where life's not empty, it's restless.


I’m a big fan of optimism. Often, I’m brave enough to actually call myself an optimist. Other words I like are: Hope. Compassion. Love. But sometimes—and this is one of those times—we have to acknowledge that there is evil in the world. And because evil is often so random, arbitrary, senseless—all words I don’t like at all, and I’m sure you don’t either—because this is true, there is no such thing as total immunity from evil.

Safety is an illusion. Let it go. Be sensible, don’t go courting evil, but just let go of the fantasy that it won’t ever touch you.

Ask the families and friends of the four people killed and two wounded in gun violence in Seattle today. Today: Wednesday, May 30, 2012. One shooting happened at a café in the University District, the other in a parking lot outside Town Hall. We don’t know much more than that yet, but we will soon. We’ll learn names and heartbreaking details.

Ask the family of Justin Ferrari, caught in the crossfire of an argument on a Seattle street last week, dead at 43 from a gunshot wound to the head.  May 24. Ask the family of Nicole Westbrook, just 21 and brand-new to our city when she too was killed by a stray bullet. April 22.

Ask the parents of Etan Patz, missing for 33 years and in the news again because Pedro Hernandez has suddenly confessed to killing Etan, a New York 6-year-old who was excited about walking to the school bus stop by himself for the first time. If Hernandez did it, we’ll still never really know why. Or why he waited so long to come clean.

Ask Chong Kim, whose real-life story was featured in a film called Eden, the most moving film I’ve seen so far at the Seattle International Film Festival. Kim was 18 when she was kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery: not in some distant corner of the globe but in the southwestern United States. It took her two years to find a way to escape: two years in which she witnessed the depths of degradation and evil to which humans can sink.

Here’s where my optimism comes in. In telling this horrifying tale, director Megan Griffiths, lead actor Jamie Chung and the rest of the Eden cast and crew are bravely shining a light ON evil: the kind of evil that hates light, that shrinks and sometimes even dies in the heat of it. And Griffiths is also taking made-in-Washington filmmaking to a level of seriousness—in terms of content and artistry—that thrilled me. The Film Festival program hails her as a “local filmmaker,” but in the Northwest that has long been code for “not as good as we wish.” No more. Griffiths has made the words “Seattle” and “filmmaker” proud to be seen together in the same sentence.

When I saw Eden I wondered: why is Megan Griffiths not getting the same kind of spotlight some other young directors are getting?

I think one reason is our discomfort with the subject matter. It is hard to focus without flinching on the darkest side of human nature. It is hard to dwell on how casually evil chooses its victims: a boy on a New York street; a Seattle dad caught in a crossfire, a naïve girl plucked from a bar in Nowheresville, New Mexico.

When Eden plays again in Seattle, as I’m sure it will, go see it. Be proud of Chong Kim for telling her story. Be proud of Megan Griffiths for making this movie.

There is no such as safety. But courage is alive and well. I know: I saw it on the screen just a few days ago.

Radio lovers: you can hear the Restless Nest commentaries every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., Thursdays at 4:54 p.m. and Fridays at 4:55 p.m. on KBCS, streaming online at and on the air at 91.3 in the Seattle area.  Podcasts available.

Here’s nest artist Kim Groff-Harrington’s website.


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5 thoughts on “Safety

  1. Hi Ann,

    I just heard your podcast of the previous post. It is so good to hear a human voice even though you don’t sound the same as I remember you at Goddard. Probably it’s just the recording device. There is nothing like the human voice. Facebook is so idiotic, and is no substitute for other types of interaction that are so much more satisfying, such as e-mail, snail mail, or the nearly-defunct telephone conversation. Are people allergic to the phone? Or is a two-word greeting on Facebook a way for folks to wash themselves clean of other people they don’t really want in their lives?

    I totally get why people do senseless crimes.

    –Julie Greene, completely isolated in Watertown MA

    • Julie, thanks for your comment. It has been a rough day in Seattle. You’re right: at times like this we need to TALK. We need contact. I hope you feel less isolated in Watertown very, very soon. I’d love to get together next time I’m in Boston.

  2. Courageous, Ann. That’s another word that fits your list.

  3. Ann, thoughtful words. Thank you so much for your commentary.

    Just wrapped up a philosophy course at the UW (auditing courses is almost free for those of us lucky enough to be over 60 yrs old). We read and talked about ethics and morality and then mentioned the word evil. Turns out it is really hard to define and even scholars will often speak the word without really defining it.

    But in the real world light trumps darkness. Light fills the dark, the dark never pushes out light. Cute, but it is the law. Physical law.

    • “Light fills the dark, the dark never pushes out light.” Richard, that’s not cute, that is vital information. Thank you! And I can’t tell you how much I look forward to the course-auditing lifestyle.

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