Feb 4, 2013


Buddha Eyes by Finijo

Existential thought of the day: We all need someone to witness our existence. 

It is not enough to be alive, although that is something quite extraordinary. We need to be known, to have people or at least one person know who we are, to verify that we do in fact exist. 

I remember watching a movie when I was a kid that reinforced this idea for me, even though I was so young, I couldn't possibly have understood why they impacted me so profoundly. The film, Cipher in the Snow, was an after school movie and depicted a boy going through his school day without anyone speaking to him. He rides the school bus home and is noticed by nobody and as he steps off the bus, he takes a few steps and then falls into the snow and dies. The rest of the film is spent with a teacher who is supposed to be the boy's favorite teacher (even though he never really noticed the boy in his class) tries to understand who the boy was by talking to his classmates, and he comes to realize that the boy's parents divorced and he has no friends. The teacher concludes that nobody really knew the boy and that he was a "cipher in the snow" and died because nobody loved him. He died without a witness. 

I've been working on my family genealogy for about ten years off and on now. I wonder sometimes why this quest is important to me. It's not like having the information will make a difference in my life. I will live and die regardless of whether I find more information about all of those who came before me. It occurred to me tonight that for me, genealogy is a way to bear witness for ancestors and relatives who lived and died before I was ever conceived. My grandmother gave me the family tree to work on when I was 14 and I don't think I looked at it as more than a curiosity until she died in 2003. When she died, it was like the quest to know her relatives and family burned through me. With each new discovery, I felt like I was a little closer to her and understood her life just a little bit better.  My brother David told me that searching for information about ancestors was 'living in the past." He never really understood. Today Marilyn took a call from the coroner who did David's autopsy. Preliminary results are in and it turns out that David had been diagnosed with diabetes in 2007 and never treated it. He also had "multiple heart attacks." I thought he might have had heart trouble five or six years ago, but when I asked him about the heart tests that I saw paperwork for on the dining room table, he lied to me and said "It was just a check up." He was in denial about so many things and I loved my brother, but he could lie as easily as tell you the truth and even though you knew he could do it, he almost always fooled you. Part of me wants to muster up a little bit of anger about his deception, but I think I am just too sad about the fact that he felt like he had to deceive everyone. 

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