I went to the saddest funeral I’ve ever attended yesterday. While the widow (a second wife, married 15 years) seemed sad (she was crying), she was alone in her grief; hers was the only damp eye in the house. The pastor’s eulogy was formulaic. When the dead man's eldest daughter spoke about her deceased father, the most personal detail she shared was how many blue jeans he owned, because it was all he wore. I didn't know this man well, but I found myself thinking I didn't miss much. Could that be true? Could it be that there was no there there? Contemplating the superficiality of some lives got me to thinking about Kimberly Raye’s Dead End Dating series. The protagonist, Lil, about whom I've written before, is certainly likable, but she's not particularly deep. I wonder what her eulogy would sound like--she was sweet and she loved Prada? Because, honestly, there's not much there, there. On the other hand, as my friend claims, maybe depth is highly overrated.
But is it? I'm a big fan of depth. I persist in the belief that every human has some there, there even if it's not much. As a natural health practitioner, I spend quite a bit of time listening to people’s backstories. On the surface, some of these folks appear simple, mean, shallow or petty. But it's been my experience that when you scratch the surface, assuming someone has lowered their defenses enough to acknowledge the itch, there is usually a hidden current that others may know nothing about. But, do still waters always run deep? Is everyone who plays their cards close to their chest hiding a royal flush? I think the law of averages says that not all are – but there are some. How can we distinguish between those whose depths are worth mining and those whose veins have run dry, or worse, yield only fool's gold?
Sometimes, it's hard to discern the difference. In some cases, the vein is buried so deeply beneath denial, distractions and the deadening effect of abandoned dreams, that it becomes wholly inaccessible to anyone. And how sad is that? If we assume that every child on this planet is born with the potential to lead an extraordinary life and to experience the full spectrum of emotions, why doesn’t every embodied spirit do it? What happened to those who don't? Or, is my assumption wrong, and there are some who enter the world superficial from the start? What about the guy whose funeral I attended? What happened to him along the way that the most the pastor could say was that he had five children, owned an HVAC business and dressed in denim? What happened to his there? And do Lil’s waters run deep – so deep that we’ll have to wait until another book to see what’s churning beneath her designer duds?
Many of us project our own inner screen onto others. If we are deep and interesting (as I know all of my readers are!), we assume the same about others and that we just haven't uncovered it all yet. This creates a delicious challenge to uncover the buried treasure of someone's hidden personality, one of my favorite activities. All of us want to know what's behind the mask of the Phantom of the Opera, don't we? Of course, sometimes we are disappointed or horrified when we pull that mask off, but what’s life without a little risk? And that is the promise that keeps me digging like a dog after a bone–I want to plumb others’ hidden depths. This insatiable and optimistic curiosity will incite me to buy another book in the Dead End Dating series in the hope that Lil’s creator will allow us to see further beneath her still waters.
I'm a wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve, don't-try-to-play-poker-because-your-face-will-give-you-away kind of gal. As a result, I tend to project sagacity and iron-fisted control (which I admire) onto those who keep their thoughts and emotions to themselves (I also tend to want to poke such people till they bleed, which I've discussed here, but I digress). I figure that all of that silence and intensity is masking profundity. After all, if someone has the ability to look wise and contemplative in the face of titillating revelations and provocative rejoinders, there must be a plethora of activity occurring below that placid surface. If we could only get to it.
Unfortunately, I've had to (reluctantly) abandon this belief. Sometimes, it is ignorance and apathy that inspire silence and solemnity. Maybe that was the case with the recently deceased denim-wearing HVAC dude? Maybe, because sometimes those quiet types offer no supremacy of circumspection and authority of erudition to explain their measured, non-committal responses. Sometimes there really is no there there--no deep thoughts, no concern for the world at large There are people who just meander through their days wondering which questions they can answer on Jeopardy, or the size of Kim Kardashian's butt , the next HVAC job or the latest Prada collection. Some folks create and inhabit worlds that are so small they have nothing to talk about and don’t leave people with anything to say about them at their funerals.
I don't want to be like that poor dead man. And I don't want to be like Lil, frankly, even though she is funny and entertaining and has a better wardrobe than I. I want to make sure there's a lot of there there in me and in those with whom I hang . I don't think depth is overrated – I think it’s highly underrated. I believe in buried treasure. So, if your waters are still – I will come digging… and maybe find something worthy of inclusion in a eulogy. I plan to leave people with a lot to say – hopefully most of it good.