“The Adversary Walks Among Us.” That’s what a colleague of mine wrote to me, referencing the villain of The Heretic Arcanum (my series of short occult mysteries), after sending this BoingBoing/Daily Mail story:
“Today in 1% villainy: UK property developer Kim Davies broke a bunch of laws when he used children’s gravestones from a derelict church he owned to build an illegal patio at a historic home.
From The Daily Mail:
Newport Crown Court heard how planners were horrified when they saw the 'decorative stone plaques' had been used as part of a gaudy £1m makeover to the Grade II-listed home, turning it into a 'palace for an Iron Curtain dictator'. One of the 150-year-old gravestones was even engraved with the names of three brothers and a sister who all died while under the age of four.
Not only was this in violation of planning laws for Llanwenarth House, a property where Cecil Frances Alexander once penned All Things Bright And Beautiful, it seems like the plot to every other horror film.”
I’m going to step back from the obvious political rant, but I will say that these kinds of people are disproportionately the villains in my stories. Granted, this guy is probably not also a warlock and cultured vessel for the Eternal Night, but jeezuz he may as well be.
Note that he almost certainly did not THINK he was evil. As much as we like Darth Vader or the Wicked Witch, or even Hannibal Lecter, real villainy is often pursued with no (conscious) ill intentions, or if so, with a sense that the perpetrator is entitled based on previous slights.
I am fascinated by villains, and I think who we choose to hate says more about us that who we choose to laud.
EDIT: It was suggested elsewhere that these were “just pieces of stone with some markings on them…” If so, then we should feel no remorse if the Rosetta Stone were destroyed. Or Michelangelo’s David. Or the Statue of Liberty, being merely an oddly shaped hunk of metal.
What are books if not mashed wood, like kindling, and just as ready to take the flame?
Indeed, what are humans but mammals, and we should feel no more remorse at the death of a starving child than a stillborn cub or poisoned mouse.
In fact, what are mammals but peculiar collections of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, with some trace metals and inorganics? It’s all simply stardust, I say, and nothing more, and we should feel no different about shooting a bullet through a man’s head than through the gaseous nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and trace elements that surround us!
Okay, okay, I jest. We are all entitled to our opinions. But I see a world exploding with wonderfully intangible things — liberty, for example. Art to me is more than swatches of pigment. Music is more than the compression and rarefaction of air. And I don’t love my mother for the carbon that comprises her. Rather, her molecules are host to something over and above that, something emergent.
I would argue that the headstone is a symbol, an emergent condition just as much as any of those other things, and that it was created to stand against time in place of the person who passed — in this case, children — and that it is not an addendum but an integral part of the grave it marked, which is why the concept of “unmarked grave” carries such special significance. In fact, the headstone is the only part we see!
Should my arm get separated from my body, it’s still my arm, and if you found it in your trash, I would want it back, or at least I would want you to ask, and even if I said no, I would still be offended if you hung it on your wall.
But as I said, we are each entitled to see the world as we will — including as nothing more than hunks of matter. In fact, that right is exactly one of those non-material but important intangibles that make life something other than nasty, brutish, and short.