holiday hell, suffering and anger
From "How Can I Help?" by Ram Dass & Paul Gorman
which I'm reading for school:
|Between the event to which we feel no personal connection and a tragedy that breaks our hearts, there is a vast range of affliction. In this domain we make our choices: Shall I become involved or not, and if so, how deeply? How much human pain to let in, and whose? Because the suffering around us is endless, the choices before us seem limitless. We must weigh them carefully, lest, once we have opened Pandora's box, pain overwhelm us, and jeopardize our fragile control of the universe around.|
This range of choices is recent and perhaps unique to our present culture. Where people live their whole lives in close proximity, there's a very little choice. Suffering involves all. The village's orphans are everybody's children.
But affluence has bought us privacy, and the apparent power to guard it against the encroachments of the other people's adversity. As individuals and as a society, we set up lines of defense. We isolate poverty, old age, and death so that we need not confront them in our daily lives. The poor are off in ghettos, the elderly in retirement homes, the dying in terminal care wards. We pay to push suffering away.
But privacy exacts its costs. How quickly, for example, it turns to loneliness and alienation. Our defense against one kind of suffering, ironically, turns out to have invited in another. We may somehow feel safe from the troubles of the world, but we also begin to feel dry, empty, and alone in our insulated havens. Gone is the mutuality and spontaneous support that arise naturally when lives are led in common. With doors closed to the pain of others, we banish that which would release our compassion and engagement with life. We need heart-to-heart resuscitation.
Nor does the privacy actually end up buying us any final protection. Despite it, we're still interconnected with the peoples of the planet. While our isolation may give us some degree of temporary peace, there's little security in peace based on exclusion. As America has found out, the insistent goad of the world's suffering will ultimately force entry even into our well-protected castle. The pain and anger of those who are oppressed shape the challenges of our political life. If their suffering seems abstract, it is nonetheless ever present through networks of communcation which extend our knowledge of human affliction to the outermost reaches of the planet. We can push it all away only so far.
Recently, the big local news here in the Seattle area was a shooting / hostage situation
at a shopping mall in the southend city of Tacoma. The suspect, a young 20 year old man named Dominick Sergio Maldonado, reportedly sent his ex-GF a text message, "The world will feel my anger" before going on the rampage. Miraculously, there have been no fatalities, but several people are in the hospital with injuries of varying severity.
As horrible as his crime was, watching interviews with his friends and family on the news gave a more fuller picture of the suspect. Maldonado had a criminal record, mostly crimes related to his struggles with drug addiction. Friends in their interviews speculated that the drug addiction itself was related to trouble in his family life, and his difficulty in coping with death of his father at a young age. Obviously, none of these circumstances excuses what he did, but at the same time, only a simpleton would fail to recognize that these factors probably played a significant part in causing him to choose to do what he did.
For many people, the holiday season brings a sort of melancholy sorrow. Reminders of the absence and brokenness in many families or personal relationships can be unbearable. Rates of depression
seem to rise correspondingly with Christmas and New Year's Day, give rise to a certain kind of "holiday depression."
Some of us are lucky enough to have friends and family to help us through.
Others, like Maldonado, are left to cope with things on their own. And their ways of coping may not be the most healthy.