Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Equalizer: This is a comment on a blog in which I link below. The Salon article by Ashley Womble is about a woman who goes searching for her homeless brother who is schizophrenic. It is, indeed, a story of pathos and why we must try to do the best we can in the time we are allotted. I said:

My aunt used to tell me that life is a vale of tears and I know all too often for friends, relatives, and for me, too, it has been and is just that. My heart goes out to Ms. Womble. There but for the grace of God or fate go any of us.

I had a cousin who was institutionalized his entire life. His hell was Schizophrenia. He was an only child of a beloved aunt. After her husband died her son, after years of torment in mental hospitals of the 1950's where he suffered abuse, the loss of an eye, and the loss of himself, merciful death took him from a seizure before it took his mother. He was only 49. Later my aunt, well into her 80’s, ultimately joined her son, buried side by side in the family plot.

I grieve for her to this day, for the family often suffers as much as the victim did. In that era there was not even much medication to ease the mental disorder. Later, when I was a student in a psychology class, I saw my cousin in an institution for the mentally ill in which we did class field work. I went over to him and looked into his sad, staring eyes and introduced myself to him. I called him by name and said “I am your cousin.” He continued to stare and in monotone said "Oh." That was it "Oh." It was a metaphor for the sum total of his life. What a cruel disease Schizophrenia is. The mechanics of the body worked but the mechanics of his mind were a tangled web of dysfunction. He was dead BUT he was alive. That was the curse. Alzheimer's disease, which a friend’s mother has, does nearly the same thing. The mixed emotions are that we love them but can we love them like this? If one could bring my friend’s mother’s mind back to normalcy I hear her saying, in her own inimitable style: "Well THAT was just AWFUL!"

I am not Christian. Still, one can take profundities of other beliefs and use them to shape one’s own character. I hear Jesus saying: “If you do it unto the least of these my brethren you do it unto me” or “The first shall be last and the last first.” Why do humans fall SO short of living those beautiful words where the poor, the hungry, the dispossessed, the nation less, the rejected of family are loved and accepted DESPITE their shortcomings? I do not know why. Humans, we know, often fall short of what is good and right.

The Hebrew Bible tells us God instructs us to “be kind to the stranger for you were once strangers in a strange land.” The president in his Cairo speech said “the Holy Koran says ‘whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.’ ” Why do we not live the principles so continuously uttered from the instruction of our varied religious backgrounds?

I do not know. If I could waive a magic wand I would make the last first and the first last. Better still I would simply treat others as I myself would want to be treated. We all fall far short of what our best teachings instruct. In truth, through DNA we are all connected. Why often we cannot feel that connection I further do not know. Most try, I think, to do the best we can with our own sack of sorrows and at the same time lend a sympathetic kindness to another person who may be in need. In the final analysis that is all anyone can try to do and we should do it as time grows short, and we know, as no other animal does, in the end we will, each and every one of us, lie side by side as death, the great equalizer, awaits us all.