It can take a while before I am ready to make a change. But after living with gathering inconvenience, the day sometimes arrives when I finally can.
I recently went through this process with my desktop computer. For most of a decade, my computer behaved perfectly. Then eventually, problems started appearing; first, I started getting double spaces between words; then my computer’s ethernet port stopped connecting to our Comcast modem, so I lived with occasional freezing on WIFI. That problem went away when my wife found a USB adaptor that allowed the ethernet cable to bypass its dedicated port, and this allowed me to schedule two interviews which needed fast ethernet speeds. One interview was to talk about my thirty-five-year involvement with the Time, Space, Knowledge vision, and one was to talk about my two-year involvement with Survivor of Suicide groups. But before either interview could take place, I discovered that now neither of my microphones were working.
Knowing that I couldn’t be interviewed without a microphone, I bought a new computer.
From the moment I started writing this blog, I have been thinking about how human beings also break down; and when someone close to us is unable to deal with the challenges of their life there is no way to transfer their life force onto a new platform.
At SOS meetings, mental health is often in the room. With depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia or social anxiety, the lives of our loved ones are swept up before our eyes.
When someone we care about is unable to free themselves from physical, mental and emotional difficulties, we all wonder what we could have done. Is it not human nature to wonder what we could have done differently? I see my self-doubt reflected in SOS meetings where, as well as finding solace among others who have lost someone to suicide, I have recently become a facilitator of those meetings.
I know that it is not only survivors of suicide who question themselves as they watch their dreams being consumed in flames and flooded by end-times rising from the sea.
But there is another doubt that haunts those who gather in SOS groups, where we recognize one another’s wounds. We call these haunting images the “terrible what if’s”. They are the voices in our minds that tell us we could have done something differently.
What I have found most helpful is the recognition that I only knew what I knew at the time, and that I would forgive anyone else for only knowing what they knew, as life was sweeping over them. This is our human condition. And if we treat ourselves as culpable for just being human, we will cripple ourselves for all of time. I choose to keep living with the hope that I can keep learning, if only for my future self. This seems to require that I not flee from the recognition that I have always been at the heart of everything that has happened to me, and of those whose love I carry within me.
But what does any of this have to do with the routine breakdown of the technology on which we rely?
I mentioned above how the first indication that my computer was tottering on its last legs were double spaces appearing between the words I typed. As this problem became increasingly extreme (more than 100 incidences on a single page), and when a new keyboard didn’t solve the problem, I knew it couldn’t be due to software, because it was happening in both Word and e-mails. I assumed it must be occurring beyond my control in hardware or operating systems. So, imagine my surprise when, files and programs all transferred and reinstalled onto a new platform, double spaces showed up again!
I think a connection between the breakdowns that afflict technology (software and hardware) and human beings (their thoughts and the brains that host them) occurs to me because after Jon’s death I saw a neuropsychologist for some months. His training in neurology led him, based on what I shared with him, to conclude that Jon’s brain was causing him to feel disconnected from human relationships. This helped me to question some of the “terrible what if’s”, but it seemed an incomplete story of my son’s life.
One thing is clear. I need to keep typing, for my own mental health, and I need to keep living the life I have been given, with all its breakdowns and heart-wrenching losses.
Once I discovered that I was creating the double spaces, it became possible to learn to type differently. With the aid of a keyboard that makes typing more awkward, I am learning to live with that awkwardness and most of the extra spaces have disappeared.
Realizing that my own typing was the problem, I wonder what I was doing that affected my son’s relationship with life. Alas, the death of another human being can’t be taken back, nor completely replaced by any other life. But we can learn from what has happened. We can learn to live with our own wobbly mental and emotional architecture and to do our best to hold up our side of our continuing relationship with the waves that will never stop rolling through the days of our lives.
“I only knew what I knew at the time.”
You nailed it. How could it have been otherwise in that moment, despite the relentless judgments we assail our past self as the current self sits in merciless judgment over the previous self.
Without caring, without compassion for that previous self, the current self in assuming it’s superiority, is cruelly and unsympathetically judgmental. The self rips itself apart under the duality of its judgments. A self-perpetuating torture, unless caring and compassion are allowed.
How could it be otherwise? “I only knew what I knew at the time.”