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Entries in sorrow (1)


Hit Man


The wasps make a big show but they are fewer in numbers - kind of like the Veterans on Remembrance Day. It's been dry. And we've had the hottest year since 1872 or something. I keep hitting at those pesky yellowjackets to keep them at bay.


I hit one this morning with the back of my hand, knocking it from the air. I felt the cool ridge of my vein smack its wing and I watched the insect fall, almost in slow motion, onto the pavement. It did not move for quite awhile but eventually it awoke and flew off, seemingly unaltered by the experience.


If only we all could regain consciousness, in the life-altering existential sense, despite the severity of the hit. But of course, to gain conscious awareness one must first, sadly, be painfully unconscious.


Verbe, Transitif: Déranger


I remember once, long ago, hitting David, a boy of my size and weight. We both were just six or seven. I unleashed an unconscious act of sudden and irrevocable violence upon him. We were on the school ground, after class, David and I. And I do not now recall the provocation. My reply seemed vaguely justified and the right thing to do. And so I pounced, knocked him hard to the ground, held him there, closed my eyes, wound up and delivered a hit to the centre of his face.


My fist came smashing down so hard that the blood gushed from his nostrils like water from a hydrant. Sometime previously my parents would have given me an outline of the Ten Commandments or something. I had a sense of right and wrong. True, I did pause for a nanosecond before delivering the hit. I wondered, should I do this? Must I? But the decision was seemingly already made. I would let loose now, once, for the experience. The blow came down with precisely as much energy as to inflict big hurt. As David opened his eyes blood oozed across his face and dribbled down his chin. We gasped in common surprise. There was no whimpering from him as I gazed down into his eyes and two watery pools of pain. I felt instant empathy with this, being the cause and all, and I felt sorrow for his surprise, his terror, confusion, and sense of betrayal. He must've seen stars.


But just as the Zen Master delivers a blow with his keisaku stick between the shoulder blades of the novice monk, so too had my act jolted us both into a new and irrevocable awareness. David became palpable witness to the sudden fury and violence that life in this world can sometimes deliver. I had directed a big hit on his nose, an act which seemed gigantic compared to the modesty of the provocation – whatever it was. How could you not be changed by that? As for me, the despicability, the derangement, the finality of my act closed in on me. Though I'd thought I was right, in less than a blink I felt immense regret for what I had done. Next came sorrow of such enormity that I could see intuitively and with inscrutable certainty that I had done something terribly wrong. Where I thought I was right, I was not. In fact, I had felt a sadness rising even before my fist connected with his face to complete the hit. There was powerful immediacy in the wrongness of the hit, shame in the unfairness and imbalance of the act in relation to the provocation, and awe at the depth of this first awakening to a tangible faculty of right and wrong. Children, this awareness is the centre of all. Map it. Use it. With the concreteness of my schoolmate's incapacity, with his pain and vulnerability, came the birth of a conscience. I immediately wanted to hug him, to make him better. I wanted to undo the hit. And we both cried a little as we walked part way home together before going our separate ways. We were oddly bonded, sadder and older. For David, I'm sure beyond the physical hurt there was a sharp bite of betrayal and sadness of a friendship gone astray. For me was the inner hurt: the pressing reality that I could not undo the thing I had done.


It was a moment of lost innocence for us both, that hit. But it brought transformation and heightened awareness.


Now I ask you to consider the various ways we commodify the hit as noun and verb: hit as contract killing, hit as sports metaphor, hit as conspicuous success; hit as a dose of narcotic, hit as connection to the internet blog, hit as to come into sudden contact; hit as in reaching a destination real or abstract; to hit a point in time, to hit a certain state, to hit upon an interesting idea, to hit against an enemy, opponent, or target; to consume to excess as in "hit the bottle"; to pay unsolicited attention to, as in "he hit on her" and, as I prefer these days, in the words of James Brown, to start again anew: "hit it."


I first met Andrew Rawlinson in 1980 when he was visiting the University of Manitoba for the World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions. He was a lecturer in Buddhism at the University of Lancaster and I was a graduate student in comparative religion. We chatted mostly about Sufism and we hit it off immediately. Rawlinson, author of The Book of Enlightened Masters: Western Teachers in Eastern Traditions, apparently is hiding somewhere in France stringing some sentences together to make a book on the Hit in all its forms; the Hit as a derangement: derangement of the senses, derangement of the personality, derangement of society, derangement of reality. So this is what we have, from the French verb déranger: so many degrees of derangement, of unsettlement, of being off centre, displaced and out of our minds. How else to explain the nightmare of Syria, James Holmes and the Dark Knight, 34 miners shot dead in South Africa, the daily 20 dead in religious insanity in Nigeria, ethnic psychosis in the Indian state of Assam, another 50 humans blown up in Iraq. I read today that for $325 you can go to a paintball compound in Minnesota, dress up like a Navy Seal and pretend to kill Osama bin Laden. I'm punch drunk and it's late rounds. Wake me from this dream. Take me to Vegas. Hit me.


(Top Image: Another Day At The Office 9 x 12 w/c) (Thumbnail: The Hit As Derangement PS/AP 6 x 9)