Occasionally I Contemplate Murder. Book by Stefan Stenudd.

Occasionally I Contemplate Murder 16

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T he problem of peace is somewhat similar to that of Heaven and Hell. It's almost a question of semantics:

The word 'war' is filled with forceful meaning. Gory detail and what the Hollywood movie industry calls special effects.

'Peace', on the other hand, is merely a negation, a very passive thing. The way the word works in our minds, it could easily be substituted by 'un-war'.

War and no war.

No wonder, peace finds it difficult to attract appreciation, as soon as it isn't missing.

And no wonder, war becomes such an obsession in the minds of both those who claim it's needed, for one or other noble cause, and those who deplore it unconditionally.

Yes, it's an obsession of most minds as well as societies, which are in essence nothing but the manifestations of our minds.

We find it impossible, at length, not to indulge in war.

The Swedish organization of writers for peace — calling itself Writers Against Nuclear Arms, as if other ways of battle were quite harmless — once wanted to compose a book on the joy of peace. It was to work as an inspiration for the peace efforts, making up a sort of catalogue over the values of life unharmed by war.

A number of writers complied with poems, short stories and such, where war was to be completely obliterated. Only the priceless bliss of peace, in one or other aspect, was to be depicted.

I participated myself, I'm embarrassed to admit, with a short piece on the joy of waking up — a joy of sometimes quite an ambiguous nature, of course, but always preferable to not waking up at all. Or so we see it, anyway.

Frankly, what not waking up is like, I have no idea.

The project failed completely.

Without the contrasting side of war, no writer could bring attraction to his tale. Myself also, I failed in my little piece. I needed the contrast — although unspoken — of not waking up at all, to make the awakening sweet enough.

Artists, who were asked to illustrate the book, had immediately found the reason for this failure, and therefore refused to participate, in the first place.

It would be like trying to make a drawing in only white, they explained. No black at all. What kind of drawing would that be?

They were wrong, as misled as Walt Disney. Black is not war, not evil — nor is white necessarily good.

War is war. Peace is fabulous peace.

The failure of the writers was not the unavoidable consequence of a paradox. It was a failure of their insufficient artistry. Peace should not be judged by this. The writers, the poor guys, should.

Although we frequently forget, we are but human. Some artistic feats seem to demand more than that.

The failure of the artists was not very different. By not even trying, but declaring it utterly impossible, they confessed to their ignorance of one essential thing, making all the difference in the world.

One thing, wherein the solution to this problem lies:


In beauty hides — yes, hides — the greatest attraction of peace. And beauty can be one hell of a special effect.

Strange, is it not, in a country which fought its last war way back at the beginning of the nineteenth century, that its artists should be unable to illustrate this fortunate eccentricity.

No, it's not strange.

One of mankind's most tragic mechanisms, is the limited time it is able to remember. Memories, no matter how horrid, tend to fade in mere years. A century and a half could make Doomsday itself fall into oblivion.

Regular human wars have much shorter life spans in the awareness of the human mind, than the Armageddon would. Thus, we rapidly forget the torments of war, and tend to long for something — anything — to take us out of the drab monotony of everyday life.

Soon enough, we get just that. Anything.

Only a fool would fail to sense, immediately and overwhelmingly, the splendor of the word 'peace'. Only a complete fool would ever long for it to end.

A fool of that kind, though, need not feel lonesome.

T here are many colorful aspects of murder, in a spectrum covering all nuances from the accidental manslaughter outside a bar at night, to the holocaust of modern warfare. The most impressive of murderers, though, and incomparably the most experienced of earthlings, is nature itself.

That mother we call Nature, is both a colossal donor and collector of lives. Just as we'd like to regard ourselves.

But while we must generally work like crazy, just to have life escape one single creature, Mother Nature simply shakes her body and, behold, thousands of lives are swept away.

Our bomb is mighty, all right, and makes a devastating noise — but compared to a modest size typhoon, or an earthquake far from record peaks on the Richter scale, it's still a petty thing.

In the perspective of such magnificence, we're still in kindergarten. Although we'd like to believe that we're advancing rapidly in our development, we've got a long way to go before we accomplish anything equally lethal. Fortunately.

Murder seems to be what ecology is all about.

We're all mere hunters and prey. To eat or to be eaten. Nobody can escape these gladiator games. The rules of the games sure mock the one who nobly lowers his sword, just to be swiftly decapitated and served as his enemy's supper.

Well, were this sacrifice really the moral demand of the Gods, then they must have anticipated a rapid extinction of those pure at heart — leaving the less compassionate beasts guilty, and their bellies full.

No, it seems the only limit the Gods put to this system of murder, is to keep it out of the family, so to speak. Don't kill within your own species.

Some people claim that the law should stretch further than that. Vegetarians often state that the reason for banishing all the fauna from their plates, is the immorality of killing things alive. Creatures who live and can register pain.

Well, shouldn't that include plants as well?

They live, for sure, which is proven by the change they go through, when not sufficiently watered. Some say, after attaching them to — of all things — lie-detectors, that they perceive their surroundings and feel pain, just like animals do.

Maybe the only difference between flora and fauna is the manner of their communication. For one thing, plants are much slower.

If plants are as much alive as animals are, then a noble being should exclude them, too, from his menu. By this line of reasoning, though, his diet would become scarce.

Fruits would be acceptable, I guess. They are what plants produce, just for the sake of others eating them — as long as the nuts are not consumed.

No nut, no core.

The idea of living on nothing but fruits is amiable — but is it adequate nutrition? Furthermore, wouldn't we soon, were this diet widespread among us, be forced to breed plants just as violently as we do now, just to make their fruits suffice?

Why can't we live on sunshine, alone? After all, it's only a question of energy.

What goes for the universe as a whole, that the quantity of energy must always be the same, is equally true for man. What energy I consume, by keeping my temperature and walking about, I have to win back. Where I take my energy from — that's of no importance.

The prospect of living on pills, on vitamins and proteins purely factory-made, is not altogether disgusting. Living without needing to kill, just by mixing this and that chemical substance together. Artificially, as we say. Why not?

Maybe one day we will.

Still, murder will not be gone from the face of the earth. No, the least complaisant of all murderers remains. Who is?

God, of course.


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Occasionally I Contemplate Murder. Book by Stefan Stenudd.

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Occasionally I Contemplate Murder
by 2006, 2011,2015
Paperback, 124 pages
Arriba Publ.
ISBN: 978-1-5142-2337-6

The same book in Swedish

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