I'm a fairly opinionated person. Which is good, in the main, because I'm in the business of presenting opinions, bolstered by a scaffolding of fact, of course, to give them form and structure.
So if I don't have a view on something, I tend not to write about it. Thus, no columns on ... oh for instance ... golf. Never done it. Don't have strong feelings about those who do. If you like golf, well, go for it. It's a free country, at least for now.
But on Sunday I wrote about the sign at right that Metra has put around its station in Northbrook in order to discourage suicides. I felt ... uncertain ... about them (they are two that I noticed). But I couldn't exactly say why. There was discussion here, but there was also a spirited conversation on my Facebook page, and reader Sarah E. Lauzen offered a key to my unease by posting this flier:
This struck me as something of actual use to people considering suicide. Don't get me wrong -- a phone number for a suicide hotline no doubt helps certain people. But there is also a not-my-table aspect to it — the problem isn't being addressed, it's being delegated. The above could save a person immediately. Then I thought of Galway Kinnell's lovely poem "Wait," which I used to frame the Time chapter in my new book. Kinnell wrote it for a student who was considering killing herself after a failed love affair. It begins:
Wait, for now.You can read the entire poem here.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven't they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Metra should post the "Everything is Awful" questions, or the Kinnell poem, AND the hotline number. To just have the number is minimal and reeks of the same societal indifference that nudges people toward suicide in the first place. Which is why the signs troubled me. It's as if, on the bridges downtown, they placed, not a life ring behind glass, but a number to call to request a life ring. Big difference.
Oh. And while we're on the subject of Sunday. I used the word "Masonic" to describe the sign with the shaking hands. I was not implying something dark or indifferent about Masons, not suggesting they wouldn't leap to assist those in need. It's just that Masonic banners sometimes use the shaking hands iconography being discussed. As Sigmund Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.