The VigilanceVoice
Saturday-- April 20, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 221

Gargoyles Of Vigilance
A Vigilant Debate Over Dastardly Demons
Cliff McKenzie
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."
        "What's that mean?"
        "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.
        "Gargoyles were 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, G-Pa?"
        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.
        "Hmmmm....Matt....this 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.
        "Okay, buddy, 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 away."
        "But..." 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?"
        "Yeah...I get 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?"
        Matt is taking rock climbing classes at Chelsea Pier.  Young kids climb up a thirty-foot rock face and learn to conquer their Fear.  
       "Yeah.  Sometimes 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 demons, G-Pa?"
        I flinched.   I felt the bullets were zinging past my ear.
        "Everyone has 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.."
       Matt giggled--"...too fat?"
       "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 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 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 roots.
        Religion offered 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

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