As we are raised, it is almost always the case that our parents consciously and subconsciously poke, squeeze, cajole and push us through a series of sieves until we ultimately roll off society’s assembly line, ready for market. At about 18 years of age we are put on a shelf like a fine wine and purchased by the business world or a spouse. We are then placed on a shelf to either be savored immediately then discarded, left to develop in the hope that we will become more and more valuable with time, or forgotten until we begin to smell from rot at which point we’re tossed and buried.
The “sob story” as it is often called is bandied about at an unparalleled rate these days. It’s not just in office lunch rooms anymore as an excuse for a lackluster personality or poor work performance. Now you see it as a practical given even in reality show contests. Vote for me not because I’m talented but because I have “baggage” that weighs me down more than the next guy. I often pity the happy contestants who have come baggage-less. They never seem to win. They know it too and it has often been seen that they embellish small things in order to have at least a carry-on if not a full suitcase in its own right.
I’ve often found through the course of my life that people who have truly endured personal pain so intense it is a wonder that they survived its impact never ever talk about it. For example, I’ve known family and friends who went through wars. They never talk about it aside from occasional general factual accounts of time and place such as things you would read in a news bulletin – never anything of their personal experiences. Those who were on the sidelines on the other hand never stop talking about it often embellishing enormously along the way.
Whatever your situation, be hopeful that you’re not part of a collective unit of mutual suffering. It seems the more people suffering through a particular situation, the less relevant their individual suffering becomes. Syria, Rwanda, the Balkans – the list goes on and on. Even if they want to talk about it to alleviate their pain or garner support for ending the cause of it, no one is listening.
Individual drama is tolerated on a small scale leaving the receiver with a great sense of superiority in either that he/she is grateful they were the “chosen one” that was spared a similar fate or that a similar fate would never before him/her because they “know better” than to step into that trap. When multiplied by hundreds of thousands it seems there is a sense of information overload. When there are too many voices at once you just tune them all out.
Our challenge as a society is to keep our baggage zipped unless there is a compelling reason for inspection, leave those wishing for solitude in peace, and to find means of amplification for those whose collective voice is falling on deaf ears.
A phrase that we’ve heard many times since the fall of communism in the 90s is “former communist”. After 70 plus years of communist ideology is it possible to simply return it to the shop because it didn’t fit? I don’t think that someone who grew up in Soviet times should have to simply toss aside every nostalgic childhood memory as if they are all somehow suddenly toxic. Sometimes it seems people are embarrassed to admit they really liked some of those old patriotic songs, TV shows or general feeling of national pride when the world cowered before them as a superpower. After the 90s it seemed everyone was expected to denounce absolutely everything associated with the Soviet Union and jump for joy over this new ideology called democracy that was supposed to be the new savior – as if that notion in and of itself wasn’t just yet another ideological experiment.
Certainly no one would argue that Stalinist purges, gulags and all other assortment of abuses must be roundly condemned. Just as those who lived through Nazism would most definitely concur that there is nothing to be savored about human destruction on any scale. Yet to coin an old phrase, lets not throw out the baby with the bath water. National pride, so long as it is mixed with a healthy dose of rationalism, is not an evil in and of itself even if the ideology that spawned it is deeply flawed and doomed to ultimate failure. Just as nostalgia for simple everyday pleasures, no matter how seemingly insignificant, should not be tainted by the air of ideology that hung about in the age in which they were experienced.
It comes down to the most basic of philosophies – see the glass as half full not half empty. Take pride in those moments and feelings that gave you happiness in your life regardless of the times in which they were experienced. Don’t let the fashions of the present day force you to erase all that made you who you are no matter what country or ideology you grew up under. Acknowledge the failings, treasure the positive points, and live as full a life as possible.
After all, the ideologies of today may well be the plagues of tomorrow. The quest for true and absolute freedom is not a stationary goalpost unfortunately. Various strategies will continue to evolve over the course of time by all peoples around the world to try and realize what may in fact be unattainable through any system. But as they say, it’s not so much about the goal as it is the journey, no matter where you’re from or what you believe in.
I went to a museum exhibit on ancient Egyptian history the other week and of course right there under lights in a glass case was the obligatory mummy. You have to wonder really, were we to dig up grandma and grandpa and put them on display people would be mortified and call it grave robbing. I’m not always convinced the age of the grave makes the decisive difference.
Actually I have an avid interest in archaeology and can well see the benefits of digging stuff up, including bodies, and analyzing them for historical purposes. Although in this day and age it seems there should be less intrusive ways of going about it. Can we not ditch the shovel and go with digital imaging and soil samples?
However that being said, it seems wrong that once you’ve gone about your business with the bodies why they can’t be reburied. I believe in some instances they are but in many they are not. So often you see laboratories lined with shelves of cardboard boxes full of skeletal remains. That can’t be what they wanted. Many of these people were titans of their times and buried with grandeur. It seems disrespectful to dig them up, analyze them, then stuff them in a cardboard box for all eternity to gather dust on a shelf.
Even if you weren’t a princess, somebody still cared enough to dig a cradle for you in the earth and bid you farewell. Most likely they didn’t do it in haste, but with care as to where it was and how it was prepared. Do we really have the right to separate the remains from their grave goods or take them forever from a site that was probably either of sacred or sentimental significance in the name of science?
When someone has died it seems there is always an inordinate amount of emphasis put on what their last words were. Whereas I often wonder what their thoughts were in the days and hours just prior to passing. Did they know their end was coming? If so how did they choose to spend their time? Did they wake up a little earlier than usual to enjoy a few extra moments of sunshine? Did they put a little extra jam on their toast in the morning or indulge in an extra piece of chocolate that evening?
I wonder how many people plan their last words in advance, how many are spontaneous and how many get caught unawares and miss the “moment” all together? Or worse yet, you have planned prophetic words for your last utterance only to see that no one else is in the room to hear them and there are no pen and paper at hand to memorialize them.
Then there is the question of how far in advance you know of your passing. If it’s years of knowing it will be any day now how tiresome it must be to keep anticipating it like the pony for Christmas that never seems to materialize under the tree? But then what if you are unaware that you have but a matter of hours left before an accident that will take you? What if someone else did know that today would be your “moment” and yet you were unaware? How would they look at you? How monumental the burden to know and have the choice whether to tell or not to tell. If it is but a matter of hours anyway, would it make a difference to you to be made aware of your limited time left? Would you scramble to get things done before the appointed hour? If so, what things?
I’m growing weary of people commenting on stories throughout the internet that they clearly haven’t bothered to read. It’s as if they have their own personal philosophy on a sticker. Yes indeed, it’s no deeper than the length, width and breadth of a child’s sticker and they apply it to everything – relevant or not, just as a child would.
It reminds me in part of one of my favourite writers, Velimir Khlebnikov, when he complained about the same tiresome conversations people have over and over again. You know the ones that go something like, “how are you?” “I’m fine and you?” “How’s the weather today?” etc. He suggested holding up numbered cards in rapid succession to get through all the mind numbing conventions and get around to discussing something original without wasting so much time in preliminary fluff. For example, a card numbered 1 for “how are you”, 2 for “I’m fine and you” and so on. Hold them up in any order you like then get on with it.
I saw an old Czech version of Faust one time where in the opening scene a man walking along a street picks up a crumpled up piece of paper in his path. He opens it up and it is a map of the city with a big “x” in the middle. He decides to go to the spot where the “x” is and the plot continues from there. If you came across such a map would you go find the “treasure”?
I think in essence we are all born with an internalized “map” of sorts. Our life is a linear path which will terminate. It is up to us to decide whether the “x” is at that termination point or somewhere sooner along the path. Who is to say there is only one “x” or even an “x” at all? Then of course there is the bigger question of whether or not we determine the answer to that by marking our own map or leaving it to fate.