Every day, almost seven days a week, I deal with such unutterably sad and ugly things. Ours truly is a world of woe.
Until I moved here I spent most of my life insulating myself from these things and did my best, successfully, to avoid them. I did such a good job that most of the time it seemed to me I was the only person in the world with problems.
Now all of that has been turned upside down. Since I have become absorbed in the problems of others, it feels like I am the only person in the world without problems.
Part of the explanation is certainly that whatever problems I do have pale in comparison to those of a child who is jailed for murder or a family that has dedicated its every waking moment to hate and revenge. But more to the point of this post—and I was thinking about this last night as my head hit the pillow—my problems just don’t matter to me anymore like they once did. It feels to me like they don’t matter at all.
Yesterday Otto and I got into the car to make a run for ice and the mail. In his old age, Otto is becoming markedly weaker and frailer. For the first time he was unable to help himself into the car. I had to lift him in, and he was unable to climb onto the back seat where he usually sits. It demonstrated to me in a dramatic way that his days in this world are numbered. It was a blunt reminder that my constant companion of more than thirteen years will one day no longer be by my side.
What was my reaction? I felt empty. “It doesn’t matter,” I said to myself.
Oh, when he is gone I will surely be heartbroken, and I will feel like I am missing an arm or another part of my body. But my honest reaction was and is that it just doesn’t matter. “When you go, I’ll go too,” I told him. He will have to wait for me—I have much yet to do—but I will follow him and we will be together again with everyone I love. In the meantime I will continue rubbing his ears and loving him and keep making him comfortable and cleaning his ass when I have to.
I have done all this before.
Yesterday I spoke with Chris Brown and he told me about the latest outrage in his ordeal. He spent some time yesterday with some social services bureaucrats who informed him that he will be forced to make child support payments to the state if Jordan is found guilty and incarcerated in a youth detention program. Chris has not worked since the murder, he has sold everything he owns to raise cash to subsist and continue supporting Jordan. He has been impoverished by the wrongful actions of the state. And now these comfortably-employed bureaucrats are telling him that the state wants more! If he were to fail to pay, the state could put him in jail too.
As Chris told me about this, I could hear the emotion rising in his voice… and what did I feel? Empty. No outrage. No hate. No fury. “Don’t worry about it Chris. You’re not in this alone,” I said. “I’m with you and Jordan for life. We’ll get through it if it happens. Yet I believe with my whole heart and soul that Jordan will be acquitted. We won’t need to cross that bridge.” I am sure of it.
One reason I am so confident of this is that I’d had such a good day on the phone lining up support for Jordan. I spoke to a woman I’d never met before, and she agreed to help in a significant way. “I don’t even know you but I love you!” I exclaimed into the phone. I could tell she felt good about her decision. I could tell she was glad I’d contacted her. People want to help.
This was not the only positive call in the day.
I ended the day last night exchanging e-mails with a young friend who said, “I am having the worst day of my life.” She’d had a fight with her mother, an unhappy woman who slapped her daughter—my friend—across the face. “I moved to my car crying and I’m having beers, but not feeling better,” she texted from her phone. Her mother was wrong. She had accused her daughter of something she didn’t do. And now the daughter was suffering.
If she were here I would hug my friend, tell her I love her, and that we would see this through. But she is many thousands of miles away, on another continent in fact. What did I feel? Empty. No outrage or anger. Only love for that girl and her unhappy mother.
All I could do was tell her that.
As I went to sleep last night I imagined myself as an empty wallet, empty of all the dirty emotions most people accumulate in the course of their days and years. I realized that my wallet is empty because I am always spending love out of it. I don’t understand how I can keep spending and there’s always more to spend… it is a mystery to me… it’s like having an infinite line of credit… the last thing I remember before slipping away to dreamland were the words, “Fishes and Loaves.”
The first thing this morning I checked to see if Otto was still with me. He is. I rubbed his ears and he groaned with pleasure. I think he endures whatever infirmities he suffers for the love he receives. Love does conquer all. It is the only thing that lasts. It is the only thing that matters.
Groove of the Day