God of Carnage?

My friend Jeff Modereger and I went to Manhattan this past weekend. We had a terrific time, but I came away with some unsettling thoughts about facades.

I’m not really talking about the facades on the forest of office towers that surrounded us during our Manhattan trip. I’m thinking more along the lines of human facades. Let me explain:

Jeff and I decided to go to the site of the World Trade Center. It was a study in contrasts.

We saw a gleaming, brand new blue skyscraper – the rebuilt 7 World Trade Center.  They’ve started erecting other towers.  Even on a Saturday, the whole complex was buzzing with construction workers. Watching this activity, you felt swept up in an optimistic new beginning.

The footprint of the fallen Twin Towers are to the south of the new buildings.  That’s where they are going to build deep reflecting pools as part of the World Trade Center memorial. Further to the south is the sad shrouded remains of the Deutsche Bank tower, fatally wounded in the attack, and now being dismantled in fits and starts.  Looking at it all, you could still feel the weight of all those deaths, all that carnage.

I took pictures of all this from my vantage point inside the nearby World Financial Center. I posted one of the photos here. Click on the pic to “embiggin” it

I snapped pictures as I stood on a gleaming and undoubtedly insanely expensive marble floor. Behind me was the Winter Garden, a soaring atrium where about a dozen full-size palm trees rise toward the ceiling, kind of like the financial portfolio of a Goldman Sachs executive.  I could feel the money flowing through these buildings. I didn’t know if it was awe-inspiring or gauche.

Nearby, a tour guide with a thick New Yawk accent regaled a cluster of people with stories about the pre-9/11 World Trade Center. He talked about the  innovative  design of the twin towers and the complex elevator system. He brought up happier incidents like the time Phillipe Petit walked a tight rope strung between the two towers’ roofs. At least while I listened to him, he focused on the good things about WTC’s history, not the tragedy. I wondered if people wanted to pretend that very bad day never happened.

We went into  a storefront on nearby Vesey Street, where visitors could see what the memorial will look like and donate money toward the memorial’s construction.  A film projected onto a wall in the Vesey Street building showed people who were at the World Trade Center on 9/11 recounting their experiences. The subject is still understandably raw, judging from the tears in some peoples’ eyes as they watched the film.

I walked away from the World Trade Center site feeling deeply ambivalent.

That night, Jeff and I saw the scathing comedy “God of Carnage” at the Bernard Jacobs Theater on West 45th Street.

In the play, two refined, upper middle class couples visit in a well-appointed apartment to  discuss what to do about the schoolyard fight between each couple’s young sons. They start off talking calmly, politely, rationally, because that’s what Civilized Adults do.

Things quickly deteriorate into a hilarious, harsh swamp of bitterness, accusations, turf wars, wildly swinging allegiances, and primal fighting. The facade of civility crumbles. The God of Carnage, which is always behind the scenes, ready to expose our base, animal instincts, takes over.

As the play ended, my mind drifted back to the World Trade Center. Was the optimistic attitude, the frenzied rebuilding, the new soaring skyscrapers, the opulence inside the World Financial Center a facade? Or was the ugliness of Sept. 11 and all the bad stuff that has happened since the reality?  Are we  pretending the God of Carnage isn’t lurking just around the corner?  Is reality all of the above?

I don’t know the answer, and that’s what made me shiver.

2 Responses to “God of Carnage?”

  1. Jeff Says:

    your trip reminds me of the two parts of our species….the absolute horrors mankind is capable of unleashing and at the same time, the incredible gifts of compassion, generosity and humanity we have to offer in times of need. We are very complex entities. We need to search our truths more often and make sure we walk in another’s shoes.

  2. Denis Says:

    humans are so complex but damaged.

    excellent post. great photo.

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