October 9, 2013

Compassion Is No Ordinary Word

Sitting in front of the keyboard, the past two weeks have been colored with loss. Loss which began with an e-mail informing me that a mutual friend had taken his own life.

This was not a close, dear friend - more of a "hello-how-are-you" kind of pal, a comrade-in-arms in the tech/social good field. When I read that e-mail, those were the precise words used - no clever euphemisms or avoidance of uncomfortable issues. Even now, typing this out on a blog is a bit....risky, I admit. Especially after two weeks colored with all sorts of emotions.

As a matter of honor, I cannot speculate on my late friend's state of mind - one of the consequences of suicide is that there will always be unanswered questions. As I reach an age where I lose more friends and peers, there are some peers where the question arises....but on in this case where, tragically, there is a definitive answer. Knowing the truth - and our lack of closeness - does not relieve the grief so much as give it a slight tinge of melancholy.

One of the other issues that arises is how our culture - as much as it promotes the idea of self-revelation - still fosters a belligerence about public admission of hurt, pain, and despair. In fact, many people engage in a very belligerent, often bullying mode. Although some people may seemingly wallow in being a victim, this particular brand of individual preaches a gospel that says, "Shut up and get over it." (Ironically, many of the people who may preach this doctrine rarely, if ever, practice it, using another's whining as a subtext for their own "suffering"...but I digress). Rather than embrace our mutual humanity in an effort to deal with the complexity and difficulty of modern living, we choose to disregard that and encourage each other to fend for ourselves.

But right now, ranting about how unfair life is does not matter....because feeling that life is unfair is proof that life still matters. One of my friends made a very tragic decision - one that I will never understand. I understand that the pressures he faced may have been more than his resources to handle them, and I wish I could have helped in some way. Yet as I mourn my fallen friend (and I could not make his funeral for personal reasons), I realize that no matter how difficult life is, I can choose to break my silence and ask for help. Although I intended to reach out to this friend, I can now see this as an opportunity to reach out to others in pain (and practice this behavior whenever I'm in trouble).

Compassion seems to be a dirty word these days. Hopefully, my recent loss can help me change that.

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