Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I have a sort of friend who's got a bad knee injury, and I just sent him a long rambling nearly-incoherent email with some ideas about facilitating the healing process. I mean, what else can I do? We are helpless to alleviate suffering. There's nothing we can do. Pills, I suppose, and surgeries, but what can we do? There's only talk. Only encouragement. Only, if it is in us to do it, some kind of meaningful physical contact. Everything we can do is only symbolic. Squeeze an arm. Mouth some sincere platitude. Bring over a casserole.

Futility is one of my themes. All our craving for relevance and intimacy and blessings for our loved ones are like so much smoke. Some stray wind passes through and the world evaporates. God's mercies and blessings are renewed each morning because they fade away in the night. How can we complain about this? Life is made out of isolation. Of course all communication is only symbolic. If it were truly possible to not be alone, we'd be someone else.

Young J is of another generation, from another heritage, of another ethnicity -- different experience in school, different academic background -- different life path and aspirations -- I suppose the only obvious thing we have in common is the sport. I would have him as a friend, though, if I allowed myself friends. But as I said in some context earlier today, if I were wounded, I might very well crawl away to some private place and bleed out. In fact, that's what I've already done. Maybe I'm getting better, though. I have a lot of back pain, and I asked someone to crack my back today. It was hard to ask. But it's between the shoulder blades and I can't find a way to do it myself. In my experience, this is what sons are for -- to walk on my back. My son weighs 200 pounds though, and is 7660 miles away.

I suppose that's why false religions have a promise of heaven. There has to be some hope of happiness, and this world offers so little, of hope and of happiness. A young man finds a sport that he loves and people he likes doing it with, and an injury makes it impossible to do for some indeterminate but significant time. Maybe forever. If such a thing were uncommon it would be a tragedy. As it is, it's just more crap about how the world is.

Here's the hope that we can count on. Things can always, always get worse. That means things are not yet as bad as possible. Y'see? It's not so bad. And there is that other hope too. Things can get better. Healing is possible.

How can we touch each other? Well, some of the fellas thought it would be a good thing to take up a collection for J. I agree. What does it really mean? Some of it is social pressure, some feeling of obligation. Some of it is just spare change -- a few dollars, or more than a few, but nothing that really matters. Some of it comes as a sort of offering, like a sacrifice, that stands not for any commercial potential but as a symbol of our affection and concern. It is, after all, one of the few things that we can do. We can't make him heal any faster. We can't extinguish his fear of the future. We can't do much to bring comfort to his private hours of anguish. But we can gather together a few hundreds of dollars, or whatever, as a sort of unspoken and a sort of tangible acknowledgment of our friendship. For some of us it's just one of many ways we show our affection. For some of us it's the only voice we have.

We have to read between the lines, with each other. Maybe that's what we have to do with God. The blue sky might be his arm around our shoulder. The warmth of the sun might be his hand on our back. The fact that we do sometimes find happiness might be the way he embraces us. And if we find love, well, then none of the rest of it matters. It is a sort of healing.


No comments: