Death and Familiarity

Violence, revenge, death, comfort, family. On this cloudy Sunday morning, sitting on the back porch listening to the strum of the loud cicadas and the whistle of the State Fair Train, today is a day of introspection and reflection. Violence, revenge, death, comfort, family. These are the mental and emotional topics that swirl around me, that overtake me at a moment’s notice. Lately, I’ve been wondering if something is wrong with me because I am so comfortable in my new lifestyle of nomadism. My lack of a home, leaving my home and beloved gardens, really seems to be just a very minor blip on the radar.  I am enjoying my time in each new home and with each new pet and in each new neighborhood.

When almost everyone around me tells me that they could never do what I am doing, I’ve been wondering why this is OK—even fun—for me. Those answers are still gelling in my mind. This week, my comfort level was tested with a horrid family tragedy. In the face of tragedy, would I long for MY couch, MY home, MY back porch? Would familiarity help lessen the shock of a violent end to a family member’s life?

I spend much of my life teaching students and parents that violence and revenge is clearly not the best way to solve conflict. But I often feel like my efforts are like swimming upstream. So much of our culture teaches that revenge is the value of choice when we’ve been wronged. Even countries teach that “we have a right to defend ourselves” when what they are actually saying is that if someone hurts us, we have a right to hurt them back. That is not self-defense: that is revenge. However…revenge never ends. Everyone just waits for the next strike. But, again…swimming upstream. Ugh.

My brother’s 18-year-old grandson (my great nephew) was shot and killed in his home in the middle of the night this week. From all appearances, it looks like it was plain and simple revenge, although we don’t know many of the details yet. But what we do know is that another young life, on the cusp of adulthood, is extinguished because much of our society teaches that payback is important. So many believe that guns should be readily accessible to all who want them. An excessive number of guns and the strong belief in the value of revenge lead to our country’s extremely high homicide rate. This fact has always caused me great pain, but today—the day I will see a family member in a casket—this fact makes me literally sick to my stomach. Sigh.

How does living in someone else’s house affect my pain? Not at all. Pain is pain, happiness is happiness. I am finding more and more that my surroundings don’t affect my inner life as much as I would have expected. I am able to house relatives from the West Coast who came in to be with their family members—just as I would have done in my own house. Nothing has really changed. My family is still my family. Life goes on when I’m happy. Life goes on when I’m sad. Where my body happens to sit doesn’t seem to affect any experience very much. And it seems like that’s a good thing?

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