“Violence is a coarse tool and one that cannot be rehearsed. This is why the spirit falls short of it since it does not know acts of violence, for the violence of the spirit is a victory of insurmountable tenderness.” – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Life
Growing up, my ideal place to live was Paris, France, a center for all of the things I could possibly love about a city. From the fancy patisseries full of perfectly formed pastries to a literary history rich with Anais Nins and F. Scott Fitzgeralds and Ernest Hemingways, it was a dream, the place I saw myself – a life that went well beyond anything I could imagine in a small Alberta town.
Of course, with time, I’ve begun to understand that the small Alberta town I grew up in was not so bad. I still love Paris, but – speaking relatively – there are worse places to grow up, frightful places that are not safe, where violence can be an every-day reality, bombs can come from above, and gunfire from rebel groups a street over can be commonplace.
It’s possible that coming of age in a place where I didn’t experience everyday violence has impacted my point of view, but I am one of those categorized bleeding-heart liberals that see violence as a last resort. It’s a luxury I’ve had. Once, I saw a fist fight on the street where the men were coming to blows. They could have seriously hurt each other, but in the heat of the moment it did not seem real. Violence, for many of us, is something out there and on the television screen; the ugly realities of flesh and bone almost always exist elsewhere.