Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Tag: anger

Dear God

Creation of Adam“Take your anger and put it into an imaginary being. That way you can yell at the entity and throw it out when you don’t want to feel the pain of the anger anymore or if you don’t have the time to deal with the anger.”

These are the words of the grief counselor, to whom we (the kids and I) have been going since mid-December. I told her that I am angry about the fact that cancer first took my father, then my wife, and now will take my dog. First she said, “Why do you have to do anything with the anger? Aren’t you allowed to be angry? Aren’t you justified?” My response was that there is no outlet for the anger, no target. I cannot remain so angry for so long that I shut down emotionally and socially. I have enough problems being social as it is!

So I, as my homework for this week, am to create an entity, an imaginary being, to whom I can ascribe the evil characteristics necessary to house my anger. I could create a virtual punching bag and anthropomorphize it to the point where it has horns and a tail upon which I can stomp and to whom I can scream. However, that form does not appeal to me and seems shallow and unfulfilling.

As an atheist, I have a better solution. God. How could a benevolent God inflict my wife with a terminal disease that would kill her? How could a caring God do that to my children? To me? How could a loving God condemn a dog to three separate forms of cancer within it’s short life? How could a generous God condemn my father to an incalculable amount of pain in the months before his death? And on a grander scale, how could an altruistic God kill thousands of children each year through malnutrition, starvation, disease, or war? Because I can conceive of no rational reason for such a dereliction of duty, I choose to believe there is no supreme being above. It is easier for me to believe that nature simply evolves in chaos than to believe a God could be so inept or uncaring.

So, if there is a God, I do not believe he/she is omnipotent and all powerful. That said, and as part of my grief counseling homework for this week, here is my creation of an imaginary being to whom I can bequeath my anger. God. And now my letter to God:

Dear God,

How could you? How could you either give my wife cancer or allow her to contract it? How could you do that to my children? How could you make her suffer through the barbaric treatments you have allowed medicine to create in an attempt to counter your unholy and defective DNA? How could you take her when she was still so young and we had a future planned together that now is reduced to ash? How could you? Why?

How could you put my father through so much pain that it killed him? How could you allow that much pain to transfer to my mother who now survives him but cannot live without him? How could you put my brother and sister through the act of watching him suffer with no ability to alleviate his pain? How could you? Why?

How could you give my simple, silly dog, whose sole purpose in life is to love us and make us happy, three different forms of cancer in his short life? How could you take his eyesight and force him to endure countless surgeries to save his back legs from your poor design? Why do you make him suffer so much and force us to euthanize our pets without allowing us to end the suffering of our human loved ones who endure so much pain? How could you? Why?

How could you allow the children of the world to endure unwarranted pain and suffering simply because of the circumstances under which they were born? How could you allow men to create war against one another for, ultimately, silly political, geographic, or religious reasons?  Why do we have to suffer so much on this earth? How could you allow all of these things to occur while remaining unseen and unresponsive? How could you? Why?

Are we simply to fall back on “faith?” A faith that you are really there and listening and that we will be rewarded in paradise for all of our suffering. Well, I don’t buy into it and find that if you do exist, you are either malevolent, uncaring, or incompetent. If you are malevolent, you are not worthy of our deference. If you are uncaring you are also not worthy of our blended knee. If you are incompetent you are to be pitied and not revered. Occam’s Razor demands that the most likely solution is that you simply do not exist. But for the purposes of grief mitigation, I will allow that you exist, but only for the purposes of my derision, my anger, and my pain.

Most sincerely,

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Zerrissenheit

Shattered FutureGive sorrow words; the grief that does not speak                                                         Whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.                                                                              Shakespeare, Macbeth, IV, iii, 209

A very dear friend of mine gave me Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book Gift from the Sea following my wife’s September 2nd death. It was a wonderful little book and contained a German word that accurately describes my emotional state: “zerrissenheit.” It is described as “torn-to-pieces-hood.”

The thing I am learning about grief is that it does not follow a linear path. One does not travel from one emotion to the next, leaving the first entirely contained in the rearview mirror. Rather, from minute to minute, I can wander from disbelief to acceptance to anger to sadness back to disbelief. This emotional whiplash takes a physical as well as an emotional toll. While I am back at work, my mind is not. This mental “zerrissenheit” manifests itself in a lack of confidence, second-guessing, a lack of focus, and sudden confusion. I was so much more confident when Lisa was here. I check my pockets a dozen times before leaving the house to make sure I have everything I need: keys, wallet, phone, etc.. In a word, I am lost.

And it isn’t that I don’t smile or laugh. I do. But so often I find myself reaching for my phone to text or call Lisa to tell her the joke only to realize that the call will never be completed again. I am having a hard time with the concepts of “never” and “forever.” I know that someday I will be glad for the time we had, but right now I am angry over the time that has been stolen (not to mention the time wasted fighting cancer when we should have been living our lives together). “Never” and “forever” are as daunting to me as the size of the universe is to a child.

It has been two weeks now, and the house is silent. I don’t know what the future holds anymore. We are taught to plan, to prepare as we enter adulthood. I did. This is not what I planned for; this is not the future I wanted. I am alone. My best friend was stolen from me. And while she would tell me to snap out of it and start living my life, this grief-triggered “zerrissenheit” is involuntary. I miss her so much.

Supernova

Keplers_supernovaPhysics has a concept called the law of conservation of energy, which states that the total amount of energy in a closed system is neither gained nor lost over time, but rather is only transformed from one state to another.

Perhaps this concept is the best way for us to understand and process the news of Robin Williams’ suicide. Consider the sadness, anger, shock and unease we feel to be the explosive energies released from inside the tormented Williams himself, the magnitude of our impact directly proportional to our relationship to the man- immediate family members impacted most severely, friends and extended family members next, neighbors and colleagues next, extending outward to fans and then to those to whom he was known by name only.

Consider, too, how this has impacted you. Are you more sad than angry; more angry than shocked? These are the wavelengths of emotion radiating from the supernova that are Mr. Williams’ inner demons. Bottle all of the sadness we, collectively, feel and that is what he felt. That is mental illness. Compress all of the anger we feel toward him for doing this. That is how angry he was at himself for his perceived failings. That is mental illness. Mental illness is a disease that eats away at the individual as surely as an aphid on a rose bud, but from the inside. The pain is invisible and unforgiving. It is self-perpetuating, feeding on its “success.” When people are at their worst they want help the least and will either hide their pain the best (or not at all).

Remember, the law of conservation of energy states no amount of energy is gained or lost. If he is gone, that anger and sadness is still here and we feel it, not nearly as much as those closest to him, but we feel it. But, if no energy is lost, than so too, must the joy he shared be here. And so, today, go make a goofy face in front of the most important person in the world until they smile, the person in the mirror.

Soft Targets

The events in Boston today are still raw, the embers are still burning, the wounds are still being dressed and the limbs are still being amputated.

When did living in America become a balancing act between freedom and paranoia? When did we decide that churches, schools, movie theaters, grocery store parking lots and marathons should no longer be considered integral parts of our daily life but “soft targets?”

Politicians on both sides of the aisle will call for prayers now. The gun lobby will ignore compassion and state that if only a “good guy with a gun had been there” blah blah blah, and nothing will change. We will wring our hands and shake our heads, call for justice and ignore the facts, demand vengeance and persecute the innocent in misplaced bloodlust, run to Wal-Mart to purchase our assault weapons and hunker down in our bunker waiting for the end of times.

And then our fickle little minds will forget and move on to the next crisis where we will wind up our public outrage for a new group of victims.

What happened to compassion and empathy? Are they so anathema to the personal success and safety in America that we are doomed to suffer for our arrogance? When did celebrity and instant gratification replace intelligence and hard work?

I am heartsick to learn that the final mile of the Boston Marathon was dedicated to the families of Newtown affected by the evil events at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. Sickened to learn that there may have been another device under the very VIP viewing section in which they were seated.

I refuse to live in a society where we gauge our potential activities by some weighted average based on their “soft target” quotient.  I should not have to sit in a movie theater with an eye on the best route of egress, or view the pole obstructing my view as “cover”, or worry if I need to use the restroom whether my children will be attacked while I’m gone. I should not have to worry at a sporting event that I am in a large group and therefore a great target for mass casualties. I should not have to worry that when some student who did not prepare for an exam in college calls in a bomb threat and when my children congregate with a large group of students waiting for the “all clear” that they represent a soft target.

America used to be the land of the free, now we are the land of the paranoid, where 300 million guns exist to “protect” us from our own government and fertilizer is no longer used exclusively to feed the world, but to detonate and kill, where politicians disgorge vitriol and fabrications in order to make the evening news and Congress enjoys a 13% approval rating. We blame the President, Congress, the education system, parents, the environment, the weather, any other country and everyone else with certainty, but we never look in the mirror. The golden rule has been bastardized to be “Do unto others before they do unto you.” We harden ourselves and avoid soft targets. Can’t we do better? Don’t we want better? Shouldn’t we demand better? We continue to burn holes in the calendar. Am I whistling alone in the hurricane?