Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dear Benjamin, I write because

I care and because someone has to say something about your post.

I think one has to very careful when verbally ascribing feelings to others, as doing so frequently reveals more about the speaker than the others. A recent example is your post, “Theological Skepticism - #3,” writing about your response to the funeral of a recently deceased acquaintance. Recalling the priest’s words you commented … please allow me a somewhat lengthy quote:

“After explaining that she will now be spending infinite time in an infinitely pleasurable place, he went on to say that this does not assuage our grief.

It doesn't?  Maybe he could have elaborated on that.  You could argue that our grief is for ourselves because we can't hang out with her for a while.  Sure.  But even then, how callous is that?  The best thing that could possibly happen to anyone, just happened to this woman, and instead of celebrating for her, I'm sad for me?”

About what you wrote ...
  1. “How callous is that?”
    You are calling the grieving friends and family members callous? Seriously? Feeling the loss of a “significant other” occurs frequently and is usually accompanied by a sense of loss, i.e., grief. To suggest this is callous is to engage in the pot calling the kettle black. It seems to me that to lose and fail to feel it is practically the definition of callous.

    Let’s consider two real situations, the truth of which I attest to.
    • I knew a young man who, wanting to give back to his country, joined the reserves. He chose this, he was excited to be able to give back, he went to boot camp. His mother would not have chosen this and she and her husband knew they'd miss him. They knew he was doing what he wanted, what he ( presumably ) loved, they supported him. But they have loved him, enjoyed uncountable interactions with him and his family, and these changed dramatically. They missed him generally and particularly in family situations. There were fewer of them. They grieved.

      This son did this after he had established his own family. But, commonly, this type of leaving home causes such emotional upheaval that we’ve named it: empty-nest syndrome.

    • A man I knew died of ALS. This dreadful disease slowly took everything from him but his consciousness. Without regard to the afterlife, his wife knows he’s better off. She’s happy it’s over for him, but there’s a large hole in her life. She misses him terribly.

      And yet, “I wouldn’t wish him back; he suffered too much.”

  2. “instead of celebrating for her, I’m sad for me?”
    This is a false choice. You state this as though we have a balance beam for our experiences ( on the plus side: she’s off to infinite pleasure for an infinite time; on the minus: I’ll miss her; my children will grow up without grandma ) and feel only the unbalanced result: more pluses and I’ll feel good, more minuses and I’ll feel bad.

    That isn’t how it works. Both pluses and minuses are present simultaneously and most of us feel both of them. Simultaneously. In equal measure. I celebrate for her and I’m sad for me. This is such a common experience, we’ve named it, too: mixed emotions.
In my examples ( and there are countless others ) those left are happy for the other. They didn’t want him to stay; they just knew they’d miss him.

I wonder if you truly have as little understanding of this as your post suggests. You’ve titled it, “Theological Skepticism - #3,” suggesting, I think, a superior view of something theological. I think not. If you truly feel no grief when losing people you have known, I question the depth and quality of your relationships with those people.

And I wonder … do you want me to miss you when you’re gone?

Your friend,

Walter ( WRj )
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