First snowfall of the season today. Having grown up in Southern California, where the change of seasons is marked only by holidays, I am growing to cherish the feeling in the air when a season here shifts. The winter can be felt approaching, and things grow quieter, and I find myself similarly turning inward. A form of hibernation, I eat heavier foods and crave the occasional coffee drink.
I don’t want to be morbid or to give the appearance that I am dwelling on dark feelings, so please don’t take this the wrong way: in a couple of nights, it will have been exactly a year since a friend and co-worker of mine was found hanging in his room. This isn’t a topic I care to discuss much anymore, but I feel also that it isn’t something that I should be afraid to talk about. I’ve learned something about pain and grieving since then. I’ve learned that grieving isn’t something that you should ever hold onto, but it also isn’t something that you should ever deny, when it comes. It comes less and less now, like residual shockwaves rolling outward from a rock falling into a pond. The rock has sunk down into the deeps, to settle like a solid emptiness in my heart, a quiet stillness where once there was violent struggle, like the ruins of a sunken ship on the bottom of the ocean. Grief comes when it comes, and it rolls through me and then I’m left a little more at peace than before. When it comes, it’s just like it was that first night–the simple question that will never be answered . . . why?
A hollowness that will never be filled, a piece of yourself torn from the deepest essential core of you, the part that connects you to all your friends and family and loved ones. In bridging the wound, you discover at the end of the tunnel that you are even closer now than ever to strangers, to acquaintances, as well as to loved ones. There is a kind of strange and cruel benediction in the healing, in which you find that Toby, through his self-destruction, has shown you the path to greater love. Never again can you take someone’s solitude for granted, assuming that they are alright with being alone. You know now the silent violent churning of loneliness within, and what kind of destruction it can leave in its wake when finally it is shared with the world.
Our culture of extreme individualism has created an environment where people are isolated and lonely, desperately searching for a way to be deeply interconnected but not knowing how to find such access. People use chatrooms, personals, MySpace, clubs, bars, searching searching for someone to see through to their divinity. Hungry to have the chance to show it. Hungry to the point of starving, hungry to the point that when the feelings finally come out, it is monsterous, and violent, and steeped in bitterness and anger.
In European cultures and in the beginning of American society, intellectualism–political and ideological debate–provided fuel for networking and conversation and sitting around sharing drinks and smoking. Now when we go to coffee shops or bars, it is to sit by ourselves or with a single friend. We are allergic, of course, to anything resembling intellectual elitism or artsy fartsy-ness, as well we should be. But we need to find a way to get together in groups, beyond concerts and clubs, a way to congregate and debate and share stories and find a way to acceptance of our differences and a way to understanding of our essential humanity. I guess blogs are a start, and that’s why I do this. But it’s still disconnected in terms of physical interaction. We need touch, we need voice, we need laughter.
Find a way to build this space for people, a place where they can interact without having to be alcoholics, a place where they can talk without having to wear designer clothing. There are, in fact, already places like these all around you–it is simply a matter of opening yourself up to them.
I miss my friend, I miss seeing him everyday. I miss his grumpiness and good work ethic. He taught me never to take anything or anyone for granted. He taught me that you can never know what another human being is going through inside. He taught me that I need to find a way to connect to other people, even when they give the appearance of not wanting a deeper connection. Everyone wants so desperately to be loved and understood. And everyone deserves to be.