I love my wife. I really do. It would be closer to the complete truth to say that I adore her completely and without limit. I was having a discussion with her the other day. She was distressed. In her distress she asked me “Why do people do such cruel things to others?” (she meant ‘her’ but, for argument’s sake let’s assume she was not referring to her beautiful self) At first, I thought her question was rhetorical. She knows as well as I do that the majority of the world’s populace is nothing but a scourge upon this Earth. It took me a moment to realise that her question was serious, and she was actually looking to me for an answer. A proper answer. I quickly discarded a flippant response. Her tears will do that to me in a hurry. In those moments, I desperately wished that I could give her an answer that did not revolve around discussing the inherently selfish and insensitive behaviour that comprises what most call someone’s ‘personality’ and I simply term ‘standard human nature’.
I also rather rapidly discarded the notion of answering her question with another question: “Did you forget that people are idiots, my darling?”. It really didn’t sound all that much like a well thought out answer. And so, I struggled to find something to say to her that would stop the tears. I am quite sure I did a rather fine impersonation of opening and closing my mouth in rapid movements in those moments; leaving me looking like a rather strange, tall, and bipedal fish gasping for air!
I do believe that I was gasping when I think on it now. I had been posed a serious question and I could not answer it? Well. I would like to blame the tears streaming down that delicate face for my inability to think, but that would not be the truth of the matter.
You see, the truth of the matter is that people are cruel to others for any myriad number of reasons. Some behave appallingly deliberately. Others are simply ignorant, uncaring, or are so caught up in their own little worlds that they act without thinking at all. Others would not know what a decent thought was if it walked up and tried to introduce itself! Some people are cruel to others because they have not learned any other way to behave. Yet others mistake cruelty as yet another form of humour and wonder why no one tends to invite them to parties.
I realised that I could not give my wife a single answer. Any number of potential answers fled to the front of my consciousness but I had to admit in those moments that I was, indeed, stuck for anything to say in response.
And she was continuing to look at me with those tear filled eyes; expectant, hopeful, and anguished. Her pain was devastating to me to see. I tried to continue, against great odds. She was preparing to sob. Something simply had to be done!
“Well, my darling…” I began. She looked up at me. I was done in. I was done in and completely unable to continue. I pride myself on my eloquence, and yet I had been reduced to making ‘goldfish impersonations’ in the face of her query. And so, I did all that I could do. I took her in my arms and held her. She began to sob. In spite of my instinctual desire to throw my arms up in the air before going out to hunt down each thing that had ever made her unhappy I held on to her. I simply refused to let her go.
“You don’t know, do you?” she asked through her tears. “You don’t know! And if you don’t know then…”
“Ah, my darling, I do know” I managed to respond. “There is a significant problem here. That problem is that I cannot give you only one reason why people are cruel to others”.
And that is a problem, now, isn’t it?