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If You Burn It, They Will Come

Robin Alexander

Posted on May 20, 2019 17:11

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Picture a stunning 35-foot high pinewood structure comprised of magically intricate mosaic patterns sitting in the center of an expansive community park. Built by artist David Best with the help of volunteers, the building -- part temple and part sculpture -- embodies both majesty and modesty. Last night I watched as it went up in flames. The structure was inspired by the February 14, 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, in which 17 students and staff members were murdered.

It was built to be burned: Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas ritually dismantled to symbolize impermanence; offerings in ancient days that sent smoke rising in communication with the heavens. The burning was reminiscent of these. And it was an attempt to create something sacred from the morbidly profane, while providing a measure of healing as well. I hope it helped.

Rick Santorum: “How about kids instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes.”  

We who arrived from surrounding communities came to bear witness and to contribute our own offerings. For months, visitors wrote messages of healing on pinewood pieces and tucked notes into crevices like messages in the Wailing Wall. We hoped to experience our own sense of “letting go.” We all have something to release.

Flames consumed the edifice and black smoke billowed upward, as single notes that sounded like bamboo yawning rang out. Then suddenly coal-sized embers began to fall. They bounced off our bodies; one hit my head and with the vague smell of burning hair I turned and walked, patting my scalp. Half a block away – still coming down. Little kids cried out. A full block away – still coming down. And then finally, we had gone far enough. But for a minute, maybe two, we had felt a shadow of what it’s like to be pursued and helpless.

David Helsel, superintendent of a Pennsylvania school district: “Every classroom has been equipped with a 5-gallon bucket of river stone.” 

I vaguely remember understanding for the first time (at around age 8) that I would die one day. Not only the family dog (clearly a different species), not only Nanna and Pop who were ancient gray-haired beings with foreign accents (sort of a different species), not only my parents (two imperfect pillars who somehow supported the universe) … but me. It was ridiculous because the world didn’t actually exist before I was born -- I could absolutely attest to that -- and it couldn’t possibly go on without me.

Florida State Senator Kelli Stargel: ”When we say ‘thoughts and prayers,’ it’s frowned upon. And I take real offense at that because those are really the only things gonna stop the evil …”  

Still, somehow, I would die. But not just yet. We all learn this, I suppose, and then conveniently forget about it as we dive into the intricate business of living – advisors and graduations, courtships and weddings, job interviews and first days, childbirth and breastfeeding, an orgy of baby, pre-school and after-school schedules. 

Donald J. Trump, reported president of the USA: “If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly." 

As a parent the one thing you assume is that you will die before your children. That is the only blessing that accompanies the thought of one’s own mortality. It is an assumption about which we have become less certain.

Robin Alexander

Posted on May 20, 2019 17:11

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Source: CBS Miami
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