Friday, July 23, 2010

Worth Reading

Beat and Release (B&R) is a policeman in a town of about 120,000 people. He also teaches classes at high school and college. B&R writes about two questions he inevitably gets asked while teaching:

  • Have you ever shot anyone?
  • What is the worst thing you've ever seen?
B&R dismisses the first for the insensitive, vicarious thrill seeking drivel that it is, after which he proceeds to answer the second in great detail. This answer is truly worth reading. Click here for the post, then come back and finish reading my contribution as it amuses you.

From B&R: We all like to think these things don't affect us.  So far, I don't think it has, at least not consciously.

When I was but a mere lad and busy giving my poor old mother gray hair, I developed a fascination for reading material forbidden to me. The easiest way to get me to read something was to remove a book from the shelf and inform me in lofty librarian tones that this book was for adults only. My fascination didn't apply to 'R' rated movies. I had little interest in film anyway, much preferring the written word to television or the movie theater. It was the printed word that fascinated me. The vapid explanations for these restrictions that were given to me by my parents, grandparents and the local librarian did not help to quell my desire for the forbidden fruit. Adults were hiding something from the children, very likely something enjoyable and beneficial.

Having driven my poor mother to terminal frustration by my incessant demands for access to the adult books denied to me, she suggested I read a book of short stories by Edgar Allan Poe. I eagerly made myself comfortable and considered the forbidden knowledge before me. I rejected The Tell-Tale Heart (although I read it later) in favor of The Black Cat. Woe is me! The story frightened me so badly I couldn't sleep soundly for several weeks.

The trouble was (still is - the story hasn't changed) that the story was too real. The reader did not have to suspend disbelief to read the story and absorb it. For those of you who have not read The Black Cat, it is about the life of a mild manner protagonist, a real Casper Milquetoast, who takes to drink and slowly, inevitably becomes violent and fiendishly abusive. Casper eventually murders his wife, which is to be expected. However, it was not the murder that kept me awake nights. It was the description of the alcoholic and his slide into violent, abusive behavior of the very worst sort. I should never have read the story until I was much older, and even today I do not recommend it to anyone. Read The Fall of the House of Usher if you like, but skip The Black Cat.

What adults had failed to explain to me, and very possibly what they themselves had never quantified, is that it is impossible to 'unsee' something. Once a thing is seen, then the mark on the viewer has been made. It cannot be undone.

In just eight years B&R has seen the things that Poe wrote about. It is certain that these sights affect him and are stressful. It's equally certain that the other people with B&R were affected as well. These sights cannot be 'unseen', but the adverse effects can be treated and lessened.

I can't say that B&R has my sympathy or empathy. For one thing I don't think he wants it, for another I cannot imagine how seeing these terrible things would make me feel. What he does have is my support and respect.

For those of you who have a few minutes to spare, please leave B&R a few words of encouragement. Or, if you live near him, buy him a drink.


Beat And Release said...


This was awesome. Beautifully written and I appreciate the sentiment. I will admit to being a bit jealous of your control over the written word.

Mad Jack said...

High praise, Beat And Release. Thank you for your kind words.