Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Better than okay

“Are you okay?”

In the days between the Liaison’s death and his funeral, many people asked this of me. Many were writers who were inspired by him or were grateful for his excellent leadership or grateful for the individual personal help he gave them at times. Everyone knew he was special. These writers I refer to, who asked me, “are you okay?” are ones who did not often see him outside of November NaNoWriMo but who knew that I did, and assumed I had some closer relationship to him than they did.

I don’t necessarily know that I did.

It’s interesting, this specific gesture of concern which we typically offer. Are you okay?

We might be genuinely concerned or we might feel it’s appropriate or expected of us to express concern, or some combination. We might not even know for sure the composition of our own motive. It might just be a habit to some degree. I suspect in this case that most of them were genuinely concerned, or at least just genuinely wanted to express something. When we’re confronted with something resembling a tragedy we feel moved to be useful somehow. By expressing concern we either gain the opportunity to be helpful (depending on the response) or else we can at least check off the box that says I tried. Either way, in our effort to be comforting we have comforted ourselves; assured ourselves that we have done what we could.

I don’t mean to be cynical by this. I too would be inclined to offer these words in many such circumstances, and I feel that my associates here are sincere.

What is interesting is that I am very much okay. I have been in tears at times; perhaps most so in sick boy’s embrace who was weeping very intensely at the time. Thus I did likewise, much out of empathy.

Empathy is at play almost any time I shed tears; which I do often but rarely out of personal sadness; indeed almost never from personal sadness. I cry for the reason that all people cry: intense emotion. That most people associate tears with sadness is because sadness is the emotion most people find themselves experiencing most intensely. This is a troubling reflection on our society. I tend to experience most intensely other emotions altogether, which I am grateful for.

I am well aware that death is no tragedy. Only failure of life is a tragedy; one hugely present in this too-often shallow consumer society. Death too often marks the deadline where the FAIL stamp comes crashing down. But not in this case. There may indeed be many deeper experiences in which the Liaison had yet to find opportunity. But what he did with his time was so much worth celebrating. Within his own limits he expanded very much is influence and his own spirit. And he spent his time very well, serving what he loved and serving others.

Am I okay? Yes. I am more than okay.

In the case of the Liaison’s passing I mostly cried out of -- what? Not despair; that’s for certain. Can I define what it was? something in the realms of love and joy and inspiration? I was emotionally moved out of celebration! I witnessed how much he meant to people. I witnessed one of the most meaningful achievements in life; that of improving the lives of others. Truly: I cried from the beauty of it.

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