How the Tragedies of Others Put Life into Perspective

Date: Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Time: About 3pm

Lesson:

It is through the eyes of others that you find your strength and gauge your weaknesses

There’s no sense in getting excited about the weekend if your time will be spent preparing for the next week.  If you’re a [good] college student, you tend to look at weekends more like week-extensions, considering all of the additional clutter you have to organize in an effort to study enough to make it through the next week.

On weekends, particularly Saturdays, the library is somewhat laid back: most students would be preoccupied with reading a book or perhaps getting some busy work out of the way as opposed to the rampant myopia of finals week.  Exiting the elevator on the third floor, I stopped to observe which side of the floor was best suited for my psuedo-studying habits which include a 60/40 mix of reviewing notes/facebook-ing [ok, I’ll be honest, it’s more around the vicinity of 10/90].  As I made my way to the desk area, a gentle, feminine voice called out to me.

“….Konstantin”

I had become accustomed to individuals requesting me with a hint of excitement and solace in their voice as if to say “here comes the entertainment”.  I turned towards the voice to find a female friend of mine smiling back at me, gesturing towards an empty seat across the table.  Knowing my proclivity for “communicating”, a part of me was reluctant to sit down, as any 2-second run in could turn instantly into a 3 hour conversation about some of the most random topics.  But having interacted with this young lady before, I knew that our conversations would be casual, not forced and relaxed as she had always seemed like the sort of unassuming, amiable individual one would care to be around.

As usual, our conversation began casually.  Your plans yesterday, your plans tomorrow, ect.  It was not until my friend had inquired about the necklace that I had worn around my neck and what it had represented that things intensified.  I clutched the golden medallion and smiled.  The necklace had engraved upon it, the symbol “chai”, consisting of the Hebrew letter “chet” and “yod”.  Although my parents were secular atheists, I had grown accustomed to the Jewish label as my father’s lineage played an important role in our immigration to the United States as refugees.

The symbol itself was a representation of life that derived from the Hebrew word “k’hai” (commonly heard in the popularized phrase “L’heim) which meant “life”; the emblem is generally synonymous with the People of Israel.  Although the symbol itself is rather esoteric in nature, I gave a half-assed explanation about its origins and proceeded to transition to the topic of faith.  My female counterpart was brave enough to mention that she was raised Mormon…

“Wow, I am so sorry”

I replied sarcastically.  I had always been critical of any faith established under the pretenses of exclusion or discrimination, which in my view, left little to work with.  My friend smiled dismissively, I pressed on, simply because by her words, she used to be Mormon.  I inquired about the illogical mythology of the Book of Mormon, particularly

1) God living on the planet Kolob

2) The Garden of Eden having been cultivated in Jackson County, Missouri

3) Jesus was a Mid-Western Massiah who had been crucified by the Native Americans, on whom God had unleashed his red by “turning their skin red”.

After a few moments of bickering, we settled our differences and I drove on.

“Do you know who Brigham Young was…?”

I inquired.

“He was a prophet”

She replied.

There’s much to be said about what had gone off in my mind at that particular moment; but for the sake of brevity we can label it a “mental myocardial infraction”.  Brigham Young was, in the context of recorded modern history, a wealthy “pioneer” who had happened to belong to the Latter Day Saints movement.  He blazed a trail to Utah, where Mormonism has, in my view, reeked its havoc on secular society.  Oh, I forgot to mention that in the process, he was an unscrupulous misogynist, having been married to 55 women simultaneously (much of whom had other husbands) and fathering 55 children.

I did not digress, in fact, I pressed on, my voice bellowing louder and louder with each long-winded sentence.  A couple of individuals around me had gotten wind of our conversation and began to turn their heads.  My ego obliged, and my onslaught became more humorous until I stopped to take a break…

“So what religion are your parents now?”

She described her father as a non-practicing Christian and when I asked about her mother, she hesitated for a bit and answered solemnly.

“My mother passed away”

All the fervor I had accumulated from our unilateral religious “discussion” had dissipated at that very instant.  I felt subdued and an eerie silence permeated the medium of our conversation.  I was vehemently apologetic: losing someone at such a young age is indeed a tragedy; a tragedy I had assessed myself incapable of dealing with had it ever happened to me.  Imprudence had grasped the best of me and I continued to ask what had happened.

“there’s no easy way to say this…she was murdered”

Awestruck did not begin to describe my internal state.  I tried to remain calm on the outside and simultaneously look for ways in which to steer the conversation towards a less morose direction but the damage had been done.  I received some more intimate detail on her mothers passing, followed by an admission that she had not spoken to her father in over 7 years, since she was 13.  She had managed, alone, without the guiding hand of a parent, nor the warm touch of a welcoming home.  But knowing her, you would have never guessed it.

Here I was, berating the inconsistencies of people’s beliefs without having truly understood what had led them to believe them in the first place.  It is through the eyes of others that you find your strength and gauge your weaknesses had I been in her place, perhaps I would not have been able to contain the sorrow and proceed to live a normal, fulfilling, enlightened life as she had.

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One Response to “How the Tragedies of Others Put Life into Perspective”

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