Monthly Archives: April 2012

For a stranger

Someone took her life last Friday. And I don’t know why that affects me so much, when everybody knows that everybody dies. We all know it’s coming. The longer we live, the time we have here gets shorter and shorter. And some of us make it even shorter. Some of us want to die for ourselves; some of us want to die for others. The same goes for living. And there are times when we stop living way before we die, and we continue on in a trance-like state, unconscious of everything, like a plane left on autopilot, doing this and that without much thought, without much purpose, without much meaning. Until we run out of fuel and come crashing down.

The thing is, I don’t even know who this person is. She’s a “someone” to someone I know, and I suppose that’s enough. It should be more than enough. And now I’m thinking that if everyone were a someone to each other, then maybe we’d have more people caring about things like that. Because then everyone would mean something to someone; and someone would mean something to everyone. I don’t know. It sounds too idealistic, but it could work, considering the “Six Degrees of Separation” idea and how everyone nowadays is “connected” through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. It was through Facebook, actually, that I learned of her death, and these lines were what got me: “I learned first thing this morning that a friend took her life on Friday. I always find such peace and promise in the morning, but not today. So many of us missed the signs, I guess, and now we’re left to ask questions for which there are no answers.”

We miss out on signs. Things like Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr are supposed to make seeing things easier, but instead the signs get buried in status updates, tweets, and blog posts. The amount of time a person gives to the subtle cries for help people insert in their posts lasts for as short as a scrolling down action, a press of the “like” button, and as long as a quick, rushed comment. The “shares” and the “reblogs” and the “retweets” are supposed to spread the word, but sometimes it feels like things get lost in the process and people do things because it relates to them; not because they relate to another. It’s all inward action. Take take take. Because it adds to our worth, our personality, our identity, our reputation, our impression. They decorate our walls, our dashboards, our profile pages. Sometimes the signs of others get buried in us. So many “I’s” so little “you’s” and I’ve noticed that when it so happens that “you’s” are involved, so are hate and anger.

Some people say things better through written or typed words, especially when it comes to sadness, possibly because talking about it in front of a person breaks the dam that holds the tears at bay. My friend’s grandfather died a few days ago. Again, I found out through Facebook. But I didn’t do anything. I didn’t ask about it, didn’t offer my condolences. Nothing. Harsh. Cold. Actually, this is me finally trying to do something. The thing is, I am aware that people want to be cared for the most, want to be talked to, when they post things like that. The subtlety speaks. The subtlety shouts, ceasing to be what it is. It becomes clear to me. And knowing is what makes me not do anything, strangely. That’s something I still have to figure out for myself.

People want to answer questions; they want others to ask. That’s what the signs are for. So we can ask questions, so we can clarify, so we can talk about it. It reveals a desire to understand, to know more. A whole bunch of things can come from a single question, and sometimes the lack of it indicates a disinterest in whatever it is a person wants to say, even if just potentially. Of course, people deal with things differently. Some want comfort from friends, others want comfort from strangers. Most want to be told that everything will be okay, and some want to be given actual advice. There are people who want to be with a lot of people, and there are people who want to be left alone at times–but never all the time, and never forever. Others want to be hugged, and others want to curl up in a corner far away from human affection. That’s when adaptation and change come in, accompanied by understanding. It’s not the same for everyone. That’s what getting to know people is for. And when you get to know them, remember to remember and forget to forget. The signs are all there. In the facial expression, the body language, the tone, the voice, the handwriting, the books they read, the passages they quote, the artworks they can relate with, the lyrics they find themselves singing when they space out, the nonsense things they say. Listen. See. Everything’s there. And we have to ask now, before it’s too late, before they become incapable of answering any more questions. We miss out on signs and that’s how life is able to perfectly execute surprise attacks on us. If you’re surprised, learn. We can tell people to make things less subtle, because it’s for their own good anyway, but it’s difficult. It’s easier to control oneself than to control another. One has to initiate or we’ll be stuck in a cycle in which people, in wanting to be understood, forget about understanding others.

It’s hard to deal with the aftermath, especially in a case like this, where you begin to think that you could have made a difference had you known what was going on. Never beat yourself up over it. Yes, you could have made a difference. But you didn’t know what was going on. And you can’t change that anymore. If you miss out on the signs, make it a reason to hold on tighter to what and who you have now. Learn and apply. Our actions belong to us and we are responsible for them. They overlap from time to time, interrelate and become interdependent, but in the end we are the ones behind them. She was behind it all, and you can’t do anything to change it. But she did teach me, somehow. She left behind a lot of things, memories included. Take care of them. And take care of this, because this is for her.

They say that hypocrites are those who give advice they don’t follow. Alright. Maybe I’m being a hypocrite, stuck in between knowing and doing something about it, always so very quiet. But the quiet is what makes me observe. And I’m not used to being loud. Change is gradual. Patience. These are things I’ve learned for the past days, and though it’ll take time for me to apply all this to my life, that doesn’t mean I can’t share what I’ve learned. This is what life is for me right now and I am very much aware that it may differ for each person. I am entitled to say this, I am allowed, and I’m trying to be brave in sharing a big chunk of my inner world to strangers and acquaintances out there–friends definitely included–if any are even reading this right now. I use the word “brave” because it’s a scary thing to bare yourself, to go beyond subtlety and therefore not have an excuse as to why no one can see you or hear you or find you, only to have people ignore you–imagine performing in front of a large crowd, and all they do once you start the performance is leave. But there’s still that tiny hope that I’ll be heard. Maybe courage has a lot more to do with hope.

I feel like I still don’t know life at all. I’m told that it changes after college, when you’re out in the “real” world, as if the world we college students (or students, in general) are in is a fantasy. As if we’re on autopilot. As if we aren’t living now. We live in libraries, we go around the world through books, time travel through history. Are they not real?

Read a person the way you’d read literature. Slowly, carefully, and between the lines, which you will be able to do after you’ve read the lines. Use your intuition, your gut feel, for most of the time it sees the signs. Do not judge people by their covers. Or their titles.

Watch a person like you’d watch a film: from a distance, in order to see the bigger picture and how each part interconnects to form a whole. Their movements have reason; their words, meaning. What they do when they think no one’s looking makes them human; what they do when they think someone’s looking makes them seem divine. It’s okay.

Listen to them like you’d listen to music: with the knowledge that the pitch, the tone, the rhythm, the rests make a difference. Sometimes silence is music we need. They are the rests, and we fill it up with the thoughts and emotions we’ve been strangling all along. The mind is never quiet. Even when it sleeps.

Lastly, see a person the way you’d see an artwork, be it a painting, a statue, a sculpture: as that whose beauty leads you to its creator. Find him and don’t let go long after you’ve taken your eyes away from the artwork.

Find him.

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