Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On Sadness, Joy Division, and Baptismal Covenants

I've been really into New Order and Joy Division lately. I can't believe I never knew about the tragedy of Ian Curtis until yesterday when I was googling the details of the Joy Division to New Order transition.

I can't believe I never heard about (or was simply unaware of, at age 8) his debilitating epilepsy and suicide in 1980. (That's when Joy Division became New Order.) Ian Curtis had seizures on stage as the Joy Division frontman. He was only diagnosed in 1979 and there was some stigma surrounding epilepsy. He didn't have the right medicine for his seizure disorder. He struggled with depression and his fans and bandmates didn't know. Then he hung himself. It is so, so sad. What a sweet, troubled guy. I watched interviews and videos until I cried. He speaks in a pretty high voice, which is surprising considering how low he sings for Joy Division.

I was already sad about Robin Williams, of course. I mean, obviously I didn't know him but he meant something to me (he seems to have meant something to everyone.) I loved Popeye so much and bought the soundtrack with my own money in 1980, which might explain why I wasn't so up on Joy Division at the time.

At any rate, every now and then tears would just start streaming from my eyes thinking about Ian Curtis or Robin Williams. There are people more immediately affected by their loss for sure. I know that. I wasn't even crying for my own loss of Robin Williams in my life. I guess I cried because I'm sorry there are people who are that sad. I don't have depression, but I've been down. Without minimizing it, I think I can kind of imagine what it might be like. I remember after 9/11 (and I know it's unusual to conflate the death of a rock star or Robin Williams with 9/11, but that's what I'm doing) I would cry intermittently as well (and if you know me you know I'm not a big crier). Again, I was not personally affected by 9/11 the way so many people who lost loved ones were effected, but every now and then it was like this massive grief just settled on me. And I let it. It's like, I'm willing to feel some of this sadness. It's not that I'm a masochist and I hope I'm not trying to horn in on someone else's tragedy. Because that's tacky. But if there is that much suffering I wish I could take some on me. When my kids give a talk or do something they are scared to do I feel nervous for them and I always wish I could take the nerves off of them and have them on me. It's kind of a moot point though because no one feels as nervous as I do about giving talks.

It doesn't seem like there is any point in this willingness to share grief or bear the sadness of another person. I don't think it lessens the overall grief or takes away someone else's sadness. Certainly me feeling sad about Robin Williams doesn't help his wife or kids feel any better. Does it? I don't know. I wish it it did. 

I am wondering about this because there seem to be people who breeze through this life unscathed because they don't care. I'm jealous of them. They make decisions that affect other people without agonizing over it. They don't feel guilty. They don't worry that they said something dumb or that someone took it the wrong way. I hate them! They don't suffer! I wish I were like that.

But then again, in Mosiah when Alma explains the LDS baptismal covenant (which I have made) he says that we should be willing to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort and "willing to bear one another's burdens that they may be light." 

So maybe helping bear a burden does lighten it? Literally helping someone carry something lightens their load. I don't know how it works with sadness or depression but it is clear that whether it is for us or for them or for the sake of humanity we should mourn, comfort, and bear the burdens of other people. Probably sitting around feeling sad is not exactly doing this, but a lack of sympathy is worse. 


  1. I've never been suicidal but I have experienced depression. Absolutely without a doubt, the people who shared their own experiences with me (in terms of depression or anxiety) lightened my burden. No question. Even just people being kind lightened it, and that is easier when you're sympathetic or empathetic.. I think you're on to something here. :) nice post. I cried about 9/11 too. And the school shootings, and wars and prominent suicides. I think it's human and beautifully so to share in that burden with people we don't know.

  2. Always dwell on the dark side of blight


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