Like many, I am horrified by the recent attacks on not only Paris, but Beirut. The same group took credit for the fear and destruction in both cities. Which has put me to thinking: How do ISIS and similar death-loving, nihilistic cults recruit people?
Part of me wonders if it’s because destruction is so easy, so satisfying, so dramatic, and so quick. On the other hand, creation is difficult, frustrating, meandering, and so slow. Every artist, every builder, every teacher can tell you that’s true. It takes incredible amounts of energy to sustain creativity, but not much to tear something down, whether that’s an idea, a building, or a life.
Obviously, I’m not a physicist, but an English teacher, so I’m not speaking about Newtonian laws. I’m much more confident in considering the emotional forces that cause attraction to and repulsion from ideas. Hope, Emily Dickinson once wrote, is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. As a teacher, I not only believe this to be true, I know it to be true from the experiences of building a community with students every school year. Hope is an energy that fuels creation and possibility. Hope is what draws all of us to show up on Mondays because down deep, we have hope that our efforts will be for the good.
This is why I believe the despair marketed by ISIS and its imitators will swallow itself. Despair is not an energy, but an inertia, an entropy, a drain and a parasite. There’s nothing to draw on, nothing to build on, nothing to fuel movement except bursts of rage which will spin down like a tornado unraveling in furious, but brief seconds. Unfortunately, the destruction spawned by both tornadoes and ISIS causes tremendous amounts of suffering.
Fortunately, hope recruits many more people to bind wounds and build peace than despair can to its banal and boring plans for ruin. Destruction is essentially a cliché, working as it does with the same blunt tools of anger and hate to scar the same material. That’s why I bet on the French people, as well as those drawn to help and heal. Creation has hope energizing it, blooming into myriad regenerations of itself. Watch for it, it’s building even now. The whole universe is for with those hope.
Only hell waits for those who hate.