Friday, December 29, 2006

"Pure Evil"

The kids informed me today that they had found an on-line quiz to determine, in exact percentages, how evil they were. They were both very smugly satisfied that they had scored "almost 100% pure evil". I was skeptical, of course. They are relatively good and innocent kids. I haven't smelled decomposing bodies under the bed or found blood-stained shackles in the garage.

"So, what kind of questions were on this test?" I asked.

"What browser you use. Using AOL is worth a lot of evil points."
"Whether you've ever voted for a Republican."
"Do you recycle. Stuff like that."

So that's it, I guess. The idea of evil in the computerized west.

None of the questions the word 'evil' implies to me:

"Have you ever raped someone because you were bored?"
"Have you ever recorded the screams of someone that you tortured so that you could relive the moment later?"
"Have you ever prostituted your own child for drug money?"
"Have you ever killed a child because he or she wouldn't quit screaming after you whipped or burned them?"
"Have you ever had a falling-out with a neighbor because he tried to molest your daughter and you don't share?"

On and on...
So the kids and I talked for a bit about evil and trivializing things and people who think that things that annoy them or they disagree with are evil. I hope I wasn't too edgy because the test, as they described it, did offend me.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Nothing Special

I need to start carrying a digital camera.

20 minutes ago we cleared a fight. When it was all over one big man was kneeling on the floor, blood pouring from his mouth and nose and trickling from the corner of his eye. He was holding a towel to his face that quickly soaked in blood, snot and saliva. A tear trickled through the blood like some kind of obscene smearing eye shadow and in a semi-circle around this kneeling man was a spray of blood smeared with foot prints of a scuffle.

There was nothing special about it, nothing special about the fight or the scene or the aftermath. I know that without a picture this will just be an entry in my personal log that I might run across in a few years and draw a complete blank.

A lot of my writing is about trying to share my "nothing special". This is what a fight looks like: someone comes up behind you and grabs your hair and slams your face into a wall and you can't see and you spin and throw a wild punch and it connects and you feel your hand break and nothing, nothing,nothing happens to the guy who grabbed your hair he just starts pounding and you hear someone yelling "break it up" and you try to stop and he doesn't and he's just pounding and you can't see and hands pull you apart and you can't stand up and everything is blurry and then you're shaking and... humiliated... That's pretty much what one of the fighters described to me. That's a normal perception in an ambush. Nothing special.

The other one just said, "It's a misunderstanding. Bunch of men, some testosterone. It happens, you know?" He was cool, no shakes. He'd decided to beat this man into a pulp and he'd done so. Business as usual. And that's nothing special either.

I want to do a photographic montage of contrasts:

The most beautiful dojo you have ever seen with polished floors and a shrine and crisp white uniforms contrasted with a tiny cell covered with blood and OC and the obvious trail in the blood where we dragged the crook out.

The defendant in court with his expensive suit and haircut and lawyer contrasted with the damaged body of his victim.

The loser of a boxing match with his battered face and brave smile contrasted with the misshapen skull and toothless face of a guy who has been slammed repeatedly into the corner of a concrete wall.

A perfect tournament TKD round kick to the head contrasted with a guy curled in a ball on the floor of a bar as multiple people slam boots into his head and body.

The contrast is interesting, but only to people who have only ever seen one side of the equation. If all you have ever seen is dojo training and tournaments, kata and boxing matches a crook attacking you while you are standing at a urinal and trying to drive your face into the pipe sounds outrageous. But it's nothing special. That's the way these things happen when they happen.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Threat is in Control

This is another concept that is hard for civilians to understand: the threat is in control of every aspect of a Use of Force. It seems counter-intuitive. On one side you have the police with belts full of weapons, radios, back up and, theoretically, the weight and influence of all of civilization behind them. On the other side, you have the threat. Sometimes armed, often not. Sometimes impaired with drugs or alcohol or mental illness. We see the disparity in power and even the disparity in judgment and assume the responsibility lies with the person in power. The smart one.

Aside: If you have two kids and one is bad please do not ever, ever turn to the older one and say, "Why didn't you stop your little brother?" or "How did you let this happen?" You can try to convince yourself until you are blue in the face that the smarter, more responsible child should have known better and should have intervened. But no matter what you say, you aren't punishing the responsible kid, you're punishing the good kid. And you aren't doing it because it's the right thing to do but because the good kid is easier to punish. Because the bad kid will argue or fight or challenge and the good kid will take it. It is an act of cowardice.

Okay, had to get that out of my system. Movin' on.

Fighting bad guys isn't like rolling with your buddies down at the dojo. Sometimes it's dangerous. It's usually messy and almost always stinks. The cops know that. Not one person I work with gets up in the morning and says "Hey, with any luck I'll get in a big fight with a crazy tweaker and his four friends! And they'll have oozing sores all over and ooooh, maybe it can happen in a shooting gallery with used hypodermic needles all over the place and puddles of urine! Whooo hoo!" Or "Damn, it's really hard to get vacation time in the summer. Hey, if I shoot someone, I get some days off for psych! Of course, I'll probably need the psych and my career and all my personal posessions will be on the line from the eventual lawsuit. There might be nightmares and stuff and I'll probably get divorced but I really want to go fishing this weekend."

The threat dictates the use of force. 'Threat' is one of those law enforcement euphemisms. Not to be judgmental, but the threat is the bad guy (BG) some times abbreviated to EBG for Evil Bad Guy.

So, the first element of a Use of Force: the BG makes it happen. I want to be left alone to eat donuts and talk to my friends all day. I wouldn't even be responding unless someone called me and said that there was an EBG up to something or I see the EBG being bad.

The next element is even easier- for the most part, unless it's really outrageous, all the BG has to do is STOP BEING BAD WHEN HE SEES A COP. Really, how hard is that? In the jail if I see someone breaking a rule, I catch the person's eye, maybe shake my head and he stops. If he doesn't stop, I'll have to do something. Usually talking is enough....

Even if the behavior is outrageous- hostages, assault, murder- the EBG stops being bad (drops the weapon, puts his hands up and complies with orders) and there's still no use of force. I'm not saying that there aren't bad guys who I've wanted to hurt, there have been. But the arrest, the paperwork, the likelihood of conviction all go easier without the force. Most officers are professional and won't give in to the anger.

Aside- You (civilian, officer, trainier) have to realize that time is a critical limiting factor. If the EBG is in the process of shooting someone there is no time for making eye contact or talking. I will tackle or shoot, depending on which I can do fastest. Presentation is another factor- someone screaming or ignoring you or being (or pretending to be) in a psychotic break can also remove the verbal skills from the table.

Simple as that: the BG chooses whether or not he will respond to the officer's presence or the officer's attempt to communicate. He also chooses if communication won't work. If the officer has a duty to act and communication won't work (or fails), the officer must use force. The force starts because the BG makes it start.

How much force is used? The minimum level the officer reasonably believes will safely end the situation. That's a complicated sentance and almost every word is a legal concept. It's a job, and force has to be used judiciously and with an eye to safety- if the officer uses too little force and gets injured or killed, he can't end the situation. He becomes a drain on resources. At the same time, the minimum level is always a guess. There's one "bad ass" in our system who is half a foot taller than me, maybe 100 pounds heavier and thrives on his reputaion for fighting and being crazy. In the middle of the night he covered his cell window (big no-no, usually the first step to a barricaded threat situation). I was alone, but I was tired and kind of tired of games. I opened the door and went in to his cell and tore the wet toilet paper off the window. This huge monster fighter the second I entered his cell curled up in a fetal position and started crying. Before this situation, if I'd intended to use force, it would have been pepper spray, several officers and probably impact weapons. There have also been little guys who fought until their hearts gave out, throwing multiple officers around.

Anyway, it's a guess and the threat supplies the clues. If he claims to be a multiple blackbelt or a SEAL, he gets hit harder. If he claims to be a peaceful protester but needs to be moved, fingerlocks or pepperspray (pain compliance tools that don't cause injury) are the preferred response. Most importantly, the threat decides if the level of force the officer is using is enough. If I put a fingerlock on a protester and it doesn't work, I'll have to use something else, something more. It escalates, but the threat dictates the escalation.

The last piece: when is the UofF over? When the threats decide it is. Here's a secret that applies to people and life and armies: people are almost never beaten- they give up. Except at the highest end uses of force, such as shooting, we (the officers) rarely beat anybody. Unless the brainstem is shut down or every long bone in the arms and legs is cleanly broken, people can keep fighting. Hugh Glass' 300 mile crawl after the grizzly mauling. Inmates punching with clearly broken hands. Attempted rape survivors who grabbed the blade of the knife and hung on to it while they kicked and scratched and screamed. Excited delerium cases where the threat fights off many many officers and keeps fighting until his heart gives out.

So the threat decides when he gives up. What level of force or pain he has to endure before he can allow himself to be handcuffed and still maintain his 'manly dignity'. That sounded flip, but some of the worst uses of force are from spoiled rich kids who think that they have the right to destroy or take anything they want and no one can tell them otherwise. Their parents always backed down so they expect everyone else to. Or from upstanding citizens who think that since they aren't real criminals (only drinking and driving or beating the wife that they own) and they fight as a matter of honor.

So, to sum up- if the threat decides when force is going to be used and how much force is going to be used and when it will stop...who's in charge?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


It's a cold December night, almost morning. Calls have already come in: a big man, shirtless and shoeless is walking down the dividing line swinging a club.

The guy is five-foot ten and 260 pounds. The officer who sees him first tries to talk to him from his car and is ignored. Remember "Duty to Act"? If the officer drives away and either the man in the middle of the road is hit by a car or he attacks someone with the club, it's the officer's responsibility. He has to do something.

260 pounds, swinging a club. Facts. Walking in frigid weather shirtless and shoeless; walking down the middle of the road; ignoring officer's attempt to talk. All facts. Altered mental state is the only reasonable conclusion.

What kind of altered mental state? Psychotic? Drugs? IT DOESN'T MATTER. Even if the officer had the time and the resources to find out those are just labels tacked on to a range of behaviors. The officer is there to deal with the behavior. If the guy is super strong or impervious to pain or completely unresponsive to talking it doesn't matter if meth or anger or a hormone imbalance made him that way.

The officer did the right thing. He got out of the car with his taser ready. He put the red dot of the laser sight on the man's chest and ordered him to drop the weapon or he would be tased.

Editorial- there is no greater indicator of an altered mental state than advancing on a drawn weapon. Drugs, psych, mental retardation - in our society you won't find anyone who hasn't watched enough TV to know what a cop and what a weapon is. If you draw a gun (or a taser or whatever, but this piece of advice is for civilians thinking self-defense and most won't be able to afford a Taser) and the threat advances on you, you're probably going to have to use it. Or admit that you weren't prepared to carry it in the first place.

How did the man react when the officer prepared the taser and told him to drop the weapon? He advanced on him, swing the stick. The report said he was "coming at me with the physical actions of attack".

I wasn't going to quote the source directly, but this is too telling to pass up- one of the threats relatives wanted to know "What were 'the physical actions of attack'?" For crying out loud, coming at someone swinging a stick pretty much sums it up. This question reeks- and not just with what I am percieving as some kind of anti-police bias or some kind of blind and unquestioning love for a relative... it reeks with a level of stupidity, willful stupidity that turns my stomach. Of course other 260 pound men coming at you with a club would be dangerous but my 260 pounder coming at you with a club is different. It's really hard not to use profanity to show the level of contempt I'm feeling right now.

So, the officer tased the guy. The guy dropped the stick and went down. But then he got back up. He refused to stay down. He refused to follow verbal orders.

This is rare. Tasers hurt unbelievably. They suck. Even a flatworm will respond to pain. In the officer's experience, it just confirmed what the original presentation of the threat had already indicated: drugs or psych; nearly immune to pain. Very, very dangerous. (Remind me some day to do a post on pain and its limitations with special attention to why an inability to feel pain almost always requires that an injury will happen). In all there were four taser shocks. Other officers arrived. A baton was used- six strikes according to the paper.

No firearms. No deaths.

From the officer's point of view:
Duty to act both for the safety of the subject and others? Check. Double check.
Intent to cause harm? Advanced with a weapon, refused to drop weapon. Check.
Means to cause harm? Very large and armed. Check.
Opportunity? Threat closing into strike range. Check

A 260 pound man with a weapon and demonstrable intent, means and opportunity made him a threat at the ominous level and possibly lethal level. It authorizes impact weapons absolutely and, especially after he shrugged off the taser, could have justified deadly force... but the officer chose to handle it at a level of force below impact weapons. (The taser is all scary and electric, but it is simply a pain compliance tool. It hurts a lot but the only injuries are two pin pricks each a quarter of an inch deep. That's it.)

So, if anything, the officer used less force than he should have.

The article infuriates me.

From putting "threatening" in quotation marks when describing the threat to calling the incident a 'mishap' it is a gut wrenching travesty.

There were two facts unknown to the officer that the reporter considers key: 1)That the threat was only fifteen tender years of age (big deal- how relevant is that at 260 pounds?) and 2) that he was autistic.

Autism, of course, is one of the good and fuzzy/happy mental illnesses. Everyone has seen Rainman, right? And Dustin Hoffman was harmless, right?

Both my kids are autistic, and through them we know many other autistic children. Some of them are dangerous and can't be mainstreamed with other children. The same illness that at certain levels makes it so they do not understand languages or uniforms and won't follow instructions also means that they don't understand that kitties are not for strangling or that it's not okay to bite or that eyes aren't just pretty marbles you can try to pull out and play with.

How relevant is that label, anyway? The officer made the good call- altered mental state. He did the right thing, not only by the book but about as safely as it can be done.... and some pathetic collection of whiny rat-bastards with an agenda ( a news agenda, a family agenda, something) can't see it.

Call us when you want something done about a 260 pound mentally ill person with a club. If you know a better way, don't call us. Do it yourself. And if it's your 260 pound mentally ill person with a club and you want him treated special, maybe you should do something to keep him from wandering the streets at 3 am.


Possibly the most fucked-up thing that I know (beyond that people who died of starvation smell like fresh-baked bread) is that "Ventura Highway" by America is the best song to be listening to when you are told that someone died.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Kris called over the weekend to confirm me for Martial University 2007 in Seattle. I'll be teaching three classes.

MU is "dealer's choice" in that the instructor can teach anything he feels like and each hour the students will have at least five instructors to choose from. It's a great place to get a taste of many things. There will be a change this year in that what the instructors teach will be on the schedule in general terms at the start of the day.

I'm toying with holding a workshop on complexity. To see if I can take a familiar technique such as an outside leg sweep (o soto gari) and bring it through various levels of magnification. At the human sized level it is unbalancing, execution and follow through with fairly large muscle movement. Enlarge it and you have lines of weak and strong balance, subtleties of leverage, slight movements that pin entire body weight, two-way action; Expand it and you can throw in how the action of the leg can be a crippling strike, how the inside hand can damage or manipulate the spine, how the spine is manipulated most efficiently, all the nerves that can add to the motion, how the outside hand uses leverage points or nerves; Expand it more and it becomes about energy given, found and exploited: how the motion (gross or subtle) of uke or his stance and spine alignment dictate subtle differences in the most efficient line of technique or even the choice of technique. Breathing. Mindset.

Then take the technique and reverse the magnification process- what is the energy dynamic? How did this attack start? What are the dynamics that lead to an attack and how does each different kind affect the mindset and hormonal stress level of each person involved? How does that stress level then affect performance?

If you look at it closely enough, any single technique (much less an entire violent encounter) is unbelievably complex. It involves physics, physiology, group dynamics, evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, criminology, criminal law, endocrinology, athletics, strategy, and even moral philosopy. Within each technique there is power generation, timing and targeting; there is a 'why' to the strike (moral justification: "why am I hitting this person?" and strategic "Why strike instead of close? Why this strike?") and on and on, each aspect affecting each movement and instant of time... And survival requires a simple and fast answer to this complex problem.

But even the simple and fast answer is just as complex...

It would probably confuse more people than it would help, realistically. But a few would get it. The more of these complex aspects become natural and subconscious, the more power and speed you can apply to the technique, the more you can do.

It's easy for me to get behind people, usually. Hands to elbows and their bodies turn; the spine works in a spiral; pin on the heel; hands are sticky... all things that I only think about when I am teaching. It's just the way a body movies and completely natural... but it took a lot of practice and introspection to make it natural. It takes a lot of looking at the small stuff to make it disappear.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Bukkan said, "Explaining the four Dharma-worlds shouldn't take a lot of words." He took a cup, filled it with tea, drank the tea and smashed the cup. "Have you got it?" he asked.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fighters Fact Book 2

Yesterday there was an e-mail waiting from Loren Christensen. "Fighter's Fact Book 2: The Street" will be coming out in January. I wrote two of the chapters inside (though I'm curious about the change in title of one of them) and one of the pictures chosen for the cover was taken by my lovely wife and Luke and I are in it.

It's odd, because there was nothing really surprising in the news. Loren was with me every step of the way on the rewrite and he's kept all the contributors posted on the developements. There was nothing surprising and yet I felt very pleasantly surprised, like there was a shiny clear crystal in my head.

For all the talk about writing and identity, you know what? It's fun to have an ego and get it stroked.

Being human is very, very cool.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Belly Wisdom

Years ago (decades) there was this book picked up at a used book store that has long gone out of business. I don't remember the title or the author, only that it was written by a first-generation Chinese immigrant, that it was the first philosophy book I'd ever read that didn't seem to be just pointless and trivial monologue and that the core message I remember was simple and beautiful and true.

The author wrote that everything about humans and philosophy could all be traced back to one simple truth: We have bellies.

Bellies need food. We get hungry. We don't do something about the hunger, we die. It's easy to lose sight of that in a world where the neighborhood supermarket has more food than a medieval peasant or a pre-columbian native American might see in their lives.

Bellies caused it all. Not just the agriculture and the science it requires or the delivery systems and the infrastructure they require but the sports and arts and performance all derive from attempts to increase a community's bonding and make the hunting safer and the gathering more efficient, all to feed the bellies.

We can talk about sex and aggression as primary drives and gods know I spend enough time here writing about fear and violence and destruction but all of those are accessories, add-ons, luxuries in the presence of real hunger. That hunger has been the background for almost all of human history and it has driven... everything.

Yet we never think about it, or think about it only in a context of "the homeless" or a famine on the other side of the world. We add a political slant. It may be the most basic need in biology, and we tack all of this on to it, all of this meaning, all of these stories: and only the hunger is real.

It seems to me right now that people don't like dealing with real things. With hunger. With pain. With fear. Not even with real love. They want to deal with the symbols and the attributed meanings. They can't let go and deal with the simple world as it really is. They want to deal with the complicated world they create in their heads.

Do they need the layer of buffer? Is the reality too stark? Too beautiful? Not complicated enough?

Is it simply that the real world isn't about them? Life isn't about you. It isn't about me. Life is and it will be whether you are there to see it or not. The stories, the symbols and the attributed meanings are, in the end, all about the story tellers. Is it that simple? Like a child saying, "Mine! Mine!" people need the world in their minds to be all about them?

Get over it.

Even if your internal world is all about you, so is everyone else's, and some of those people can be big and mean and dangerous and in some of their stories your story is only a chapter and you are only what you are: A one-night stand. A victim. The great lost love. What might have been. The nemesis. The father-figure. A guide. A brother. A piece of background. A toy. A tool. Nothing at all.

And all of this is artificial. How much of what we do, how much of our creativity and worry, how much of our fear and delight stems from this interaction between two imaginary things, your world and my world?

There are real things to do and experience and delight in. And there is real fear and real danger, too. And hunger.

Monday, December 11, 2006


I've been on the tactical team since its inception. In all that time I have only missed three tactical operations.

The first wasn't a call-out. The OIC (Officer in Charge) decided to use tactical staff on duty and not page out the team. Working a different shift, I missed the mission. It was spectacular, too and became the reason we decided not to rely on "bean-bag" rounds.

The second time, my team wasn't on call (we have two teams, that alternate 'on-call' status). I'd been awake for about thirty hours and the mission was completely routine, so I just checked to see if Andy anticipated any possibility of problems. He said "no" and I went to sleep.

The third time, when the pager went off I was in surgery getting my ACL replaced. My wife turned it off and waited until I was out of recovery to tell me.

Tomorrow will be the fourth. An extraction and high-risk transport on a supremacist with multiple murder charges.

The other team has a new team leader. Mike used to be my second. Tomorrow will be his first mission as a TL. I have to not be there. The team is used to looking to me for the plan and operational guidance. They're used to my voice. They need to listen for Mike and nothing else. They need to see that he can handle it and I trust him enough to let him handle it, trust him so much that I won't even be there.... and I do. Mike is an extraordinary leader and operator.

But it's still hard. Very, very hard.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More on Telling Stories

"Aftermath" is becoming even more difficult to read.

This is a semi-political observation: I don't like or respect 'activists'. At some point in the last thirty years or so what the people labeled 'activists' do has changed. If memory serves, the activists used to go into the deep south and sign up voters. They used to form neighborhood watches and clean up litter and graffiti.

It seems that these days, the people who call themselves activists (the protestors and letter-writers and 'research groups') whine or scream or block traffic or sue all in the attempt to get someone else (usually the government) to fix what they see as a problem.

In case I'm going too fast here: you see a problem (even if I don't agree that it's a problem) and you put your time and sweat and blood and money into fixing it, you have my absolute respect. You see a problem and begin screaming or waving signs or orchestrating protests to force me (or the taxpayers in general) to fix the problem, you have my absolute contempt. Adults fix problems, children whine for adults to fix problems. That's a basic difference.

Re-framing is a very powerful tool. It is the ability to ask, "What's the real question here?" Or "What does it mean on this level? On this level?" In "Aftermath" the author, in my opinion, has taken this to potentially destructive and counter-productive levels.

Caveat #1: Susan Brison has survived something that might well have killed me, and has survived the aftermath, which could have destroyed many people. She has done this with courage and insight. She has my absolute respect.

Caveat #2: However she phrases it, she survives the aftermath by telling stories, re-framing the question, not seeking meaning so much as creating it. She is, like any of us, telling this story with respect for the remembered beliefs of her pre-trauma self and with the constant reinforcement of her peers.

Two of the things she did to make herself feel comfortable were to lobby her employer to make changes- lights in the parking area, locks on a door at the gym. Not bad things.

But she describes these things as acts of autonomy. They aren't, they are acts of dependence. They are asking for succor from a paternalistic exterior entity. They are delegating responsibility for her safety... and she is deciding to see it as autonomy. (Honestly, it irks me a little that throughout she writes about the uncaring masculine-centered establishment but her first instinct is to turn to the same establishment and demand that it make her feel more comfortable). By deciding to see it as autonomy, she is telling herself a story, and (this is what I fear and why I would never recommend this book to a rape survivor) convincing herself that there is no difference between strength and growth from within and security provided by others.

The difference is huge.

Not everyone writes their stories with an eye to peer reinforcement. Kai writes:

"I have felt so empty because I won't force my identity into the story I feel compelled by other people's expectations to tell. I am left with "I don't know. I did this and I am this regardless." And they hate it: I contradict their world view both by existing and by refusing to tell their story as my own. "

That is a lonely road, but it requires and creates strength from within.

Identity Crisis

He loves martial arts, likes fighting, loves his job and deep down I think he loves teaching... when he's not in dry-mouthed sweaty terror at the thought of teaching.

He volunteers to teach, speaks well with a group of other instructors, but I can guarantee that if he is scheduled to teach, I'll get a call in the middle of the night as he talks about his issues and tries to work out the fear. I'll play counselor for the phone call, but frankly, it's starting to get old.

Then on The Day, it's hard line: You're teaching.

"No way. You make me teach and I'll walk right out that door."
"Then do it, but never pretend you want to be a teacher again. Always remember you ran away scared."
"This isn't my choice. I have issues."
"Running away like a scaredy-cat little girl is always a choice."
"That's not fair."
"Scaredy cat."

There's something fundamentally wrong about using grade-school insults to motivate a middle-aged tough guy cop. But it works, so I'll keep doing it.

So he teaches. And he does well. And he asks me how he did and I say, "Very well" and he says, "No, really, tell me the truth..."

It's getting old.

I understand there are phobias, real phobias. Jeff hit an acute acrophobia (heights) episode traversing a pit in a cave. But when things are this dragged out, this scripted, I can't help but feel that the person is protecting their identity- that they have told the story in their heads so much that losing the fear would involve a major change in their self-image. People will do almost anything to avoid change, even imaginary change.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Telling Stories

Patterns, reality maps, world views are all critical and far-reaching things. They are our models for how the world works and we rely on them to predict and control and live in the world. Know this: they not only describe what we think the world is, they also describe who we think we are.

Sometimes the model is altered. This is simply learning. I was wrong, X is possible, so X is added to the map where Y used to be. You can discover that you were stronger or weaker than you expected. You can learn about the world and you can learn about yourself.

Sometimes the model is shattered.

I'm reading "Aftermath" by Susan Brison. It is about her on-going recovery from an incident of rape and attempted murder. It is fascinating and important, but not necessarily on the surface. In other words, I wouldn't recommend this book to a rape survivor, but I would to a rape counselor.

In this book, regardless of the author's intent, I am reading as she takes a world map that has been shattered to the point that her entire identity is altered unrecognizably (isn't that the same as destroyed?) and she puts it back together. She tells herself a story, by trial and error, piece by piece, each painstakingly tied to the things that she remembers were important to her before the attack with the goal that it will all make sense.

This is why I can't recommend it to another rape survivor: "each painstakingly tied to the things that she remembers were important to her before the attack". Before the attack she was an academic, a philosopher, politically active... the story she is telling herself pays tribute to and is carefully tied to her memory of the way the "real" (pre-assault) Professor Brison thought, believed and what she valued. Where it is hopelessly inadequate e.g. "The free intellect will see as God might see, without a here and now, without hopes and fears, without the trammels of customary beliefs and traditional prejudices, calmly, dispassionately, in the sole and exclusive desire of knowledge- as impersonal, as purely contemplative as it is possible for man to attain." - Bertran Russell.

This is the ideal of the academic philosopher and it is inadequate even in the chaos of normal interaction with normal people. It is ludicrous in the aftermath of soul-shattering violence. The author, in very strict academic style, works to bridge the gap between what she experienced and what she feels about it and the way she has been taught is proper to think. She builds the bridge carefully and the book, so far, is a wonderful example of bridge building... but it is not a bridge, I think, that many could use.

The world is a big place, and our lives are complex beyond imagining and fun and challenging and sweet. We are who we are; but our identity, who we think we are, is a beautiful and fragile work of art. It is a story we tell ourselves.

But this is the truth- the world is big and we are small. There are things and events that can crush us like bugs on a windshield. No matter who we are. No matter how much we train. No matter what weapons we own and carry or how well we pay attention. For most of us it will never matter and we can continue to tell our beautiful stories. For many (for all, in the end) the story ends in death and the destruction of the identity coincides with the physical destruction of themselves, a closure and oblivion. For a very few, the fragile construct of the identity is destroyed but the body lives. And they must tell a new story, must create a world view and an identity where there is some plot logic. And they will tie the story to the things that are supposed to make sense. And they will use extreme mental gymnastics and sometimes very twisted logic to tie it into a neat little package.

Who can exist without their constructed identity? That's the goal, right Mac? To be the self without needing the identity. To experience without needing a story.

Imagine an ant hill and an eight-year-old with a magnifying glass and firecrackers. The ants have their culture, their history. They are the Invincible Army. They are the Chosen of the Creator. They are the Summit of Evolution. And they are burned and blasted by forces beyond their understanding, beyond their control or prediction... by an eight-year-old.

What story do the survivors tell? They will tell one, and it will make sense if you don't look at it too closely. Their world will be shattered and so will their identity, but they will weave a new one with a story.