Courage to Live 5/20/23

Thoughts with Richard Bleil

This has been a difficult couple of days.  I have one friend whose father died unexpectedly, and another who confessed to having terminal thoughts.  And I have no idea how to help either, but I’ve told them that I would do anything I could for them.

In our society, love is often measured by death.  One of my favorite songs starts off, “would you die for her?”  How many lovers have told somebody that they would die for their partner?  But the reality is, death is easy.  In time, we all die anyway.  It’s an inevitability, something that the Masonic organization embraces as a central tenant.  Dying for somebody is nothing more than speeding up the inevitable.  The question is, do we have the courage to live for somebody?

Living is a challenge.  Things go wrong, sometimes dreadfully so as I discovered during my homeless years.  And, yes, I had suicidal thoughts throughout as I dreaded the thought of being a burden on my friends.  I felt worthless, and like a loser contributing nothing to society or others.  Death seemed easy. 

I once told my wife that I would rather die than lose her.  It’s a typical kind of thing to say, and I meant it.  In fact, I almost did as my heart attack occurred just days after she asked for a divorce.  I get the sense that she was kind of hoping that she would be a widow, and this was certainly supported by her lack of action as she left me dying on the couch clutching my chest in pain and accusing me of “faking it”.  And frankly, I didn’t care if I lived or died at that point. 

Had I died, it would have been easy.  I wouldn’t have had to live with the pain of divorce, a pain I still feel to this day, and a profound loneliness as I reconcile the fact that I had a chance, my one and only chance, to be with a wife.  And many times, in my lonely journey I’ve thought of ending it.  But my friends asked me to live.

They didn’t use the words, but they were asking me to have the courage to keep going.  Today, I honestly don’t know of what value I have.  I’ve yet to find my place in this new world of retirement, but I’m still going, not for me, but for those I love.  I have the courage to live for them.

Vincent van Gogh famously mutilated his own ear, all for love.  As I understand it, the act was not to win the heart of a woman, but rather to punish himself for ruining a friendship.  I have no intention of glorifying self-mutilation, but it’s clear that van Gogh had no intention of ending his life.  It was not a gesture so much as a biblically referenced form of punishment wherein Peter cut off the ear of a Roman solder after Judas’ betrayal.  Of course, not only did Vincent have the courage to survive, but he lived the rest of his life with a reminder of his mental instability, and answer questions of his ear.

Early in my time with the police department, I saw a training film of a man who tried to commit suicide.  He used a large-caliber handgun, placing it under his chin.  Unfortunately for him, he missed.  The angle of the bullet was wrong, and it didn’t hit his brain.  It did, however, blow out a parabolic cavity from his face, obliterating his jaw, and moving up his face where it destroyed one of his eyes.  His nose was mostly taken out as well, except for one nostril still attached to the left of his face, albeit pushed far too far to the left.  He was left a living display of the inside of the skull, and still angry “flipping off” the individual making the video as paramedics worked on him. 

Vincent van Gogh would have been jealous.

I believe we need a new standard of love.  Instead of offering to die for someone, how about offering to live with the pain of losing them?  Death is easy, but unrequited love is just hell.  I’ve been dead a few times and suffered from unrequited love for most of my miserable life, and death was far more pleasant.  Sadly, the devil spit me back out, probably because he realized that living was far greater torture than anything he could devise.  So yes, to prove my love for you, I will live.

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