Sunday, March 6, 2011

The balance between vengeance and penance

Everyone who loses somebody wants revenge. 

On God if they can't find anyone else.

But in Africa, in Matobo, the Ku believe that the only way to end grief is to save a life. If someone is murdered, a year of mourning ends with a ritual that we call the "Drowning Man Trial". There's an all-night party beside a river. At dawn, the killer is put in a boat. He's taken out on the water and he's dropped. He's bound so that he can't swim. The family of the dead then has to choose: They can let him drown, or they can save him. The Ku believe that if the family lets the killer drown, they'll have justice but spend the rest of their lives in mourning. But if they save him, if they admit that life isn't always just; That very act can take away their sorrow.

Vengeance... a lazy form of grief.

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