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Senior Correspondent

Robert Schrag, a regular contributor to Senior Correspondent, documents the process of undergoing a stem cell transplant in response to multiple myeloma.

Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012

There is a cocoon here inside. People go masked and muted down the hallways. Smiles are obligatory. There is enough stress within the walls that the stress of the world outside fades. This is our arena where we fight the good fight, aided by committed caregivers and highly skilled professionals. Our attention turns inward, not out.

And then Newtown, Conn. slides into insanity. Our technological attention turns away from the "feel good" fare we usually indulge in to ease our own aches and pains and anxieties. Instead we are seeing lives descend to surreal utter husks of despair, all blunted from my unique perspective within a bubble of technologically mandated impotence. I look out my window and see our own life flight helicopters land on the roof above. Monitors beep around me, a wise and solicitous staff tends my needs. This space represents what compassion, science and wisdom can bring to humanity. And yet I am tied to this space. For my own good I cannot leave.

Still I imagine the bloodstained classrooms of Sandy Hook Elementary School that stand as mute testimony of the depths to which humanity can sink. The shooter was an N of one, unique in all the world, and can claim to have acted for no one but himself. Could we have discerned the depths of his illness and despair in time to prevent the killings? I doubt it. Madness will always be among us. We can however, seek to advantage gentleness, and promote civility. As Asimov said, "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." Let us then recommit our efforts to instill civility in human affairs, to encourage the age and attitude of the compassionately competent.

Foster Harmony. Enable Beauty. Oppose Harm. They are baby steps, but if we take them everyday, multiplied by millions, perhaps they can lead us to a world less inclined to manufacture these pitiful clones of Armageddon, where the marginally powerless strike out at those even more defenseless.

And, of course, I still watch this at a remove; glass windows, and monitor screens, buzzing doors, restricted floors, all keep me apart from the world outside. They are baby steps in my behalf for which I am thankful. They will allow me, eventually, to re-enter the world outside recommitted to advancing the causes of harmony, beauty and gentleness.


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