasses off and burning her forearms. She pulled over, and ran into the road. There was blood everywhere. Then she saw a man, crumpled; his motorcycle lay beside him. Patricia tried to stanch his head wounds with her clothing. She whispered to him and called 911. A truck driver came upon the scene and pulled Patricia away from the body. “I couldn’t understand what was happening,” she recalled. “He started praying, but he was praying for me. I heard him say, ‘God, protect her. God, look out for her. God, give her strength.’ At that point, I just completely broke down.”
When examined closely, no life is really one’s own. We cannot control which year and in what city we are born. The phone rings when it rings, and the child scampers into the street where he wishes. [Thomas Nagel] argues that it is not just our actions that are vulnerable to moral luck but also our intentions, our dispositions, our exertions of will. A German S.S. officer, for instance, might have led a harmless or even an exemplary life had he lived elsewhere, or had the Nazis never come to power. Nagel thinks that the “area of genuine agency, and therefore of legitimate moral judgment, seems to shrink under this scrutiny to an extensionless point.” Nagel’s epigrammatic language reads more like Scripture than like philosophy. He concludes, “Everything we do belongs to a world that we have not created.”
In the Book of Numbers, God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites that they are to designate six cities of refuge “so that anyone who kills someone inadvertently may flee there.” … “If I had been exiled to a city of refuge, I might not have needed exile from myself,” [Maryann Gray] once wrote. She was moved by the idea that, in such cities, a person like her could participate fully in society without shame.
possible discussion topics:
“People who are not culpable can nevertheless be responsible.”
there is/is not free will.
why is this so hard to think/talk about?
online spaces as potential cities of refuge?
4a. does anonymity (for ex, that of online spaces) exacerbate or relieve experience of shame?