April 20, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 221
Gargoyles Of Vigilance
A Vigilant Debate Over Dastardly Demons
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, April 19-- If you want to
have some challenging mental gymnastic workouts, try debating
the Demons of Vigilance with a five-year-old who is riding on
your shoulders in the SoHo district of New York City with temperatures
trying to beat the ninety-degree mark.
A child's mind is
more than a sponge. It is also a machine gun.
While it absorbs
everything around it, it also converts those images and information
into a sharp-tipped questions that bullet out of the child's
mouth faster than one can think of the answers. At least,
that was my experience yesterday with my grandson Matt as I
tried to describe the "Demons of Vigilance" versus
the "Demons of Terrorism."
We had just been on whirlwind Friday afternoon "kids-day-out"
where my wife and daughter and I, along with Sarah, 3, and Matt,
soon-to-be six in June--(he constantly reminds us of his impending
birthday)--go to places like FAO Swartz toy store, Toys 'R Us,
and Evolution, a retail shop that sells dinosaur relics.
As we were
walking past the eclectic storefronts lining the narrow streets
of SoHo, I paused at one window and pointed out a gnarled creature
carved from concrete. It was hunkered over with bat-like
wings spread and sharp fangs exposed as though it were about
to leap through the window.
"That's a gargoyle!
Wow! Isn't he scary, Matt?"
"What's a gargoyle?"
Oops. I forgot.
The guy on my shoulders was armed with a battery of questions.
Fortunately, I knew a little about the answers.
"You'll like this, Matt. Gargoyles were first made
to drain water away from the sides of buildings.
The word comes from the French word gargouille."
"Well, it means
throat or pipe in French. Water from a roof...when it
rained...would gush out of the gargoyle's mouth."
"But why are
they so scary looking?"
We started walking
up the street toward Little Italy to get some pizza and Matt
and Sarah could play in a local park. I was looking forward
to the park benches to sit rest my shoulders in anticipation
of the remaining journey home.
put on churches, Matt. They started out in Medieval Times--back
when there were Knights..." I waited for a question.
None came, so I continued. "They were made to look
very scary to drive off evil spirits...evil demons."
No sooner had the word demons left my lips, the first
bullet zinged by.
"What's a demon,
I took a couple of
breaths as we wound our way up Mulberry Street, the heart of
Little Italy, lined with Italian restaurants and waiters with
freshly starched white aprons, hawking at you to sit down and
enjoy the local special pasta special. The air was thick
with garlic. My stomach growled.
is kind of a hard one. I'll try and tell you what I know...But
you need to double check with your Mom and Dad to make sure
what they think...this is just G-Pa's opinion, Okay Matt?..."
I was cautious about
planting any information in his mind that his parents might
take odds with, especially a discussion about demons.
I also was trying to let Matt know the authority for understanding
didn't come from any one person, but was the sum of many opinions,
facts and one's own ability to chose. I had preached to
my children: "You're not in school or life to learn, you're
responsible to learn to think for yourself." While
I would have liked Matt to gobble up my words as gospel, I knew
they weren't. They were just my viewpoints, my opinions,
which I had found changed frequently as more data and information
entered my old sponge mind.
there are two kinds of demons. A good demon and
a bad demon. The bad demon is one that tries to scare
you. And a good demon is one that tries to scare
away a bad demon trying to scare you. A good demon--a
gargoyle--is like a policeman. He's looking around
all the time for bad demons. His job is to jump up and
keep the bad demons from attacking you. That's why
they put demons on churches and houses--to keep the bad demons
Matt had that frustrated gasp in his Voice, alerting me I wasn't
clear in my explanation..."I don't know what a demon is,
G-Pa. What's a demon!"
I weaved around a
pack of tourists being seduced to sit down and enjoy some delicious,
homemade fettuccini and then tried to carve a clearer explanation
into his mind with the Socratic approach.
"You know how
you feel scared sometimes, like there's something there...maybe
in the dark?"
scared in the dark. Sometimes I think something's
behind me and I look, and nothing's there."
"That's a demon,
Matt. A demon is Fear. We get afraid of something
we can't see or touch or feel. That's a demon.
There are all kinds of demons, Matt. Like being
afraid of falling when you are rock climbing. Ever get
afraid when you're way up there?"
is taking rock climbing classes at Chelsea Pier. Young
kids climb up a thirty-foot rock face and learn to conquer their
when I can't find a place for my foot, or look down."
"That's a Fear Demon, Matt.
Now, if you had a good demon, a Vigilant Demon, you could scare
away the Fear Demon with it. You could say, 'sic
'em good demon,' and your gargoyle would scare away the
bad demon." I paused, searching for an analogy he could
grasp easily. "It's kind of like turning on the lights
in a dark, scary room."
His next question threw me off guard.
"Do you have
I felt the bullets were zinging past my ear.
them, Matt. Sure, I get afraid of the dark sometimes.
The dark to me is what I think of myself. Sometimes I'm afraid
I'm not good enough at what I do, or that I'm getting too old...or.."
"Oh, yes! That's
a big demon, Matt!"
"What else, G-Pa,
what other demons do you own?"
I nearly stumbled.
He had used the property word, own. I hadn't thought
about owning my demons. But, in his innocent sponge-like
mind, he saw my demons in clearer light than I did--that they
were mine, some trying to scare me, others trying to drive them
away--living within me, part of my being.
"Oh, I own so many,
Matt. Like not having enough money. I have
financial demons. And, some of my demons make think
that I should have done this instead of that,...they call those
guilt demons....like I feel bad I wasn't good enough...or smart
like others...and sometimes I worry a whole lot about things...those
are called worry demons..."
"I have spelling test
demons, G-Pa! I get afraid I'm going to forget how
to spell frog...and spell it F-O-R-G instead of F-R-O-G!"
This was my opening. I
plowed through, head down, trying to carry the ball of Vigilance
at least one more yard. "So, Matt, the next time
you get afraid...you can just call upon your Vigilant Demons,
the ones that drive away the bad demons. G-Pa calls these his
Terrorism Demons--or Fear Demons. So if you get afraid,
Matt, you can just say--Gargoyle, chase away those
bad Fear Demons!"
"Hey, that would be
fun," Matt tugged at my hair, pulling upward as if my hair
were the mane of horse he was riding down the streets of Little
Italy. I winced. Matt was pulling on
my newest demon--my fear of going bald, a trait that runs
in my family. My good demon, Rogaine, popped into
my head. I laughed. I squirted the hair-loss retardant
on my thin spots each morning and night--six squirts--a
vainglorious attempt to preserve youth.
When we reached the
park and got our pizza slices I slumped down on the park bench
and told my wife about the demon conversation.
As we talked
about demons, once more I was convinced that Terrorism isn't
new, a mere product of September 11. Back in the
12th Century when gargoyles first appeared
as a predominate decoration on churches and cathedrals such
as Notre Dame in Paris, France, they were installed in retaliation
of Terrorism's Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
I hadn't thought
of them as manifestations of Sentinels of Vigilance, standing
guard to ward off Terrorism. As I looked at Matt
and Sarah playing, I realized we all need reminders that Fear
has an obverse, a twin who seeks to balance the unknown with
the known. Historically, Fear's antidote for buildings
and spiritual places were gargoyles. Today, they
are metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs.
I found the feeling
comfortable because the Osama bin Laden's of the world fed on
fear. They created it by making people afraid of
the unknown, forcing them to ponder: "when will they attack
next"--and driving them into Intimidation and Complacency.
But a gargoyle could
ward such Terrorism away. Today, a gargoyle, I believe,
is a Shield of Vigilance, a Pledge of Vigilance, one takes to
vow to not let the "bad demons" into one's home, or
business, or to exist unchecked within one's inner being.
I began to laugh
as I envisioned everyone in the world walking around with a
gargoyle of their choice riding on their shoulder, promoting
the fact they were armed with Vigilance to attack Fear at its
one of the great ways to combat fear by employing one's faith
against its dark side, but, history revealed that even the greatest
religious sanctuaries such as Notre Dame, didn't discount a
"good gargoyle" from offering added protection.
Studying gargoyles makes one wonder if the ugliness of Terrorism
must be fought with equal ugliness. It seemed American
policy against Terrorism was taking that route.
Watching Matt and Sarah
play, I thought how the Pledge of Vigilance was a parent's,
or grandparents, or uncle or cousin's way of becoming the child's
modern-day gargoyle. Committing one's self to the protecting
the child from both Emotional and Physical assaults by Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency basically involved the guardian
of the child, or its loved ones, to help convert Fear into Courage,
Intimidation into Conviction, and Complacency into Action.
To take such a stance of Vigilance against Terrorism would
drive the Demons of Fear out of the darkness and into
the light of the child's psyche, making him or her aware that
no one has to live in Terrors. But it would require the
loved one to employ Love and Caring and Concern versus Indifference
and Abuse and Neglect.
I was not sure whether
my discussion meant anything or not to Matt. But it
meant something to me. I had performed an Act of Vigilance
in his behalf. It also reminded me about my
own demons and how silly they were. If I took the
advice I had given Matt, I could just shoo them away with my
good demons. Or, I could wallow in complacency and allow
my demons to continually haunt me--to feed my fears, build walls
around my intimidations. I realized I had forgotten about
the good demons--the Gargoyles of Vigilance.
So I decided to pretend one was
on my shoulder, walking with me, challenging all the evil demons
trying to make their lair in my soul.
I hoped Matt and Sarah would
do the same. Most of all I hoped all the children of the
world would know that Terrorism was nothing more than being
afraid of the dark, and that an ugly little gargoyle could switch
on the Light Of Vigilance.
Go To April 19--Colonosopy
Vigilance vs. Cancer Terrorism