we learned a couple of days ago that a young man (mid 20’s) who went to school with my two sons recently took his own life. I know of two other cases here in our little town of young men about the same age choosing the same sad end. beyond that, I know of maybe half a dozen others who are dealing with depression, substance abuse, the whole spectrum. how are we failing this generation of young men? they are all of an age, mid 20’s (is that it?) all have parents of considerable accomplishment (is that it?) all are extremely bright but emotionally immature (is that it?) I have no idea.
I do know that we send our children terrible messages about what it means to be a man, to be successful. we do this by not challenging or counterbalancing the cultural messages of “not enough”, not “good enough.” When will we learn that we measure ourselves not by which challenges we meet (miles run, money earned,) but by how we meet our challenges.
in a more quaint time, we called this character.
where do we find the courage to breathe
into spring when our own fearful heart remains frozen
in winter? exuberance intrudes everywhere
every tree forcing its leaves, every leaf
holding a crystal drop in its palm. where
do we find the courage to listen
to the liquid song of these birds, the world
rising into flowers whether we like it or not? yet we do
imagine we’ve learned some things along the way—
that our plans almost never work out
and that this is often for the best; that despite all
of our struggles we are all dying
always, even as the profusion proceeds
around us; that we can’t protect those we love
from the inexorable weather of this world.
that even when joined at the heart
we can only hear the thunder of our own
personal fate — so few of us can hear anything
above the sound of our own wind,
can see through the thick fog of our own consequences.
we shout our warnings to the children
from this vantage point of years,
but we are not heard, cannot be heard, our thin voices
doomed in the swirling clouds of time
consumed by the utter indifference
of this gathering storm, by these winds, the rushing
of this water, by these leaves, dying
and falling away.
© J.A. Fink 2013