Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Friend of Mine Said . . . . .

I heard a friend of mine say on her radio show, “I feel sorry for anyone who is not me today.”

Well now, that can certainly be construed as an egocentric, vain, and self-righteous statement if one were looking to criticize my friend.  It can be translated as, “I’m better than you.  I’m more privileged than you are, and I’m more certain of myself than you could ever be of yourself.”

But I’m not here to criticize my friend.  I’m here to illuminate her words so that they are understood in the context of how they might have been meant.  She does not consider herself better than everybody else, she is not privileged, and is no more certain of herself than you or I might be.  I believe her words were intended to convey to the listener an appreciation she has for her life, and in particular for the day ahead of her.  Her life is not without pain, and it is not without struggle.  She wakes up every day with her own doubts, with her own uncertainties, and with her own inadequacy and insecurity.  Although she is unique as an individual, she is also just like the rest of us.  Like you and me.

Our days consist of the up and down, the push and pull, the ebb and flow, if you will.  The days are actually pretty accurate microcosms of our lives.  Being that our bodies are made up of 60 to 75% water, is it any wonder we are affected in much the same way that the ocean is by its own gravitational pull?  No one is high on life all the time, and no one gets through life without the down periods.  For some those periods come daily, for some several times a day, for some much more infrequently, but we all experience them.  It is a part of life.  It is a part of our psychic, spiritual, physical and emotional experience.  The same can be said of the high times.
The point I’m getting at is that in our culture today we are encouraged to reject the down times as if they were in opposition to the human condition, as if they were fattening, or poison.  Some people use the down times to gripe and complain, to explain to whoever will listen how much life sucks.  Some will feel sorry for themselves when they enter a down cycle, and some will hunker down alone to indulge themselves in the misery.
The pharmaceutical industry, psychiatrists, and many MD’s even, would convince us that we must medicate in order to escape the down times, or to moderate the up times, to even out our internal tide as if everyone is manic depressive.  Well, I’ve got news for you, everybody is manic depressive just like that ebb and flow.  But we need not be subject to depression any more than we are subject to feeling good. 

We all go up and down with time and circumstance, with good news and bad, with loneliness and friendship, with life and death, with joy and sorrow, with love and indifference.  It is the human condition.  There are external and internal forces that affect us.  Things affect us.  That’s just how we are.  But an attitude of gratitude, an appreciation for the blessings we’ve been given in life and the pitfalls we’ve been able to avoid, just might enable one to pronounce something as seemingly simple and silly as, “I feel sorry for anyone who is not me today.”

Thanks Cathy, for that thought.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Lack of Common Decency

What has been getting my attention lately is an amalgamation of thoughts related to the callousness with which people, and men in particular, tend to treat each other these days. Men have always killed other men, women, and children, but there are more killers (men and women) today than ever before.  There is no doubt about that.  With men the violence can be traced back to the beginning of recorded history (I’m not sure about women).  But anyway, today it seems as if killers are not satisfied with just killing someone.  They need to torture and maim them as well.  They need to inflict unspeakable pain upon them.  Women are not just raped and murdered these days, but brutalized beyond recognition and discarded in a dumpster or dumped in the woods like the proverbial pile of garbage, as if life were nothing more than that.
Where does such unspeakable callousness come from?  How has it come to be born in the souls of men (and women) to the degree that it has today? 
Are there just too many movies, video games and TV shows depicting such mayhem?  I don’t know, but it begs again the age-old question, Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art?  My question, however, is How can anybody mistake butchery for art?

Love, it has been said, is the answer.  Love conquers all.  All you need is love.  We’ve all heard the biblical commands to love your neighbor as yourself, and to love your enemies.  Greater love hath no man, the bible also says, than to lay down his life for a friend.  And, of course, the Good Book’s description of love that we hear at so many weddings, Love is patient, love is kind etc. . . . . . . .

There is a lack of love in the lives of people today. And I mean a lack of authentic love, not the kind that is sold wholesale by Hollywood.  I’m talking about love that impacts and endures rather than the pretend love that serves only as instant, but temporary, gratification.
But this hate and mayhem goes way beyond a lack of love.  There is a lack of common decency as well.  Even if you do not love someone you can still find it within yourself to relate to them with decency.  In fact, even if you hate someone you can still treat them with a measure of decency.  Decency is a choice that every one of us make every time we choose to interact with another individual.  The problem is that in our increasingly impersonal culture we make fewer and fewer choices to engage with dignity.  Is it any big surprise that those among us who are inclined towards violence would ramp it up as well, to the point of ferocity and brutality even, just as they would ramp up a verbal interaction with someone they might encounter along the way?
Something’s wrong with this picture.  Something’s terribly wrong. 

Now I’m not one to subscribe to the thinking that if someone watches violent movies, or plays violent video games that he’s necessarily going to become violent himself.  Some will, and some won’t.  Some people never would under any circumstances.  But others would even under the most innocuous of circumstances.  For many it is a matter of becoming what you are inundated with, whether you are fed this trash by others or choose to feed it to yourself.  People tend to become what they indulge in.  It becomes what they identify with.  I don’t really want to identify with killing, with depravity, debauchery, or wickedness of any kind.  I’m sorry, but y’know it just makes me feel kind of . . . . . . . . . . . . oh, I don’t know. . . . . . . . . . . . . . kind of. . . . . . . . kind of. . . . . . . . . uh . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . DIRTY!