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February 06, 2003

"Admit It: You Don't Care

"Admit It: You Don't Care All That Much About Seven Dead Astronauts. Here's Why." The bluntness of the title took my breath away. At first, I was thinking, how could he write this? But then again, I know what he means. A lot of people must see the shuttle's destruction like a plane crash - terrible but removed from their lives. And I do remember the sadness, but also the relief, of all things, when that plane crashed in November and it turned out to be mechanical problems, not terrorism. I read an article yesterday about why the loss of the astronauts touches people more than mass statistics about people dying of cancer or from car crashes. People identify with people, with names. It's a survival instinct, caring about others, retaining our social bonds. But it's balanced by the instinct for self-preservation - at some point we have to learn to cope, tune things out, or just acknowledge we're too distant to have a deeper connection. Otherwise how would the human race go on, if everyone remained paralyzed with grief, carrying everyone's burdens? We reach out, try to help shoulder the pain for the ones who suffer, but our loss isn't as hard to bear as it is for the families and friends, the people who really knew them.

So we move on, not necessarily forgetting, still having compassion and providing comfort to those who need it, but inevitably we are taken back by the humdrum details of our lives. Although the circumstances are always different, the equalizer is that we will all be touched by pain and suffering, by terrible loss at some point in our lives. But the opposite is also true - there will be instances of happiness and joy, of great contentment. That is what we should strive for. Our mortality is a given, let's not waste time on the things we can't control. Let us be kind and generous with our love and friendship, our zeal for life. And in living so, we'll honor the memories of those we cherish, and miss.

I still cried, though, as I read the paper on the train home last night.

Yours, &c., LC | 11:32 AM |