Monday, January 22, 2007

Balance Sheet

Melissa noted a while ago that the birth of a child, especially to good friends who have wanted a child desperately for a long time, should balance the deaths of the year.

I don't see the world that way.

Deaths are what they are. They mark the time when the person passes from experience to memory. I can selfishly grieve for the loss of future experiences and I will miss them... but death isn't a negative. It just is. I can no more put a number value (that death hurt as bad as 10 dinners with my inlaws) to the pain of someone's death than I can hold positive or negative feelings for a rock. The rock is. Death is. I can appreciate them or feel sad for what I see in them but I can't put them on a scale of good or bad any more than I can ascribe a color to a flavor.

I don't see my life as a balance sheet or as a scalar in any way. Deaths are deaths. Births are births. Stephen is a miracle, like all babies, and the mystery of who and what he will grow to be is fascinating... but Stephen's birth is a separate thing from Andy's death. They are their own little places in my soul. One doesn't make the other more tragic or more precious. They are what they are, their own things. Themselves.

If I'm an asshole but have a really nice car, those are two separate things. One doesn't offset the other. They may combine to influence whether or not you choose to spend time with me... but a nice car doesn't make me less of an asshole.

There are events and stories and objects, but when we try to put numbers on them, try to say, "On balance, I'm happy" or "everything considered it was a good year" it's an attribution and it is a damn convenient way to muffle feelings just a bit. Maybe even to avoid fixing the things that hurt.


Anonymous said...

I wasn't trying to diminish the impact of the death of your nephew, Rory....I was just reading your blog and noticed that you didn't seem to have any positive experiences listed for 2006 and was hoping that maybe the birth of Stephen could be seen that way...not as a balance sheet...sorry if I offended was not my intent by any means....

Kai Jones said...

They're all distinct points on the map; I don't measure them against each other.

I do measure how I respond, though. How my responses change and, I hope, become more useful.

Rory said...

Melissa- You don't have to worry about offending me. I'm intrigued when ever I hear or see something that implies that different people see the world differently.