Thursday, October 11, 2007

Collective survivor's guilt

In the last week, I've heard about an old friend who's just had a big tumor taken out of his head, and another friend who is paralyzed with Guillen-Barre Syndrome (one of those afflictions you'd just as soon you'd never heard about.) These guys are both in the 40 to 45 years old range. And today there is a funeral for a local police officer who died from cancer at 39.

It puts me in mind of those "storming the beach" scenes. There are always lots of troops making it through, but alongside others are falling, some wounded and some dead. Middle age seems to be that way. You keep trudging forward while the casualties mount up, wondering if there's a blood clot with your name on it out there waiting for you.

With all the awareness we have of these everyday casualties, and knowing that there is inevitably some suffering just around the next corner, it's amazing that so many people can screw up the courage to keep getting out of bed everyday. And not only to get out of bed, but to hold down a job, show up on time, save money for the future, go to the gym, eat flax, and scorn the pleasures of the flesh, all with hopes of making a little further across the beachhead before the mortars cut you down.

I know there are lots of people who are sustained by faith, and believe whatever pain and suffering we find in the life is short term and the reward will come later. Or you can go Calvinist and choose to believe the Big Guy has a plan and you are just a bit player in your life. I'm glad for those who find their comfort, but the utter randomness of it all leaves me in doubt. Why have I made it this far across the beach when so many others are down? Kind of makes me feel obligated to do something worthwhile - at least part of the time.

3 comments:

Scott said...

You really need to stop watching The War. It's starting to affect your outlook on life. And keep away from the obituaries too. Auntie Mo always used to say 'Worrying is an insult to God.'

katherine said...

I'm starting to look forward to my Sunday Barry-reads. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I used to be one of those crazy workaholics, but have replaced that with a 40-hour week, spare time spent "working" on my personal projects and quieting the committee in my head that says I should be doing more in the "worthwhile" category. Here's to finding balance and contentment... and a nice palapa and beach chair! (And don't listen to Scott, your outlook is just fine :)

Barry Martin said...

Good ol' Auntie Mo...she was a wise one...