26 January 2010

The World Wide Wail

(If you're just checking in, I'm in process of moving I Call It My Art to http://theh2obaby.wordpress.com/  For a bit, I will continue to post in both places.  Wordpress isn't all brownies and hot fudge either, but they're both free, so I'll settle down again with whichever is less crazy-making.)

Is it a wonder we aren't all of us head-in-the-oven, falling apart, heart-broken zombies?  As if into each of our own lives enough sorrow does not fall, there is hardly a tragedy in the world to which we might not be privy.  The most recent globally mourned devastation, the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, is certainly a catastrophe and it is right to reach out from our wealth to their poverty.  The web and other modern technology make it not just possible, but easy and immediate.  Any one of us can spare what it takes to save a life there right now.  Hundreds of thousands have died, uncounted more are without a roof, food, water.

Sure, I've sent money to the Salvation Army (who are doing great work there in Christ's name), but I've shed no tears for those pitiful people who have just lost everything when they had nothing before.  Do you know what pulls at my heartstrings this week?  A cat.  A cat I don't know who belongs to someone I've never met.  I follow the owner's Twitter feed because it's interesting to window-shop the life of a successful author, whose work I generally enjoy.  So I, a complete stranger, am watching Neil Gaiman lose the sweetest cat ever.  Her name is Zoe.  She is fourteen years old, blind, was given a hip replacement because of her arthritis, and now is being taken by an inoperable tumor.  She will cross the Rainbow Bridge tomorrow.  But not before her human soul-mate, a girl called Olga, took a red-eye from the west coast to Minnesota to say goodbye.

Is it the details, the cat, or the scale of the drama which jerks tear?  The population of a sizable city is crushed beneath its own dwellings, but that is so far removed from one's own experience that the news reels look like just another movie.  But a sweet little old cat walking feebly out of this world?  I've been in that movie.  I empathize.

empathy |ˈempəθē|
the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Empathy has been a buzzword in recent years for the media and others.  They insist we empathize with all the victims in the world.  Who can understand what it feels like have loved ones flattened under cinder block?  Let alone share that feeling.

sympathy |ˈsimpəθē|
noun ( pl. -thies)
1 feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune

Sympathy is the word they're looking for.  I would never presume to share the grief and horror of people who are injured, dying of thirst, and mourning the sudden deaths of so many.

So, while I sympathize with those Haitians, I empathize with Neil and Olga.  And still I miss desperately a little old frail cat called Wordsworth-Fireproof-Chutney-BulletTrain-SignorBisogno-InternationalIncident.

A Brief Trip Through Time

(Due to new "improvements" in Blogger's interface ~see From Mind to Matter~ I've lost the ability to put together a decent-looking post with photos.  So, at least for now, I'm migrating over to Wordpress.  You can find me there at http://theh2obaby.wordpress.com/ )

For a few minutes, I was 15 years old again.  The girls who would become lifelong friends were there.  We all had the same boots, L.L.Bean duck boots.  The moment happened when I, at 40-something, put on a brand new pair of those old boots.  It had been 20 years since I’d seen them.  It was like in Being John Malkovich, shooting through the tunnel into… myself, my silly 15-year-old self at Jones Junior High.  I felt the promise, insecurity, and camaraderie of adolescence.  As I leaned back and kicked with joy, memories flooded over me; duck boots and ski club, duck boots and grey days walking around Arlington, duck boots rushing to Lane Avenue for lunch.  Through snow and more often slush, those formative years flew through my mind on duck-booted feet in a giggle of girls with others of their kind.  When I ordered the new pair, it was because they had been warm and dry and practical and I had need for just such a thing.  Never did I imagine how they would transport me back, remind me of who we were then, at the beginning of the path to who we would become.

Decades down the road, we have followed our dreams and chosen forks in that road, passed through points of no return.  If we saw at 15 what we would do with our lives, would those teenagers scoff or be amazed?  Can we in middle-age retrieve that sense of open doors, options, and opportunity?  Can a new pair of boots walk my spirit back to the time when it might do anything and had yet to fail?

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