With the porch unlit, it took me way too long to find my keys and fit them into both locks on the front door. I don’t live in the best neighborhood, which might have accounted for my half-formed worry and the reason I dead-bolted the door behind me. Once inside, I went for the ice cream in the freezer and then upstairs to my laptop.
Annoyed, I noted the damp seat of my chair where my glass of water had fallen. The computer wasn’t on my desk. I righted the now empty cup in its place and wondered if my roommate had borrowed my laptop to watch something. If so, she’d been thorough, taking the cord with it. I searched the house twice: no cord. No laptop.
Another walk through the kitchen revealed the slit screen and the open window and all three locks on the back door opened from the inside. The police came, took pictures, and advised us to keep a lookout on Craigslist.
I spent most of the next day thinking not about the break-in I’d come home to, but about the movie I had come home from. Perhaps I have juvenile tastes, but I enjoyed City of Bones, the Mortal Instruments. I’d read the books on a recommendation and because I recognized the author: Cassandra Claire, a woman responsible for making me laugh more than anyone else in middle school by writing The Very Secret Diaries of the different characters from LotR (follow this link if you want to judge me for my juvenile tastes: http://www.ealasaid.com/misc/vsd/).
Clary, the main character of City of Bones, is brave and gutsy. In the movie, her mother has been brutally attacked and kidnapped, and when Clary arrives home, she has to fight off a demon dog that regenerates even after she’s blown it up using their gas range stove. Both the book and movie are action-packed: the main characters are “shadowhunters” who kill demons and fight alongside and against werewolves and vampires and all the mythical creatures of the underworld, including the folks who broke into Clary’s house and stole her mother.
As I puttered around the house all day, reading, cleaning, painting, I envied Clary. I’m brave. I’m gutsy, I thought defensively. I’d love to hunt down whoever stole my laptop. I would relish a mission like that. Action—that’s what I need right now—a chance to take charge of the situation. I’d run them down and, maybe after a couple of good punches, offer them $10 to allow me to get my files off the hard drive. They could keep the laptop for their troubles, even. But I can’t. I can do nothing.
I want the action Bonhoeffer describes: “Not in the flight of ideas, but only in action is freedom. Make up your mind and come out into the tempest of the living.”
“Sign me up, Dietrich! I’m in! Where can I pick up my katana?”
“Er, there are no katanas.”
“What? Katniss Everdeen style, then?”
“No arrows either. By action I mean more day to day things. Turn the other cheek, perhaps, bless those who persecute you, and so on. Work for the good of others, not their death and dismemberment.”
“Dietrich, you plotted to assassinate Hitler.”
“Oh? So you know someone directly responsible for mass genocide?”
“I see your point. So what about hapkido?”
“Forgiveness and mercy before joint locks.”
I guess that’s great. Majesty, forbearance, equanimity: good stuff. Glorious, even. I bet—given ten or twenty years and a few grey hairs on my head—that sort of thing is really satisfying. At the very least, it’s realistic. In real life, simple Hitlers are rare, more often obscured by a cloud of moral ambiguity and diverse culpability, and the demons we face aren’t the kind to be killed by confrontation or a katana. Perhaps I’ll always love young adult fiction simply for the solvability of problems, the empowerment of action, the glory of brave battles that contrasts so vividly with the dreary majesty of daily forgiveness.
My house was broken into, my computer stolen, my files gone forever. If I can’t hunt down the instigation for my anger and destroy it, what actions are available to me? God forbids me from revenge—what do I have left?
I, unfortunately, cannot create a computer. But I can create stories and essays and pictures. They won’t replace the hundreds I’ve lost—both in this burglary and in the last, in which I lost my hard drive—but it seems like the right action. An attack requires a counterattack after all. Or to be more peaceful, every melody has a harmony.
I’ll keep watering my garden, and plant some new flowers come spring. I’ll paint my wall, write a blog post, and maybe actually cook something for once (Lord, protect the kitchen from my incompetence). I’ll sweep off the driveway like I did last week (one of the reasons the police couldn’t find the footprint they were hoping for; curse cleanliness!) and help my students create coherent outlines.
It’s not revenge—“It is mine to avenge, says the Lord; I will repay”—but it might be something better.
Elaine Schnabel (’11) spent her twenties traveling, blogging, and earning various master’s degrees. Now earning her PhD at the University of North Carolina in organizational communication, Elaine researches and writes at the intersection of religion and communication. You can find her blogging at Religious (Not Crazy).