Thursday, April 20, 2017

Relationship Joy and Pain

Cover shows a drawing of a man, who appears to be made of newspaper and is engulfed in flames, standing on top of some books. His right arm is down and holding what appears to be a paper fireman's hat while his left arm is wiping sweat from the brow of his bowed head. Beside the title and author's name in large text, there is a small caption in the upper left-hand corner that reads, "Wonderful stories by the author of The Golden Apples of the Sun".
I spend a great deal of time in the car driving to and from work.  I started listening to books through my local library which is really great.  Sometimes I am terribly distracted by the book and I miss my exit, but for the most part it has been a joy.  Right now I am on a John Grisham kick.  This past week, I was looking through the library list and the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury leaped out at me.

I remember reading this book in high school, and I remembered the ending very clearly.  This book stuck with me my whole life even though it has been more than 30 years since I read it.  However, I thought it would be fun to refresh my mind with this great book.

While reading, I was familiar with the context that in the timeframe of the book, firemen no longer put out fires, but set them.  They burned books, people with books, and the homes where the books were found.  The hound with the lethal injection was actually a robotic device with programming to kill anyone the state deemed a problem.

What stunned me about the book this time was the relationships (or lack thereof) in the book.  The main character, Guy Montag, was married, but couldn't remember where he met his wife.  His wife was a surreal woman whose life was wrapped up in a 3 wall (she wanted 4...) television system in their parlor.  Her life was spent engaged with actors (her "family") and not her husband.  She was constantly suicidal.

Other players in the book were similar to Guy's wife.  They were void of relationship.  They had no grief, at least outwardly.  They operated as robots without any purpose.  One woman had had many husbands that all died in one way or another, yet she was devoid of emotion about it.

The book also focuses on commercialism. Commercialism teaches us that happiness is most important.  Happiness is socially acceptable and socially expected.  Yet, like Guy's wife, secretly we are miserable.  We are lonely in a crowded room.

Some people live superficial lives.  Having the trendy clothes, handbags, cars, and dinner invitations are what are important.  We isolate ourselves from others through social media which gives us the illusion of having close relationships.  Don't get me wrong here.  Social media has reconnected me to old friends and family that I had lost track of through the years.  Social media has its place.

Relationships, real relationships, have emotional exposure.  Relationships intertwine others around our hearts and makes us have deep feelings one another.  During stressful times, relationships are strained.  During quiet times, relationships grow closer.  The best relationships have more good and less bad.  The worst have more bad and less good.  Even the worst relationships have something good involved.  Otherwise there would be no relationship.

Relationships are truly the core of society.  Without relationships we are all zombies, or robots going through the motions.  Relationships heal and relationships hurt.  They bring joy and they bring pain.  The pain is especially bad when the relationship is lost through death or estrangement.  The more intertwined we are in each others' hearts, the deeper the pain associated with the loss.

Recently I was on an extended business trip out of the country.  It hurt to be away from my wife.  Because of the time difference, we had very little time to talk, but each day we both strove to talk for a few minutes every morning and evening via Facebook video chat.  My wife and I have a wonderful relationship but we still cause each other pain from time to time. I'm glad my wife is a loving and forgiving person.

Sometimes, relationships continue even when one member of the relationship fails to keep up their end.  Parents with wayward adult children, children with addicted parents, and spouses who are unfaithful are just some of these kinds of relationships.  In these cases, pain is caused because of what should or could have been.

So, are relationships worth it?  Ask Guy Montag and his wife from the book I mentioned. Relationships bring us flavor and spice.  They modify our thinking and temper our impulses.  Relationships bring us love and joy, yet also pain and frustration.  Can we isolate ourselves from others and protect our hearts?  Perhaps, but we lose in the long run.

Garth Brooks wrote and sang a wonderful song about taking the chance on relationships even though life has a way of bringing pain.  I will close by copying it below.

I encourage us all to pour ourselves into our relationships and lap up the benefits.  Yes, there will be pain, but don't miss the dance...

"The Dance" by Garth Brooks

Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared 'neath the stars above
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you'd ever say goodbye

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd have had to miss the dance

Holding you I held everything
For a moment wasn't I a king
But if I'd only known how the king would fall
Hey who's to say you know I might have changed it all

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd have had to miss the dance

Yes my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain but I'd have had to miss the dance