"You've done enough," Bill Smith told me. He was referring to my mentioning of the need to write another book, as my last dying gasp for acclaim. Bill was our former pastor of the Pilgrim UCC of Durham, NC, the church we attended for a long and wonderful time.
Bill died some years back but he was, and still is, right, as usual, and today I got a vivid reminder of just that point. This am, waking up and thinking about one more article, one more book, I started making yet another outline for such a tome or article.
And then I somehow stumbled across an article, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, and the author nailed it. Or nailed me, actually. The author is Dr. Gabor Mate, and he treats addicts in the Vancouver area of British Columbia.
What Dr. Mate says that the addicts that the has treated over the years all suffered from living in the realm of Hungry Ghosts, or the twilight zone for life where the yearning heart thirsts for just one more "shot" of fame....and notice the term "shot."
Here is what he said:
My medical work with drug addicts in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has given me a unique opportunity to know human beings who spend almost all their time as hungry ghosts. It’s their attempt, I believe, to escape the Hell Realm of overwhelming fear, rage and despair. The painful longing in their hearts reflects something of the emptiness that may also be experienced by people with apparently happier lives. Those whom we dismiss as “junkies” are not creatures from a different world, only men and women mired at the extreme end of a continuum on which, here or there, all of us might well locate ourselves. I can personally attest to that. “You slink around your life with a hungry look,” someone close once said to me. Facing the harmful compulsions of my patients, I have had to encounter my own.
Ouch. Double ouch. I have done enough, at least in my endless quest to have one more shot of recognition, however brief such flashes of light are.
One more "shot" from the good doctor from Vancouver, BC:
No society can understand itself without looking at its shadow side. I believe there is one addiction process, whether it is manifested in the lethal substance dependencies of my Downtown Eastside patients; the frantic self-soothing of overeaters or shopaholics; the obsessions of gamblers, sexaholics and compulsive Internet users; or the socially acceptable and even admired behaviours of the workaholic. Drug addicts are often dismissed and discounted as unworthy of empathy and respect. In telling their stories my intent is twofold: to help their voices to be heard and to shed light on the origins and nature of their ill-fated struggle to overcome suffering through substance abuse. They have much in common with the society that ostracizes them. If they seem to have chosen a path to nowhere, they still have much to teach the rest of us. In the dark mirror of their lives, we can trace outlines of our own.
It's time to enjoy life, to celebrate life, and, soon, to take a long trip across country with my bride of almost 50 years. Of all the people who read this article, I suspect it will be Carole who will let out a whoop, and urge us to start planning to celebrate life together, again, on the road or not.