[Treasures, East Haddam, Connecticut, 2015]
The morning after the horrible news from Paris, I was having tea with a neighbor, a woman I greatly admire and respect—but who, like so many of us, is very, very busy. So although we only live a few doors away from each other, we rarely spend time together.
She was bringing me up to date about many things—like her son. Who’s a teenager, now. A young man growing up in so many fine ways, she told me—although she finds his video games appalling. (“Mom!” he assures her. “I know right from wrong. And I understand the difference between fantasy and reality!”)
“Still,” she mused, sipping her tea. “I wonder, sometimes. ‘What are you praising?’ I ask him. I—”
“Whoa! Back up,” I interrupted. “Did you just ask say that you’d asked your son to think about what he’s praising when he plays a violent video game?”
“That’s profound! That’s—that’s—Would it be all right if I write about this on my website? Because that just seems to be the most clarifying question anyone could ask. Should ask themselves. Not just teenagers. Anyone. We all should be asking, ‘What am I praising?’ as we go about our day-to-day lives. That just seems brilliant!”
We got quiet for a moment. Were we both thinking about those young men only a few years older than her son who, hours earlier in Paris, had murdered scores of people? What did their act praise? Because in their minds, I believe, what they did, the havoc and terror they inflicted, praised something incredibly powerful for them. [This link and imbedded, long-but-worth-it video by anthropologist Scott Atran sheds some light on this.]
“Have at it!” She smiled.
So I have. Praise be!