April 21st, 2017
It is amazing how many people tell me, without being prompted or asked, that they wish he would die. I’m not going to say his name, but you know exactly whom I am talking about. Admit it, you have felt this way, too. Just this morning I was talking to a friend and she dropped it into the conversation with about the same degree and type of emphasis that she might have used in confessing that she doesn’t like cats. I had to admit that practically every morning when I wake up I check the news right away hoping to read of a popcorn choking incident or myocardial infarction. This does not make us better people, I said. She said, well, but so long as it’s just him we’re thinking about, it’s not so bad. I suppose that’s one approach. For a while I tried imagining myself inside his head, so that through the magic of empathy I might be able to see him as a human being, like me, deserving of compassion the same as I am. I thought of him as severely emotionally crippled, isolated, unable to connect effectively with other human beings, suffering the pain that goes with that. I’m not that kind of person, but at least that gave me something to work with. I know something about loneliness. I was aware that there was a certain amount of schadenfreude in trying to connect with him this way, but it seemed to make him more real and less of a malevolent fantasy. But then a friend I respect, a psychologist highly experienced in working with criminals, told me that he is a psychopath and he doesn’t feel any pain, at least not the kind of pain I was imagining. I pretty much believe her. So there goes any basis I can find for relating to him, bringing him within my world of experience, and now what do I do? Empathy doesn’t work if it’s fantasy. I still don’t want to be the kind of person who wakes up every morning wishing that somebody were dead. Maybe the answer comes out of meditation. There’s no point in repressing a thought. That just attaches you to it and gives it power. Instead you allow the thought to happen, acknowledge that it is happening, and then say goodbye to it. I wish it were that easy to deal with him: allow him to happen, acknowledge that he is happening, and then say goodbye to him. I am impatient. I want to get to the goodbye part without going through the rest. I must remember that “going through the rest” constitutes most of what we call living, and that wishing to cut to the end, the goodbye part, is in that sense a wish for one’s own death to come closer. Am I large enough to live in a world that also contains incomprehensible evil? I hope so. Remember to breathe.