Saturday, February 18, 2006


Seeing someone make their way through the caverns of cancer and chemotherapy is an astonishing sight. Marvellous, because it reinforces how fragile our lives are; terrifying, because it illuminates the corridors of bullshit and trivialities that we routinely consider oh so important. To think of what we worry about, fret about, concern ourselves with! Does this person like us, or that person hate us; does this shirt go with that hat; does who I am correspond to what I need to be. These are the questions of life, the daily questions, and we could not live without them. I understand this. I ask the same questions. (Except the ones about the shirt and the hat. I usually don't give a shit. As my wardrobe choices attest.) But cancer is the great equalizer. It filters out the nonsense quite simply. I find myself responding to problems at work with an almost startling degree of detachment. It's not that I'm numb, or indifferent; it's just that nothing anybody can say or do or threaten seems all that important. I find myself looking at my own problems and the problems of others and thinking: Those aren't problems -- cancer is a problem.

I think the human brain is designed to worry itself to death, and I wonder why this is so, or why this has to be. If we could all live for a day like the sick live, the homeless live, the forgotten live, then perhaps we would return to our regular lives with a more balanced degree of proportion.

I don't know. Perhaps not. Perhaps we are made to allow the minutiae of life to overwhelm us. This is what I think sometimes. But then there are other times, nobler times, when I see the relentless way that humans move on and forge on in spite of their monumental difficulties, their monstrous diseases, and I realize that we, if we want to, can choose to hold ourselves to a higher standard of expectation, can fight and endure and simply make our way through life with greater and greater degrees of compassion and energy and laughter, can decide, can decide, to not allow our limits to limit us.


Amanda said...

definitely helps to be reminded of these things. it's empowering to realize that the things we put so much weight on, especially over here, in new york city, are really not as big a problem as they might seem to be. sometimes i feel like i am in a daze. i need to remember that at least i am healthy.

bethanie_odd said...

It is interesting what provokes that analysis. I found Cambodia did it for me. It just put so many things in perspective. It made me put the Thai maffia, the crazy village revenges and the day to day life I experenced into perspective.

I like the term equalizer... it fits perfectly.