Dearest Rachel –
One of the things they talked about at Grief Share last night was the difference between actively pursuing suicide, and the simple desire to no longer live. The latter is an attitude of “if you were to take me, too, God, I wouldn’t mind,” and is a fairly normal reaction to the situation of losing someone like you, who was so close (Close, nothing – to a certain, possibly unhealthy, sense, you were the largest part of my world). The former is that attitude taken to a dangerous extreme, and while they didn’t consider that ‘normal,’ it must still be common enough that the hosts had to address it – which raises certain questions I’ll get to in a bit.
I bring this up because (and I know this is going to give you topical whiplash, but just strap in and hear me out) another bit of culture shock from this past weekend was the fact that – apart from Luke, who has at least tried – I was literally the only non-hunter among all the guests. Add to that, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who doesn’t own a gun.
It’s weird to be the most liberal in the room; almost as weird as being the oldest. Although, to be fair, I doubt anyone there really would see themselves as a ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative,’ or even as political at all. When you go about your business (and I mean that literally, as the other gentlemen all owned their own businesses), you’re not as concerned with politics as those who are relatively idle, unless it directly and imminently touches you and your business.
To be sure, there’s certainly more call for the use of firearms in rural areas. Hunting as a sport can be both enjoyable and practical – assuming you like that sort of thing (both for being in the outdoors and the meat you bring home if you’re at all good at the sport). It’s not for me, I’ll admit. Heck, you remember how unskilled I was trying to skin and debone the catfish I caught once upon a time. That was not something I learned when I worked at Burhop’s back in college. And if I can’t deal with the aftermath of fishing, you can imagine what a hash I’d make out of bringing home a wild turkey or deer.
My point being, while I understand the purpose of firearms in certain circumstances, I don’t understand them on a universal basis. You might remember that the subscription I got to PJ Media shortly before your accident; you and I were both in the VIP chat room talking to several of their columnists only a couple of days beforehand, in fact. I don’t recall that it was in that particular chat – in fact, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t then – but I have asked the others in the room about the importance of having guns, to some puzzled – and puzzling – reactions. Normally the chat room is fairly civil, but for a moment, I think they thought I was some kind of double agent. And the closest thing to a reasonable response looked more like ‘muh rights’ rather than an actual explanation as to ‘why bother to have guns?’ like I was asking.
The gentleman at this weekends retreat were much more compelling or at least understandable responses to that question. In this case, they are enjoying themselves, they’re culling the herds, and they’re most likely putting food on the table. These are things that I can grasp, although I can’t personally relate to as a suburban boy, born and bred. I may be a fairly decent archer, for a relative tenderfoot…
…but it’s not my idea of a full day’s fun (let alone a weekend or a full week). And as for food on the table, we already have so many options here in the ’burbs that it doesn’t seem worthwhile to go so far afield. If I want to try exotic stuff, I can just travel and go where I can find it, and find it prepared properly. Lord knows, I wouldn’t know what to do with a kitchen full of elk meat.
[By the way, that reminds me; the dinners we had there that weekend were at some pretty classy places. Maybe not Fanny’s level, but definitely not Portillo’s either. Which is something of a shame, as I wouldn’t have minded getting a chance to try deep-fried Rocky Mountain oysters. Maybe I should take that up with Luke some other time.]
So what does this all have to do with my first paragraph about my experience at Grief Share last night?
Well, it’s very simple. The problem with having a gun around in the house, when you’re not likely to use it regularly for something like hunting, is that it’s likely to be used on a rather higher order of animal. Those city dwellers that refer to this kind of hardware as ‘protection’ know what I’m talking about. But I live in the suburbs, that strange middle ground between the urban jungle and the rural wilderness. There is no game to hunt, and – due to a certain homogeneity that is stereotypical of the alleged land of Stepfordia I grew up in – there isn’t that disparity in wealth or income that causes one to fear break-ins or intruders. To be sure, you did chide me a few years ago about leaving my car unlocked, especially after having lost a couple of coin pouches I’d kept in the car for tolls. I’ve gotten better about it since then.
But robbery was never a significant concern for us. Of course, in our house, a thief would be hard pressed to find where the ‘good stuff’ was amongst everything else; it took Jan and I what, six months to dig everything out? And honestly, if we had been broken into, we have been hard-pressed to tell that we had, let alone what had been taken. So, hunting is out, and protection is out. What other purpose does a gun serve?
And here’s where it comes back: you see, you can’t eat a gun when you don’t have it in your pantry. As I said, the Grief Share folks claim that thoughts of suicide aren’t normal, yet they feel compelled to address those sorts of thoughts, suggesting that it’s not an uncommon reaction to such a loss (which begs the question, if it’s a common enough to require addressing, doesn’t that make it a fairly normal reaction?).
And while yes, there are those that plan to take their lives, and they should obviously be discouraged, there are also those who have moments, flashes when life gets to be just too much. And if the means are at hand, well…
Anyway, I just want to reassure you I am not in any such hurry, nor am I about to arm myself, especially since I know that I might be every bit as susceptible to these occasional flashes as anyone else who’s gone through what I have. When it gets overwhelming for me, I have to remind myself that things will look different in the morning. I just need to get myself there.
Of course, after a night like last night (which went on a bit longer, as the old boy started whimpering again at around five, at which point I flipped the light on and asked him what he still wanted, whereupon he fell silent), there isn’t much morning to look at things in that different light. Even on my walk to the ‘office,’ the downtown area wasn’t like what it is in the morning.
So things are different in the morning, yes, but they’re different again in the afternoon, and I hardly have to tell you about the night. Sometimes you have to deal with life one day at a time; sometimes it has to be dealt with in even smaller chunks like this. And unlike every other dimension we live in, we can only go in one direction through time – forward.
Of course, if it were otherwise, can you imagine how crazy life would be? If we were all unstuck in time, we’d probably make bee lines to that point in time when we were happiest – and do our level best to make sure to never leave. The world would grind to a halt. And we’d never get to a future that might just be that much better (although I can’t see how that could be, without you – maybe it would just be better for others for having interacted with me? Anything’s possible).
At least we have somewhere to go that’s better than anywhere on earth to proceed to. Looking forward to see you there in the (humanly speaking) distant future; just wish me luck and strength to ensure that it is still distant for now.