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for March 24, 2004

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People Are Talking
by Your Diva, Robin Pastorio-Newman

Your Mother insists, "If you can't say something nice don't say anything at all."
Mom's got a point: the world's an ugly place and if you contribute to the ugliness, you shouldn't expect to have nice friends who'll help you move one tropically hot and humid August weekend. Or even people who just feel obligated. Most of the time when tempted to voice a vicious thought, you zip your lip and wait for someone with a different set of manners to pipe up.
Fortunately, you have me.
Your Darling, Your Diva, Your One True Love has noticed poachers encroaching on the memory of Spalding Gray. Davis Sweet wrote so insensitive and offensive an article it deserves mention, if only so we can skewer his thesis: Sweet declares he killed Spalding Gray with inept conversation. Your Delight has seldom uttered a naughty word on this website but Sweet's self-serving, arrogant, brutally stupid commentary has earned him a little vitriol: Davis Sweet can kiss my fabulous butt.
When we watch TV, we may come to believe every illness can be treated and every condition responds to treatment. If an illness does not respond, it takes on the taint of Divine judgment, a sentiment descended from medieval belief that God punishes evildoers with sickness. Consciously, we lament how bad things happen to good people. Subconsciously, we live with the flickering suspicion those good people torture their pets and can't be as nice as we think. To rehabilitate this situation, we now have pharmaceuticals and managed care so we can tolerate the sick, and maybe avoid having them drag us down. It's an ugly impulse - wishing sick people would just quit being sick or at least get far, far away from us - but it's human.
In the case of mental illness, it's worse. We shouldn't care for our mentally ill brethren by making life more difficult for them -- by making treatment difficult and exhausting to get, and by refusing to forgive them when they don't. We don't want crazy people walking the streets, but have you ever looked into getting someone into a stabilizing program? It's slightly easier than floating without a zeppelin.
Most people have little contact with genuine mental illness. We describe our team's loss or a bad day at work as depressing, but unless we've suffered a full-blown depressive episode or been near a loved one suffering one, we don't know what we're saying. Depression is not something a person can snap out of, or wake up from, or just shake off. We've all seen the commercials describing depression as a medical condition in need of medication. Sometimes those medications work. Sometimes they fail. Sometimes depression lifts when brain chemicals start doing what they're supposed to do, but the current wisdom among shrinks is that if an adult has had two medicated episodes, chances are that patient will be on anti-depressants for life, whether or not his health improves.
Imagine you're suffering a depressive episode, and you can't see a way out, and help seems miles away when you're in a crowded room. Imagine how you felt during the worst moment of your life, and imagine feeling that way all the time for weeks, months or years on end. Imagine some stranger tries making conversation, during which you are trying to keep your molecules from scattering in every direction long enough to utter a coherent thought. Now imagine that you're a famous person whom a great many people feel they know, and they imagine they can see inside your head. You weep, you fixate on an event, your thoughts center on loss and unbearable pain. Does this guy matter to you?
Nope. This stranger is a mirror. He means nothing. Davis Sweet meant nothing. For his drama queen desire to possess a piece of Spalding Gray, he should be regarded as a thief and a grave robber.
One important point: Gray was a Buddhist, and Buddhists believe we live to work through our karma, and we can't really mess around in other people's. In this, we go, we do, we engage, but each of us is alone in the business of Being. Spalding Gray went and did and engaged, and the story that was his is over. Your Beloved urges you to remember Gray through his successful skirmishes with life: his books, videos and films. And perhaps we could regard the sick in ways less human and more humane.
Enough, enough darkness. More light. Let us remember that.


©2004 Robin Pastorio-Newman

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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