Crime puzzles me, and sin. Our modern age has invented nothing new in either category. Human nature, for all its glory, lets us think we can succeed in hiding our misdeeds. These days, more than ever before, this cannot be.
Our works don’t show in our faces, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray aside. Mr. Gray offered to sell his soul if his life choices wouldn’t show on his face but on a portrait of his young and beautiful self. A simple bargain, a horrific result. Were it so easy.
So we stroll through life deceived that no one will ever know. Sometimes that spills over into the absurd. Last week we had the dog groomer roughing up a Shih Tzu. Now you would think she might have thought, “This is 2018. Everyone has a phone with a camera. I’m mad at this dog for being, well, a dog, and I’d better not take any action against said dog or someone will catch me.” But no. On she goes to a swift termination a few hours later.
Home security cameras now alert owners to someone at their door. Recently an adolescent was caught stealing a bike off a porch. He walked toward it as if the camera could not see him because he was doing freeze-frame motions. Quite bizarre. Perhaps he just had bad information about how the things work.
Screaming at your kids? A neighbor will hear. Stealing money out of an employer’s wallet, account, truck? Someone will suspect and lay a trap. Things on your laptop that you’d rather not have seen? It will need repair and someone will find it: One of the stars of Glee recently killed himself before being sentenced. Talking online to a minor? Or not. How that can happen after the first sting operation remains a mystery to me.
The phrase I keep thinking of is “plain as the nose on your face.” Yet we cannot see our own noses. They are obvious to everyone else but us. We know they’re there, but we forget. And on we go about our business.
A hymn I know called “Do What Is Right” has this phrase: “Angels above us are silent notes taking/ Of ev’ry action; then do what is right!” You can forget the angels. Likely, someone else is recording you. (Even when it is a good thing, as here.) Think twice before doing something stupid. Having said that, I fully expect another week in which a text, email, open mike, iPhone, CCTV image, or some other omnipresent device will skewer an unwitting transgressor. Make your motto “Assume it’s on.” Maybe not this time, but someday, you’ll be caught. Don’t be deceived. We can see you. It is a puzzle as yet unsolved.