Friday, November 19, 2010

mad as hell and what to do about it

Alex posted this video on his blog last week. It's a sound byte from a 1976 movie called, "Network," paired with music and also the kynetic typography of Aaron Leming. It really connected with me, but then, when the video was over, I was sitting there with a raging fire in my bosom and only a spoon in my upraised hand. And the old question of what to do about it lingered, unanswered.

Tonight Jason and I were scratching our heads in confusion and shaking them in sadness and anger over this rash of people in our own country kidnapping each other, cutting them into tidbits, etc. etc. It's like everyone has lost their ever-loving mind. But, as we discuss continually, we're all so isolated! We live in bubbles. We drive in bubbles. You can work from home, shop from home, find love from home. Nobody really has to interact with each other, just basic interaction, I mean, and discuss even the weather, much less the demons in their lives. This sterility creates bad things! We're afraid of each other, because we don't know each other. No community means nobody to temper our mental states, precarious as they are.

So how do we combat the fear, loneliness, and isolation that leads not only to unfulfilled living but also, apparently, to boundless deprivation? Well, to my way of thinking, this, another great post from Tamie, goes with the video like cotton and candy. (All text following the video is lifted directly from Tamie's post, with her permission.) Watch the vid, then read the text. I predict you'll get mad as hell, then calm down and start figuring out what to do next.

Jon and I were discussing tonight at dinner how it's so much easier to sit around talking about all the crazy people, than it is to discuss pragmatic ways of relating to, and caring for, all the crazy people.  Personally, I think this is a symptom of our feeling of powerlessness.  But this is no good, friends.  Because some of those crazy people are suffering for real, and some of those crazy people are causing others real suffering.  We have to be better than just sitting around talking about things.  We have to figure out how to provide real, substantial, meaningful support to parents who are struggling, to alcoholics who are on the verge of relapsing, to the humble husband on the quiet verge of harming himself, to the child--the one from the good family--being sexually abused. 

I have some assignments for you, my amazing readers.  And for myself.

The first thing is this:

I want all of us to admit that we need help.  I don't mean to admit, in some mamby-pamby theological way, "I need help, as a human being."  No.  I mean, that I want all of us to think about some concrete way that we need help.  And I want us to ask for it.  Here are some examples:

-If you are struggling with an addiction and haven't told anyone, reach out to someone you trust and tell that person.  Tell that person you need help.

-If you are lonely, and need someone to come over and play a board game with you, or take a walk with you, or hold you for a while, or talk to you on the phone, reach out to a trusted someone and ask for that help.

-If you feel you have something to offer, but are feeling sad that no one has asked you for that thing, go volunteer that something.  That is a form of asking for help too.

-If you need encouragment, e-mail or call someone and tell them you need encouragement.  It is a good thing sometimes to just go ahead and ask for encouragement.

The second thing is this:

I want us all to think about how we can offer meaningful help to someone today.  Is your Great Aunt Matilda in the nursing home, and you haven't called her recently?  Is there a homeless man on the streets who could use a warm meal, no strings attached?  Could your middle child use a date with you all by himself?  Do you know an exhausted parent who could really use a free night to himself--and could you therefore offer to babysit (free of charge!)?  There are also some great organizations who are helping suffering people; they could put your money to good use.  (You can ask me for suggestions, if you don't know of these organizations; I know a couple fantastic ones.)

The third thing is this:

What concrete kindness can you do for yourself today?  I think this is a tough one, because we live in this "pamper-yourself" society.  But what kindness do you need of yourself today?  I don't mean so much a manicure (but maybe) as a surrender of self-cruelty.

Let's really do these assignments, okay?  It's okay if you can't do all three.  Pick one.  But if you have to only pick one, think carefully about which one you choose.  If you tend to constantly be reaching out to others, choose #1.  Okay?  And meanwhile, let's talk with each other more about concrete, practical ways to help each other, and let's spend less time bashing all those idiotic conservatives/liberals/TEA partyers/church-goers/atheists.  Okay?


Rachel Clear said...

Amen, sister.

Community is where it's at, but how in tarnation? For all our talkin', very few people actually LIVE in real community, day to day. Even those that talk about it love their privacy, their space, their own little corners too much.


lori said...

Yep! And so that's why I'm reaching out to you, following Tamie's suggestion. I'm gonna need you and Bennett to fly down here ASAP. That's what I need. Deliver.

Alex Wildes said...

I love what you did with this... A perfect example of harmony in diversity.

melissa said...

But weren't there psychotic murderers before all this isolation?

lori said...

Yeah, for sure, Melissa. It seems there are people, probably from every culture and time period (?) who lack empathy or conscience or are for some reason able to overcome major social taboos to treat other people in ways the society says aren't okay.

It still could be about intimacy though, even if at the time of the crimes, they have as much access to community as the next guy. Are these people somehow missing vital brain connections due to childhood/infancy isolation/abandonment? Or due to SPANKING? Kidding.

You know how, when some tragedy happens (mass shootings and whatnot), the witnesses who knew the perpetrators usually say, "He was a quiet boy. Kept to himself. A loner." It's like the classic description of a person gone coo-coo. Is it an unfair and simplistic stereotype? Maybe so.

I guess what I'm getting at, though, is that we'd probably all be capable of carrying out some of the grotesque crimes we see, if the circumstances were right. And the increasing lack of community seems to be pushing society toward more violence rather than less. Surely intimate connection with other humans is key in a discussion about violence.

I know there are a jillion factors to violence. And let's be honest - nowadays are we unusually violent for the human species, or are we simply more aware of the violence the whole world over due to mass media?

tamie said...

Methland talks about how meth is a big factor in really psychotic murders.

I think that the important thing is to do *something*. One thing every week. Maybe even one tiny thing every day or two. Don't sit around thinking about the perfect thing to do, or the perfect way things should be. Do something, anything, to create community, to reach out, to ask for help, something.

And Rach, you should get on down to Texas.

lori said...

I'm excited to read that book, Tamie. I think it will be highly instructive for where I am right now. I know from the stories I hear just being down here that drugs + money + desperation drive people to do things I don't even have the nerve to type out.

And again, being a mom now, there's a sense in which I want to hug and shelter and hold my baby away from that crud. But more deeply, I want her to know about it and work for the light, possibly wearing a cape. Super Zor.

tamie said...

It's funny, but when I read my words on your blog I took myself seriously and actually did some of those assignments! :)

Yes, I think that Zor is well on her way to being Super. She has some pretty darn Super parents to thank for that.

It's so hard. The brokenness of the world. And knowing how the heck to do real stuff to mend it. But I think maybe we're all doing more than we realize we're doing.

Nikki said...

Thanks for this, Lori (and Alex and Tamie). I'm definitely one that needs to reach out a little more. I think I'm going to share this with our Sunday night group.

Shana said...

Yes, people talk the talk but it is so hard to walk the walk. And, as Rachel said we do stick to our corners, or our "clicks". And, I like the idea of even just reaching out once per week. For many of us, that is a big step and will help move us in the right direction. Change. Change. Change. It is so so hard but very important and that is why we need to do it together.

melissa said...

I'm thinkin you are more right than me--I mean there was always violence and always isolation, but with media as accessible as it is (I mean mostly the internet) I guess ppl can (a) replace true community with cyber community which is missing some key elements, and (b) network with others like them. Which is great when you're a mom. But when you're a pedophile? Not so much.

I can't decide if things are worse now or not?! I tend to believe that things are the same now or better than in the past, but then there's the internet.