Many of us wander almost like bees from one flowering “maybe” to another. Purpose for our lives seems to evade us, it hides, perhaps in disguise, and we envy those who seem to know
without any doubt, what they are supposed to do to make the most of this short time here on earth.
Responding with a resounding YES to a calling resolves a lot of the distress of ambiguity, doubt, cognitive concerns and all those other attractions and distractions that have us wandering from one possibility to another. Finally our body and mind come together and we feel a unity of purpose, a connection to some kind of “higher power” whether or not we identify it in a traditionally religious way. Now we know who we are: we know “what to do with our lives”.
Many of us have a taste of that kind of experience. Perhaps not in the overwhelming way of a conversion enlightenment, but lower down on the spectrum of feeling summoned, more like being pointed in the direction we wanted to go. We needed the sense of something more going on inside of us than simple logic or dry reason.
Those higher up on the spectrum get noticed in very special ways. Their art gets displayed in galleries, their music gets recorded, their scientific discoveries get awards, and their novels get published. Those even higher up the spectrum, up to and into the religious, get world wide recognition: nobel prizes, maybe even sainthood.
And then there are the others possessed of purpose who are summoned to be crusaders. Of course, we tend to forget that one person’s crusader is another person’s terrorist. The Western History of those wars into the Middle East call them crusades. I am certain their victims were terrified.
Apparently some people have long memories.
Over the last twenty years or so those memories have been transformed into living flesh, determined to redefine the loses described in the history books by writing another chapter. In this newest addition to the story of the crusades, the vanquished becomes the conqueror and his weapon of choice is terror.
Why terror? Death is death, why the insistence on gruesome dismemberment?
What we are seeing is the personification of the monster archetype, dressed as is too often the case, in religious garments. Vengeance may be the Lord’s, whoever the lord of that particular moment and place may be, but the true believer warrior personality sees and is seen by his followers as the lord’s instrument for executing that vengeance. And horror makes the point in a way simple killing will not.
Terror has alway been a weapon of war: heads on stakes, and bodies left hanging for days from trees or crosses. Terror speaks to our experience of the nightmare, the unbelievable situation that takes us out of our daily life and transports us into a land of preverbal creatures that tear reason from its fragile roots and leave us babbling incoherently.
Enough distance in miles or time allows us to dress that reality in “reasonable” solutions. But what we know and fear is that none of those solutions will work, and we will find ourselves forced to dress in the same costume.