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Difficult Listening Hour

March 7, 2007

I’m learning to live without you now
But I miss you, baby
The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again
I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But everything changes
And my friends seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore

There are people in your life who’ve come and gone
They let you down, you know they hurt your pride
You better put it all behind you baby, ’cause life goes on
You keep carrin’ that anger, it’ll eat you up inside

I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me

I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter
Because the flesh will get weak
And the ashes will scatter
So I’m thinkin’ about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore

Don HenleyThe Heart Of The Matter

I had a friend in college who hosted a radio show called “The Difficult Listening Hour” where she played music that wasn’t all that accessible to most people. Things like twleve tone rows by Arnold Schoenberg, minimalist compositions by Philip Glass or other Atonal and Avante Garde pieces. Any kind of art has these kind of things. Painting has Expressionism and Dadaism, Theatre has absurdist plays like Waiting for Godot, the culinary arts have things like Iron Chef where they make clam ice cream, distilleries have their really “peaty” scotch that Laura loves so much and there are the really muddy coffees like Turkish and Cuban.  The point is unless you work at developing and acquiring a taste for these things they will seem foreign and unpleasant. Human beings are the same way. Unless we spend a bit of time working at building understanding, others will seem strange to us and conversely, we can begin to feel isolated and alone.

My friend Jill sent me one of those “20 questions” e-mails this past week where you’re supposed to erase the answers of the person who sent it to you and then fill in your own answers and forward it.  Most of the questions are the questions you always see; what’s your favorite color, what’s your favorite TV show and the like.  Two questions stood out from the rest however, and actually made me stop and think for a second.  They were; “What do you fear most?” and “What would you like to accomplish before you die?”. Those aren’t the kind of questions you expect when reading an e-mail sandwiched between “little Johnnie” sex jokes and cute animal pictures.

Recently I heard either a sermon or a speech or some kind of self help speaker talking about forgiveness. I don’t really remember the circumstance, but the speaker said forgiveness is for the person doing the forgiving, not the person being forgiven. I didn’t really get what they meant at first, but then it started to make sense. A person who has hurt or wronged you in some way has no control over how you react to their actions. They may seek your forgiveness or not; care about how you feel or not. At the end of the day *you* have to take responsibility for how you deal with what they have done to you.

 Okay, so why so introspective this time out Greg? Is there going to be a point to any of these philosophical ramblings? Yes actually, there is. My friend Deirdre Hall has been having trouble finding her way for a while. After finding herself divorced without any real home, job or direction, she opted out of her life. The world is one soul lighter now, and that much worse off because of it.

Recently, I managed to track her down again by finding her mom in San Diego and getting Deirdre’s information. She had moved back to Chicago. I spoke with her a couple of times over the past few months and tried to reconnect. She caught me up with her life and the fact that she had tried to take her life at least once previously after her divorce. She said the person I’d known before was gone and she was trying to figure out what to do with her life now.

Deirdre had gotten herself to the point where she couldn’t seem to connect with either her past or the people currently in her life. When we talked on the phone, we did our best to find common ground but it wasn’t easy. If I had asked her what she would’ve liked to accomplish before she died she probably wouldn’t have had an answer.  If I’d asked her what she feared most she probably would’ve said waking up in the morning and facing another day.

I mentioned in my Fortune Cookies blog one of my favorite quotes. It comes from the Babylon 5 character named Lorien who asks, “Who are you? What do you want? Why are you here? Where are you going?”. Those are questions that can take a lifetime to answer. They’re certainly fodder for philosophers and theologians throughout history. But if you can’t come up with *any* kind of answer to these questions for yourself, you can certainly retreat into darker thoughts and depression.

So what does one do when a dear friend can no longer answer these questions for herself and decides to take her life? I think that’s where we have to empathize with their struggle, feel sorry for the loss of their companionship, get angry at them for not being able to reach out for help and ultimately forgive them for not being able find any better solution than suicide.

In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, the title character says, “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” And while the absurdist in me agrees with this quote up to a point, I don’t believe in it’s fatalistic message. Whether there is any kind of ultimate purpose to all of this life, I can’t say. I have friends who will argue with me on that point and the question of God, religion and spirituality can be debated endlessly with no conclusion. But I think we as human beings need to work in tangible ways to make this world a better place for those around us and those that will follow behind us. If we can’t do that, then life really does signify nothing.

Goodbye Deirdre, I’m sorry you couldn’t find answers here. If there is an afterlife, I hope you find your answers there. If there isn’t, at least you’re sleeping without worries now.

deirdre-louise-hall.jpg Deirdre Louise Hall – July 26, 1961 – March 5, 2007

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom Miller permalink
    March 8, 2007 7:48 pm

    I always wondered what happened to the girl with the unique name that Greg so often talked of 20 years ago. I’m so sorry to hear that she found life too hard to bear. Though she may not have felt connected in the end, I’m sure that during her life she touched many lives in a special way. Thank you Greg for the fitting tribute. It is tempting to keep asking “what if I …?” and “how dare you?”, but it is best just to forgive those who left early and say good bye.

  2. Tami permalink
    March 7, 2007 12:17 pm

    So sorry for your loss. Sorry too that your friend lost her ability to try to keep answering all those everpresent and nagging life questions.
    Please be good to yourself and celebrate her journey.
    Thinking of you.

  3. March 7, 2007 12:07 pm

    A sense of destiny in its oldest human sense is in the soldier’s fatalistic image of the “bullet that has your name on it” or the moment when your number “comes up,” or a romance that was “meant to be.” Many Greek legends and tales teach the futility of trying to outmaneuver an inexorable fate that has been correctly predicted.

    Destiny may be seen as a fixed sequence events that is inevitable and unchangeable, or that individuals choose their own destiny by choosing different paths throughout their life. Although the words are used interchangeably, fate and destiny are distinct things. Modern usage defines fate as a power or agency that predetermines and orders the course of events. The definition of fate has it that events are ordered or “meant to be”. Fate is used in regard to the finality of events as they have worked themselves out, and that same finality is projected into the future to become the inevitability of events as they will work themselves out. Fate also has a morbid association with finality in the form of “fatality”. Destiny, or fate, used in the past tense is “one’s lot” and includes the sum of events leading up to a currently achieved outcome (e.g. “it was her destiny to be leader”, “it was his fate to be executed”). Fate is an outcome determined by an outside agency acting upon a person or entity; but with destiny the entity is participating in achieving an outcome that is directly related to itself. Participation happens wilfully.

    Perhaps we can’t stop fate but we can change our destiny. Once you set yourself down the path – it is possible to change course. But that is not determined by outside forces. Only you can change yourself or divert yourself from the path. You gather people in your lives to affect you and whom you affect. If you choose to push those people aside, that’s your free will.

    Perhaps the best we can do is use what we have within the time we have it to prepare ourselves for our fate and in the process make a difference in the lives of others. I like to think that Dierdre’s time here and in particular her influences on me were positive. I hope Greg, that you think they were too. I will miss her.

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