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September 14, 2011

The end of the world

In spite of my humor and cynicism, I am (secretly) a hopeless romantic. (Shhh! Don’t tell anybody. I could get fired!) I remember, as a youngster, being moved to tears when an older couple at our church was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Somehow, I knew I would never be so lucky. Of course, even then, I suppose I was aware that our paths are defined by the steps we take; maybe I simply realized that my boot heels were not aimed in that direction.

Still, I marvel at my friends in their happy (or at least functional) partnerships. They have something I fear I will never find. Alas! (My cynical side has to laugh at this in order to keep the tears at bay. Ha ha!)

Over the last few months, however, several marriages among my circle of friends have broken down. The epidemic of divorce made me want to keep to myself for fear that I might be carrying a virus of some sort. While I can appreciate Louis CK’s point that “There are no bad divorces” (because, as he explains, they fix the problem of bad marriages), I want to believe that people who love one another can and will work out their points of friction, and that marriage can stand as an inspiration for selfless love and emotional generosity. (Ha ha!)

On the other hand, like Louis CK (I imagine), I have to recognize that we are a nation of selfish children and that even the most apparently generous spirit is likely to reveal an unreasonably selfish, ego-driven blindness, sooner or later. Those situations are so funny! At least they are if you can avoid being emotionally involved. (My mind is suddenly racing with images from old silent movies of people getting hit on the head with bricks and such. That shit is hilarious!)

When I think of healthy love, I think of Michelangelo’s acquisition of a curiously shaped piece of marble. Recognizing the challenge of finding something beautiful in it, he created his “David.” When people find themselves in love, their course must be to consider what glory they might carve from such an opportunity. Who is to say that it might not be something as glorious as “David”? (Ha ha. That is awfully ambitious! It is sure to end with roaring laughter! Where is the edge of this carpet?)

A little while back, I was asked to help out with a situation. A couple I knew had a sick dog. Sick is, perhaps, an understatement. This poor animal was enormously overweight, bloated, apparently blind, and could barely walk. After a great deal of soul-searching and shared deliberation, the couple had decided to put it down. It was such a large dog, they had to have the veterinarian come to their house, and they were going to need help moving him afterward.

The vet reassured them that they were doing the right thing, suggested that he was almost certainly eaten up with cancer, but she also was amazed by the amount of chemicals it took to get his heart to stop beating. She had to go out to her van to get more. His heart simply would not stop beating. He was a sweet old dog, and, as debilitated as he was, his heart was strong.

There was, of course, no other solution to the problem of his existence. His loving owners had sacrificed enormous amounts of time to his daily care, and his quality of life was basically nil; once he was gone, they would be able to put their energy into more productive activities, but it was a terribly sad occasion.

In Hinduism, the spirit of death and/or destruction, Shiva, is the supreme deity (or at least one of them). Western minds might find it strange that the central figure of a particular cosmology represents decay, given we are driven to create, build, grow. But whenever something is created, something else is breaking down, the elements evolve to become something new.

Still, finding the creative result in the euthanization of (formerly?) loving partnerships defies my (Western) imagination. I can only hope that the folks going through that process can find the silver lining in that dark cloud a lot easier than I ever could.

For further consideration: While “The Room” attempts to tell a classic story of a romantic breakdown, it may be the worst movie ever made. Best seen at midnight with a room full of hecklers. Enjoy!