I did not know the people who died in the Moscow subway, yet my friend quite rationally assumed that it would touch me more, considering it happened in my home town. His rationality was built on the assumption that because I lived there, I was somehow closer to the mental concept of the tragedy. Perhaps I was, but I do not think I felt anything more exceptional than my friend did for those people. It seemed like something you ought to feel sad about, yet in the end we both went to get our afternoon coffee.
I think about why we, as people, think that just because we belong to a certain geographical place, the events unfolding there should matter to us more. Perhaps the event would have mattered to me more if I had been in Moscow still. Just like Vermeer who was visibly affected by the war; the war resulted in the “devastation of the Dutch economy and Vermeer’s own … bankruptcy” (Weschler 15), which eventually may have even caused him to die at the young age of 42. Yet, in his paintings, one finds a sense of calm and peacefulness.
This sense of calm is so apparent that Antonio Cassese, an Italian judge presiding over the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal, confides to Weschler that his way of keeping his sanity in front of all the madness and chaos of the Yugoslav war, and listening to the vivid stories of the inhumanity of humans, is to go “to the Mauritshuis museum, in the center of town, so as to spend a little time with the Vermeers” (Weschler 14). The paintings of Vermeer in the Mauritshuis museum offer something akin to that to Weschler as well. He is sure, as are others who have had the chance to gaze upon the paintings and try to find a deeper meaning to them, that something like peace and tranquility is transmitted through these paintings. Albeit there are those (like Snow) who find a very different, and sexual, meaning to the paintings, however, Weschler feels that, surrounded by chaos, Vermeer was trying to