Living in a vicarious world, and I’m a non-participant …

Craig Hall, Publisher
Craig Hall, Publisher

At least I hope and pray I am.

I guess this occurs more often than I recognize, which is good considering the headline of this column, that I’m moved little to not at all when someone who others describe as “great” or “one-in-million” or “irreplaceable” passes away. And yes, Robin Williams taking his own life strikes me much the same way.

This will probably not prevent the inevitable “walk a mile in his shoes” retorts from those who disagree or find me offensive or callous for having no feelings one way or other about this event. It will also not help me “understand” the topic of depression any more or less than my own experiences have permitted, let alone Williams’ thoughts of suicide — which, as we all know, he put into effect. But those are simply the result of the vicarious world we live in, and there’s little I can do to prevent them from occurring. It’s very much the same as I could have had zero effect on what was occurring in Robin Williams’ life.

If having no ability to affect someone or very little feelings about someone I don’t know, never will know or will even have a perchance passing glance makes me evil incarnate, I guess that’s simply one more demon in the houseful I live with.

Facebook — which I’m beginning to believe is the single most accurate barometer of what’s happening to us as a nation, and it’s not a good thing — exploded in the aftermath of the news of Williams’ passing. I’m not going to dwell on parsing that particular word for what occurred, but I was rather curious as to the words people used to describe this tragic event. Heartbroken, devastated, disbelief, irreplaceable come to mind as I write this. And those were folks from Grand Junction.

And therein lies my point. Just how did we get to the point where an actor — albeit one who was a gifted, funny and talented — whom we’ve never met could cause reactions that should be reserved for those closest to us? And how does my writing that question worry me as to how folks reading this will judge my feelings with the exact opposite emotions? Perhaps this is where I’ll add the prayer that I hope these folks aren’t living vicariously through me in some absurd manner.

But it isn’t just through stars like Robin Williams that we live vicariously. Let’s use Facebook itself as an example. We all have profiles through which we vicariously live on Facebook. Think you don’t? Then ask yourself this: Have you ever said something on Facebook to or about someone or something that you’d never say to someone’s face or in polite conversation in public? Exactly. You can find local groups on Facebook that openly wish for certain people to fail (which some will, people always fail), who openly call others Nazis who don’t agree with them and who openly call folks stupid. And that’s just one group of “patriots.” Yes, Facebook is vicarious escapism at its finest.

How about our overzealousness when it comes to politicians — who thrive on it by the way — in placing all of our hopes and dreams in them? Yes, President Barack Obama comes to my mind immediately. After all, he proved his need for our vicarious nature by calling himself the blank canvas upon which we can all paint our hopes, dreams and desires. And yes, too many fell for it. But this extends to all of the egos of politicians at all levels. I keep being told I need to meet this politician or I should vote for someone because they think just like me. Really? The only person I know who knows exactly what I’m thinking is not of this earth, and He didn’t put me here to become someone’s minion. Because the last time I checked, I was uniquely and wonderfully made. I might disappoint the man upstairs from time to time, but I know there are better plans for me than holding up a sign behind some egomaniac while professing to the adoring throng all their problems will be solved by the politician spewing talking points.

Another way to live vicariously is through sports. I was, and still have tendencies to be, as guilty as the next guy. More than once my teams have let me down. But that’s because in the big boy world, only one team can win. My friends who root for the Broncos can attest to that.

But the fact is, whatever Robin Williams, Barack Obama or the Michigan Wolverines do or say or don’t do or say should have little to no affect on your or my life. At least no profound affect other than perhaps learning something from what occurred like grace in defeat with a renewed will to win, compassion and understanding for those who suffer with depression and the fact all politicians lie because it isn’t about helping, it’s about winning elections and ruling.

I also keep hearing we didn’t know the demons Williams was fighting. Well, we all have our demons, don’t we? The truth is, we can’t fight them alone. And it isn’t living through others where things are made whole, it’s living while interacting with others. That’s how God made us. Perhaps upon the next death, we’ll hear more about God than demons.