The Great Divining Rod
Thursday, early morning
“The worst thing about death is the fact that when a man is dead it is impossible any longer to undo the harm you have done him, or to do the good you haven’t done him. They say: live in such a way as to be always ready to die. I would say: live in such a way that anyone can dies without you having anything to regret.” – Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy, 1865
It’s 6:02 A.M. and I’ve been up a few hours. I awoke at breakfast, which arrived around 4 A.M. and frantically scribed out an important letter concerning legal issues that had to get out by 5 A.M. mail call.
The news is on and a guy is speaking about how a group is lobbying to ban corporal punishment in Texas schools. People who are not from Texas might be shocked to read that they still legally beat children in schools in Texas. I’m 32 years old and still remember being hit with a foot-long wooden paddle in elementary school. Most people in Texas—so says the polls—still believe that hitting children is an effective and acceptable form of parenting. What is wrong with our society? I ask myself this question often. Oh and yes, yes, I was one of those “crazy” people who would confront individuals who would beat their children in Walmart. I doubt I had much positive impact on complete strangers, but I know I had a lot of friends who had children and if they believed in the acceptability of corporal punishment they changed their minds after my lectures on Piaget, Pavlov, Harry and Margaret Harlow’s infant monkey experiments and such things. The news is over.
Last night I received a letter from my friend Linda who is an excellent writer. With her letter she included her latest blog entry Goodbye & Hello in which she talks about experiencing death—or perhaps I should say the dying—of two close friends. A few lines from the piece:
I attended every doctor and oncologist appointment with her, kept notes and passed that information along to her unresponsive family…
No one in her family seemed willing to step up until the end, of course, and then the kind of family dynamic that oozes guilt spread like a stain. I was shocked at the calculated efforts of some—including a parent—to rewrite their own histories.
Such is the nature of our society: egocentrism is the great divining rod that leads people along their path of Life. People generally think in terms of self-interest even when someone they care about is dying. (Jesus, the scream-talkers, and maniacally ranting sports fanatics are up extra early today and the daily mania has begun. Ear-plugs in, headphones on blasting and I’ll try to write coherently…oh, wow, this is hilarious, a hip-hop song is on where the rapper is talking with another person, then at the end he realizes he’s talking with is ego. “I can’t get past your ego/yourself destructive massive ego.” Selfless service to others is an all too rare occurrence in our society.
I knew someone who worked as an administrator at an elderly care facility for decades. He has told me how friends and family tend to disappear when things get hard for those people who are elderly. People tend to run when people need them the most and this holds true regardless of gender, economic, religious or ethnic background. Although I’ve read that this phenomenon is dramatically more prevalent in the U.S. as opposed to other societies.
This is something I’m dealing with right now—the two people who I trusted most, who I counted on and considered my closest allies, collaborators, and friends have effectively disappeared on me, in my greatest time of need. Well, one has seemingly disappeared completely while the other has dropped out of my Life by about 90%. Perhaps only Dostoyevsky could properly express with words how this feels. Needless to say, it is absolutely soul wrenching. Linda’s piece made me think of many things, things that exist in the realm of Life and Death, the realm of the dying and living. I’m essentially rapidly dying while fighting to Live, things are hard, very hard.
People tell me I should write more, but I often think that it would be pointless to write because I have nothing but sad, depressive things to write about. I think people generally want to hear fluff, mundane and happy things that make them feel good. Plus I really don’t enjoy writing. I find it a tedious task and I never like anything I write. Greek tragedies are still performed today, thousands of years after they were first performed; indeed tragedy can cause us to reflect upon the nature of Humanity, the human condition. Even if I only write about tragic things I think this can be beneficial to others. Today I’ve made the commitment to begin writing regularly. If nothing else I suppose I might be able to offer some somewhat unique reflections from one who is under the sentence of death.
From the Texas Gulag,
With Strength & Love
I just heard on the news that Jared Laughner—the depraved individual who attempted to murder Gabrielle Giffords, Democratic Congresswoman from Arizona and shot 9 others—extensively researched capital punishment in the weeks leading up to the shooting. The police have released this information after investigating his computer activity. The vast majority of academic researchers have stated that the death penalty is not a deterrent to murder or other criminal activity and those who have suggested otherwise are simply being intellectually dishonest. (There is actually a book on how to manipulate statistical data, by Darell Huff, entitled appropriately enough How To Lie With Statistics.) I’ve talked to many, many murderers and without exception, not a single one really thought about capital punishment before they committed the murder. They really weren’t thinking at all.
The vast majority of murders are committed in the heat of the moment, far outside the realm of rational thought and in-depth debate. The prospect of capital punishment certainly wasn’t a deterrent o Jared Laughner, who obviously did extensively think about the death penalty before he committed murder.
Generasian Radio 90.1KPFT is on right now and I love some of the music they play especially the Bangra and the more classic Indian style. Perfect music to experience Yoga and some nice Shaolin warrior Qi Gong to and that’s exactly what I’m about to do…
Om Shanti Om