the lost man chronicles
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post 9.11 guilt (time is limited)<
It appears that things are getting back to normal, for unscrupulous corporate America is taking advantage of our fascination with tragedy by publishing dozens of 9.11 pictorials. As almost uneasy as I feel about the ugly commercial venture I admittedly have glanced through a few in the check-out line (where they strategically place these books to prey on scurrying people who do not have time to think about a whimsical purchase prompted by a swell of emotion). And, after some reflection, thought perhaps this might prove a worthwhile exception to my otherwise opposition to such a frivolous purchase. My primary personal justification, is the universal feeling that we should "never forget." If there is any single feeling that I have accepted makes me no different from the less-discriminate masses, it is this one sentiment that we should not allow this atrocious deed fade into the background of our lives, especially since we are fortunate enough just to be alive.
Moreover, this emotional coalition with the hoi-polloi is troublesome to me, not only because I am so fearful of mediocrity (being mediocre), but also because being a so-called student of all things worldly for an expensive stint of my adult life, I feel pretty lame knowing that it took this horrific turn of events for me to realize any genuine sympathy (if not empathy) for the loss of life, particularly when it involves a number of innocent civilians. For centuries outside the geographical boundaries of our 200 and some odd year old proud and self-righteous democracy, millions of innocent people have fallen victims to military coups, monastic rivalries, revolutionary guerilla movements, riots of mute idiots who destroy their own surroundings, and worst of all genocidal tyrants who have the gift of supra-human persuasion but who apply it to the wrong side of good and evil.
So I ask myself , should I seriously consider the purchase of such a memento?
After pondering the question of selective empathy, I have reached a verdict: "guilty as charged, but free to go" based on reasoning."
The logic follows: Time is limited. Some say time is money. I am simply saying here, and arguing likewise, that time is limited, for as such I do not have time to argue that time is money. But since we are arguing that time is limited, I will infer that the need (and capability) to support certain emotions and perhaps actions—is limited as well.
To put the principle back in context —I do not have time to feel for the world. Hence, it is quite natural (and morally justified) for me or any one individual to suddenly experience sentiment when it "hits home." For we spend much of our limited time at home and "home is where the heart is."
Now, if we were all young and free and traveling without a purpose but to live life to its fullest and to experience the world and all its intricacies and feel happy in the process, as opposed to settling in (or more fixedly 'settling down') because we are now weary form the constant movement and wary of the 'time' away from family friends work obligation and all other possessions and people that might anchor one to a single space, large or small, miles wide or a matter of square feet (as in the average studio in Manhattan), THEN one might not have a home, and truly want for the world to be your oyster, and then you could rightfully, almost have earned the psychological foundation, by which to feel for victims of disaster and war and plague and poverty and oppression and repression and depression - but then would you have time to do anything about it?
Sure you could feel and feel and feel, but would that matter? Would this tempest of sentiment of great intention, be worth a cent of the gift that a family who gave up their tax rebate to help some of the families of the victims of an ugly event which did not affect them immediately, but had the remote impact of compassion for one's fellow national? Probably not. See, since time is limited, we are limited in what we can do - and here I particularly address action, as opposed to words - so that is why it is natural and good that people feel most for those closest to us, regardless of how many others across the human realm of experience have been through the same or even something more dreadful.
We can not live "normal" lives if we feel for everyone, and more importantly if we act to help everyone. Very few people are destined to be so universally magnanimous - Jesus, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi - so on and so forth. But even these people were limited. Dr. King was a philanderer, as many "great" people have been—they excelled in appealing, revealing, and inspiring the masses—but "failed" at home.
Great thinkers, inventors, tamers of imagination, leaders, and writers have been notoriously unkind to the people around them. From afar millions may have been made happy, simply by basking in the beauty of their work, but those closest to them have known little of such esoteric-sublime benevolence and gifts. Oh, they may have known of them, but they also had tolerate insufferable episodes of outrage, simply because the person did not have the peace and solitude and privacy to think things through to the next creation, but was interrupted by something less then worthy of their time—obligation. Simply because. Simply the sort of thing billions of others must go through and bear every day, simply so that they might go to sleep at night and awake the next morning to do the same mundane-unoriginal thing again.
So, it is that we must pick and choose our experiences, and some of us can pick more of them because we are conscious of the choice. We know that life is amenable to change and that the moral structures and psychological strictures are pliable, malleable to individual experience as much as it remains individual and not a matter of fellow man, who might care, but only if they knew, for what they do not know keeps them happy.
And happy are we are, being CONSCIOUS of our navigable destinies, in other words destinations, and perhaps otherwise known as "fate" for those who feel their future is prescribed by something other than themselves.
But as I am aware, I make life as I will it, for I know—I know time is limited; I know that I cannot help everyone and that helping someone is best and stands above any notion that I must THINK of helping everyone; I know that I am happy at home and that I do not need to travel the world to experience it, because I can taste it vicariously through others; I know that I can buy that book about 9.11 without feeling that I should buy one about WWII or Vietnam or Somalia, because I was not there, for I did not have the ensuing fear, for I was not inspired to write, for I did not see the cake of ash upon every window of the stampede of vehicles crawling up Third Avenue as I walked over to Bellevue to give blood, only to turn back feeling help-less (less than helpful) because the line was four hours long, and for I did not feel the eventual comfort and pride that I did something after trying again at the drive next door, waiting four hours after all, having recruited a dozen people initially, only to have two others with me in the end to wait and to win that battle against impudence over an event which I had not control over, but which would control us for months, if not years to come.
Yes, I also know that I will probably not buy that book, or if I do, it may be a few years down the line on a whimsical tour of The Strand, and even at that point, some other atrocity may have occurred on the West Coast, but the distance will imbed itself between the tap to my personal well of emotion and the residual outpouring of sap, just as 9.11 had opened the faucet of such silly sentiment—so that I will not be compelled to buy any used copy of commercial photomentary documenting it, but will nonetheless still tear up when I flip to page eleven and see the photo of fifty or so people stranded in tower two, literally hanging at the edge of shattered windows with black smoke billowing from the very same windows, people either waiting to close their eyes and jump because they can't imagine being seared alive by the flames, or falling unknowingly with the hope of being miraculously rescued somewhere poking itself through for an uncountable moment- through the thick indescribable fear of the inevitable - right before the entire building collapses—yes, knowing that this happened will still bring me to swallow the same demonstrative sentiment, and yes, I will still shed a tear.
Yes, I will shed a tear, even if I know time is limited.
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