Slice of Life Day 14 of 31: Journeys (my March theme)
Before October 2021, I believed that visiting Salem, Massachusetts in October was a bucket list experience that everyone should have in a lifetime. I’ve revised my position: if I were to visit Salem again, I would not go in October – it’s far too crowded! Perhaps I might go on the 13th of a month instead, for superstition’s sake. The 13th: a jinxed number, paranoid with black-cloud cover and omens.
Salem, Massachusetts in the 1690s gave rise to one of the darkest periods of New England’s history – an era that defined the concept of witch hunts that still take place today. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is an allegory that uses the Salem Witch Trials to illustrate its similarities to McCarthyism – and portrays how ridiculous accusations can result in people being “black listed” with no concrete evidence, often so illogically and outrageously that it shakes the rest of us to the core. Social media perpetuates the whole avalanche of mob mentality that can ruin innocent peoples’ lives.
Due east of Salem in the the Atlantic Ocean, the hunt for other innocent creatures was also happening, as Herman Melville describes in his iconic literary masterpiece Moby Dick (Nathaniel Philbrick describes the true events inspiring Melville’s novel in his book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex). If we were to walk back into Biblical times and cast an injustice-sweeping net across the globe and drag it through history, our fishnet would rip wide open with the ugly gut-wrenching truths that the most innocent among us have been persecuted since the dawn of time, even while singing songs of hope and praise from chambers of anguish.
In the Salem Witch Museum, I read the names of those accused of witchcraft and their fate in the hands of swift Puritan judgment. From the deck of a tour boat in Gloucester, I admired the peace of gentle whales in the Atlantic Ocean, wondering how likely it might have been that their very own great grandparents were victims of Ahabs aboard Pequods. And I pondered the tremendous responsibility I have to be a vessel of light in a dark, unfair world -to journey inward to understand a person, a situation, an event – rather than to judge, to jump to conclusions, to throw jabs or join the fray.
Journeys create moments of deep introspection like these that help us see the world and seek our place and purpose in it.
Take not away your gentle mercies from me, O Lord; let your mercy and your faith keep me safe for ever.