Tuesday, June 30, 2009
‘I’ve lost my keys,’ ‘I can’t find my wallet,’ ‘Have you seen my phone?,’ I can’t remember where I put my glasses,’ are all examples of phrases that most of us use on a fairly regular basis. Because in most instances we’re able to find what we’ve misplaced, the absence of those objects is felt momentarily. It’s when we speak of greater losses that the suffering is increased. Some ‘lose employment,’ some may ‘lose certain freedoms’ as consequences for their actions, and for many of us, we will feel the ‘loss of a loved one’ at some point in our lives.
The subsequent grief often depends on our degree of attachment to what we’ve lost and it can only be offset by the hope of regaining it. That hope, however real or imagined, is the best antidote for grief.
The old cliché rings true, ‘we never really appreciate what we have until it’s gone.’ That’s not to say that what we have goes unappreciated, it is only to say that we don’t understand it’s full value until it is taken from us. We take for granted some of those most basic, and most important, blessings in our lives (e.g. health, food, family & friends, etc.). We assume that because we have those comforts in our lives now, that we will always have them. Unfortunately, and often unexpectedly, ‘the rug is pulled out from underneath us,’ and what we are inevitably left with is the ‘pain of loss.’
Most often when we speak of great loss we refer to the death of a close relative, the separation of children from their parents, divorce, etc. Sadness is not measured in quantity but rather its magnitude is quantified by the depth of sorrow. I do not pretend to know more about grief than anyone else or even to understand another person’s grief, but I am no stranger to it myself.
It is such an interesting emotion. It is as unique as the individual experiencing it. Yet, there are still many similarities. There are those moments when we take deep breath to alleviate the pain, if only momentarily. At first everything reminds us of our loss. If we try hard enough, we can find some abstract connection to the person that we’ve lost in anything and everything. Those moments are bitter sweet.
As time goes on, there may be fewer things to remind us of our loved ones but the things that remain are more powerful than all of the smaller ones combined. Shortly after the rainstorm on Friday night, the sky was probably one of the most beautiful ones that I have ever seen. I had an overwhelming desire to share it with the person who might appreciate it the most only to find that I was no longer able to do so. My grandmother loved clouds and she would have loved that sunset. So, it was left to me to enjoy it for the two of us. I was happy to think of her. I’ve had similar experiences with cheesecake, red mini coopers (with racing stripes), and countless others.
In one of my favorite, wonderfully depressing books, The Plague (Camus), the narrator is speaking of the separation caused by the plague…
’It was undoubtedly the feeling of exile—that sensation of a void within which never left us, that irrational longing to hark back to the past or else speed up the march of time, and those keen shafts of memory stung like fire. Sometimes we toyed with our imagination, composing ourselves to wait for a ring at the bell announcing somebody’s return, or for the sound of a familiar footstep on the stairs; but, though we might deliberately stay at home at the hour when a traveler coming by the evening train would normally have arrived, and though we might contrive to forget for the moment that no trains were running, that game of make-believe, for obvious reasons, could not last. Always a moment came when we had to face the fact that no trains were coming in. And then we realized that the separation was destined to continue, we had no choice but to come to terms with the days ahead. In short, we returned to our prison-house, we had nothing left us but the past, and even if some were tempted to live in the future, they had speedily to abandon the idea—anyhow, as soon as could be—once they felt the wounds that the imagination inflicts on those who yield themselves to it.’
As I said, it’s wonderfully depressing. But, that is the hope that we hold on to…that the separation won’t last. We use those words to comfort those who have had close relatives pass away, ‘you’ll see them again.’ Or, at the very least, we say, ‘they’re in a better place.’ But that does not change the fact that, ‘a loveless world is a dead world, and always there comes a time when one is weary of prisons, of one’s work, and of devotion to duty, and all one craves for is a loved face, the warmth and wonder of a loving heart.’
If they are in a better place, then it is on our most selfish moments that we desire their return to us. Perhaps that is the hope that we need to hold on to, that they are in a better place, rather than to hope for their return. If we truly love what we have lost then we would want what is best for them however painful it may be for us to accept.
That is when we want to 'speed up the march of time' either to have some reunion, or to at least come to a point where the loss seems less real ('at least until those red-hot irons of memory jab at us') and consequently less painful.
I’m not sure if any of that makes any sense or if it is even coherent…it is late. Those are just thoughts that I’ve had on my mind and, in the absence of a better venue, I'm using this blog to express them.
Friday, June 26, 2009
As you can see in the picture, there isn't much to Happy. It's a small Main St. town if you can even call it that. I came across one actual person while in Happy. He was edging the lawn at Happy High. I didn't stop to talk, just waved as I passed him by. He was out sweating in the hot Texas sun as I was in my climate controlled / environmentally friendly Ford Focus. I was the jealous one. There's something about small towns that draws me to them. Maybe there's a lesson in the small simple town of Happy. Happiness doesn't come from the complexity of life, but it's found in the small, simple things that we come across on a daily basis. A lot of us overlook that...perhaps there are only 647 people in the world that have figured it out. Here's to Happy!
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Elephants are a symbol of wisdom in many Asian cultures. In addition to their intelligence, they also have impressive memories. It is believed that an elephant will remember your scent for years after your original encounter and can recall whether their interaction with you was positive or negative. So, what do elephants and this particular fortune cookie have in common, you ask.
Well, I read in a book, The Heart Speaks, a little bit about the training of circus elephants. To teach them their boundaries when they are young, one end of a chain is fastened around its leg and the other end to a stake in the ground. The young elephant does not possess enough strength to break free and thus is forced to remain within the boundaries it has been given. Something interesting happens as the elephant grows older, despite growing in size and strength, the elephant still remains within its boundaries.
In other words the 'limit to the elephant's abilities is where it has been placed by its trainer.' We are much the same way...we live in a world where we are compelled, either by ourselves or those around us, to accept certain limitations. We sell ourselves short of achieving our full potential. And, the truth is, our potential really is only limited by the restrictions that we put on it. We need to brake the chains the hold us hostage and dare to explore the countless opportunities that are placed before us. Gotta Love Fortune Cookie Wisdom!
Friday, June 19, 2009
Two weeks ago today, I went and saw Pixar's newest animated film, UP, with the 'best of bests'. It was an inspiring tale that touched upon life and death, love and divorce, the fulfillment of dreams, and the importance of friendship. Well, today MSN.com published a real-life story of the fulfillment of a young girl's dying wish.
While Disney and Pixar may have had their missteps in the past, today they were 'Pixar-Perfect'...
May we all fill our 'adventure books' with the things and, more importantly, the people that matter...
"When we were young, we didn't have fancy video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600, with games like 'Space Invaders' and 'Asteroids'. Your guy was a little square and you actually had to use your imagination!! There were not multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen forever! And, you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died! Just like LIFE!"
Here's to growing up in the Atari-age, and to life getting harder and harder and faster and faster until we die. Cheers!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
While Judy Collins made this song a hit, my favorite version can be found on iTunes. It is performed by Renato Russo. Look it up, listen to it, and buy it...it's wonderfully depressing.
Isn't it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air.
Send in the clowns.
Isn't it bliss?
Don't you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can't move.
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.
Just when I'd stopped opening doors,
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours,
Making my entrance again with my usual flair,
Sure of my lines,
No one is there.
Don't you love farce?
My fault I fear.
I thought that you'd want what I want.
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don't bother, they're here.
Isn't it rich?
Isn't it queer,
Losing my timing this late
In my career?
And where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns.
Well, maybe next year.
(A Little Night Music)
It would be nice to have clowns sent in at times in our lives when things did not go exactly the way we had hoped or planned they would, if for nothing else than to distract us from moments of grief, despair, or embarrassment. Then again, maybe 'we're already here'. We're the clowns. Not in the circus, rodeo, or theatrical sense. We are clowns in the most superficial sense. We wear painted-on smiles, and fake emotions in a an attempt of hiding our true thoughts and feelings behind layers of make-up and silly clothes. Whether we use it as a defense mechanism or a way to cope with the pain of loss, it serves its purpose however helpful or detrimental it may be. We do it so well and so often that at times it is hard, even for us, to separate fact from fiction. This makes us not only clowns, but fools as well. We make it difficult to see beyond our bulbous red noses and out into the world beyond. We spend so much time protecting ourselves that we forget that the most meaningful and long-lasting relationships that we form are done when the animal-shaped balloons and water-spraying flowers are put away, when the make-up is removed, and when we are us in our truest, RAWest, and arguably our finest form. Our true friends will not only laugh at our jokes and ridiculous antics, they will also love us when they see, the frown beneath the smile, the bare-feet inside when the over-sized shoes are taken off, and the plain clothes when the brightly-colored costume is removed. Let us to continue to be clowns when the occasion warrants, but let us never play the part of the fool.