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Recently someone on Facebook asked how people felt about the music of Janis Joplin. I answered that my tolerance for her sound was limited to two classic songs, largely because I found her pathos to be more than I could endure. I added that Judy Garland’s singing had affected me similarly: “Too much pathos, too much ‘love me, look at my anxiety and the wreck they’ve made of me.’ Much too much. Emotional exhibitionism has always made me cringe.”
And then, only moments later, a friend who is dealing with cancer put her feelings before the members of a private chat group to which I belong. She was not emotional—she even apologized for bothering us with a question that, while tranquil at its surface, was fraught with longing, fear, and a sense of fragility.
Words - L'Arche - Founder - Jean - Vanier
It immediately brought to mind the words of L’Arche founder Jean Vanier, who in a recent interview said, “We shouldn’t pretend that everything is easy. Fragility needs to be loved.”
My friend’s tender and intimate question, followed hard by the reminder of Vanier’s words, ended up challenging me to revisit my thoughts on Joplin and Garland and transparent human neediness in general. Why was my friend’s quiet outreach so acceptable to me that I was glad to accompany her in the moment—even flattered to be so entrusted—while Joplin’s howls and Garland’s hard vibrato, both resonating an anguish that must have echoed within them for decades, have resolutely pushed me away?
Fact - Friend - Someone - Colors - Willingness
Obviously, the fact that my friend is someone I have actually met and worked with colors my willingness, but that can’t be the whole answer, because there are others I know much better than my friend—blood relatives, even—whose open need for my ear, and my simple presence, just repels me.
I am ashamed to admit this because I understand what it...
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