"Right now, Life is toying with me; dangling Death right in front of my nose, only to snatch it away when I reach out to grab it."

"If the warring polar opposites of your family have cleft your heart in two, throw away the worser part of it and live the purer with the other half. As sentient, thinking human beings we are all free to be ourselves - to be what we most want and value - and need not live hostage as passive victims of what we deterministically call 'circumstances' (social, cultural, or reductively psychological-personal)."

Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 13:52:31 GMT
To: cybrgbl@deltanet.com
From: DeltaNet Form Processor (formpro@www.deltanet.com)
Subject: Feedback and or Questions

The field values for the form received were:

Name="Maria G."
comments="Dear Mr Geib,

Please read on, just a few paragraphs. My first language is Spanish, and my English is not so great, but I have a story for you, and I think it is important. This is a true story. This is My Story, and I think it is relevant. I think...

I initially stumbled onto your page for study reasons (Russian Revolution), but I got to reading your "Thoughts worth thinking" page and decided to share a piece of my little life.

My mother was raped and thus impregnated, at the age of 32, and being a good Spanish Roman Catholic, abortion was not an option. I was the result of that rape; or rather, myself and my sister. To my 'father'(my mother's husband) this was a tragedy: he is a verile, potent Spaniard. He was one of many brothers, his father was one of many brothers, his mother was one sister among many brothers and he himself has sired two wonderful (perfect, even) verile males. I was not in the bargain, and when my twin died at birth the proof of my absolute evil soul was confirmed for my parents.

All my life, they have treated me like a devil that they needed to save, because of these circumstances...but, unfortunately there is more.

I was born in Spain, and when I was one year old, my parents moved to New Zealand, leaving me in Spain. I lived there with my older brother (ten years my senior) and some relatives. My brother is the only real parent I have ever known in my life, and he is also the only person who never treated me like an outcast because of my pre- and post-birth tradgedies. At the age of four I was involved in an automobile accident, where I was driven off a cliff, and subsequently, lost my knee-caps. This has hindered my movement substancially, but I can walk now, thanks to the wonders of silicon.

My brother, who was 14 at the time, took care of me, spending hours each day with me; my only visitor. My parents never once visited. Not a phone call. Not a letter. So why tell you this, you must be thinking. Why retell the sob story of my life?

On your "Thoughts worth thinking" page, you speak of your own experiences with death. I am truly sorry that you ever had to experience Death in your lifetime; I know well how it feels to lose a loved one, both slowly and painfully and in the blink of an eye.

When I was ten years old, I lost my brother to violence. He was shot in the head multiple times and died almost instantly. In one moment, I lost my world. I was only ten, and didn't comprhend the magnitude of the situation then, but now I know that I lost my innocence then. In one moment the sweet girl that I had been, full of joy and life-affirming, became cynical, morbid and desolate. I lost my will to live.

I had no one to look after me, so my parents took me back, but every day since then, they remind me of my evil nature. Every day, they remind me that I ruined their lives and "killed" their beautiful boy. And every day I believe them a little more.

My brothers last words to me were that "Summer's first green is gold" a quote from his favourite poem. He believed that I was gold, and I believed him.

The only reason I am still alive is that my parent's culture forbids them to kick me out of their home, since they haven't enough evidence to disown me. I try to prove my worth to them, but it doesn't work.

I spend most of my time in Hospices or Rehab Centres with my friends who are mostly AIDS or cancer patients and Paraplegics. That gives me somthing to live for.

Mainly, I wanted to write to you, to let you know that Death is a big issue for people. I'm not sure about other countries, but I know New Zealand has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world. My school mates often talk about killing themselves over break-ups, failed exams or other relative trivialities. Sometimes I feel envious of them, with their loving families and "trivial" problems.

I think that I've grown up too soon, because of everything that has happened in my life. I had to learn to deal with death, before I even got to deal with life. This scares me, because if it can happen to me, then it can happen to anyone, and I can't bare the thought of children having to grow up without love; without hope.

I am 17 years old, this year. I often talk about myself as worldly, although I am still, in essence, a child.

I am living with people who wish me dead, but cannot kill me, for religious reasons.

But, I'm still alive; if only to stop what happened to me, from happening to any others.

I realise now the stupidity of this comment, but for the sake of conviction I'm going to post it anyhow.

Who knows, you might see the point, even if I've lost it..."

How is life treating you?="Right now, Life is toying with me; dangling Death right in front of my nose, only to snatch it away when I reach out to grab it."
Findout="Just surfed on in!"
Country?="New Zealand"

      Dear Maria,

      I was very moved by your story and appreciate your sharing it with me. I have waited a week to respond so as to fully think through all I would say to you, so please accept my apologies for a tardy response. What you tell me is so full of anguish and misfortune that I am afraid there is little I can do by means of anything so dull and feckless as the written word to ameliorate your pain. But I would make a few comments about some of the important issues you bring up.

      I truly believe, as Steinbeck and others have claimed, that there exists a perpetual warfare between good and the evil in the battleground of the human heart: "We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil." Such a struggle is readily apparent in your life. Your brother saw you to be "gold" and you believed him. Now he is murdered. Your parents remind you of your "evil nature" and everyday you find yourself believing them a little more. Maria, you are obviously grown up too soon having learnt early that which other might learn only later: that in this sad world sorrow and loss come to all. This is the same in the lives of those less buffeted than yourself by the inclement winds of fortune. Early in life you have come to expect this, and if fate has robbed you of a measure of your innocence prematurely it has also conferred upon you a strength and determination which is not inconsiderable. This seems plain to me, even if it does not to you.

      Nowhere in your e-mail was I more shocked than to hear that your parents supposedly look upon your birth and then the death of your sister as proof of your "absolute evil." Rabindranath Tagore tells us that every newborn baby comes to the world with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man - that mankind might progress rather than regress! Maria, that the milk of human kindness flows strongly in you is apparent enough; and all this "devil needing to be saved" business seems a projection on behalf of your parents who obviously lack the sophistication and subtlety to understand the irony that many an evil or cruel circumstance brings with it in the fullness of time a happy consequence. Case in point: A rape brings forth into the world a sensitive young woman who befriends AIDS patients and cancer victims in her spare time. Where is the "absolute evil" in that? Remember: Just because they are your parents does not mean they cannot be completely mistaken or cruelly callous; that people (even your parents!) believe something to be true about you does not make it so.

"Greater is he that is in you than he is that is in the world."
I John 4:4

That your parents fail in their duty to raise you with love and consideration might be grounds for disappointment and bitter regret. It need not be the grounds for despair and loss of hope.

      Because you do have some things for which to be thankful. Your brother seems to have breathed something of the joy of life into you, even as others would suck it out. If the warring polar opposites of your family have cleft your heart in two, throw away the worser part of it and live the purer with the other half. As sentient, thinking human beings we are all free to be ourselves - to be what we most want and value - and need not live hostage as passive victims of what we deterministically call "circumstances" (social, cultural, or reductively psychological-personal). Yet we are so often our own worst enemies! "Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion," Henry David Thoreau tells us. "What a man thinks of himself, that is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate." It is we, in other words, who are ultimately responsible for our own happiness!

      And now you are almost a full-grown woman in your own right and will soon be able to make your way in life independent of your parents; and we live in a wide and beautiful world wherein there are many people, places and experiences well worth knowing. It is helpful to be born into a loving family in a supportive environment; but it is imperative that you love yourself, struggle to be happy, and thereby make yourself worthy of friendship and the love of others. A tragic past need not doom you to a future devoid of triumph; bred to a harder thing than triumph in your past, Maria, turn away and like a laughing string where on mad fingers play amid a place of stone, be secret and exult, as Yeats advises us, because of all things known, that is most difficult. To see and experience the worst this world can throw at you and yet remain unbowed and soberly optimistic, -- that is genius! You have reason to count yourself fortunate and well-situated with regards to the future.

      I read with considerable interest your comments about death "being a big issue for young people." Never make the mistake of fantasizing about Death and dressing It up into some sort of an idealized state of blessed welcome release which holds more Beauty than anything to be found here in Life. I have always considered the practice by some young people of falling in love with death a great perversion for which adults are usually responsible. John Keats warns us:

NO, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolfs-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.*

Death will come for you in its own good time, and until then I urge you to live like a prisoner under sentence of death enjoying a sort of indefinite reprieve. Luxuriate in the ecstasy of every moment as a living breathing creature on this earth, knowing full well it will not last forever. Use the time you have left towards some positive, useful end.

      I read last week in the newspaper about a reporter who got into a car with her fifteen-year old son and another woman who told her that until recently she would have had to change seats, as she would not have been able to bear the pain of seeing a teenage son and his mother together. This poor lady's seventeen-year old son's girlfriend one day suddenly broke up with him; the young man then went into the garage and killed himself, effectively fashioning a permanent solution to his temporary problem. This seems to me the very height of folly and tragedy! Dead forever of a problem from which he would have recovered after a handful of months, and remembered only vaguely in a few years! With you I detect a more profound problem born not out of panic or frenzy but something entirely more deeply rooted: you have stamped on you your parent's hurtful words and harmful influences from childhood. Nevertheless, each successive year you become less the offspring of your parents and more your own person, and your self-image might very well change drastically with time.

      Time and patience are the balms which soothe wounds and help to fade them into scars; if you can be injured and can suffer, you can also forgive and be healed. Not that you can ever un-do or forget the damage, but you can survive and become even stronger from it. Above all, I hope you do not become one of those haunted, miserably unhappy people that despise and despair of their lives and who time and time again try to kill themselves until finally they succeed. Life - precarious and painful as it can be - is a gift, and I hope you can come to look less on the past and more to the future and possible happiness. Teach yourself the discipline of gratitude and find something to be grateful for every single day - even if it only be the sunset or a small kindness a stranger shows you. Even if life is mean to you, don't be mean to yourself -- and don't be ungrateful to the gift of life.

      This all might sound trite to say and condescending to hear, but I would say it anyway because I think it is true. It is easy for me to sit here at my computer and urge you to overcome a grief I don't share; but then again I see a latent strength in you and respect also the universal fact that human beings can overcome and survive even the most unforgiving of misfortunes with time and patience. Maria, you will meet many people who will love you and on whom you will be able to depend; although you have maybe encountered few such persons in your family, they exist in abundance in the world. Trust me on this.

      One last thing: be wary of the romanticizing of youthful innocence in "summer's first green is gold." You have already eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (perhaps before you were ready) and there is no going back to the golden age of innocence. You have your cross to bear and it lies only for you to bear it. But believe me when I tell you that the deep contentment and mature wisdom born out of a lifetime of struggling, suffering, and learning can bring you a better brand of happiness than the unconsidered and unknowing bliss of unspoiled childhood. I importune you gently but firmly to make yourself happy through a life of principle and service to others. I believe this, besides putting the lie to your parent's beliefs about you, might render you worthy of happiness and, with a little luck, actually happy.

      Maria, please come back and visit my webpage whenever you feel discouraged so as to hear the voice of a friend, read a poem to touch your heart, or look upon a beautiful picture across the Internet.

      Very Truly Yours,

      Richard Geib

* From "Ode on Melancholy" by John Keats. The allusions in the quoted stanza are as follows: Lethe, a river whose waters in Hades bring forgetfulness to the dead; nightshade and wolfsbane are poisonous herbs from which sedatives and opiates were extracted; Prosperine is the Queen of Hades; yew-berries are symbols of mourning which often grow in cemeteries; death-moth, beetle, downy owl et al. refers to the beetles, moths, and owls have been traditionally associated with darkness, death and burial - "Psyche" means "soul", sometimes symbolized by a moth that escapes the mouth in sleep or at death.

Dear Richard,

(I hope it doesn't seem rude for me to address you by your first name, but I felt strange calling you "Mr Geib", when you call me "Maria". If it offends you, I offer my profound apologies) I sincerely appreciate your kind and thoughful response. I especially appreciate your advise, and am contemplating how I might put it into practise. Also, I am quite happy to have my letter on your website (in fact, I am quite honoured that you would think it worthy of appearing there in amongst the wonderful poetry and philosophy).

I realise fully that death is no beautiful escape from the trials of life. I know too many people who have used that excuse to not see the blatant (what I feel is) stupidity involved with suicide. Also, I have a particularly silly idea that to die by your own hand is cowardly, and I like to feel that I am not a coward. "To live with fear is a life half lived"; an old Spanish saying. I personally agree with it, and like to think that I am not so afraid of life that I would terminate it (very much like cutting off one's nose to spite one's face).

I do realise that despite my past there is much hope for my future. I can see joy in the most simple things, and I do know that I can be happy. Although, I also realise that I will never feel worthy of love or happiness, or at least, I don't think I can, because I can only compare it to the one love I have ever recieved. But, yet again, I sometimes catch myself feeling surprisingly joyful, and I really do hope that I can retain that into adulthood.

I really must reinforce how much your faith in me means to me, even if it is only via a computer. Your kindness has inspired me to feel more than a little self-worth, and for that, I am indebted to you. So, thankyou, thankyou a thousand times over; for believeing in me and believeing me worthy of salvation.

Semi-happily Yours,


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