What is a curse? Popular depictions often revolve around a magic user calling upon evil forces for retribution, or an act so horrible it corrupts the very space in which it occurred, leaving a behind a malignant residue of pain and anger waiting to lash out at any so foolish to disturb it. This exoticizes the normal, however, as curses are born hourly; not out of magic spells or grievous injuries to the fabric of space and time, but simple, basic hurt.
Well, at least basic hurt. The trouble with hurt is that it’s almost never simple in composition, usually a cocktail of psychic toxins that have been simmering in the subconscious for some time. Whether it’s steeped in long-standing issues or the result of an isolated violation, hurt is still hurt, and a single grain of it can infect and harm thousands in the space of an afternoon. Person-to-person transmission is simple enough; anyone perceived similar or related to the source of the hurt is fair game, though hurt acts indiscriminately, too. Hurt will have a person searching through co-workers, employees, friends, family, whomever, in hopes of finding a close-enough doppelganger for the original offender to make them pay all over again, ad infinitum.
This was true enough pre-internet and social media, and it’s especially so now. A Twitter user with enough active followers who believes, truly or not, that they’ve been wronged by a member of a specific demographic can create a hashtag targeting that specific demographic and have it trend within a few hours, if it even takes that long. And that hashtag will act as a clarion: “Bring Out Your Hurt! Bring Out Your Hurt!” Louder and louder as it continues to trend, and more people who, truly or not, believe themselves to have been similarly wronged, join the festivities. Soon enough, members of the indicted demographic will arrive to exonerate and/or justify themselves, believing, truly or not, that they are being targeted for no reason. Hurt, for no reason. And they will take out their hurt on co-workers, employees, friends, family, whomever, in hopes of finding a close-enough doppelganger for the original offender to make them pay all over again. Maybe even create and push their own avenging hashtags to show they mean business. Round and round. Spreading faster than the most virulent contagion.
All of this stemming from one person’s hurt. Hurt that was likely passed on to them and others, just as they passed it on in turn. Eventually, it doesn’t even matter who was right and who was wrong; all that matters is someone has to pay, with interest.
This never-ending mass transmission of hurt has been on my mind recently. 2016 has been one long crescendo of hurt, fear and despair that reached its peak with November’s election and then unraveled into a dissonant coda. In those toxic weeks that followed the election, a good friend ghosted me. It wasn’t exactly something peculiar to me; 2016 claimed its share of friendships early and often. But it was as sudden as it was unexpected and left me with a great deal of, you guessed it, hurt. I don’t know why they broke contact, likely never will and ultimately, it’s none of my business. But the hurt hangs around and always has its own agenda. You didn’t deserve this. Demand an explanation. Never make the mistake of getting friendly with people again. Stay cold and guarded. On and on and on. So much impetus to keep the hurt flowing and pass it along to whoever is convenient.
Or not. Because there’s always a second option. Keep it in check and let it fade like an oxygen-starved flame. It’s certainly not easy and there haven’t been any gratifying episodes of vengeance to entertain me as I work through it all, but I haven’t passed it along to anyone else, either, and that’s important. You don’t go about hurting others because someone hurt you. You protect others from that hurt so no one else will have to feel that way. And again, it’s much easier said than done, but in the end I believe it’s the only way to escape the hurt. Otherwise you’re just passing it back and forth to other people until you break down, they do, or both.