I read the Game of Thrones book series a few years ago, and am still waiting for the next book. I did not watch the HBO version, I have this strange idea that some things should be left to the imagination, but I digress. The element of that story that moved me the most was the mammoth number of deaths. The Washington Post reported 456 deaths, up to the 5th season from the cable version. (If you are a fan, the article is great, entitled, “Valar Morghulis” posted in April 2015.)
Ned Stark, “Winter is Coming,” Lord of Winterfell, Hand of the King, Lord Paramount of the North, Warden of the North, and my hero, beheaded! In the first book! Damn, Mr. Martin didn’t waste any time letting me know what type of writer he is. Good for me, as I love this type of writer. His plot lines followed into logical conclusions, instead of last minute stays. I hated most every time a body dropped, even Sandor Clegane, Dog, The Hound. He was a creep and I was still sorry to see him go. But the book series hooked my interest all the way through.
My most memorable character, who suffered greatly through no fault of her own, was Arya Stark. After having a mainly care free early childhood, Arya’s life was torpedoed again and again. At age 10, she had to send her mystical pet companion, a direwolf named Nymeria, away for it’s own protection. The first loss.
Then, from age 10 to 16…
She was betrayed by her sister, left alone to catch wild birds to feed herself, witnessed as her father was beheaded, her trainer was murdered, she was threatened with rape, bullied, kidnapped; twice! Bound to the Hound, who had protected her farther’s murderer. Her
mother and brother were murdered, and she was doomed to witness
her bother’s corpse get mutilated…
Oh My God. This girl’s life is one trauma after another! The path she takes? No comment, it is a fantasy work after all, so it’s really beside the point. But she stays alive, through it all.
I don’t mean to be flippant because I KNOW people the world over suffer many losses and indignities; all types of suffering, life is full of it. But I couldn’t help but think, most of us have it SO good, at least in developed nations.
I have a friend with whom I made my first cross-country flight some years ago. I had toddlers at home and was full of anxiety, but it’s interesting how she comforted me. She reminded me of her family member who had been in a horrible helicopter crash. She said, “what are the odds Jill, that I will be in a plane crash as well?” It may seem crass, but it did settle me down. Every person and family experiences all types of loss, but the odds are against being dealt ALL of them.
And yet, we are entitled, we are afraid, we are depressed, we are frustrated, we are angry, we are mean, and we are tiresome. At least in America.
One of my deep-sea diving friends looked up the statistics, comparing the loss of loved ones, infant mortalities and life expectancy in first world countries versus developing countries. The thought that sparked, is that we have it so good in comparison, we haven’t really learned how to grieve over our sufferings, whatever they may be. We shake our finger at the sky when life doesn’t go the way we want. Or for that matter, haven’t learned to LOVE, without asking it to be pain free. The numbers bear out, we have it much better on those acute issues.
It’s quite a dichotomy, when we suffer true loss, we buck up and don’t process it fully out. We need to do that in a way that softens our hearts to make us a more compassionate people, and a more resilient people. But instead we bitch and moan at every other little thing as if we deserve better.
As parents, we are always advised not to spoil our children. To NOT give them everything they want as they grow, because life will not follow suit. We even tell them, “life isn’t fair.” But do we act like it ourselves? Do we lament when shit doesn’t go the way we wanted? And what do we teach them, when we make the toddlers share their toys, and take endless turns in the name of fairness and give trophies for simply showing up and cuss out teachers for giving our lovelies bad grades? What about when we get pissed off at the emotions the children feel and act out on? Do we show anger instead of absorbing those emotions for them?
Do we give, “life isn’t fair” lip service, when in reality we expect fairness? Do we get in the car and never expect it to break down? Do we go crazy waiting in traffic? Does a spilled carton of milk or can of paint for that matter, make us go all Attila the Hun? Do we form relationships then bail out when the difficulties come?
My friend Oghenetega Swann had some words recently that spoke to me. This was in reference to cross-sex friendships but it still holds water. “Both secular and religious sanitizing of human emotions has led to a discrepancy between our psyche and our emotions. The ruling out or minimization of emotions in human expressions or interactions (especially in developed societies), has led to an increase in emotional repression and inability to properly embrace and interpret the full range of human emotions.” She has a point. Maybe if we felt it all, we wouldn’t be so quick to demand more from life than was ever really promised?
I don’t like the suffering and I have more questions than answers, but I like Arya, she kept going.
“You know who I am. I’m Arya Stark. Do you know who you are?” Arya Stark, Ice and Fire
“The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.
Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come:
As fish are caught in a cruel net,
or birds are taken in a snare,
so people are trapped by evil times
that fall unexpectedly upon them.”
“Because of this I will weep and wail;
I will go about barefoot and naked.
I will howl like a jackal
and moan like an owl.”