Monday, January 1, 2007

A funny thing about dead people

Incident 1 - When I was a sophomore, a kid at my high school committed suicide. We'll say his name was Jack, which was a fairly common name at my high school, and one of the "popular kids" happened to have that name as well. I remember being at drama practice when our coach told us the news, only she didn't tell us Jack's last name at first. Everyone reacted with the proper gasps and somber murmuring. Then Coach told us his last name, and suddenly the tone of the crowd changed. To one of relief. A kid beside me that I'd known since 7th grade said, "Oh, I thought she meant Jack Jackson. We all know Jack Jackson."

Incident 2 - Today in church, this announcement was shared: "Sister P is not here today because her sister passed away." Cue the same general sound of gasps and murmuring. Someone asked, "Is this the sister that lives in Hometown?" "No - this is another sister, we don't know her." Once again, the tone of the murmuring changed distinctly toward relief, and someone declared, "Oh, I thought it was her sister from Hometown."

While supressing my sense of indignation, I've been trying to figure out why this happens. Not necessarily the audible turncoatery, which I chalk up to general tactlessness, but why we feel death so much more poignantly if we are connected to the deceased by any convoluted manner, no matter whether we gave a second thought to them in life or not. You know it happens that way. But why? Are we really that self-centric?

I don't think selfishness is really the whole story. I was talking years ago to Elder M. about what makes people important to us, about how we can possibly be expected to choose one best friend or one spouse out all the squillions of people out there (especially when we haven't met them all), and we came to the circular conclusion that we care about people because we care about them. It's kind of like what makes diamonds or the Mona Lisa valuable - we say they are. And so does the diamond industry. While souls are intrinsically valuable, they're valuable to us as flawed mortals because we give them value in reference to ourselves. I'm not sure there's another way for an individual with a single point of view to be.

We are our only point of reference. That might be some of the reason why people can seem so silly regarding the deceased.

If you have any cosmically brilliant insights, please share.

In other news, I'm having a minor surgery on Wednesday. Don't ask me what it's for. Just know that if I die, my Office stuff goes to Genuine and my Gorey books go to Uffish.

3 reason(s) to click here:

Uffish Thought said...

"We are our only point of reference."

Yes. I can't do my thoughts on this justice in a comment. But remind me, late some night when you don't need to be up early in the morning, and we'll have a fascinating talk that gets us nowhere, but is good nonetheless.

flippin said...

Can your (I mean, Elder So-and-So's) Pete and Pete stuff go to me?

Genuine Draft said...

I'm touched by your gesture, and please know that if I was where you are I would bake something for you.