Being woke from a half sleep, I read the following over at Dave Rogers, about his finding out that a neighbor of his had died:
So here’s this guy, 35 or thereabouts, who’s going through some tough times, and he’s pretty well off financially, I guess […] He lived probably 50 feet from where I’m typing these words. And not only did I not know him, or know of his problems, I didn’t even know he died until my daughter told me.
But here I am. I know all about Doc Searls’ sore back from getting ready to move into yet another house (What’s up with that?), I know about Dave Weinberger’s Office files being unavailable or something, I know that Halley Suitt seems to want to know how other people manage. (Halley, apparently some don’t.) I know a lot of shit about people I’ll never meet, and I don’t know a damn thing about this guy who died all alone less than 50 feet from where I sit; and was dead for four days before anyone cared enough to get off their ass and knock on his door to see if he was all right.
I don’t really know what that says about me. Nothing good, I’m afraid. I don’t know what it says about my community that none of my neighbors mentioned it to me. I don’t know what it says about our society that a guy can die and we can efficiently collect the body quickly enough that most people won’t even notice. Of course, I’m absolutely certain at least a few people will deign to opine that if the guy had only maintained a weblog, he’d probably be alive right now. The guy must not have gotten the memo or something. Must have missed the ClueTrain™, I guess.
Anyway, just another reality-based data point for those of you who like to wax rhapsodic about certain consensual delusions regarding this being an “intimate planet.” Chances are there’s someone within a stone’s throw of where you sit who could use a little intimacy of some kind right about now, and you don’t know it. Worse, you never will.
(ed: Sorry, long quote. So sue me.)
In the town where I grew up, one boy I knew died when his car was hit by a truck, and another died when a rock slide hit his car; another drowned, and a fourth died of cancer. I would wrestle with one, and exchanged kisses with another, and wished I had with a third, and only knew the fourth because everyone knew everyone in the town but I think we crashed into each other during Red Rover, once.
The manager of our apartment complex died in a car accident last year; the husband of one of my roommate’s co-workers died of a heart attack a month ago. Unfortunately, a few dozens of people died in Iraq today because of a horrible mistake.
I didn’t shed a tear when I heard of any of their deaths because I only have the capacity to connect intimately with a few. Oh, I can sympathize and tsk tsk and shake my head at how young some of them were when they died, and even get angry at the waste; but I don’t feel their deaths intimately. Frankly, I’m glad I don’t, because we only have the capacity to care so much. We can either choose to care for many, thinly; or a few, deeply.
Intimate. The definition for intimate is:
1. Marked by close acquaintance, association, or familiarity.
2. Relating to or indicative of one’s deepest nature: intimate prayers.
3. Essential; innermost: the intimate structure of matter.
4. Marked by informality and privacy: an intimate nightclub.
5. Very personal; private: an intimate letter.
6. Of or involved in a sexual relationship.
A close friend or confidant.
A close friend or confidant. How close? Ten feet? A hundred? 265 days?
Funny, aside from the sexual relationship, there’s nothing in this to denote there must be a certain number of feet–or a certain number of minutes–between the object one is intimate with and ourselves. And if one is creative, it doesn’t have to matter with the sexual relationship, either.
I disagree with you, Dave: this is a very intimate planet. But intimacy has a price. More importantly, its one price for all: no long distance charges apply.
Now, I’m going back to bed before I blather irritably some more.