In honor of those who are in pain: This is a rant.
I hate injustice. To my friends who just lost loved ones - I hurt for you. To my friend who is faced with only painful options - you deserved better. To my family - I can hardly think about the low points in the last three years without my insides clenching up so tightly I can hardly breathe, and I don't know how you're still standing. To all the people in all the world who are hurting and damaged and broken because of the bigotry, violence, and decay of this world - just thinking about your plight almost overwhelms me and my comfortable world.
I want to cry out that I would take your pain if I could - but the truth is, I'm probably just as selfish and bigoted as anyone else out there. I don't want to be saddled with pain. And so, with sympathy in my eyes and tone, I say something that I once heard I was supposed to say to the bereaved. Something safe, not too intrusive, not too platitude-like. Something like, "I don't know what to say, but I'm there for you." Something that releases me from much obligation.
And I hate that about myself. I hate how much it takes to shake me out of my common state of saying things that make it sound like I really care about the pain in the world when mostly I'm just manufacturing words. I wish I could bring healing and peace. I'm sick to death of war and wounds and dark places where no one cares enough to shine light. I try to seize on those fleeting moments in which my comfort is capsized to actually do or feel something genuine, but band-aids abound in my emotional life. I patch it up and carry on.
I am sorry. I know that's virtually meaningless to you, friend, when your world is falling down around you, but I am so sorry. I don't know that everything happens for a reason. It probably doesn't. I don't know that things will get better. Maybe they won't. I don't understand why so many terrible things happen in the world.
Why do people cling to a belief in the necessity of war? Why don't we wage peace? Why do we accept evil? Why?
There's no way to wrap this up neatly. The times when anger cracks my facade of informed skepticism scare me. They shouldn't. I should be truly angry about injustice more often. I should be saddened by other people's pain even when it's not close and personal. I wish I weren't so good at shutting myself off from the world, at hiding behind walls of academia and culture and business...
"There's really no way of knowing."
This has become my motto. It's probably the most useful phrase in life right now.
What's for dinner? Why is the Eiffel Tower shimmering so intensely? Is that a man or a woman? How do you say "Where's the toilet?" in German?
A shrug, a grin, a flippant "There's really no way of knowing," and virtually any trivial question can be avoided. Its utilitarian beauty is in the lack of personal responsibility. It's not that I don't know something when I ought to know it; this phrase absolves me of all discomfort over my confusion. Not that that's any excuse, but...
In the past three months, I've been in Italy, France, Austria, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Scotland, England, and these United States. Languages, ideas about cultural norms, and travel details swim randomly through my mind.
Grazie! De rien. Pas de problem. Ausgang? Oui. Oh! Vietato ingresso. Si. Comprendo. Prossima fermata! Merci!
How do you say...?
There's really no way of knowing.
Posted by Leila at 4/21/2011