Of Catharsis and Human Nature

I am not going to talk at any great length about the ramifications of the death of bin Laden, because I am an artist and a gardener and I don’t know politics. I don’t know whether this is the victory condition of the war on terror or whether Al Quaeda is going to promptly blow up every landmark they can get at and we will go back to cowering in the closet for fear of terrorist bogeymen.

I also don’t believe that anybody else knows for sure either, and I find I don’t much care for predictions—we’ll all find out together when we get there. If you feel you must speculate, there are some lovely blogs out there where they will be happy to discuss it with you. This is not one of them.

What I do want to say, however, is that no matter how you feel about the whole issue, anybody who is busy yelling at other people for their reactions needs to shut t’hell up and write fifty times on the chalkboard I will not shame people because their reactions to large and emotional events are different than mine.

Catharsis is complicated. People process emotions any number of ways, and nobody gets to tell you what emotion is appropriate to any given situation. We are what we are, we feel as we feel, this is a big weird strange thing that none of us have much experience with, and if you want to dance in the aisles and scream and break out the booze, do it. If you want to be sad because of so much wasted life on every side, do it. If you want to wander around haughtily telling people “Well, nothing’s going to CHANGE, you REALIZE that!” then…kindly wait until Tuesday, that’s really not helpful right at the moment. People are processing, here.

It really doesn’t matter if it’s vengeance or relief or slaying a dragon. It’s probably all of them and a couple more things that don’t go in conveniently cut-and-dried emotional boxes.

This is big weird shit. This is big weird shit with an incredibly long lead time. It means something to people, and people have to get big weird shit out however they can. This is catharsis. We shake, we laugh, we cry, generally all at the same time, we toast the military with our best booze, we cry some more. Some of us go party, some of us hide in the closet, some of us make appallingly bad jokes, whatever. We feel what we feel.

And that is fine. And don’t let anybody tell you it’s not.

8 thoughts on “Of Catharsis and Human Nature

  1. Barbara says:

    So on Tuesday we can compare people waving flags and shouting “USA USA” with the people who waved flags and shouted anti-American slogans when the towers fell?

  2. Blue says:

    Well said! Emotions are so complicated and when it comes right does to it, there aren’t “right” emotions or “wrong” emotions.

    I’m just hoping that our troops overseas stay safe.

  3. Hawk says:

    I agree with Amy.

    I myself have to say, I feel kind of like it’s not time to breathe yet, if that makes sense. Like things aren’t resolved. It’s unsettling and not at all cathartic.

    I count myself lucky to not have known anyone personally who was harmed in or by the 9-11 events. I saw it on TV from the other side of the nation. It’s all kind of distant for me. But I understand the reactions of others, and I’m just riding out the storm until they’re done processing.

  4. Ginny in CO says:

    The best comment on this I have seen anywhere. As an RN for 34 years I am very familiar with how differently people process startling news. It all depends on their situation, their life experiences, what the news will mean to them, etc.

    It is NOT surprising that this level of insight and articulation comes from an artist and gardener.

    Thanks Amy

  5. Ginny in CO says:


    It’s late and I somehow got the idea that the author’s name is Amy. My comment / thanks was to the author of the post.

    Must be time to go to sleep.

  6. ckr says:

    For sake of philisophical debate, I agree with you to a point. People need to get their knee jerk reactions out to process new information.

    And then they should take a damn laxitive and get that “big weird shit” out. I do not care if I do shame a person if that person is enthralled in celebrating another creature’s death.

    There are times for pain and sorrow, times for joy and fury, just as there are times for day and night.

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