And the Beat Goes On

Away back when, wiggling in my mother’s womb, I listened to her loving heartbeat.  In that steady, reassuring cadence, I heard the most intimate murmurings of her soul—the fears and doubts she harboured, the hopes and aspirations she nurtured.

Many of those, of course, were focused on me, her firstborn child.

Will I deliver a healthy baby?  Will I be a good mother?  Will I give him a happy, successful start to his life?  Will I make him proud of me?

She couldn’t know the answers to those questions, of course.  Not then, not yet.  But she was an extraordinary woman, my mother, and she turned her formidable mind and powerful will to the shaping of our lives together.  To make it so.

mother-and-childIn time, four more children followed, my siblings, and I hope they, too, were attuned to the musings and melodies she would have had for them.  I heard her refrains for me, echoing and resonating in that remembered, rhythmic beating of her heart, until the day she died.  Even now, whenever I’m confronted with challenges and doubts, a quiet, firm voice speaks to me from deep inside, offering care, counsel, and courage.  Her voice.

So the beat goes on.

When my two daughters were born, I strove from the beginning to insinuate myself into their wee hearts, yearning to know the singing of their souls.  I imagined I could hear it, modulated by their intrepid heartbeats, and my own soul sang back to them, every chance I got, conveying my doubts and fears, my hopes and aspirations.

Will I be here for you when you need me?  Will I make you proud of me?  Will you love me unconditionally, as I already love you?

I proudly watched as they grew from infancy to adulthood, strong, independent, and loving.  And I was humbled time and time again, realizing I was the nexus between these remarkable women, my mother and my daughters.  A biological bond, and more, I hoped—a protector, a guide, and ultimately an unabashed admirer.

My wife—a fiercely-loving mother in her own right—had as great an influence as I, perhaps greater, on our girls.  But it is I who connects them with my mother.

And now our daughters are themselves mothers—five wonderful grandchildren for Nana and me.  Their hearts beat now in harmony with the hearts of their children, their souls connect with the same passion we once shared.  I cannot know for certain, but I imagine these young mothers sing the same heart-songs, straight from the soul, that I first heard from my mother.

Will I always be your friend?  Will I live up to what you expect of me?  Will I be the mother you would have me be?

Knowing my daughters as I do, I believe they will answer those eternal questions affirmatively and beyond doubt, just as I witnessed with my mother.  For they possess the very same hearts—beating the very same rhythms for those same good reasons—forever crooning the songs of the soul I first heard in the womb.

And the beat goes on.

Tyrants

Herewith, four definitions—

  • sociopathic: personality disorder manifesting extreme antisocial attitudes and behaviour, and a lack of conscience;
  • psychopathic: chronic mental disorder manifesting amoral and antisocial behaviour…extreme egocentricity…an inability to feel guilt;
  • psychotic: severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are impaired to the point where contact is lost with external reality; and
  • zealous: fanatical and uncompromising pursuit of religious, political, or other ideals.

Tyrants the world over, since the dawn of history, have displayed one or more of these characteristics in dealings with their contemporaries.  A catalogue of infamous names might illustrate the point.  Caligula; Genghis Khan; Attila the Hun; Ivan the Terrible; Robespierre; Stalin; Hitler; Pol Pot; Amin—all deserving of the wonder, fear, and loathing they inspire even today.  Under their regimes of terror, countless people suffered and died as a consequence of their perverse aspirations.

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Interestingly, this small list of tyrants contains no names of leaders of the so-called civilized world.  There is, for example, no Cromwell, no Elizabeth I, no Bolivar, no Lincoln, no Churchill, no Gandhi, no de Gaulle, no Roosevelt, no Mandela—no one, in fact, who is thought to represent the ideals we enlightened peoples cherish.  Ideals such as liberty, peace, prosperity, and good government.

But could any of these worthies have been tyrants, too?  Benevolent tyrants, perhaps, pressing forward their own ambitions, convincing us of their correctness?  And do such tyrants exist in our world today?

We live on a planet fraught with peril, both in our local communities and globally.  Granted, many dangers result from natural phenomena—earthquakes, floods, droughts, pollution, and epidemics.  And for the most part, there is a cooperative, international effort to cope with these.

Too many of the perils, however, are brought on by foolish actions in the face of consequences we know to be severe, perhaps even catastrophic—

  • the deliberate despoiling of our environment and atmosphere, knowing such actions are unsustainable;
  • antagonistic expansion of national borders, provoking states of war and massive displacements of people;
  • premeditated acts of terror, often visited upon innocents; and
  • a relentless, worldwide drive to acquire ever greater wealth, enriching the few at the expense of the many.

Insanity, it has been said, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  To that I would add:  insanity is purposely doing something in the face of overwhelming evidence that the outcome will be ruinous; insanity is wielding power over others, for our own benefit, without regard for the effects it may have on them; insanity is living on a small, blue orb floating in a vast interstellar sea—a lifeboat, so to speak—and deliberately engaging in actions that will inevitably capsize it.

And insanity is the purview of tyrants.

Tyrants pursue their ends without regard for truth, careless of consequences, without attention to moral imperatives that govern most of us, never doubting the rectitude of their delusions.  Uncompromising in their beliefs, they seek to foist them on the world they inhabit.  As do sociopaths, psychopaths, psychotics, and zealots.

But an interesting thing about tyrants is that their actions are judged, not objectively, but through ethnocentric filters we all employ.  We hold, many of us, a belief that the groups to which we belong—be they racial, religious, gender-based, age-related, economic, nationalistic, political—are superior to groups to which other people belong.  It is all too tempting, therefore, to label the motives and actions of other groups’ leaders as tyrannical, even if suspiciously similar to those of our own leaders.

Tyranny, it might be said, is in the eye of the beholder.

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With respect to the first list of tyrants referenced earlier, it is likely that consensus exists among much of the world’s peoples as to the evil of their deeds.  Most of us share an abhorrence of certain actions—genocide, for example, or murder and rape.  These are obvious and odious.  But what of the smaller, less noticeable acts of tyranny we put up with?  What are the checks and balances in place to restrain the leaders to whom we grant governing power?

When I look at the state of our planet, and at the people who have brought us to where we are, I wonder if they are all not tyrants of a sort.  Whether elected, appointed, or self-installed, do our leaders act in the best interests of us, the people?  Or do they pursue their idiosyncratic crusades, heedless of potentially harmful outcomes?  Are there fifty, or more, shades of grey in the spectrum between insanity and rationality?  Between tyranny and altruism?  And if so, where on the scale do our current leaders fall?

I despair of the answers when I observe the follies they subject us to.

Benevolent tyrants are tyrants, still.