Crime & tragedy

Crime and human tragedy have a peculiar impact on space and time. It may just be a psychological sense of impact or alternatively a very real and tangible alteration of physical space and time.

I remember when my car was broken into some years back. The thieves stole my car radio. I had a very strong sense that my ‘space’ had been invaded and that it had in some way been defiled. Sitting in my car just did’t feel the same for a long time thereafter.

Although I was still in possession of my car and the interior was not greatly altered, there was a definitive sense that the space had been altered. There was also the sense that something more than the radio had been taken from me. That sense subsided after a while, but the memory lingers.

The knowledge of some tragedy also alters your perception of a physical space. For example, a murder happens in your neighbourhood. The way you see that house when you drive past it seems forever altered. It was once an arbitrary building, an abode, but is now suddenly less than what it was. It too is defiled. It has become something profane in a deep way. What it once was has now been altered despite the fact that the structure itself remains largely the same. The meaning we attach to that structure has thus been modified.

Sam and I once went to see a house that was for sale. It had been standing empty for a long time. It was a lovely house but I could not figure out why it had not sold. I asked the estate agent. She reluctantly admitted that the original owner had been shot by assailants in his doorway. We were standing in the very same doorway at the time of this conversation.

We didn’t buy the house.

A similar thing happens with tragedy. Someone dies in a car accident and we place a crucifix alongside the road. That spot is forever marked. We commemorate that physical space and the tragedy seems to persist over time. Even though the tragedy occupied a very finite amount of time, be it a few minutes or hours, there is something about the tragedy that then ‘lives on’ in time. Skid marks on a road are peculiar in this way. It took only a few seconds for them to appear, but looking at them brings on a ‘slow motion’ of events as you reconstruct what may have happened at the incident. The skid marks are a ‘living’ reminder of either what happened or of what could have happened.

This phenomenon is most certainly psychological in its nature, but whether it is limited to just the mind, perception and memory I am not sure. Our memory of such events surely alters our perception of a physical space and the meaning we attack to them, but there is a deeper sense in which actual space and time have been affected by a crime or tragedy.

The counter to this argument is that the absence of knowledge of a tragedy doesn’t result in the same persistence of the tragedy at that space. You would not know that something terrible happened at a spot if it were not for some commemoration or knowledge.

But, given that knowledge, that physical space seems to alter in time.

And so, feeling like my space had been invaded was more than a feeling. It was a reality, that happened at a point in time, but the sense seemed to persist as if the fabric of space and time reverberated with that action, like a pond ripples for a period of time way beyond which the stone impacted it.

If this effect on the fabric of space and time does indeed occur, what makes crime and tragedy so special? Would not any action influence our cosmos in the same way? If so,every action creates a ripple in space and time.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


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