It is currently Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:27 am

All times are UTC




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 19 posts ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:42 pm 
Offline
Best friends forever
User avatar

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:33 pm
Posts: 11961
Location: Over there.
The late Christopher Hitchens' last article for Vanity Fair magazine was devoted to this aphorism:

"Whatever doesn't kill you makes you strong."


Mr. Hitchens, who was suffering through the final days of terminal cancer, suggested that the above saying was "a crock".

I agree with him. While there is something to be said for the strength one gains from struggle, there is also the truth that suffering and tragedy do not "make you stronger" - they wear you out and in the end your life seems to be just enduring pain and not quite - or maybe - longing for death.

I've had some pain in my life in the last few years and I have survived. I was a strong person to begin with, I think. But I am also much worn down. People here and elsewhere tell me I'm "an inspiration" and, okay, I can see that point of view even while I deep down disagree with it. I do not wish to endure any more pain and I sure as hell don't want to be a role model for anyone in the line of being tough and resistant.

There is no particular virtue in endurance. To be honest, I don't see any other path except maybe to lay down and die. I'm not ready to die. I don't want to die. I will be completely honest and admit I am afraid of dying. I don't see it as the last great mystery, I see it as the end of me.

Having no belief in an afterlife of any kind, I believe death to be extinction. There's no use, really, in being afraid, since once you're dead you don't know you're dead, if you follow me. But I am, nonetheless, really, really, really afraid. Not just for my personal extinction, but because of those I will leave - I am needed. Not irreplaceable, but still pretty necessary to a couple of boys who have had about enough of people dying. When the time is ripe? When I'm really old and frail and "ready to go"? Different. I'm not there yet. But Death doesn't come just when you're ready for it.

Christopher Hitchens did die, of course. The photo of him in the magazine is hard to look at. The expression in his eyes is the same expression I saw in my brother John's eyes the last time I saw him alive. It is the same expression I saw in my husband's eyes just before he died. I don't see it in mine. Not yet.

"Whatever doesn't kill you makes you strong" is not a good motto. It's not a comfort and, moreover, it's not true. It's one of those mindlessly repeated sayings that sounds profound and meaningful but when you look at the actuality of it? It is, indeed, a crock.

_________________
Dig deeper.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 7:04 pm 
Offline
Aagragaah
User avatar

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:31 pm
Posts: 12924
Location: Out on the banks
I've known people who did lay down and died, literally. Dropped out of treatment. Kept doing things that they have been told will kill them, not in a vague and distant future but in a matter of months. Just... hoped that laws of nature won't apply to them.

Lord knows I don't judge them. In my heart I can't be certain I wouldn't be one of them, if it came down to it.

So you are stuck being an inspiration, dear vison, because you keep finding this strength somewhere to keep going. I pray that you can drop out of that role and inspire us instead with your taste for fine and carefree joys of life. Like red cars and pruple romances.

As for the saying, I don't know. I think going through challenging times may not give us strength, but that's where we learn what strength we have. Honestly, I really don't want to know.

_________________
Image
‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 7:12 pm 
Offline
Living in hope
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:43 am
Posts: 38763
Location: Sailing the luminiferous aether
What Frelga said.

Maybe hard experience just shows us that we're strong, rather than making us stronger. I suspect that most people are much tougher than they know, before they've been tried. They may feel stronger afterward, but in fact they always were strong. The more that's at stake, the harder they fight—and when they fight, the strength is there. They just never looked for it before.

_________________
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 7:43 pm 
Offline
not something I would recommend
User avatar

Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2005 11:13 pm
Posts: 12923
Location: Florida
vison - if you are not counted amongst the strong, then no one is.




:hug:

_________________
everything happens so much

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 7:51 pm 
Offline
chocolate bearer
User avatar

Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2005 6:27 am
Posts: 3338
Location: beachcombing, or hiking, or dragon boating
Iawv.

I'm not facing my death today, but facing two others. There never is a good time to go. Even when a person's mind and body have partly departed, and that person no longer has responsibilities, he/she is still the unique filler of a role, the unique holder of the past, and will be terribly missed.

Being a role model is unpleasant. I'd rather foist it on someone else.

_________________
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

~ Albert Camus


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:20 pm 
Offline
Just Keep Singin'
User avatar

Joined: Fri Dec 02, 2005 12:35 am
Posts: 4649
Location: Boston, MA
vison...sounds like you're in a bit of a slumpy-funk. Nobody can be strong all the time - and nobody should be expected to be a pillar of strength every day.

We all have times when our amour cracks and we just want to lay down and be miserable. Or have someone come take care of us. Or sit in a corner and cry. Loudly.

Please, allow yourself to be slumpy. It's okay to be in a funk. It's okay to sit in a corner and cry for a while. It's even okay to feel sorry for yourself. You're entitled, friend. Nobody expects you to be super-woman. Seriously.

Life just sucks sometimes and that's a fact. I'm thinking of you. And I have just about decided to come out to Vancouver in August 2012...so you'd better be ready for me. (and whoever else decides to come - these things have a way of snowballing!)

:D :D :D :hug:

_________________
"Live! Live! Live! Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!" - Auntie Mame

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:45 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2010 1:31 am
Posts: 842
Location: Canada
vison wrote:
"Whatever doesn't kill you makes you strong."


Mr. Hitchens, who was suffering through the final days of terminal cancer, suggested that the above saying was "a crock".

But, but, that thing that did not make him stronger is what killed him.

I've only picked up hints and whispers of what you have been going through Vison. There was cancer I think, and cancer treatment to endure. I am sorry that you have had to face that stuff. The car, though it is also my dream car (actually I would love to give that model to my daughter who is just learning to drive), is only a consolation prize at best.

You have every right to feel bad, and despair just a little. There is a hope that in spite of how obviously needed we are by others, that should our time come, they will be okay. But it is a faint hope especially when we feel that we are masters of all we gaze upon... which we all do from time to time.

Regardless, being honest about your feelings is healthy. Being afraid to die for whatever reason is natural. What is worse (to me) is hoping for death. I can't count the number of times over the past 10 years I've wanted to just die, wondered what was taking so long for me to just die, or that I have prayed for death... presently (thankfully) I am not troubled by such thoughts. I would not wish such thoughts to be visited on anyone. But from the sounds of it, you are not there, nor are you headed there. In the face of everything you have had to deal with, there must be strength in you.

:hug:


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 10:06 pm 
Offline
This is Rome

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:48 pm
Posts: 5952
Location: Concrete Jungle by the Lagoon
Perhaps unfortunately, I fully agree with your post, vison. I have a collection of perhaps loosely relevant thoughts that I'll share below. I also agree with Prim's comment: "Maybe hard experience just shows us that we're strong, rather than making us stronger."

I have a strongly negative reaction to attempts to describe or characterize what happens after death with certainty - i.e. beliefs that there is definitely (or definitely not) an afterlife. So I can't say for sure that death is personal extinction, though I think it is the overwhelmingly likely outcome (given no scientifically reliable evidence of any other outcome, and given that we exist as physical creatures tied to the physical reality of Earth.) There is obviously something "more" to us than our physical bodies, and I think it would be pleasant if the "more" could continue to exist in some sort of positive form after death. I think I would be a bit surprised if it did, though not entirely shocked.

I have one idea that I'm told sounds depressed or suicidal, although I'm not depressed and have never been suicidal: I do not believe that the good in this world at present outweighs the bad. Further, I think that the only way to feel that the good outweighs the bad is to choose to ignore the vast magnitude of human suffering under which the world is groaning: starvation and malnutrition, homicide and genocide, abject poverty, rapes and forced pregnancies and sexual trafficking. Even here in the United States, we contend with hunger and racism and physical and sexual abuse of children and so much violent crime and gangs and addiction and more. Not only is it more than we can fix in a generation...it's more than we can even pay attention to: even constant exposure to one or two of these ills comes at some cost to one's mental health. It is possible that there is more good than bad in a given person's life - but those of us (who seem to be in that position) are merely lucky. Thus far. And it is possible that a life that seems/is really good at one point in time will later unravel so drastically as to cause a person to wait for death - due to pain, illness, suffering. And then, death itself seems like a tragic waste and poor reward for everyone's travails here on earth - which is why I believe that comforting theories of heavenly rewards proliferate: peace, joy, an absence of pain, a reunification with departed loved ones, being one with what is Right and Good. It's everything that life deprives us of. When viewed through that lens, theories about the afterlife become touching: the human yearning in them is palpable. I wish I felt that these theories were other than wishful thinking.

I was once asked: if you really believe that the bad so far outweighs the good, then why your will to live: why not just kill yourself and opt out of this negative world? I think the answer is twofold. The selfish, micro answer is that I feel that I'm one of the fortunate, privilege people who seems to be enjoying more than my share of good thus far. The good parts of life are *really* good: sharing kindness and intimacy and joy and laughter with people, enjoying the natural beauty of this world, benefiting from the comforts and insights of human innovation and creativity, etc. But the second and more important reason is this: I think that the balance between good and bad in the world has evolved significantly towards the good over time and will continue to do so. I think it falls solely to us to shift the balance further. Society seems to be evolving towards treating people with greater kindness, equality, and dignity despite people's differences; our understanding of science/medicine continues to evolve to allow people to live longer, with less pain and fewer diseases; and I believe that we are moving towards an era of fewer atrocities and greater accountability for those that are committed.

I think that we each have a responsibility to participate in this humanizing process - a process of replacing the bad in the world with good - for as long as we are able. And part of that, to tie this back into your theme, is to reduce the incidence of "what doesn't kill you" suffering and tragedy - so that even if we cannot be immortal, we can live the best and most painless life possible, for as long as possible. When one looks at the senseless non-fatal suffering in this world, it seems like the height of chutzpah to proclaim its "strengthening" properties, where what is really happening is a scarring and wounding process.

Doubtless the naysayers would point out that some degree of loss or pain can be productive: it teaches us what we value, causes us to strive harder, forbids us from taking things for granted. But I think we are in no danger of altogether eliminating loss and pain from the world ;), so we'll need to chip away at eliminating as much of it as we can.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 11:14 pm 
Offline
Best friends forever
User avatar

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:33 pm
Posts: 11961
Location: Over there.
nerdanel wrote:
When viewed through that lens, theories about the afterlife become touching: the human yearning in them is palpable. I wish I felt that these theories were other than wishful thinking.


I couldn't say it better, nerdanel. I more or less "agree" with the rest of it, too.

While I would not "compare" myself to Frodo, I look at Frodo as exemplifying what I mean: he endured and then he died. Tolkien let Frodo go to The Blessed Isles, but then . . . it's a story. We, not of Middle Earth, do not get to go there.

"Whatever doesn't kill you, doesn't kill you." It doesn't make you stronger. It exhausts you. It makes you even more vulnerable and in the end, you die anyway. Frodo kept going because he couldn't not keep going. He was never going to lie down and die - his creator wouldn't let him. The torments poor Frodo endured didn't make him stronger, they just made his life impossible.

I'm not depressed or suicidal. I'm actually quite happy and, odd though it might seem in light of my opening post, I'm optimistic.

eta:

When Hitchens wrote about cancer, he observed that cancer patients are always described as "fighting" and that some "win" the fight and others "lose". I KNOW that people don't really understand what the implications are: you can't know until YOU are the one "fighting". Somewhere in there is the idea that if you don't "fight hard enough", that's why you "lose" to cancer and you die. Your obituary invariably reads "lost his battle with cancer".

There is so much of this that is just plain beyond your control. You can do everything humanly possible. You can endure horrible treatments - as he did, poor man. You can be upbeat and tough and yet, cancer can still kill you.

It's not a "battle", it's just dealing with a disease. If you die of it, it's not because you didn't fight hard enough. It's just that cancer is a dreadful thing, it is as uncaring as the stars.

The only answer I can see to all this is very simple: live until you die.

_________________
Dig deeper.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 12:30 am 
Offline
Reads while walking
User avatar

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 11:05 pm
Posts: 4634
This morning (in clear weather externally, but in a bit of a stress-and-sorrow fog internally) I took the dog up to the highpoint of the ridge trail and sent the usual good wishes out to you up to the north there, vison, and then because it was the last day of the old year I went through all the Halofirian names I could remember and sent more wishes in every direction of the compass rose. Happy Old Year, all!

Then the inner fog lifted. It was miraculous and lovely. I feel quite blessed at the moment (and hope to spend the next couple of hours finally tackling the revisions due in two weeks).

How random such moments of joy and blessing are! Life is like that. Very hard, but with these gifts that sometimes come to us.

vison, what you say here speaks my own mind on the matter of death and plodding on through difficult times, and nel speaks my mind, too. BUT I do think people are mostly good most of the time. Here's my evidence: destroying things is much, much easier than building them. Evil is easy to do--good much harder. We work so hard to raise a child, for instance: thousands and thousands and thousands of hours building up a life. If that child then goes off to war (or runs into some other awful violence), that life can be destroyed in an instant. Or this: it takes hundreds of years to build a city, and yet that city COULD be destroyed in a minute.

The miracle is that most of the time, cities aren't destroyed in a minute, and most of the time, people live normal lives. The balance in the average soul must be weighted very, very, very much toward goodness for any of us to have survived as long as we have.

So that's a pessimist's optimism, I suppose! But it means a lot to me, when I'm tempted to despair.

About death... well, I understand completely the yearning for the story to be different than I suspect it must be. My mother died too young, but she seemed quite at peace in her last hours, so I think people do (sometimes? often?) manage to find ways to accept what must be.

Really, it is so wonderful that the universe has found a way (us!) to look at itself and be amazed!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 12:54 am 
Offline
Best friends forever
User avatar

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:33 pm
Posts: 11961
Location: Over there.
Teremia, you are the breath of fresh air I needed!! :hug:

I, too, think most people are mostly good. It's sometimes hard to hang on to that, but it's still the way I feel. So far, anyway. And I've been on the road longer than you have. :)

Here we are at the New Year. My BFF just phoned from Nottingham, England, she was outside on her sister's patio, having a smoke (bad, bad, bad :nono:) and enjoying a fireworks spectacular in honour of the first minutes of 2012.

Lord_M is already well into the second day of 2012.

And despite everything, I'm looking forward to it, myself.

_________________
Dig deeper.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 1:25 am 
Offline
chocolate bearer
User avatar

Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2005 6:27 am
Posts: 3338
Location: beachcombing, or hiking, or dragon boating
Teremia, thank you for the good wishes! We could all use them. I don't believe there is a wish with my name winging its way to me, but I do believe there is someone up on that hill that cares about all of us Haloferians, and that is a comforting thought.

I agree with you and Nerdanel. Entropy sucks (sorry to say it so harshly, but it does) and while making things "good" generally takes a lot of effort, things go "bad" with great ease with or without our effort.

But there is so much of the world that is neither good nor bad, or is an indivisible combination of the two (like public transit). I don't believe the bad outweighs the good. I think both good and bad things are vastly overwhelmed by neutral, indifferent things that don't know or care that we exist.

My brother speaks of "living with cancer" rather than "dying of cancer" or "battling cancer" and I agree with him that during the time he has, it is a positive motivator for him. All of us live with some form of dying, whether we know it or not. For some people, I know what is about to kill them, for some I don't. Every so often I see it clearly, and it overwhelms me, but the rest of the time, I concentrate on the living, not the dying. Funny how that works. You can't ever prepare for grief.

_________________
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

~ Albert Camus


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 1:41 am 
Offline
Feeling grateful
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:41 am
Posts: 32823
Well said, narya.

_________________
Woods is most felt. Nice! it's gentle on your mind.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 1:59 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2007 10:07 am
Posts: 804
Location: North Shire
I sometimes think facing our mortality makes us all the more alive.. all the more wondering what else we've yet to do.. would like to do.. or see.. or be, or say. I would think, to be like Tolkien's elves.. faced with countless years might make years seem a bit less precious, knowing that there is always 'tomorrow'. No matter how long we have, most of us tend to put things off, being less than we could be. Life can be so wonder-filled when we know it is finite.

I have a cousin who passed out the other day, unexpectedly. He's about 55 and has been in a coma for 3/4 days. I do not think his prognosis is good. No warning.. no contemplation.. On the other hand, my mother-in-law, who I met when she was in her mid-50's was 'dying' from the day I met her.. she was always reminding us that she could be gone tomorrow, although she never had a terminal illness. She lived to be 82 and she was 'dying' (not 'living') every day.

It is rarely a blessing to know our 'expiration date' is nearing, but I really like this:
vison wrote:
The only answer I can see to all this is very simple: live until you die.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 8:23 pm 
Offline
Fëanoriondil
User avatar

Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2006 8:13 pm
Posts: 1912
I've always viewed the quote in vison's opening post as a quip not unlike, 'Growing old is awful....but it beats the alternative.' Or, as my grandfather liked to point out, 'The first hundred years are the hardest.'

Meaning, a tacit recognition that suffering, quite frankly, sucks, but then again....it means you're not dead (yet).

I do agree, though, that the more life throws at you, the more sick and tired of everything you get. Not 'stronger,' in the sense of ready to jump up and run marathons. Some wounds you never really recover from (and I wrote that without even thinking about Frodo...but of course it fits him, too). The woes some people have to live with just seem completely overwhelming (especially in comparison to my own life thus far), and so, I have to think sometimes that it's hard to blame people for being upset with the hand they were dealt.

But acknowledging that suffering is part of life is one thing. Living through it is another entirely, and people who have do often possess a wisdom and strength that others lack. Not automatically. Some people would learn nothing from their hardships, I suppose. But that is where some of the admiration and comments about strength come from - not everyone can do this.

That being said, no one really wants to contemplate their own mortality. It's...disconcerting and unsettling on all sorts of levels, but even more so if you can't quite dismiss it as 'well, don't have to worry about that any time soon!' So....I can understand being frustrated with people who are too blithe about such topics. (Even if I am totally one of 'those people').

Like others have said above,
"The fear of death keeps us from living, not from dying."
~ Paul C. Roud


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 8:49 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2007 10:07 am
Posts: 804
Location: North Shire
vison, I was thinking about this thread (in conjunction with the 'Who are you' thread) as I went to sleep last night and as it was tumbling through my mind I thought... YOU are irreplaceable. Oh.. I am sure someone would be able to take over the tasks that you do, what you do...but who YOU and all you are, is irreplaceable.

Not that it changes anyones pain or suffering or mortality.. but it's true none-the-less. :hug:



Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 10:21 pm 
Offline
chocolate bearer
User avatar

Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2005 6:27 am
Posts: 3338
Location: beachcombing, or hiking, or dragon boating
Iawrms

_________________
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

~ Albert Camus


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:38 am 
Offline
Creature of the night
User avatar

Joined: Fri Dec 02, 2005 1:36 pm
Posts: 8399
Location: Where least expected
I have known far more loss than I would prefer, and I wouldn't say it's made me stronger, but it has changed my perception, my assumptions. Maybe it's like in the Harry Potter books where only people who have seen someone die can see the thestrals. Things change when you've had to face your own or someone else's mortality.

Maybe it's less strength than wisdom. A shaking off of the illusion of invincibility. But if you can still open yourself to joy, to dare to be vulnerable and hopeful in spite of all you've seen ... well, that is strength.

Strength isn't not hurting. Strength is hurting but still saying Yes to life. Strength is knowing death is coming but not letting the fear kill you first.

I want to welcome all that life throws at me so wholeheartedly that when death comes knocking I'll welcome it too.

It's all worth it.

_________________
Take my hand, my friend. We are here to walk one another home.


Avatar from Fractal_OpenArtGroup


Last edited by WampusCat on Mon Jan 02, 2012 2:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:45 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2007 10:07 am
Posts: 804
Location: North Shire
WampusCat wrote:
Strength isn't not hurting. Strength is hurting but still saying Yes to life. Strength is knowing death is coming but not letting the fear kill you first.

Well said.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 19 posts ] 

All times are UTC


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group