8/30/05

My Roof Is Leaking Along With My World

I just got a call from home, telling me the ceiling dripping in the kitchen. Penny wanted to know if she should scatter pots or towels or climb on the roof with boards and nails or what. I said no, don't worry about it just yet. When the rain stops - remnants of Hurricane Katrina - I'll get up there and see what's what. For now, though, I just feel really, really sorry for all the people whose roofs, and kitchens, and houses... pretty much their whole lives - are gone now.

It's hard to imagine what it would be like to see your city wiped out all of a sudden. Here in the Midwest, we don't really think about that sort of thing - tornadoes, fires, plant closings... our disasters are really isolated in comparison. And because it is so hard to imagine experiencing what they're going through right now in New Orleans, I think a lot of people just don't do it. We watch the news footage and read the descriptions and just shake our heads, uncomprehending. Sympathy without empathy.

Suffering is a philosophical problem - wait, suffering is a practical problem, a real one that really exists; I didn't mean to frame it quite that way. It's just that there are a number of views of the world... perhaps as many as there are people... and one thing I think most of them have in common is their difficulty in coming to terms with the idea of suffering. How do you make sense of a world where people suffer?

You have to make sense of the world; you just can't get by otherwise. Even if the system you adopt - the understanding you settle on - isn't what you would really call perfect; isn't one you would even defend, it's still what you work with. And events like this always remind us how many holes there are in our understanding of the world.

I don't personally know anyone who understands suffering, who really accepts it. I myself am something of a dreamer, and when someone tells me something awful I usually respond by saying something like, "Well, I'm sure the worst of it is over," or, "Oh, uh, maybe it'll work out for the best." If there is no silver lining at all, I usually don't say anything, just standing there, stunned.

That's basically what I'm doing now. But I'm trying to speak, trying to say something, trying to function through this instead of just temporarily shutting down. Because that's life, right? These moments, and these feelings, sometimes horrible, sometimes pretty alright, are the stuff of life. And dealing with them as they come is the act of being alive. It's our obligation to confront what paralyzes us, out of respect for those who don't get the chance. And it's our nature to hope that the worst is over.

2 comments:

To The Moon said...

Great job putting that into words...I'm kinda feeling the same way.

Julesy said...

Hey Colin my friend Luke recommended a visit to your blog. I sympathize and empathize with the leaking into the kitchen. As far as suffering goes, the worst part for me is the anticipation of suffering like what if type stuff. In my experience though when I have suffered a loss I have also experienced grace so tangibly that it is quite amazing.