> jumping into life.

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On our evening walk one night last week, he told me about a website that showed footage of the torture made legal by our exaulted administration - not just waterboarding, not just pyschological cruelties, isolation and the like, but true torture. I haven't looked it up. As we walked down into the gulley, where a hill blocks both the wind and the freeway noises, and the birdsong rose up around us, I let his voice fade. His voice, tight with rage and the edge of dispair, speaking of letters to write, impeachment, justice. Let the birdsong overpower his voice, let the splash of the snow-fat creek overpower it, then let his voice back in, in time to say no, I don't think we are a new height of awful. The Chinese used to plant bamboo under prisoners so it could grow through their guts; the Romans had their gladiators; it goes way back.

We are a different kind of awful, sure. We have The Media and The Bomb. But awful has been around a long time. Jane Goodall watched one chimp twist another's broken arm in its broken socket, then walk away and leave it to die. Today I am planting kale and carrots. Today I am making love and listening to birdsong. Today I am baking bread.

Yes, the darkness has always been here, but it would be darker still if people hadn't named it, illuminated it, and fought against it. The great challenge of life, I think, is to do both: make love, hear the birds, bake bread, and also react with outrage and appropriate action to lessen the impact of the awfulness on the world and people we love. It takes tremendous courage and clarity to hold both the darkness and the light.

You are doing another thing, too. You are talking about it.

Yes. Eventually maybe he'll learn from you when to let the anger go and let the birdsong enter instead. That's the flip side, isn't it?

Indeed. They are the same coin, after all, darkness and light. The same thing, in fact, but that thinking makes them different. The bamboo was only bamboo; flesh is only flesh; hatred only electricity in the brain. Still, speaking it is something. Hearing something back is even more.

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