photo by purplejavatroll
My friend and I were out biking around downtown yesterday and came across a man hanging from the railing of the High Level Bridge, which connects downtown to Old Strathcona and the University of Alberta region. It's a tall enough bridge, over the North Saskatchewan River. The cops told us the bridge was (obviously) closed. So we rode over a bit to a nearby park and sat with about 20 others and watched. A few guys had been already been there for about half an hour, and we sat down on a bench for another hour. As time went on, people — young and old — cracked friendly jokes about Hurrying up already or Silly, we all have bills to pay, and it became an odd community gathering where everyone was sharing in the delight of what I presume to be another's agony. There were even two or three couples cuddled up on park benches watching, as if on a cozy date at a drive-in theatre. As time waned on, I found myself wanting him to jump. One fellow on the phone was in disagreement with his girlfriend on the other end, "No, no, honey… I want to see him jump for sure, no, no, of course I don't want him to die, just for him to jump."
Myself, I didn't care either way. People die of every second of every day, I am okay with this. I try to acknowledge the fact that I can't predict my own demise and it may very well take place an hour from now. Of course, if I happened across a person in such a situatio where their life was in question and they'd premeditated taking it, I would offer my help, but it's not in my disposition to coerce them to continue living. I am sure others would disagree with me, as the police were there talking him in. As we watched him swing from railing, from hand to hand, back and forth, I could only wonder what sort of programming must be at work for his system to attempt suicide, but fail in its final execution (pun not intended).
But since we were forced to spectate (in contrast to being directly involved) — well, we all could have began yelling at him to jump, which was mentioned and joked at — I suppose any semblance of social morals was maintained and we let the police do their job peacefully. After the hour had passed, we were cold and hungry as we had intended to ride over into Garneau for lunch. So we got back on our bikes and took off. Only to run into the fellow up the tracks who runs the trolley, and he told us about the university student who was drunk with his friends and he inadvertently fried his head on the electrical thingie that the trolley runs on. This happened a few weeks ago, if memory serves? He and his friends, after drinking, thought it would be a good idea to break into the trolley tunnel.
Again this brings me to that quote by Kurtz (Marlon Brando), from Apocalypse Now, and how very applicable it is to everyday life: "Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared."
Why do we feel the need to be so distraught in the face of moral indignity. If the system is broke, of course we can try to fix it, but I feel no worse finding the spiritual humour in this show that is Life as it careens this way and that, from the individual all the way up to whole cultures. Didn't someone smart once say that laughter is the best medicine?
On that note, I would also feel the necessity to do my part and make an attempt at performing unction from afar if he did, in fact, jump. I'm not very good at it, but I try to do my part.