A world of hurt
When one man weeps, the world weeps with him
By Lionel Rolfe 04/26/2013
As bombs were blowing up in Boston earlier this month I was in LA’s Chinatown District listening to a doctor tell me he would not prescribe any more medication to ease the pain in my swollen knees, calves and feet.
I know misery is a constant of the human condition, but when you are experiencing pain personally the whole world seems to be suffering. Bombings, wars, tsunamis, nuclear and chemical disasters, meteors, earthquakes, mad cops running amok, ships crashing into shore … all somehow directly relate to my increasingly wobbly legs. I concede there is no apparent connection between a city under siege and the pain in my body. But sometimes it feels as if the world and all of our lives are in an inevitable, inescapable downward spiral.
My doctor’s patients are primarily elderly and of various ethnicities other than Asian. The thing they share most in common is being poor.
The doctor eyed my stomach. “I have a simple answer for you. Simple,” he emphasized. “Lose that gut.”
“Can’t you give me more diuretics so I don’t have to suffer with every step,” I pleaded.
“No,” he replied sternly. “More diuretics could kill you.”
I explained that when I get off from work late at night I must walk through a seedy neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles, a place where someone with a limp would be an easy target.
“It’s an inconvenience,” the doctor insisted. “You have to lose that,” he said, once again pointing at my bulging midsection.
I have to admit, the concept of my own aches and pains being an “inconvenience” put things in a better perspective. The world is full of pain, and when compared to all of that, I suppose my physical problems really are merely inconvenient.
I have a friend, once a major movie star, who is mostly bedridden with terrible psychological and physical pain. I won’t go into detail about her various maladies, but these difficulties are far worse than my own.
When I got home from the doctor’s office, my ex-wife was on the phone. She and her husband were facing eviction. They were desperate, not just for themselves, but also for her blue-fronted Amazon parrot, Hamlet, a bird I knew from when we were married. How can you live on the street and take care of a parrot and two beloved cockatiels?
A neighbor of mine, a single mom, works hard but has a tough time paying rent and putting food on the table for her growing teenage boy. What a difficult life. But at least she isn’t being maimed by guns of war being fired outside her window, like what’s happening in so many other cities around the planet.
Much of the world’s pain — much like my own — is self-inflicted. Our economy, for instance, is stumbling and Republicans say the answer is to increase people’s pain. So they try to strangle the economy to ensure it doesn’t recover, in great part because they hate our black president. It strikes me that at one time such behavior would have been considered treasonous. Inflicting pain as part of the “cure” is related to the concept that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But that isn’t necessarily so.
And it’s not just America. In Europe, bankers — austerity-minded Germans — tell the multitudes they must starve, lose their homes, jobs, farms and families in order for them to reap higher profits. In those nations, class struggle, a term rarely used in this country, is the obvious name of the game. Meanwhile, the world’s rich hide their billions to avoid paying taxes, sitting on their ill-gotten gains rather than investing them. They purposely inflict pain and suffering in order to make more money and further their rotten political agendas.
OK, perhaps I have inflicted pain on myself with too much hedonistic consumption now and then. I’m human, therefore a sinner, so I must be punished. I suppose that also means the over-consuming world — everywhere lives, souls and societies in ruins — must be punished as well.
Damn them. I want to cry.
Lionel Rolfe is the author of a new book, “The Misadventures of Ari Mendelsohn: A Mostly True Memoir of California Journalism,” available in paperback on Amazon.com and on Kindle. Rolfe has authored more than eight books, including the classic “Literary L.A.,” “The Uncommon Friendship of Yaltah Menuhin and Willa Cather” and “Fat Man on the Left.” He is also featured in an upcoming documentary, “Literary L.A. Movie.” Rolfe will be appearing May 12 at Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice. Call (310) 822-3006 or visit beyondbaroque.org.