i do realize

28 05 2008

on a real-world scale of one-to-pick whatever random number you’re in the mood for today, the minutia of turning in a paper, having to re-draft a paper, and feeling conflictingly guilty about whether i’m working on the paper instead of the overdue project or the overdue project instead of the paper are pretty far down in the wee-tiny fractions. ranked right alongside the notice from the dmv reminding me that my license needs renewing and they’d like another $50 please and come in and take an eye test. and alongside having to go back to the car repair shop in the morning because the repairs made many things good and one thing worse, and the nice folks over there need to fix it, but it makes me cranky because BOTH ramps to the highway, the one by my house and the one by the shop, are closed for inexactly-timed repairs (the nearest one’s posted closure end-date was 5 days ago, but the cones were still up yesterday), which means getting to the shop is a half-hour process of stopping at lights every fifteen feet through downtown, where no road goes straight and all of them change names six times and wrap around spontaneous one-ways and other random disruptions.

people are dead in earthquakes in places i was never going to have seen anyway, because i’m not likely to ever be that rich or that adventurous, to undertake such extensive travel, but now they’re gone, and all their people with them. it’s hard to imagine “gone.” i still haven’t started to understand the “gone” that happened right here in my microcosmic tiny wee world, and the scale of how that loss took my world apart, in all kinds of ways, and yet counts as nothing held up to whole cities crashing in upon themselves literally blows my mind (and makes me rue all of the time i’ve used that phrase for things that didn’t).

how do you lose a friend, and watch a friend lose a spouse, and not totally hate yourself for bitching about due dates and traffic lights? how do you lose a city and not hate everyone who’s only lost a lover or a friend?

at the very least, i have a better appreciation, i suppose, for why so many people are so hateful so much of the time. i’ve seen it get awfully hard not to be, even here, on flat, solid ground where almost everyone i say goodnight to one day is still around someplace to see again a few days later.

i guess, mostly, it’s just why we get so selfish. you can’t care about a whole city’s worth of people, or a whole country’s worth of cities, because your brain doesn’t know how to understand them as real. and you can’t spend every moment around the people you like as intensely focused on their faces as you’d be if you knew it was your last day with them, even once you really understand that any day, for any of them, might be. so you just make the circle smaller, and smaller, and smaller, until you only know as many people as you can always keep an eye on, plus maybe one cat.

mine’s a warm spot on the bed beside me, and shawn’s (i’m cat-sitting while he’s got a 2-week teaching gig out in the sticks) just braved coming all the way up to rub his chin on the edge of the screen before wandering back to the chair that he’s claimed as his own. some nights i feel a bit like everybody else has already slipped too far away, too far outside my capacity to keep a close enough eye on them, & this is all the more circle i’m fit for anymore.

on those nights, i don’t check my email.

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10 responses

29 05 2008
donnickcottage

Nice post lass. I don’t even have room for the cat.

29 05 2008
donnickcottage

Nice post lass. I don’t even have room for the cat.

29 05 2008
quixotic_goat

People seem to be wired to only care about what’s familiar and within arms reach. If I was feeling particularly verbose I’d probably go off on an anthropoligical/biological ramble about family groups and tribe like social structures, but I think I’ll save that for another day and just say… /nod
I don’t know if thinking thoughts like this aid the person thinking them in any way*, but I hope it helps us as a whole in some way. As long as there are those that at least try to realize things in a larger sense, to try to contextualize their lives within the much bigger picture, then I hope, I think, I believe, we gain in the long run. While individuals are hateful and selfish, I REALLY want to see societies and/or cultures that aren’t. I guess a society in many ways is just a larger expression of the same principles that rule individuals**, but I want to believe we’ll continue to struggle against many of the things those principles cause, because they are so often exclusive, selfish, and hateful. When you understand why others might hate, it’s harder to hate back. And there it gets dangerous, because losing that ability is a double edged sword… I was going to digress further, babble some analogies concerning the benefits and dangers of nationalism (tribalism on a larger scale? and does that logic chain all the way down to the immediate family?), but then I’d probably never get any work done today 😛
*becuase like you said, you can’t personally care about a whole cities worth of people, it would overwhelm you even if it were remotely possible^. For me this goes all the way back to … either high school or early college, can’t remember, and conversations about creative intelligence potentially being a negative survival trait. Or at least I thought it could be in the sense that it made things hard accomplish and/or cope with. You try to look beyond the trivialities that makes thing important/relevant to you, and wonder about what is really important. Of course at some point if you’re not careful, you lose track of the fact that those trivial things, while they may be trivial in the grand scheme (whatever that is), they ARE important – to you. Hence why it can make things difficult, instead of focusing on the things you need to do for yourself you ponder deeper questions… hmm… oh wait, I think I’m getting a little autobiographical now ;P
Nope, no overcomplexifying of things done here. Keeping it simple /nod
**I’ve played with this analogy in different directions all the way from a single allele or gene to an entire society, it always seem to come back to survival and how to guarantee it continues. But at some point we have to have more or less guaranteed that and need to look beyond… until of course the “guarantee” falls short, then it’s back to the brutal, viscious realities of life… but that’s my biology background speaking I guess… /shrug
^REALLY want to run down a rabbithole about the what ifs of AIs, but damn, NEED to get back to work
**looks back over email** Double damn, I DID ramble about all the stuff I said I wouldn’t… /cry … /sigh … /shrug

29 05 2008
quixotic_goat

People seem to be wired to only care about what’s familiar and within arms reach. If I was feeling particularly verbose I’d probably go off on an anthropoligical/biological ramble about family groups and tribe like social structures, but I think I’ll save that for another day and just say… /nod
I don’t know if thinking thoughts like this aid the person thinking them in any way*, but I hope it helps us as a whole in some way. As long as there are those that at least try to realize things in a larger sense, to try to contextualize their lives within the much bigger picture, then I hope, I think, I believe, we gain in the long run. While individuals are hateful and selfish, I REALLY want to see societies and/or cultures that aren’t. I guess a society in many ways is just a larger expression of the same principles that rule individuals**, but I want to believe we’ll continue to struggle against many of the things those principles cause, because they are so often exclusive, selfish, and hateful. When you understand why others might hate, it’s harder to hate back. And there it gets dangerous, because losing that ability is a double edged sword… I was going to digress further, babble some analogies concerning the benefits and dangers of nationalism (tribalism on a larger scale? and does that logic chain all the way down to the immediate family?), but then I’d probably never get any work done today 😛
*becuase like you said, you can’t personally care about a whole cities worth of people, it would overwhelm you even if it were remotely possible^. For me this goes all the way back to … either high school or early college, can’t remember, and conversations about creative intelligence potentially being a negative survival trait. Or at least I thought it could be in the sense that it made things hard accomplish and/or cope with. You try to look beyond the trivialities that makes thing important/relevant to you, and wonder about what is really important. Of course at some point if you’re not careful, you lose track of the fact that those trivial things, while they may be trivial in the grand scheme (whatever that is), they ARE important – to you. Hence why it can make things difficult, instead of focusing on the things you need to do for yourself you ponder deeper questions… hmm… oh wait, I think I’m getting a little autobiographical now ;P
Nope, no overcomplexifying of things done here. Keeping it simple /nod
**I’ve played with this analogy in different directions all the way from a single allele or gene to an entire society, it always seem to come back to survival and how to guarantee it continues. But at some point we have to have more or less guaranteed that and need to look beyond… until of course the “guarantee” falls short, then it’s back to the brutal, viscious realities of life… but that’s my biology background speaking I guess… /shrug
^REALLY want to run down a rabbithole about the what ifs of AIs, but damn, NEED to get back to work
**looks back over email** Double damn, I DID ramble about all the stuff I said I wouldn’t… /cry … /sigh … /shrug

29 05 2008
2eclipse

i have similar problems. not with feeling guilty about experiencing my own pain – but with feeling overwhelmed by all the problems and pain in the world and feeling…like i should be in touch with it.
i’ve come to believe that there actually IS a healthy place for denial in the world, and this is it. the place where so much pain in the world means that if you were in touch with it all you would go mad or kill yourself from feeling helpless about being able to fix it all. that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be mindful of it, but it’s not realistic to heap it all on to our own shoulders.
perspective means understanding that pain is not comprable. any pain. and a smaller pain isn’t any less important because people are suffering bigger pain unless you are choosing to do something about one and not the other.
perspective means giving yourself permission to be who you are, and to take on as much challenge as you can handle instead of more challenge than you can handle.
perspective means understanding that there is a world full of people to work on the world’s problems, and while you are not absolved from helping, you can’t fix them all yourself, either. actually it would be a big deal to try and fix ONE problem.
take care sweetie. give yourself permission to have a little peace with your daily anguish.:)

29 05 2008
2eclipse

i have similar problems. not with feeling guilty about experiencing my own pain – but with feeling overwhelmed by all the problems and pain in the world and feeling…like i should be in touch with it.
i’ve come to believe that there actually IS a healthy place for denial in the world, and this is it. the place where so much pain in the world means that if you were in touch with it all you would go mad or kill yourself from feeling helpless about being able to fix it all. that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be mindful of it, but it’s not realistic to heap it all on to our own shoulders.
perspective means understanding that pain is not comprable. any pain. and a smaller pain isn’t any less important because people are suffering bigger pain unless you are choosing to do something about one and not the other.
perspective means giving yourself permission to be who you are, and to take on as much challenge as you can handle instead of more challenge than you can handle.
perspective means understanding that there is a world full of people to work on the world’s problems, and while you are not absolved from helping, you can’t fix them all yourself, either. actually it would be a big deal to try and fix ONE problem.
take care sweetie. give yourself permission to have a little peace with your daily anguish.:)

29 05 2008
pictsy

Suffering is real, however humble it might be.

29 05 2008
pictsy

Suffering is real, however humble it might be.

29 05 2008
Anonymous

We can’t compute the scale of losses on a city wide scale, because if we did the grief would be so huge that there would not be space for anything else, which is why we have this wonderful cognitive ability to lump things like China and Burma into this category of “tragedy” that we don’t necessarily have to go through the stages of.
Tragedy like that in our minds *has* to become lesser than the tragedies that we have directly experienced, because we are simply not wired to process. Christ, its been a year and I still catch my breath when I realise that all my thoughts of Mathew are past tense and there will be no more new memories to be made. To multiply that by the thousands upon thousands that have died in the last month in far-away-places is simply too much.
And I may be going far away myself, but I will always be in your circle.
Claire

29 05 2008
Anonymous

We can’t compute the scale of losses on a city wide scale, because if we did the grief would be so huge that there would not be space for anything else, which is why we have this wonderful cognitive ability to lump things like China and Burma into this category of “tragedy” that we don’t necessarily have to go through the stages of.
Tragedy like that in our minds *has* to become lesser than the tragedies that we have directly experienced, because we are simply not wired to process. Christ, its been a year and I still catch my breath when I realise that all my thoughts of Mathew are past tense and there will be no more new memories to be made. To multiply that by the thousands upon thousands that have died in the last month in far-away-places is simply too much.
And I may be going far away myself, but I will always be in your circle.
Claire

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