Intention and Disconnect

Intention and Disconnect

Advent  6

Year in Review 2017

 

One cannot approach the concept of grace either objectively or subjectively without including the religious community.  Indeed, many do not even attempt to define the concept of grace outside of a religious and theological construct.  I have asked you to consider it a form of living but today we will discuss it not as an inevitable part of one’s spirit of living but as it relates to organized religion and its followers.  Why?  Because, in my humble opinion, often the religions of the world have become stumbling blocks to grace.  I firmly believe our purpose in living is to cherish – each other, nature, all things connected to life.  Many times, the religious communities are the very institutions that define grace and yet, sometimes, they are its worst enemies.

 

Beyond Intractability was developed and is still maintained by the University of Colorado Conflict Information Consortium. The missions of the Consortium and, more specifically, the Beyond Intractability project reflect the convergence of two long-standing streams of work. The first is an exploitation of the unique abilities of Web-based information systems to speed the flow of conflict-related information among those working in the field and the general public. The second is an investigation of strategies for more constructively addressing intractable conflict problems — those difficult situations which lie at the frontier of the field.

 

Here is a quote from the Beyond Intractability website:  “At the dawn of the twenty-first century, a casual glance at world affairs would suggest that religion is at the core of much of the strife around the globe.  Often, religion is a contentious issue. Where eternal salvation is at stake, compromise can be difficult at or even sinful. Religion is also important because, as a central part of many individuals’ identity, any threat to one’s beliefs is a threat to one’s very being. This is a primary motivation for ethno-religious nationalists.  … However, the relationship between religion and conflict is, in fact, a complex one. Religiously-motivated peace builders have played important roles in addressing many conflicts around the world.

 

“Although not necessarily so, there are some aspects of religion that make it susceptible to being a latent source of conflict. All religions have their accepted dogma, or articles of belief, that followers must accept without question. This can lead to inflexibility and intolerance in the face of other beliefs. After all, if it is the word of God, how can one compromise it? At the same time, scripture and dogma are often vague and open to interpretation. Therefore, conflict can arise over whose interpretation is the correct one, a conflict that ultimately cannot be solved because there is no arbiter. The winner generally is the interpretation that attracts the most followers. However, those followers must also be motivated to action. Although, almost invariably, the majority of any faith hold moderate views, they are often more complacent, whereas extremists are motivated to bring their interpretation of God’s will to fruition.  Religious extremists can contribute to conflict escalation. They see radical measures as necessary to fulfilling God’s wishes. Fundamentalists of any religion tend to take a Manichean view of the world. If the world is a struggle between good and evil, it is hard to justify compromising with the devil. Any sign of moderation can be decried as selling out, more importantly, of abandoning God’s will.”

 

Manichean may be a word unfamiliar to you but its meaning is how many people view the world and try to live their lives.  Manichean comes from the word Mani, which is the name of an apostle who lived in Mesopotamia in the time frame of 240 ACE, who taught a universal religion based on what we now call dualism. If you believe in the Manichean idea of dualism, you tend to look at things as having two sides that are opposed. To Manicheans, life can be divided neatly between good or evil, light or dark, or love and hate.

 

In other words, in an attempt to live their doctrines of peace and love, people tend to think with a narrow field and view the world as either black or white.  Human beings are complex creatures and no one is one-dimensional.  In other words, no one person is all anything.  In our intention to live a doctrine of love and peace, we allow our subjective narrowness to trip us up.

 

To be certain, some things are either right or wrong.  You cannot murder someone halfway.  A person is either killed or alive.  However, the quality of life then comes into question and such is often what leads people to commit suicide.  Rather than offer grace, their expectations, based upon their belief system, suffocates any grace they might find.

 

So should we assume religion is the problem and not the answer?  Absolutely not!  Religions tend to connect us and remind us of that which we are deep inside.  They are, I believe, most necessary to life.  Religions offer us ways to show, recognize, and live grace.  Life is hard but grace makes it not only possible but worthwhile. 

 

Quoting David Smock, the Beyond Intractability website offers one solution to consider in finding grace amid all this conflict and discord.  “Religion is inherently conflictual, but this is not necessarily so. Therefore, in part, the solution is to promote a heightened awareness of the positive peace building and reconciliatory role religion has played in many conflict situations. More generally, fighting ignorance can go a long way. Interfaith dialogue would be beneficial at all levels of religious hierarchies and across all segments of religious communities. Where silence and misunderstanding are all too common, learning about other religions would be a powerful step forward. Being educated about other religions does not mean conversion but may facilitate understanding and respect for other faiths.”

 

We all have intentions and the faith-based communities of the world are no different.  However, when need to give closer attention to our efforts and revitalize them every day.  Grace might very well be the key to world peace and it certainly makes each of our lives better.  Rather than being the problem, grace is the answer.

 

Recently, I had a family member pass away.  I requested my religious leader to hold a fifteen minute prayer service as requiem for this person’s passing in order to honor their life.  It would have been that last thing I could do to cherish this person’s living almost a century on this planet.  For the past four months, this religious leader has been too busy to find fifteen minutes.  Clearly he does not cherish my membership in his religious community.  Someone else less determined might take his actions to be a condemnation of their living as well.  We hear of suicides and wonder why.  Usually it is something as simple as a person not feeling cherished, not having had grace extended, and seeing nothing in their future.

 

This religious leader has been so busy doing his charitable works that he forgot charity truly begins at home.  It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  This proverb or aphorism is thought to have originated with Saint Bernard of Clairvaux who wrote somewhere around 1150 ACE “L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs” (Hell is full of good wishes and desires).  Life seldom goes according to plan but we still need to have intentions with follow through.  Otherwise, all we are left with is a disconnect and that not only might alter someone else’s life, it usually has an effect on ours as well.  Grace is a simple act of kindness that shows the recipient he/she is cherished.  Life is precious and worth at least fifteen minutes of our time.

 

 

 

 

Remove the Stigma

Remove the Stigma

Pentecost 100

 

It is 2016.  We can pick up the phone and talk to someone on the other side of the world without hesitation.  We not only can talk to someone anywhere on the planet, we can talk to those orbiting the earth in outer space.  And yet, we cannot, do not talk about suicide.  There is a stigma about it that prevents us from discussing this tragic action and that means we will never cure it.  We must remove this stigmas and stop suicide.

 

Quoting from the World health Organization:  “Suicides are preventable. There are a number of measures that can be taken at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. These include:

  • reducing access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications);
  • reporting by media in a responsible way;
  • introducing alcohol policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol;
  • early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distress;
  • training of non-specialized health workers in the assessment and management of suicidal behavior;
  • follow-up care for people who attempted suicide and provision of community support.

 

“Suicide is a complex issue and therefore suicide prevention efforts require coordination and collaboration among multiple sectors of society, including the health sector and other sectors such as education, labor, agriculture, business, justice, law, defense, politics, and the media. These efforts must be comprehensive and integrated as no single approach alone can make an impact on an issue as complex as suicide.

 

The stigma surrounding suicide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and the stigma surrounding mental disorders and suicide, means” many people thinking of taking their own life or who have attempted suicide are not seeking help and are therefore not getting the help they need. The prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to a lack of awareness of suicide as a major public health problem and the taboo in many societies to openly discuss it. To date, only a few countries have included suicide prevention among their health priorities and only 28 countries report having a national suicide prevention strategy.  Raising community awareness and breaking down the taboo is important for countries to make progress in preventing suicide.

 

How does such a stigma affect suicide – what we know about it and how we can stop it?  Again I quote from the WHO:  “Globally, the availability and quality of data on suicide and suicide attempts is poor. Only 60 Member States have good-quality vital registration data that can be used directly to estimate suicide rates. This problem of poor-quality mortality data is not unique to suicide, but given the sensitivity of suicide – and the illegality of suicidal behavior in some countries – it is likely that under-reporting and misclassification are greater problems for suicide than for most other causes of death.

 

“Improved surveillance and monitoring of suicide and suicide attempts is required for effective suicide prevention strategies. Cross-national differences in the patterns of suicide, and changes in the rates, characteristics and methods of suicide highlight the need for each country to improve the comprehensiveness, quality and timeliness of their suicide-related data. This includes vital registration of suicide, hospital-based registries of suicide attempts and nationally representative surveys collecting information about self-reported suicide attempts.”

 

Every life has value and we need to make sure that people understand that means them.  All lives matter, not just during a political season or holidays but each and every single day.  No one has a stress-free life.  You might be the richest person on earth or the poorest but I promise you your life has its share of stresses. 

 

Too many religions consider this subject taboo and help encourage the stigmas regarding and surrounding suicide.  Our faith should uplift and support, not help destroy or belittle.  There is no deity that does not understand our human condition.  We need to show compassion, grace, and love to our neighbors, our family, and yes, even those we do not like or do not like us.  In my final installment of this mini-series on suicide, I will discuss just how easy it is to connect, communicate, and care.

 

Suicide is a killer, a killer that we can stop.  I hope you will take five minutes today to fo five simple things and help save a life.  Learn the warning signs and never take as a joke when someone says that want to end their life.  Call your emergency hotline (In the USA it is 911.) and report such to the proper authorities.  Then join the movement to prevent suicide.  It is as simple as clicking on the World Suicide Prevention Day Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/events/1054474904622617).  Share this message with someone – repost or retweet.  Finally, understand that suicide is a big issue and one no one should handle alone.  Reach out to professionals for help.  These are five easy steps that might just save someone’s life:  learn, discuss, join, remove the stigma, support a friend, and reach out.  What a great way to have an extraordinary day in helping save someone’s life!  Suicide is not a secret and never should have any stigmas attached to it. 

 

Take Five

Take Five

Pentecost 99

 

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day.  Two years ago this month I had to do a bit of parenting I never thought I would ever have to do.  I had to answer a text from one of my sons at college and on a church retreat regarding a news story he wanted to know about, more specifically if I had heard or seen on television.  Was there a report of a body found in an area lake?  I answered yes and then asked why.  Two days later I was hugging him as he came home for the funeral of one of his closest friends who had committed suicide.

 

Every year more than 800 000 people take their own life and there are many more people who attempt suicide. Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities and entire countries and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind. Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds globally in 2012.

 

Let me repeat that number – eight hundred thousand.  For every person who commits suicide there are many more who attempt it and even more who have thought about it.  Suicide is the second leading cause of death among those ages fifteen to twenty-nine years of age.  While seventy-five per cent of all suicides occur in love and middle-income countries, suicide is a problem that touches all socioeconomic levels.  The ingestion of pesticide, hanging, and firearms are some of the most common methods of suicide worldwide. 

 

Suicide is a serious public health problem, one that is completely preventable.  Today and tomorrow I will focus on this health problem and hope you will take five minutes to connect and show care to someone in your midst.  Trust me – Someone is counting on you and you might just be a life-saver to that person.

 

Everyone is at risk for suicide.  The link between suicide and mental health disorders, particularly depression and substance abuse such as alcohol is well-known, especially in high income nations, many suicides are impulsive acts.  They occur in a moment of crisis and exemplify a breakdown in the ability to cope with the stresses of life.  Financial problems, relationship breakups or chronic pain and illness are often the leading stressors that result in suicide.

 

There are some events associated with suicidal behavior, events such as conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss of a loved one.  Suicide rates are also high among those groups often bullied or targets which are seen as being outside the mainstream.  These vulnerable groups experiencing discrimination include refugees, migrant workers and their families, indigenous people, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/intersex (LGBTI) people, and prisoners.  The strongest indicator and risk factor for suicide is a previous attempt.

 

Someone you know has thought about suicide, possibly even yourself.  Each and every life is too precious for us not to take five minutes out of our busy day to connect with someone, everyone, and show them we care.  I will post more tomorrow on how you can be a superhero and save the life of someone who know and care about.  For today, please know that suicide is not an answer and that we do care.  You are a valuable member of mankind.  We need you, not just your memory.  Your life has meaning and purpose. 

 

Then and Now

Then and Now

Pentecost 130

Probably the simplest reason the mythologies of the past are still stories that are retold today is that mankind has changed very little.  We certainly live in different conditions, most of us.  While there are some cultures that remain much as they were hundreds of centuries ago, much of the world lives with modern conveniences such as electricity, which provides comfortable environments that include heating and cooling.  We now prepare out foods with fancy gas or electric stoves and ovens and even those who cook their food over a grill do so with intricate barbecue systems.  The mixing of milled grains with water and then cooked over a hot stone as bread once first prepared has become gourmet fire-baked pizza.  The smoking of meats to preserve them has led to worldwide grill master competitions.  And yet, our basic human condition remains unchanged.  We still feel pain and joy, are overly concerned with appearances, become angry and jealous, and fail to realize our blessings when we receive them.

The Ramayana is one of two Hindu epic mythologies and it contains approximately fifty thousand lines of verse written in Sanskrit.  It is thought to be the compilation of both written and oral traditions gathered by the poet Valmiki somewhere around 200 BCE.  The central character is the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu, Rama.  I listed these avatars two days ago and, if you remember, there are a total of nine.  While the legends in each of the seven books of the Ramayana are about Rama and his earthly life, the core narrative is about Rama’s love for Sita, a very beautiful and virtuous princess.

Rama might have been the earthly presence of the god Vishnu but he had some very human characteristics.  His purpose is virtue and yet, he was flawed.  Like many who find themselves attached to the dream mate, their ideal here on earth, Rama suffered from jealousy.  Jealousy is much more about the person who has it than the object which has caused it.  It says that the jealous person has little confidence in their own worth.  Rama’s jealousy, as does most, is illustrated by many serious suspicions.

Rama is also more concerned with appearances than happiness – his or Sita’s.  Many arguments ensued and resulted in the couple being banished to a forest where Sita is captured while Rama is on a hunt.  Here the story introduces a much-loved character in Hindu mythology, Hanuman.  Hanuman is called the monkey general and is both trickster and magician.  Sita had been captured by a demon so Rama enlists the aid of Hanuman to find her.  The army of monkeys throw themselves across the sea to form a bridge which results in Rama being able to rescue Sita.

Once home, Rama hears rumors that Sita was unfaithful to him during her captivity.  Concerned about his image, he sends her into exile.  It is while in exile that Sita supposedly meets the author of the Ramayana, Valmiki.  Unknown to him, though, Sita is pregnant and while in exile delivers twin boys.  Years pass and Sita remains in exile.  One day Rama has a chance encounter (or is it?) with the boys and recognizes them as his sons.  He allows Sita to return from exile but, in her misery, she calls upon Mother Earth to take her.  The ground opened beneath her and she threw herself in.  It is only then that Rama realizes his own doing in killing his beloved and jumps in after her.  They are reunited in heaven and have an eternal happily ever after.

The tale of Rama may seem very disconnected from our living but it really is not.  We may not have a monkey general to aid us but we certainly are surrounded by tricksters who would lead us astray if we let them.  Mankind still suffers from pangs of jealousy and concern about appearance.  While the field of plastic surgery was once all about restoring misconfigurations of physical growth and repairing after injuries, it has become a cottage industry based upon vanity and appearance.  More plastic surgery is done in the name of vanity and from jealousy than for any other reason.

The mythology of ancient culture still has relevance today and that is why we read the stories and delight in their movie and television portrayals.  In his “Myths to Live By”, Joseph Campbell wrote: “The old differences separating one system from another now are becoming less and less important, less and less easy to define. And what, on the contrary, is become more and more important is that we should learn to see through all the differences to the common themes that have been there all the while.”

There are over eighty-eight thousand chromosomes in the human body.  According to the National Institutes of health, “In the nucleus of each cell, the DNA molecule is packaged into thread-like structures called chromosomes. Each chromosome is made up of DNA tightly coiled many times around proteins called histones that support its structure.”   These chromosomes contain our history, our present, and our future.  They also contain chromosomes that portray our ethnicity, the physical characteristics that define whether we are Caucasian, African, Oriental, Hispanic, South Pacific Islander, or American Indian.  Hair type and color, eye shape and color, and skin hue as well as nose configurations and height are often the most obvious of these characteristics.  Yet, out of all those eighty-eight thousand chromosomes, only less than two thousand determine those ethnic markers.

Wars have been fought based upon those less than two thousand ethnic markers.  Hitler condemned over six million people to death based upon his assumption of what someone of the Jewish faith looked like.  He determined what physical characteristics would lead to a superior race of Caucasians and he named it after the name given to all Europeans and invaders.  He misappropriated an American Indian symbol and made it symbolic of greed, jealousy, envy, and death.  Like Rama, he turned his back on his own because Hitler was, in fact, of Jewish heritage and ethnicity.  And like Rama, history says Hitler also took his own life, flaws overriding any virtue that might once have been.

Today leaders of the Taliban are doing the same thing.  Their followers are blindly going wherever told without conscious thought on their own.  They hide behind religion without living that religion.  Their motivation is greed and power and they sacrifice any and everyone except themselves.  They sit in a Mount Olympus of their own ego while orchestrating the demise of others.  They are not leaders following a divine spirit but greedy, villains who, one day, will find their own deaths written and carried out.  Hopefully, few others will perish before that mythology concludes.

Joseph Campbell himself passed away before his most famous book was published.  He did leave us with some great advice about how to write some new mythologies instead of simply living the old ones over, making the same mistakes over and over.  “It doesn’t help to try to change [an imposed system] to accord with your system of thought. The momentum of history behind it is too great for anything really significant to evolve from that kind of action. The thing to do is learn to live in your period of history as a human being. That’s something else, and it can be done.”  Both then and now, the answer was and is to live as a human being…with humanity and compassion for all.

Pentecost 80

Pentecost 80
My Psalm 80

The Faith in Goodbye

I remember when my grandmother suddenly died. My two children were both under the age of four and driving to pick them up at day care that day, I worried and then prayed about what I was going to tell them. I stopped at a stop light and suddenly realized I should do what I always did. I should not assume they thought like an adult but simply answer what they asked. After all, they did not see her every day and had no reason to specifically ask about her. I figured I would have at least twenty-four hours to get my own grief worked out. I walked in feeling better than I had in the past seven hours since she had passed away. I would greet them, hug them, and we’d go home just like any other day.

Sitting at the same stop light where I had figured out what to do, heading home, my oldest suddenly asked: “Where is my Granny?” I had a ready answer for “How is Granny?” I would simply reply “She’s is feeling fine” because, after all, no one hurts in heaven. My darling child, however, asked the sixty-four dollar question man has been asking about death for all of time. Claiming I needed to concentrate on traffic and driving, I said we would discuss it at home and started singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”.

The conversation we had at home, the conversation I had dreaded all day long, proved to be the most cathartic experience of my entire life. I told them she had died which meant her physical body that got cuts and scrapes had worn out but that her personality and soul was very much alive in heaven with God. I told them that we could visit her in our hearts but not in person. That night they said their grace at supper and added a hello to their Granny.

The following Sunday at church our rector knelt down to my oldest and said he had heard her Granny had gone on a long, long trip. Stunned because I had told him about our wonderful explanation and conversation about her death, I simply stood there holding my child’s hand. Said child looked at me and then at the rector. She responded: “Her died. Her’s in heaven.” The rector shook his head saying that no, her great-grandmother was just on a very long trip. Again my oldest replied: “Her’s dead. Her’s in my heart (hand over her heart), and her’s in my mind (hand touching her forehead), but her’s dead.” Once more the minister told her she was incorrect, that our beloved grandmother was merely on a long trip. My child, known for being a bit precocious and not fearful, released my hand and put both of hers on her hips. “You got her address on that trip?”

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that a favorite theme of mine is that our faith and spirituality should give us strength. At no time is one’s belief system ever more present and needed than when facing death – no matter the manner, expectation, or timeliness of it. My grandmother had lived a long life and died with little pain. She outlived her husband by nineteen years and was ready to meet her Maker and be reunited with her husband and other family members. It still hurt; it still left me feeling bereft; I still grieved. Faith, however, was the process by which I was able to continue, to move forward, and to live that life she wanted me to live.

Recently, the world dealt with receiving the news of a much-loved actor’s suicide. Whether it is by suicide or by accident, by a lingering illness or by a sudden, swift physical event, death is always traumatic. There is the shock, even when somewhat expected, which is usually followed by anger. Regardless of how a loved one dies, their passing often leaves a legacy of guilt, those shoulda, coulds, woulda thoughts based upon “If only”. Whether the result of something like cancer or suicide, the death of someone we valued usually leaves us in despair for not being the superhero that saved them. The resulting loneliness and sadness of the loss can lead the ones left behind down paths of negativity, crippling despair or collapse.

Having a deep-rooted faith can be the strength for moving forward. Reaching out to people is vital. Having a support system is required for daily living but especially when dealing with loss. Just as each one of us is our own person, we all grieve differently. For me, when confronted with the minister saying unexpected things, it was to be that courteous, respectful young lady my grandmother had encouraged me to be. For my child, it was a somewhat sardonic retort that reaffirmed the faith that said grandmother was in heaven.

My children did a much better job of dealing with reminders of my grandmother than I did for that first year following her death. They saw each reminder as a sign from heaven that she was still with us. Children have their own wonderful sense of timing. They instinctively know when to move quickly, like in line for a snow cone, and when to drag one’s feet, like when it’s time to take off that favorite t-shirt and go to bed. They had no qualms about missing their great-grandmother. Their honesty in their grief and their joy in their remembrances were a life lesson for me.

The old farmer proudly displayed the wooden box his grandson had made for him in his shop class. “This is for my seeds” he explained. “I got four trays that all fit in nicely.” The farmer knew that just because it seems as though life has gone, much still remains. Child is father or mother to the man. When our friends and family pass on, they will be missed but more importantly, they will be remembered. Their presence on earth, like our own presence on earth, was and is a seed for the future. We carry on in their name according our beliefs, making their memory a legacy for tomorrow.

My Psalm 80

Dear Lord,
Mankind is an orchard and we are each one tree.
Our orchard cannot exist without other trees
Yet not all will live to bear fruit.
Restore us to community, Lord,
When one withers away.
Restore us to good health when we stumble.
Grant us your comfort when needed, O God.
Heal us with your love;
Teach us to move on.
Some provide fruit;
Some provide shade;
Others will become the fertilizer for the soil of our growth.
Let our faith bear fruit
And the World bear witness to your glory.

Pentecost 70

Pentecost 70
My Psalm 70

Why?

Recently a man described as “an American icon” died, apparently by his own hands. Thus, the cause of death, the official cause on his death certificate filed with authorities, will most likely be suicide. These two statements, while true, are very misleading. First of all, this man who died was just that – a man. His stature in his industry, his fame, the delight he brought to audiences mask the most basic of truths about this man: He was simply a man. Secondly, he died most certainly due to mental illness which led him to lose belief in himself, his fellow men, and the importance of his life.

People unsuccessfully attempt suicide every day. The diabetic who has a large piece of cake, the smoker who thinks trying to stop smoking just isn’t worth the effort or sees it as a control issue, the alcoholic who is certain they don’t have a problem, the mentally stressed person who would rather be a victim than a survivor, the spoiled child who grows into an adult and persists in living a very unhealthy lifestyle….All are forms of killing themselves. Then there are those whose soul slowly dies because they don’t take that first step out of an abusive situation because they like their perceived status or bank account. There are many, many ways to covertly commit suicide.

Living is messy. It takes strength and it takes courage. We develop those things from infancy. Parenting is not an exact science; I have taught it for over thirty years and that is one of only three things I can definitively say about parenting. [The other two are that parents are vital to a child’s well-being and that parenting is the only job you do even when you are not doing it.]

The man I referenced above who died this week spoke of being bullied as a child. He was quirky, he was different and that made him a target of ridicule as a child. The voices we hear as children remain in our psyche forever. Bullying is a form of murder not yet recognized by the courts and should be prevented. It can also be covert, seen as sarcastic humor. If everyone is laughing, it can’t hurt, right? Thing is, not everyone is laughing and sometimes, even when people laugh on the outside, they cry inside.

A few people with a public voice called this man’s death selfish. Suicide is often seen as selfish because it leaves many victims behind. We forget, in this “ME” centered society, that the real victim is the person that died. The rest of us are merely bystanders, awash in a sea of grief. Anger becomes our life preserver for floating through the tides of grief and pain as we deal with the loss but we are only victims if we fail to move forward. And allowing ourselves to become victims in this manner is also a form of suicide.

The bystander effect is a psychological theory, a theory held to be true but based upon a fallacy. IN 1964 a bar manager was stabbed to death in New York City. It was reported that thirty-eight people witnessed her murder and did nothing. Later investigations proved she was not killed in sight of all those people but rather in a stairwell and only one person actually witnessed the killing. The Bystander Effect, however, has been proven in numerous studies. The presence of other people during an incident requiring assistance reduces one’s sense of responsibility. People seem willing to let someone else be the hero, resolve the situation. The result is often that everyone stands around waiting for someone to do something and no one ends up doing anything.

Multiple people have come forward since the death of this man to say they knew he was “having a hard time”. For someone with mental problems, there is no such thing as “having a hard time”. There is only handling things, trying, and crisis. For these people to come forward and criticize a man who cannot answer their criticisms is the cowardly deed. I would wager it is their own guilt, the result of their own Bystander Effect, which has caused their utterances. Sometimes we should just stay quiet and pray. The old adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” is really true.

Attribution is a great word that simply means trying to figure out why things happen. Another psychological theory is one called Fundamental Attribution Error. Think of it this way: When you are late, is it your fault? Usually it is not; it is because of various events, such as traffic, a car accident, someone set the clock wrong, the dog got out, the cat left cat hair on the jacket you planned to wear, there was a line at the coffee shop, maybe even the dog ate my watch. In other words, we can always find a reason, a valid excuse for our action of not being on time.

But what happens when someone else is late? We blame them. Short and sweet – we blame them. They are rude; they don’t care; they meant to inconvenience others; they are selfish. In other words, they are late because of their personality. Intentions and circumstances of their situation are unknown to us and thus we end up judging them on the overt behavior of being late. We over-emphasize our own circumstances when we explain our own tardiness because we are trying to compensate and avoid someone else thinking it is our personality.

I did not live the deceased man’s life. I do not know the mitigating circumstances which led him to take this action. I am not living the lives of his family nor friends, although his talent was such that we all felt like his friend. We need, therefore, to act like his friends and not his jury. We need to do that every day to everyone we meet.

Living is messy, sloppy, an on-the-job training. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow and if we have it, it will be a gift. We need to unwrap it slowly, savor it, and use it to the best of our advantages. We need to let today hush those voices of the past and sing about the hopes of tomorrow. After all, suicide is not painless and while it may seem like an answer, it is not. It might, though, just be the truest test of friendship and maturity the survivors face.

My Psalm 70

Lord, deliver me.

From my enemies,
From my world,
From the present,
From my past,
From myself.

Prepare me for tomorrow.
Show the joy, Lord,
Give me strength to hope.

Lord, deliver me.