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Is there anyone among my friends and acquaintances that is in a desperate condition and I am missing their cry for help? Or are they like my acquaintance Kelsey Collins, who was manifesting strong signals of suicide a couple of months ago, and I missed her call because she was smothering her pain under self-generated enthusiasm? When discussing these things today with some friends it seemed to me we all had seen general signs and had dismissed them as simply being the way she was, and suicide was one of the things she talked about. We thought of her as a drama queen, and we all loved her performances, but we didn’t pause long enough to help her. She was always the helper and never the helped; she refused to be helped. She had been grossly abused as a child, and it seems apparent that she chose in her adolescence to be radiantly positive – no matter what the circumstance – no matter how severe her personal pain.

Up to this point our group of a dozen had been talking about our relationship to ourselves and other people, and whether we could reach deeper meaning when we were face to face, or when it was more abstract with fewer distractions as on a phone, or perhaps we could go deeper into our thoughts in a diary or a blog. We had gone on for an hour, and the feelings about our various experiences were getting quite deep, but still being well expressed, when the question was posed … Is there anyone here who is in desperate need and we are missing their cry for help? Most of these people had been or are currently in the helping professions, and yet when that question was posed to this community of healers, there was a flash of anxiety, and then an hour of exploration, in which the conversation was in part about Kelsey, because she had been part of our group for years. Many people talked with her on a weekly basis for years; I had talked personally with her only a few times. But only two weeks before she killed herself I had lunch with her and we talked for over an hour. A week before intentionally checked out I talked to her for about a minute, and it was about her joining her son who had committed suicide. How opaque can I be to a cry for help? But … she was so cheerful, and that conversation was just after her wonderful lecture on lying.

If this group of healers, and I assure you they are thoughtful and skilled healers, had missed Kelsey’s call for help, what hope is there for the vast bulk of humanity that rarely meets a healer? Those people must go through their lives suffering and never get any relief, except perhaps from the myths of religion. The problem with that solution is that religion often promises relief that will never be realized, because going to a beautiful place after one dies to be reunited with their loved ones, as a reward for being good, can never be verified. But those billions of people whose lives are miserable are compelled by their suffering to grasp at any straw of hope, no matter how unlikely the possibility of the speculations coming true. Those straws of hope make their painful lives endurable. A false hope is better than no hope at all.

We talked and talked, and hugged and hugged, and went away feeling more fully human.

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