The line between society functioning and its breaking down
is a razor thin one. We wander through our lives believing we’re protected by a
system of laws, but we aren’t. We really aren’t.
Laws punish people who’ve transgressed, true, and hopefully
act as a deterrent against transgression, but they don’t actually protect
anyone because they can’t, by their nature, be enforced until after
transgression has occurred.
What protects us is our shared agreement not to harm one
another. We live by the consent of everyone we meet. Nothing more than that.
We, each of us, have the opportunity a hundred times a day
to reach out and harm a stranger. As we wait for the train, all it would take
is a push to kill the man waiting in front of us. When a baby cries in a restaurant
we could easily throw it through a window before anyone een realized what we
were doing. Every moment of every day is an opportunity to subject another
human being to pointless, abject suffering.
We could, but we don’t.
Because everyone agrees not to hurt us, so we agree in
return not to hurt others, and so society marches on. Because we agree that it
But we don’t have to.
This is what’s running through my mind as the man on the
bicycle rides toward me. I don’t know him, never seen him before in my life,
and until my arm snakes out, seemingly of it’s own accord, I don’t pay him a
Once my arm’s out to one side, readying to clothesline the
man, however, he’s all I can think about.
The quarter second between thrusting the arm out and impact
with his throat feels like a lifetime, and I spend that lifetime thinking
“Seriously? Am I seriously doing this? This man’s done nothing to me, and I’m
about to put him in the hospital!”
I do not, however, spend any part of this lifetime letting
the thoughts stop me.
The bike keeps going, but he’s thrown backward from it,
hitting the ground already limp from shock and bouncing once before he
collapses, curls fetal, and let’s out a combination moan of pain/gasp for air.
His windpipe may be crushed, I can only guess how many bones
he’s broken and he’s bleeding from his scalp. I feel amazing.
I’ve transgressed the laws of society, and in doing so I’ve
transcended them. In my momentary lapse of composure I’ve managed to take all
the things about myself that I’ve always despised, my cowardice, my
unwillingness to face new risks and new experiences, my fear of change, and
destroy them, just as surely as I’ve destroyed the man on the ground at my
I feel like a God.
I feel strong, and decisive, and capable of affecting great
change in the world around me, and it’s a heady rush. I’m breathing heavily,
panting really, and thinking to myself that everyone should take a risk and
live this way, and my heart is beating so loudly in my ears that I’m nearly
deafened by it.
My heart’s beating so loudly, in fact, that I don’t even
hear the car behind me speed up, jump the curb and head toward me…