"It's like taking a nap on that little rug when you were in kindergarten."

On the Importance of Relationships

As MLB and I stood on the pier, looking out over the Pacific Ocean, the cloudy sky shimmered on the water near the sand.

Life was good.

In the back of my mind, though, the details of the tragedy in Colorado kept playing over and over.

Fundamentally, I kept asking myself, “Why did this happen?”

And I’ll admit, I have few answers. Just more questions.

***

relationships, compromise

Is it about relationships? How do we relate to one another?

1. Person-to-person in our small sphere
We used to have relationships with our relatives and neighbors. That doesn’t happen as frequently any more. We stick to ourselves.

Consequently, when we need someone or something, who’s there to help us? As families we are frequently divided over small and, in some cases, large issues where healing seems nearly impossible.

2. Within our smaller community
Didn’t we used to feel there was an obligation to support one another in our villages, towns, and cities? Are we more isolated in our community relationships?

3. Within our country
It seems that because of the lack of relationship with each other at the family and neighborhood level, and within our communities, we have even less relationship to the country as a whole. “It’s those people in Washington.”

***

How often do we hear about violence within families, between two drivers on the highway, or within our schools?

Are we no longer building those relationships with each other at the lowest level, so that we feel no responsibility or accountability to anyone other than ourselves (sometimes not even to our own consequences)?

***

Wasn’t it refreshing to see both presidential candidates take pause from their campaigns due to the tragedy in Colorado?

Current campaign tactics have gotten so bad, that mud is slung as far and wide as possible to bring down the character, experience, past, etc. of each candidate.

The majority of people support one of the presidential candidates over the other. However, much like our lack of relationships, we are losing our manners and civility toward people who don’t believe or share the same values that we do.

Disagreement is a given between human beings. That’s what makes life beautiful and gives it variety (the spice of life, right?). But we go beyond disagreement. We now HATE people who don’t believe or think the way we do.

***

As my thoughts free-flow, perhaps the best way to conclude might be by leaving you with this quote from John Steinbeck:

steinbeck, east of eden, relationships

“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught – in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too - in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. there is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well – or ill?”  John Steinbeck, East of Eden 

*** 

Sorry about the uncharacteristic seriousness.
This was something I needed to get out of my head.

***

I’ve added this interesting link about 3 heroes from the shooting:
http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/25/opinion/bennett-aurora-three/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

Comments

  1. No apologies necessary. It’s a valid post and I appreciate being challenged to think. Life can be fun, but all we have to do is watch the news to see just how serious things really are. If all we ever do is ignore them, they’re not going to be solved any time soon.

    I heartily agree with you. We seem to now spend our lonely lives in anonymity. Texting. Not knowing our neighbors. Being angry before considering the bigger picture…the greater consequences.

    I imagine a world where the grid finally blows. We’re left without internet or electricity or grocery stores. Everyone will stumble from their houses into the streets. They’ll stare at each other through bleary eyes, squinting at the rays of the harsh, bright sun. Like babies we’ll all have to take our first steps and learn once again how to coexist.

    • Thank you, Gina. It was just something I felt I compelled to write about. Usually I don’t delve this deeply into these issues, and not because I don’t feel they’re important. With the shooting, it just struck me at a guttural level.

      I think there are a lot of people already starting to throw off cyberspace reins, so to speak. They just felt too tied down and not relating to the people around them. It’s interesting and definitely food for thought. Thanks for the comment.

  2. I couldn’t agree more and I actually commented a similar thought on another post about this subject. We are divided on so many levels, not as a country, but as human beings. We shouldn’t have to be in the shadow of a horrific tragedy in order to give a shit about mankind, it should be there in good times and even better in the bad.

    Kudos MJ for opening the door to this much needed conversation.

    • You’re so right about being divided as human beings, Lisa. I think a lot of people do care deeply, but it’s becoming more “normal” to see people not caring about each other, or not respecting where someone else is coming from.

  3. Hmmm, well since I’m the perpetual optimist, I tend to think we aren’t as terrible as we could be. Dark Ages, anyone? What about the forties? They had manners back then and still did atrocious things to one another.

    It all comes down to an individual level, like the Steinbeck quote says. It’s a choice we make every day whether or not we will actively participate in other’s lives. To care about them, grieve for them, connect with them, or to simply acknowledge their existence. I don’t know all of my neighbors, but I know enough of them that if I leave my garage door open, one of them will either come over and shut it, or give me a call letting me know it’s open.

    There will be evil in this world. We can’t stop people from embracing the darkness within, what we can do is take moments like you had with MLB and appreciate them. Life is fleeting. More people are killed in a year from drunk drivers than random acts like in Aurora. Love hard while you can.

    • I’m with you on the optimism, thought that may not have come out in this particular post. I do believe that more people want to do good vs. evil by pretty large numbers. And yes, there will always be the very evil that ends up doing the seemingly crazy things like drunk driving, senseless killing, etc.

      Your point about evil through the ages is a good one, though that’s a very good reason for us to have learned from those previous, less “civilized” times. Right??

      I do love your perspective, Tiara, I mean Tameri. :)

    • You make some really good points.

  4. Judy Berman says:

    I wish that I could add something profound to your excellent post, something that would enlighten. Sad to say, I have no words for this act of terrorism … except: senseless, heartbreaking and tragic.
    Gandhi says “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

    • I think you said it very well, Judy. I’m glad you found the post readable. It was as close to an opinion piece as I’ve ever done, I think, since I’ve been blogging. Part of it is what we were FB messaging about not long ago.

      • Judy Berman says:

        When I first looked at your post, I only saw 3 comments, and thought that the one I made last night wasn’t posted. After I commented again, all the comments popped up. So, sorry for being redundant.

  5. It’s hard not to think about it. And I think that’s true of most people. When so many are shocked, and angered, and saddened over a tragedy like this, I can’t help but believe there’s hope for mankind. We may all be wrapped up in our own little cocoons most of the time, but deep down, we truly do care about our neighbors.

    And yes…it was really nice to see Romney and Obama stop the cat fight for a minute. It’s just a shame it took something like this to bring it about.

    Good post, MJ.

    • I find hope even in this tragedy, KK. We will continue to hear the stories about how heroes stepped up in the midst of the chaos in CO. And it happens every day on Main Street, USA as well.

      My hope is that people connect more with each other, so that the anomalies stand out as what they are: markers that should be addressed. Though who knows if that would have helped with this young man in this situation.

      • I should also add – that’s why I really like meeting and relating with so many wonderful people in the blogosphere. Each person with their own uniqueness.

  6. Sadly, I have to say that on a much more basic level, if it wasn’t so easy for people to get guns, it wouldn’t have happened. Unfortunately, it only takes one person with a screw loose versus the millions(?) of responsible gun owners and you get this.

    • It’s very sad. I’m pretty confident that this young man would have done whatever he could to cause destruction whether with a gun or some other method. Much like Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City. Bad things will happen by many means. Just a real tragedy.

  7. You expressed your thoughts very well. I don’t think you are alone in asking these questions. I find myself pondering these things so often. Thank you for sharing so openly.

  8. We are a nation divided, a people who enjoy sensational arguments and petty fights. It is a sad place to be.

  9. I have been thinking about all this too. We no longer take the time to get to know new people. We don’t know our neighbors, honestly the first time I talked to my former neighbors was when I was moving.

    In a not so rare statement on Twitter I disagreed with someone’s view and they pushed me for two days to argue (I see no point in arguing via twitter) and finally had to tell him poit blank to leave me alone because he couldn’t take me politely saying I agree to disagree.

    People forget what it means to be polite, to be neighborly, to get to know real people instead of the personalities we fInd most agreeable in the world online. It’s sad that tragedy must occur for people to question how they’re living.

    Thanks for the post! I couldn’t agree more!

    • Boy, that’s pretty bad about your Twitter experience. I haven’t had anyone get that belligerent with me, thankfully. You took the high road, but couldn’t control what they did.

      Good point about getting to know real people. People tend to only associate with those who believe exactly how they do. I think it’s mainly because if they don’t, those who disagree will be so vicious. This happens with conservatives and liberals alike, here in this country.

  10. We live in a very divided country now–gone are the acts of civility and compassion—we’ve become the “me” society instead of the “we”. Those of us who are aware of this just have to work a little harder to bring back the era of gentleness and kindness that once flourished in this great country of ours. I have faith that things will improve—it just takes time and awareness…and a lot of forgiveness. Touching blog post—thanks for sharing!

    • Yes, MM, and when did we lose so much of the civility and compassion? Was it gradual? Probably, or we may have noticed sooner.

      Your hopeful thought about bringing back gentleness and kindness is perfect. I think that’s exactly what some people are doing to soften the harshness of this country. Thanks for your comment, my friend.

  11. It’s incomprehensible, isn’t it? I look at my kids and I have fear. Fear for what might happen to them. Fear for what they might become. You just never know.

    • I know what you mean, Lainie. I would feel the same way. But you’re doing your best, and that’s all you can do. Love them with all you’ve got. And then it’s up to them. That’s the hardest part.

  12. I was so impressed with the candidates for stepping back. I really expected them to be all over themselves to out sympathize and blame. I thought it was very very classy that they both pulled back.

  13. Judy Berman says:

    Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
    I’m working on it. A thoughtful post, Michael.

  14. Very heartfelt post mj, the Colorado tragedy is just horrifying, I can’t believe it, so out of the blue all those innocent people….just gone.

    You are so right about the breakdown of communication, and about rejecting people that have different views to us. Lovely Steinbeck quote as well. You may also like this one that I came across the other day, it seems relevent: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire

    • Horrifying is a good word for it, Becks.

      Interesting that you mention Voltaire, who was a prolific writer and advocate of civil liberties. He also had a tremendous impact on the United States in it’s infancy because of the reach of his writing with our founding fathers. Your quote was fantastic.

  15. I try to have understanding and compassion… I think that is what comes to me after such events as the recent Colorado tragedy. What historical event haven’t we questioned the outcome and learned something from the consequences or the aftermath? You mentioned the Oklahoma City Murrah building bombing. I lived here during that time, and the media went nuts with the negativity. Much attention was given to Timothy McVeigh. However, on a more local level, the State of Oklahoma chose to dwell on the goodness of its people. Local media covered the stories of survivors, people who helped, people from all over our nation who gave of themselves to help those in need. For months to follow, Oklahoman’s chose to be courageous and move on. No one talks about Timothy McVeigh here. People remember the lovingkindness from strangers and people from all over the US, and even other countries. It was a time of compassion and an outpouring of love.

    • You are so right about what comes out of such tragedies is the good in people. It shakes us to our core, which is at the basest level, one of helping each other out. We’re already hearing about what people did to protect other people during the shooting. Many giving up their lives to save others.

      Your compassion and understanding are admirable and come through so dramatically on your blog. It’s one of the reasons I love to read it.

  16. Thanks for directing my attention to this. I was nodding along as I read. I think we as a society have withdrawn from one another as we have come to believe that “I got mine and I don’t care about anybody else- they should all mind their own business and I’ll do the same.” We are less involved in each other’s lives (unless you count the false connection of social media) and therefore we can be ignorant of another person’s needs – and we can allow others to be ignorant of our own. I wonder sometimes whether our self-imposed emphasis on “the self” has left us bereft of an understanding of others.

    • Your welcome. And thanks for stopping by.

      Your statement is valid:
      “I wonder sometimes whether our self-imposed emphasis on “the self” has left us bereft of an understanding of others.”

      We need to be connecting more with each other, where we “live.”

  17. It’s really unfortunate that we have all these opportunities to connect, but not stay bonded. As the daughter of an introvert, I know how easy it is to stay to oneself. Not rock the boat. Not antagonize. Don’t risk relationships, so you don’t risk heartache. Don’t risk differences.

    But we are losing either way.

    Your thoughts touched me deeply as this tragedy is not comprehensible.

    And your Steinbeck quote is spot on.

    Wonderful stuff.

    • We are losing, you’re right. I like your point about having grown up with an introvert. Very interesting perspective.

      Thee are no easy answers, unfortunately. Maybe more compassion and understanding for someone else’s viewpoint? I’m not sure. It seems though that everyone is so adamant about THEIR thoughts and beliefs that they won’t accept ANY other. And this goes for all issues and situations. From the most liberal to the most conservative.

  18. sunshine says:

    No need for apologies, MJ because some things need to heard and your thoughts on this tragic event is one of them. You are right on about the importance of relationships and it will be interesting to see how this young man related in his daily life. In these days of video/computer games and graphic violent movies, not to mention broken homes, drugs etc., raising up balanced young adults can be harder than taming a cage full of wild lions.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts…

    • There are a lot of things thrown at young people that I certainly didn’t have to deal with. Way more violence, drugs, etc. It’s much easier to drift out of reality than stay in it. And in terms of reality, is there really a reality with all of the not real “Reality Programs” that we are inundated with?

      Thanks, Sunshine.

  19. Vladimir (@socialmediatry) says:

    Hi MJ !
    Agree with everything you noticed yourself.
    Still, there is a LOT to blame on US gun control laws. A lot !
    He LEGALLY acquired weapons that are made for serious warfare, not self defense for sure.
    Let me just say, that in my small country in south-eastern Europe, there is NO WAY an average citizen can legally acquire such a weapon, and if I want to own a pistol (for instance), beside the usual permit issuing procedure, I also must speak with the police psychiatrist (he will test my sanity and motives of owning a gun), and also (believe it or not), police in civil clothes will be asking questions about me to my neighbors. And if I pass all that, I am allowed just 60 bullets per year – everything above is illegal.
    USA should SERIOUSLY reconsider its laws in this area.
    I understand it is in the constitution , and the American tradition…. but I ask – how many more “Theater 9″ horrors is enough?

    • Thanks for the comment, Vlad.

      While I am a supporter of the right to bear arms based on the constitution, I due agree that this person – or any other private citizen – shouldn’t have been able to get the type and amount of weaponry that he did get. And I do believe there will be some changes in the future because of incidents like these. There’s a big difference between protecting yourself, your loved ones, and your property vs. procuring an arsenal. Just my opinion.

  20. >This was something I needed to get out of my head.
    – Could this have been James Holmes’ thought as he planned his sinister task?

    I’m not making light of this very sad matter. I am more baffled with how someone like him could do what he did.

    Is a stable upbringing with educated parents and being accomplished academically not good enough to protect us from our evil halves anymore?

    Usually, we look for the usual suspects – broken families, low levels of education and income, gangs, drugs, religious fanaticism. This wasn’t the case with this boy.

    Before anyone rises up in anger over me referring to James Holmes as ‘this boy’, I want to point out that, as I tend to, I am more interested in knowing what he would have been thinking as he prepped for that fateful day and as he went about executing his plan and people.

    In the few photographs I’ve seen, he looks completely bewildered. When he eventually wakes up from this terrible nightmare, and begins to think like one of us again, I wonder what his answer to this question of Steinback will be?

    >Have I done well – or ill?”
    – How sad for James Holmes.

    How sad for his parents and other members of his family.

    How sad for everyone whose lives changed that night.

    Kate

    • Wow, where are my comments to Kate, going??

      Try again:
      Yes, it was terribly sad. And I don’t think upbringing can stem this tide every time. Most of the time that helps, but if something happens that parents aren’t aware of, or if there’s some brain chemistry issues, all bets might be off.

      I’m with you on being interested in knowing what was thinking as he was preparing for this tragedy.

      I do hope he does finally seriously ponder what he did. So many lives will never be the same.

  21. For what it’s worth, I’m with Steinbeck, though I think true wisdom lies in seeing and interpreting the grey areas. Utterly shocking event. This post asks the questions we should all be asking. It’s easy and, in the short term, much simpler to choose to ignore this stuff. And since I seem to have an attack of the verbals, I may as well add that evil’s greatest tactic, like that of the magician, is misdirection. We have told ourselves we can have lovely things by working hard, and our success is marked by acquiring things. But things are not the point: we need to tear our eyes away from all this, and look back to the people in our lives. . And as Judy said so beautifully, using Ghandi’s words, that is an inner journey. Not glamorous. Time greedy. But a way out of all this.

    • You have a way with words, Kate. You said this so much more eloquently than I could. What a great point about evil’s tactic of misdirection. Temptation is the same way, isn’t it? Something that distracts us from what we should be doing. Life is all about how we relate to each other, and as you say, not the things/trappings around us.

  22. I’m days late with this comment. Thanks for the quote, MJ. It is important to remember that we all have valid opinions.

  23. Well written. The rush to hate is a sorry reflection of our society today.

  24. Well, I have nothing of value to add whatsoever, MJ. You said it all so perfectly. Nobody could have said it better! Excellent post my friend!

  25. Well said, MJ. Such tragedy…

    • It was terrible, wasn’t it? One of those things that all those families will think about every time they go near a movie theater, and that’s so sad to have a form of entertainment be a reminder of this.

Love to hear from you.

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