The day I turned my back on a man with a gun, I had no fear. It was not an act of bravery or valor. This was not a courageous deed. It was normal.
The wind was gusting as I approached the peak of the hill on the stretch of road I was climbing. To my right there was the empty stone bed used as a pull off for those who chose to park momentarily. It was part of state-owned land and was open for anyone. This particular day a Jeep sat there; not unusual for November. As I continued to creep closer, I could make out a dark figure standing next to the vehicle. It was a haggard man that I had never met before.
He stood there as I moved even closer. His face was red and chapped from windburn. Half gray, scruffy whiskers protruded from his upper lip. His head was covered with an orange hat and he wore a tattered camouflage jacket. In his hands he clutched a 12 gauge shotgun, locked and loaded. We finally met and made eye contact.
“Boy it’s chilly out today,” he said.
“Yeah, that wind is something,” I replied.
I never missed a beat. My feet never quit, and soon my back was turned as I started to make my way around the bend. I could hear him following me; the gravel crunching under his feet. I was quickly in a situation where I was alone with a strange man following me, behind my back, with a loaded shotgun. I held no fear. I never flinched. My shoulders remained slumped and my heart rate relatively slow. In this small rural corner of the world, I knew his intentions and never second guessed them.
This man was a hunter, but he would never hunt a man. How did I know for sure? I didn’t. But an unspoken trust surfaced and we knew we were one in the same. I would continue up the road toward the house that I grew up in, and he would cease following me and dip into the woods as he had intended.
This man held a deadly weapon in his hands, neither out of fear nor ferocity. He made a choice, and that choice could have been to kill. He doesn’t make that choice because he is a redneck that gains satisfaction out of taking another life. No, he wouldn’t sit in the chilling cold for hours on end, for the random chance he may shoot and kill a peaceful animal. His conscience tells him that there is balance in this world. To step into the wild and momentarily leave the rest behind may be a shred of spirituality for him. He may also seek a source of food for him and his family, untainted by the hands of man. Regardless, he steps forth, reveling in the primal instinct of man.
These few brief seconds alone caused me to think and reflect. There are people and places like this all over the world. In reality, they are the norm. The world is widely perceived by mainstream culture as violent. I suppose we have every reason to think this. Especially when the television, the Internet, newspapers and magazines tell us so on a daily basis.
At any given moment during the day I can turn on the TV and find some sort of police drama. Their stories are littered with sinister undertones that expel a sense of hopelessness about the state our society has slipped into. Violence has become a basic element of our lives and a staple of entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely evil that exists each and every day, but evil exists first in the minds of men. I live a pretty harmless life, sifting through crowds of people year after year; unscathed and generally without serious conflict. Most people want to exist without violence or harm. That’s why we live in fear.
The police dramas continue to blink through the television set, frame after frame. There’s so many of them that I’ve lost count. This is what we cling to and it’s frightening. This is entertainment. The corpses lay there for everyone to see, bloated and grotesque. Yet when Moammar Gadhafi, an evil dictator, was brutally murdered and photographed for the world to see, it became a social taboo only to be seen by a choice crowd. Have we become so desensitized to real violence that it now plays second fiddle to entertainment?
I am a firm believer that you get out of life what you put into it. Karma. Dharma. I’d rather step out the door each day with my hand extended to my fellow man, hoping he may do the same for me. If only we realized that we are in this together, then we could feel safe when we turn our backs.