Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘death’

Hi Greg,

I love you, first of all – and really that’s all that matters. Thank you for reaching out to me. It’s selfish but I needed someone to reach out to me. It’s been a long time since I was young and confused and mad about the universe ripping living people in my life into the grave. It’s been long enough that sometimes I wonder whether it really happened and whether all these years if I didn’t just go insane.

People die. They really do. And it’s as terrible as anyone can imagine. And it’s as natural as the science books suggest.

And it hurts. God does it hurt. It is punishment. I still feel guilty. Every day. I don’t know what I did or was or could ever be to deserve anything that’s be given to me. I really don’t. Rage isn’t even close to how it feels. AHHHHHAAAGHHHHH.

Comfort doesn’t come in words. Comfort doesn’t come song. nor travel. nor food. nor anything. You see, death just rips. It rips your anchors, your beliefs, your ideas and completely and totally destroys them in one fell swoop. And it doesn’t give you anything in return.

My heart breaks for you, for her, for him, for all. Because I know. I know that I will never know – never know those that died, those that died in your life, those that died in my life. And, GOD!, do i want to know those that died in my life. There they were … and then… no they weren’t.

You are young, and so was I, and so are so many people. Who are we to feel guilty? or mad? or sad? who are we, with life, to rage against the universe? who are we to dare to ask why? knowing no answer is coming. but secretly hoping in all these books. SO MANY BOOKS… there is no answer.

I searched for you. I’ve read them all. There are no answers, I’m afraid. I know you will read many more and talk to many others and take walks i haven’t taken. and yet we will both arrive right here.

broken.

hearted.

Somehow, someway, I made it to 38.9 years old. I don’t really know how. But here I am. Thank you for reaching out, your tender years. Lost in this universe I remain. Is that hope? if i can do it so can you? hardly. but maybe….

I am so sorry she was tossed from a car and tossed from your life. No universe we imagine has that outcome. and yet, here it is. here it is. here you are. here i am. here your mom is.

greg, oh, greg. you are not alone. oh no you are not. but you feel like you are because in so many ways right now you are. and its real. oh god is it real. oh god am i alone right now. i wish you were here, even though we barely spend any time together. but we are also connected and not alone. i don’t know how you feel. i didn’t and don’t really know how i feel now. other than i just HOPE, goodness do i hope, somewhere out there something touched someone in some way. even for a moment. For A Brief Moment… anything that made someone think God I Do Matter.

greg you matter. amber matters. i matter.

i hope you keep talking to me.

i love you,

uncle russ

Read Full Post »

I love Robin Williams.

Robin Williams is a hero of mine. But that’s not really a deep enough concept to express his role in my life. I have absolutely shaped my approach to life around what I perceived of him as a hero. I never met him. I never received fan mail back from him or did a stand up routine next to him. I don’t have any remarkable story about him – except that I stayed up late, rented, borrowed my way into every piece of work he put out. From Mork and Mindy to the Comic Relief stuff to all of his movies to every late night appearance… I took in all of it as some source-book of how to interact, how to think, how to absorb the world so fully you can be in all of those situations and BE REMARKABLE.

As a high school senior I thought deeply about the idea of Julliard because of him. I imagined a future in which I could go out to the world and say things he said… not because I rehearsed it but because I was speaking honestly in my synthesis of everything I was taking in. I wanted to be that good only better… even faster on my feet. Even quicker with my wit. Even deeper with my knowledge. Anywhere, in any circle, at any moment.

And make no mistake, I’m not delusional about Performance vs. Real Life. I read anything I could of his non-performance experiences – from his activism and social engagement to his personal struggles to his ideas about comedy to his appreciation of J. Winters. Robins Williams life, in all its facets, speaks profoundly to me.

For most of my life the person I’ve been mostly compared to in my approach to everything, even from my own mouth, is Robin Williams. (and I not only don’t hate it, I love it. I want to be that.) I’m drawn to this engagement with the world:

KNOW EVERYTHING YOU POSSIBLE CAN

LISTEN TO EVERYTHING (EVERYTHING!) and EVERYONE (EVERYONE!) AROUND YOU

SYNTHESIZE VERY QUICKLY

TRY ANY IDEA

10000000 jokes (ideas) is bound to deliver 1 GOOD ONE, SO KEEP GOING

ENGAGE EVERYONE SINCERELY and SERIOUSLY

WALK A BILLION MILES IN EVERYONE ELSES SHOES

SWEAT

Yes, Dead Poets Society is one of my top 5 movies. Good Morning Vietnam is also in the top 5. Good Will Hunting is such an important movie to me….. …. …. All these things are quite obvious. Robin Williams dealt with and engaged and seriously considered the entirety of the human experience. For me he is the ultimate synthesis of this absurd and beautiful world.

The vortex that is postmortem analysis will never change the strange loop that lives on through me and others. Posit what we want about mental illness and depression and comedy and hollywood or whatever else we will try to make it all tidy, it doesn’t matter. Robins Williams is a buddha. He’s one of those rare convergences of vitality that infuses many other souls with purpose. I love you, Robin. Thanks for helping make me, me.

Read Full Post »

There will be no understanding. There should be no blame.

Our section of the world is confronted yet again with unexplainable suffering taking the shape of so many other recent events. A person, a lonely agenda, a gun, a manifesto, a set of targets, an “obvious” back story, a chance to intervene, the event, the scramble, the rage online, the blame, the investigation, the pontifications, the closing, the moving on, repeat.

The narrative is too simple. Every aspect of it hides complexities that would reveal at almost every turn that we are not in control and we cannot predict. Our easily tricked pattern recognizing brains piecing it all together try to draw connections and signs and ways it could have been different. It couldn’t. Not this event.

Any solace drawn from conclusions and blame is hollow and destined to be violated.

And yes the question is a valid one and one worth investigating: how can this be different?

It’s answer, which should NEVER settled down to THE answer, is not a simple narrative about a single event and a single person. The question should spawn a web of questions and should forever.

The meta issue is conclusion.

When we conclude we have reduced the world and the situation. We do not consider all the factors. When we conclude we have decided we know far more than we possible can.

Peace comes not from a false conclusion (police should have known, young white males with money do X, gun control, …). Peace may never come. Maybe that’s part of the ongoing issue is that we seek concepts and ideas and states of being that aren’t anything, can’t be obtained.

Sometimes when these events exist I have extreme sorrow. I’m sorrowful when light of lives are snuffed out. This happens every day all over the planet in all sorts of senseless ways. Though I’m not sure you can call any life or death full of sense.

In the face of inconceivable complexity I am left only to ask questions and through those questions love and honor this brief experience of life. It’s not usually peaceful but it is living.

Read Full Post »

#BostonMarathon

Been thinking about this since I got off a plane from vacation today.   Tonight I came home after dinner to NBC News doing a special on what this recent bombing at the marathon means for public events in America.  How trite.

Are we all still asking these trivial questions like this in the global community?  We are the last country/culture to deal with all of this reality.

A couple of thoughts:

  • American communities have FAR TOO MANY anniversaries and “never forget” events.  We celebrate our victimhood and wonder why other people (in and out of this country) hate us to the point of wanting to kill us.
  • Executing mass violence in America is a trivial exercise.  Not because we lack security infrastructure but because our culture celebrates violence and thinks we should always exact justice always.  It’s so 1850s Cowboy bullshit. And hasn’t it always been this way in this country?
  • We focus on “event protection” as opposed to a THOUGHTFUL, REFLECTIVE CULTURE.   Our culture is about immediate reaction instead of reflection and consilience.  We glorify the act.  We spectate and consume the adrenalized moments.
  • We consume far more than we give.  This has consequences.  We haven’t learned this yet, not nearly enough.
  • We spend far more money on checking my shoes for bombs at the airport than on making sure everyone has access to the Internet and life changing literature.
  • Praying does nothing.  It’s self serving.  Try reducing violence through education, arms reduction and/or other real ways.  God doesn’t exist so lets stop pretending he/she/it does and wasting precious time and energy on God.
  • I have no idea who did this, why they did it. I almost don’t care.  This will keep happening until it doesn’t.  And I really don’t know how gun violence and bombing and wars are going to stop.  It’s probably more likely to happen once we stop trying to own every thing, every person, every idea and we stop lying to each other about how it all works.   Religion is crap and false.  Most things we push unto children and our cultures isn’t about truth or love but instead is about making sure certain people stay in power and amass riches.    Try really investigating and learning about animal / human behavior and the other bodies of knowledge that help us get closer to getting it and maybe we can all have a real dialog.  For now this is getting really fuckin old, all this killing people for ridiculous reasons and in cowardly ways here and abroad

I’m saying to myself tonight. Get involved.  Make this world better in non-violent ways.

Read Full Post »

“I’m saving a dollar a day to throw a party on the day he fries.”

This was whispered to me on my walk  between the witness room and the courtroom during the trial by someone hurting for a loved one of the 1993 Chuck E Cheese murders.

Gulp.

Was she wrong?   was she justified?  was she just saying that?  What did I believe?  Should we kill another person to make things “right?”  What is justice?  will this bring peace to anyone?

Over the last 19 years this is just one of many contradictions I hold in my head.   It’s like some sort of gnarly moral entanglement that is so often the source of the anger, guilt, distress I feel at times like this.

After an event like this your world is very quick to attempt to soothe away the gnarliness.  It’s God’s plan.  It was fate.  Everything happens for a reason.  Memorial services.  Vigils.  TV specials.  Therapists.  Help lines.  “Get back up on that horse.”, Why Bad Things Happen To Good People readings, commemorative T-Shirts.

Some of these sentiments and activities are temporarily helpful. However, what was in my head and still hangs about there sometimes in the darkest ways…

nothing matters.  it’s all random.  why bother.

After I stew on that for awhile I usually flip over to…

everything matters.  make it matter.  live like you are dying.  get after every moment.

Obviously after 19 years the more positive outlook that making it matter has won out more times than it’s lost.  By no means though do I have resolution.   You almost feel forced into the positive.   If one goes all in on nothing matters, why bothers, you get your answer clearly.   Unfortunately, it feels, if you go all in on everything matters, make it matter you may not get a clear “yup, this is right.  it all does matter!”

I think the easy resolutions of these big questions is what leads to the profound loneliness I feel occasionally.   Hanging on to one of these resolutions like “it was all part of the plan” despite everything in your experience suggesting otherwise makes you afraid to be upset, to disagree, to wail against this comfort.   To this day I’m very upset at the idea that 4 of my coworkers should have been killed because that was part of some grand design for my life or the greater good.   That always sounds so good in abstract when it’s not you having to live with this unknown plan or your not related to one of those that died.   Want pressure?   that’s pressure.  having people tell you and make you believe that your life is somehow worth more than someone else’s and then you go on living without some obvious sign that it is.

I didn’t go to the memorial service, didn’t go to any vigils, could barely speak to Bobby.  Maybe I didn’t want to feel the implied pressure or the pressure I was putting on myself.

Everyone’s life is worth the same.  Whether that’s everything or nothing, I don’t know.

Read Full Post »

Shadows

I’ve told some of my story to friends and family in my life, but never really publicly and certainly no one knows this internal dialog I’ve had with myself for 19 years. When you write something down and/or tell a wider audience about it it takes on a whole different level of real. should I tell my story? should I put down the never ending stream of questions and failed answers for others to read? is it grandstanding? is it helpful? is it selfish?

Like most of my questions, I don’t have a good answer for these so I’m just going to DO.

First, I don’t think I’m unique. People die. People are murdered. All of us will experience people die around us and we will die ourselves. I don’t know the horrors of war, haven’t seen someone die in the ER, have not been in a gang fight and have only see one dead body in real life, and it was at a distance. Hell, I haven’t even been to more than one funeral I think.

But.

When I was 17, a month removed from an appendectomy and having finally earned the white-shirt for Employee of the Month, 4 of my coworkers were murdered and another one shot on the night of December 14th 13th, 1993. I worked at Chuck E Cheese in Aurora, CO. The murderer was Nathan Dunlap, the brother of a classmate of mine.

I often had the closing shift in the kitchen having been revoked of the mouse costume because I had too much energy and we needed that energy in the kitchen. On that night I had a conversation with the lone survivor of the shooting, Bobby. He wanted extra hours as he had a family and needed some cash. I wanted to get out early that night for a variety of teen ager reasons. So we agreed to switch shifts.

Random coincidence? fate? divine intervention?

Bobby came in and I was out the door around 9:40p ish after having made a rare last late sandwich orders. Turns out that was Dunlap’s order I made.

I clocked out, took off my apron and said good bye to all the closing staff. On the way out I noticed Dunlap, who i did not know. It was definitely strange to have someone hanging out at a chuck e cheese late at night. Then again sometimes our friends would wait for people to finish their shifts.

I drove home. It was pretty late so I started my night time routine. And then the news started to break. In the time between me leaving and and brushing my teeth my coworkers were dead. Bobby managed to somehow escape out the kitchen exit bleeding from the shot to his face. I’ll spare any other details as I really don’t know the full story, only what I’ve heard.

That was my shift. Bobby saved me.

Bobby and I spoke only one other time after that, at the trial 3 years after that night. It was a brief conversation. Again, words fail. I thanked him.

Immediately after realizing what was going on my mind started to fill in details. I tried to remember everything. And I was imagining what happened inside that store. What would I have done? How did Bobby do it? What was everyone doing? Thinking? Feeling? How could I have stopped him?

I went to school the next day. I did a tv interview in the following days I briefly talked to the police. I met up with friends and talked about it. My brain became a swirl of information, memories, imagined memories. Shadows of events that could have happened.

After 19 years these shadows still follow me.

And I wasn’t even there. But in an infinite number of imagined memories I was there. I process my own mortality all the time, constantly. My own death over and over.

How does Bobby feel? How do the families of my former coworkers process this?

I’m not a depressed person, wasn’t a depressed person then. In fact I went on to work at another chuck e cheese in the area with my buddy Scott within weeks. The rest of high school was great and I went on to college.

In the middle of my freshman year at the University of Chicago I had to fly back to Colorado as a witness in the trial. 3 years later I had to retell everything I knew and in front of Dunlap.

How does a person remember important details after 3 years? I felt so disoriented. Was I making stuff up? Was my memory being altered by the weird ways in which the media and lawyers and trials play out? Can I please stop thinking about this?

Senior year of college included the unfolding of Columbine – not too far from Aurora. 6 years later my brain yet again went into overdrive chasing shadows of the past.

And so here we are one day after yet another massacre in the suburbs of Denver. So much sadness and distress fills me because it will never make sense to the survivors, the families, the friends, the family of the killer. Yes, I’m sure folks will find some peace in some explanation or some belief system. But in those quiet hours of the night, every July 20th, and with a million other cues their brains will run wild with shadows.

Again, I don’t think I’m that unique. We all grapple with death and the seemingly meaninglessness of it all.

I have a great life. I play and work hard. By all means I am functioning human.

I treasure every moment as much as I can. I love my family and my friends as hard as I can all the time so if the randomness strikes they will know I loved them.

And

The shadows still haunt me.

I am really alive?
Did this really happen?
How will I die?
Have a lived a life worth surviving that night?
Had I been there would it be different?
Should I talk to people about this?
Am I defined by this?
Does anyone care about my internal struggles?
Should I even try to get rid of the shadows?
How much of my behavior is shaped by this?

So here I am.

Maybe I’ve come to believe that all of existence is information and computation because it’s the only explanation I’ve come across that accounts for people brutally murdering other people senselessly.

I’ll never be at peace with this stuff. And I’m ok with that. In some ways it helps me live and love more.

In the end I decided to post some essays on this because there’s now another 100+ people out there with shadows looming. Maybe they will come across my story and find some peace in that were all connected and we don’t have to face the shadows alone. And maybe this is selfish in that now there are others out there for me to connect to that know aurora, co, that live with these shadows.

I’ve long believed that the worst kind of pain is loneliness. Even worse than death. I don’t think I can offer any grander help or relief or purpose than telling a story that leaves me and a reader or two less lonely.

Read Full Post »

Shootings in Aurora,CO

Sad day.   I wondered whether I should write a blog or not today with the event that took place this morning in my hometown of Aurora,CO.   I haven’t lived there since high school but much of my family still lives there as well has the majority of childhood friends.

There are many rambling essays I could write about my own experience with mass murder in Aurora, CO and how it haunts me nearly every day.   After nearly 20 years I have yet to resolve the huge existential questions raised by such events.  And, by god, have I tried.

Words fail.

Today: it hurts.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »