Thursday, May 12, 2005

Condolences and Crazies

Hi Guys:

This is going to be a meandering, stream-of-consciousness post. You may want to ignore it.

You see, an acquaintance of mine just lost a relative. It was apparently a lingering death, which is always so very hard. Hard to do (no doubt, although I don't exactly have personal experience), but so very hard for people who love you to watch. There's that whole feeling of helplessness. And by the time they're free of the pain of the illness, it's hard sometimes to remember them as they were BEFORE, when they were really themselves.

When I was a teenager I lost one of my relatives to death. She'd been in a nursing home for a very long time, had suffered physically and mentally. She was SO ready to go. And while I knew I would miss her, I truly believe my religious convictions, and that she was going someplace better. And even if I was wrong, that there was nothing after, the suffering would be over. I made the mistake of putting that in a letter. The person I wrote to (and their relatives) fell off the map right after. Which leads me to the conclusion that I shocked and appalled them. Perhaps not, perhaps it was just coincidence. But I don't think so. Because while our culture frequently talks about an afterlife, and death is inevitable, we mostly cling to life with a desperate fear of the unknown. ("I want to go to heaven -- but not just now please.") But I still can't see my opinion as wrong. There are even cultures that celebrate death because the loved one has moved on to a better place.

A part of me wants to send a condolence letter to my acquaintance -- after making a donation to the requested charity on behalf of her relative. But I don't know her very well, and I'm shy about intruding. Too, I think she's gun shy because she is a public figure who has been subjected to threats to the point of needing personal security. To send and risk it being misconstrued... or not send and have the person not know I care?

It's sad. I wonder sometimes if this "disconnect" we have in our culture now has caused the phenomenon of stalkers - or if they always existed? We work so hard just to get by and get things, that our children are spending more time with the television and the day care then they are with each other. I remember going out to play. Just "out". No constant adult interference and supervision. We had to iron out our problems for ourselves, between ourselves. (I wasn't good at it -- but it taught almost everybody else I know seriously good negotiation skills). I mean, the parents were nearby, in the houses, listening for the sounds of a fight or disaster, but they weren't SUPERVISING constantly. Play wasn't organized for us with ready made rules, etc. We got to create it ourselves. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. I still have a great friend who was a best friend in the neighborhood. I've known her all my life. When I went to visit my folks I HAD to see her! I have another friend from school (and one from my work years as a teenager) who drove for two hours to come down and visit me while I was at the conference.

Why do I bring that up? Because with the kind of mobility our culture has, it's hard to maintain those kinds of "roots." A mixed blessing that. You can pull up and start over if you need to. (And sometimes you do. In a small town you will never outlive your foiables. People will remember you forever as "the kid who...." So if you have a "bad reputation" from misbehavior relocating may be the only chance you have of getting the life you want.) But you also lose that web of connectedness. People need to feel a part of something - anything. They need to feel close to SOMEONE. If they don't have that naturally, for whatever reason, they'll try to create it -- sometimes disastrously. Obsession is never pretty. Whether it's an obsessive relationship with a gf or bf, or obsessive "fandom", it's still obsessive, and (in my opinion) a sign of loss and loneliness. (And the need for SERIOUS therapy).

But the FEAR of obsession is almost equally ugly. Gone are the days when you could start to call someone you liked but you didn't have the nerve and hang up. Caller ID would have you pegged as a stalker. And really, the early stages of lust/romantic love could easily be mistaken for obsessive, crazy behavior. (Hell, they're not far off). The socially inept are not mostly not dangerous, but there's that truly frightening minority out there, so people feel they have to "play it safe." So often the lonely stay lonely because the fear is too much to work through, or they're mis-perceived.

Don't get me wrong -- evil exists. There are sexual predators, serial killers and the like. And real stalkers are TERRIFYING. They steal your life, who you are. It's horrible. You have to be careful. I understand. But I hate it. I HATE that there are enough "crazies" out there that we don't feel we can leave our children outside playing safely. I hate that the media is a double-edged sword - it can be used to help find missing children, but it also can sensationalize problems in such a way that they're blown out of proportion and we're left living in a constant state of anxiety.

Why do the horrible things get so much more press than the beautiful and good? Are we really that voyeuristic? I don't know. Maybe. If so, it makes me sad. Because we're teaching ourselves and our young, that the world is a scary and dangerous place without simultaneously showing them that it is a beautiful and wonderful place. Showing that evil exists and is powerful, without showing an equally (or more) powerful good. That makes me sad. Hope exists. Faith exists. Sometimes they get overshadowed by our fear. Sorry state of affairs that.

Well, I've meandered all over the place (warned you) and still don't know what I'm going to do. But time's run out for blogging this morning, so I'd best get ready for work. Hope everybody has a great day.



jlybn123 said...

You aren't off the mark on any of it...true, true, true.

On the death issue...I just lost my dad to lung cancer 3 weeks ago yesterday. Granted, I am very sad and miss him desperately, but I also believe that he is whole once again...and that helps me to cope. I couldn't stand watching him deteriorate, and be in horrific pain day after day. That's much worse than him being gone. I had about 4-6 weeks to say my goodbyes, tell him I love him, etc. I will forever be grateful for that. It seems you have the same point of view on that as I...some people may call it strange, some may say that it's downright heartless...but what I see as heartless is someone suffering when it is truly their time.

You were also right on the money about the way things are today. I did a paper for college last year on that same topic. My goodness how things have changed. I also used to play outside from sun up to sun down. What else was there to do? Funny, now it seems that is the last thing kids want to do. (mine included) I almost have to force them out the door sometimes...if only they knew how much fun they were truly missing out on! Snowball fights, building forts, baseball, basketball, football, skating, riding bikes...etc. etc. If only I could go back and relive it again...

C. T. Adams said...

Please accept my condolences on your loss. I'm sorry that your Dad had to suffer -- but I'm very glad that you got the chance to say your goodbyes.

Take care of yourself, and your family, and cherish the good memories.