Turning the Other Cheek

OK, I’ll admit it: Charon’s Aide is a troll.  Yeah.  What I mean, folks, is that, generally, whenever I publish a new post, I’ll take a tour of the world of WordPress, scouting out other people’s blogs, looking for folks who have something to say about smoking, or cigarettes, or fetishes.  Then, when I find something (there’s always something out there — everyday somebody has something to say about smoking) I drop in on a perfect stranger and, well, try to engage them in a conversation.  A conversation about smoking.

So he asks me something about "sickness and health" then I says, "hold that thought", and now I'm out mulling it over.

…then he asks me something about “sickness and health” so I tell him, “hold that thought.”  Now I’m out here mulling it over.

Most of the time — and I can’t imagine this will really surprise you — people are posting posts to tell me how bad smoking is for me, and how I’m an idiot for smoking, and maybe I should just hurry up and die since that’s obviously what I want anyway.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.

If other visitors have already posted their comments I get to see the blogger being praised for how wise and smart and brave she or he is and — even though that might very well be true — I don’t really consider interchanges that reliably produce a rousing chorus of “Amen” after every remark to be actual conversations — and conversation is what Charon’s Aide is all about.

So, to remedy all that, I have decided to take it upon myself to be the “responsible spokesman from an opposing view” when I comment on posts which I believe to be overlooking one or more important aspect about the business of smoking.  What am I talking about?  Let me give you an example.

If you visit the ‘site Rammiegirl: 24 hr Bloggery, you will get an opportunity to meet a woman who, among other things, is a cancer survivor.  She also can come off like an anti-smoking zealot which is too bad because she has lots of positive and life-affirming things to say when she’s not putting the knock on folks who enjoy doing things that chooses to live without.  I mean, I don’t “get” country music singers; but I surely wouldn’t write a post that puts the knock their fans.  Sheeesh!

At any rate her anti-smoking rant came in a little ditty she published on OCT 30 of this year entitled, Cancer Tales: A Slap in the Face

SPOILER ALERT!!  Rammie Girl is of the opinion that my smoking is a slap in her face.  Does that sound like sketchy logic to you?  It sure does to me!  At any rate, you can read the whole post below:

And the journey continues…

So I realize that being a cancer survivor is not for everybody.  I get that.  I sincerely hope that nobody becomes a cancer survivor by choice, and there are some who will triumph and there are, unfortunately, those who fall.  However, it is a huge slap in the face to me when someone in my own family decides to smoke and/or pick up something knowing that it causes lung cancer.  Not everyone may GET cancer, but why in God’s name would you pick up something that clearly has been associated with it?

I honestly don’t really feel like it’s my place to tell someone how to live their life.  So yes, by all means, everyone is entitled to do whatever they want, but so long as it doesn’t impede on someone else’s life.  The thing is, when I got cancer, I didn’t get it by CHOICE.  I tried to work out 2-3 times a week, tried to eat healthy and watched my diet as well as my weight.  However, for those who get lung cancer, asides from those victims of asbestos exposure or metastasis from another cancer, the majority of lung cancer victims get it from directly smoking OR from exposure to second-hand smoker that comes from smokers.  SMOKING IS A CHOICE.  And it is a choice that affects people in an adverse way no matter how you look at it.  And the thing is, when you get cancer, you undoubtedly become a burden to those around you both physically and emotionally.  You don’t think that, but you do – that’s the honest truth.  Yes, they want to be there for you, and they want to help you, but it’s an extra expense that nobody expected to take on.  So therefore, when a person chooses to smoke and expose themselves to a risk of cancer, to me that screams selfishness.  Unless you can take care of yourself, pay for your own tracheostomy or oxygen tank per week (which gets ridiculously expensive) and drive yourself to your surgeries and chemo treatments, I don’t think it’s fair to impose this on your loved ones simply because you are going to smoke because it’s COOL.

Bottom line is: our lungs were not made to inhale smoke.  They weren’t made to tolerate carcinogens past a certain point. Yes we have genes and mechanisms to regulate expression of oncogenes which generate growths and cancer.  However, cancer is supposed to be a disfunction of those mechanisms naturally.  Just like nothing is perfect in life, neither is cancer regulation.  That’s why some people simply develop cancer for no reason.  Sometimes it is genetically linked, unfortunately.  However, I don’t understand why people even begin to smoke.  Is it to look cool?  Because it tastes like absolute sh*t and the first few drags feel like it’s suffocating you.  Why don’t you stand next to a burning building and inhale the smoke that’s coming out from there, it’s almost the same thing minus the nicotine.  But I bet if you just threw in some tobacco, it’d be about the same.

I do want to say this though: for those of you who are smokers and are super considerate to smoke with either other smokers or smoke out back or behind the building where there aren’t any individuals who don’t want to be affected or smell the second-hand smoke, thank you.  I don’t speak for anyone else, but this lady here appreciates your concern and sensitivity to those around you.  You may never get lung cancer, and I only hope the best for you all.

I’m sure all the “cool kids” out there are probably thinking that I am some tyrannical ex cancer-survivor nazi of a family member but honestly, come back and say that after you’ve gone through chemotherapy and radiation.  Hate to break it to you but I was NEVER cool.  I was a NERD, yes, one of those people who would probably wear those D.A.R.E. shirts.  I was called names, picked on, and avoided by aaaaall the cool kids.  I was the furthest thing from a homecoming queen nor was I an incredible genius.

So since I’ve never ever been cool, I don’t really care to be cool now.  I do care if someone else I love gets cancer, or if some unsuspecting victim gets cancer, or if even you get cancer.  Nobody should have to go through cancer.  And if you’re young, nobody should have to face death before they’re ready for it if they don’t have to.  Do what you want to do, but don’t give slaps in the face like that.

OK, allow me to take this chance to respond.  Please understand that I wouldn’t bother making such a big deal out of one person’s opinion except for the fact that there are millions and millions of people who are thinking exactly like Rammie Girl is thinking.

1) Why in God’s name would you pick up something that clearly has been associated with [lung cancer]?

Am I the only one who notices that what we have here is a taunt not-so-cleverly disguised as a question?  If Rammie were actually curious about smoking she could say, “Hey, Charon’s Aide, what is it that you like about smoking?”  Then, if she took the trouble to listen to my response, she would see that I’m only doing what everyone does: Namely, evaluating the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of an activity and then deciding whether or not I want to participate.

Here’s my suspicion: Rammie, and all the other members of the anti-smoking brigade, have hit upon a fail-safe way to avoid the stress of having to make a decision about smoking.  It makes me wonder how many other things they’re not making a decision about.  The reason Rammie doesn’t ask me about the upside of smoking is that it’s much easier for we human beings to figure out whether we want to do something if that “something” has 100% ‘cons’ and 0% ‘pros’.  No Brainer!  As long as there’s nothing “in God’s name” (I’d like to know why He’s being dragged into this conversation!) that’s good about smoking, it’s really, really, really easy for me to decide whether or not to smoke.  The idea being, I guess, that ‘No Brainer’ decisions are preferable to ‘Brain Required’ decisions.

2) I honestly don’t really feel like it’s my place to tell someone how to live their life.

It’s more than just a “feeling”, Rammie.  It’s a fact!  It truly isn’t your place to tell someone else how to live his life.  It certainly isn’t my place to take control of other people’s lives either.  Frankly — and this might surprise you — I don’t think it’s my place to tell myself how to live.  How’s that?  The way I figure it, as long as long as my life consists of following through with what somebody (even myself) tells me to do I’m not even alive.

I don’t know what will make me happy, I don’t know what I’ll have to do to get what will make me happy, and I don’t know how to go about doing whatever it is I’ll have to do to get what it is that will make me happy.  That’s how much I know about running my life, that’s how much I know about running your life and that’s how much you know about running everyone else’s life.  Nothing — and in that ‘nothing’ lies liberation.  Just look for it.

Here’s a thought:  Stop doing what you’re told.  Stop doing what you tell yourself to do.  Stop telling others what to do.  Instead of controlling behavior, step back and just observe it.  Apply an attitude of curiosity to your observations.  Be curious to know why others do what they do.  Be curious to know why you yourself do what you do.  Be curious, and accepting, and understanding and — if needed — be forgiving as well.

3) [L]ung cancer victims get it from directly smoking OR  from exposure to second-hand smoker that comes from smokers.  SMOKING IS A CHOICE

Where are we heading with this?  It sounds as though you’re telling me that health is a reward for good behavior.  You obviously were cheated since you clearly demonstrated “good” behavior ( I tried to work out 2-3 times a week, tried to eat healthy and watched my diet as well as my weight) but didn’t get the reward you deserved.  Instead, you got sick, and sickness is a punishment — a punishment you didn’t deserve because you didn’t do anything “bad”.  If I’m following your line of thinking correctly, you’re telling me that the punishment of sickness really should go to the people who deserve to be punished, the people who do “bad” things.  Bad things like smoking.

I wonder if life seems unfair to you.  After all, people who do good stuff ought to be rewarded, but sometimes they’re not; and people who do bad stuff ought to be punished.  The bummer is that some folks get away with being bad.

It goes without saying, of course, that anyone who comes to an opinion about life’s fairness or lack thereof has to be someone who’s pretty sure she or he knows what constitutes ‘good’ behavior and what constitutes ‘bad’.  Not only that, she or he has to be confident in their ability to distinguish situations that are ‘rewards’ from those that are ‘punishments’.  So, what I’m saying is this:  I’m simply not smart enough to know whether life is fair because I couldn’t tell you what’s good to do or what’s bad and — more than that — I don’t know whether I’m being rewarded or punished.  Smart people (like you?) are in a position to figure out whether or not life is fair.  I’m simply not interested in being that kind of smart.

4) [W]hen you get cancer, you undoubtedly become a burden to those around you both physically and emotionally.  You don’t think that, but you do – that’s the honest truth.  Yes, they want to be there for you, and they want to help you, but it’s an extra expense that nobody expected to take on.  So therefore, when a person chooses to smoke and expose themselves to a risk of cancer, to me that screams selfishness.  Unless you can take care of yourself, pay for your own tracheostomy or oxygen tank per week (which gets ridiculously expensive) and drive yourself to your surgeries and chemo treatments, I don’t think it’s fair to impose this on your loved ones simply because you are going to smoke because it’s COOL.

Let’s review: people are burdens, one to another.  And that’s, what?, a bad thing???  Your concept of the “unselfish” thing — am I hearing this correctly? — is to simply not need anyone else.  You will, of course, allow for the fact that I can’t possibly control how much I’m going to need others; anymore than I can control how much they’re going to need me.  Oh!  Wait!  That’s not a point you’re willing to concede???  You want to believe we human beings have control over how much we’re going to burden others.

I don’t know about that, Remmie; but I do know that I have a choice as to whether or not I’m going to accept the burdens other people put on me.  That’s where we end up with different definitions of unselfish.  You figure the unselfish person doesn’t burden others.  I, on the other hand, figure that the unselfish people are the ones who accept the burdens others put on them.

BOTTOM LINE:  I think it’s a damn stupid idea for me to do what other people tell me to do, and I think it’s a damn stupid idea for me to try and tell myself what to do.  Mostly, I think it’s a damn stupid idea to delude myself into thinking I’ve got control over my life, or yours, or anyone’s.  I’m not going to convince you of it, though, because if I did your whole fantasy of what life is would come crashing down around you.

Now here’s the real kicker!  I didn’t write all this stuff to be mean or to get back at you for being mean.  I put it all down this way because I’m convinced that the sooner we all figure out how little control we have over life, the sooner we’ll be able to actually enjoy it.

Be Happy,
Be Well,

Charon’s Aide

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