Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bystander Effect

After eating lunch one day I witnessed a fight break out before my eyes. I was out with two co-workers and we walked past two women arguing in the parking lot. "You don't know my life! I'll beat your ass right now!" We kept walking but stopped and turned around maybe 100 feet away. The situation escalated and two women in their twenties started to full on fighting. Well I wouldn't really call it a fight, the larger of the two women struck the smaller one to the ground and continued to hit her. I also notice two other people very close to the fight and another group of people closer than us standing around and watching.

Part of my gut said, "Do something." but instead I stood there petrified due to what I now know is called "the bystander effect." The bystander effect is a phenomenon where the diffusion of responsibility is inversely proportional to the amount of people in the area. That is, the more people witnessing something - the less someone feels responsible to "do the right thing."

Instead of doing anything at all we end up turning around and heading back to the office after some comments about World Star and "wow did that really happen." Sadly that's the state of society at this current moment. People would sooner pull out their phones and record the fight then actually help a person in need.

On the car ride back and at work I started processing what just happened. I put myself in the shoes of the woman laying on the ground getting beaten with 10 people around watching and not doing anything. She probably lost her faith in humanity.

I don't know the exact situation and everything happened so fast. So many variables. Another thing is that I don't know if either of them had "backup" or if either of them had a weapon or anything. But I do know that on that day I dismissed it as "not my issue" and "not my problem."

I'm not advocating putting yourself in danger or doing anything at all if this situation happens to you. I just know now that I'll be doing SOMETHING next time. Calling the cops, yelling "Stop," or just something more than nothing. If not for helping someone else out - for my own conscious and preventing this guilt that I feel right now.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Good Grief

At the beginning of the year I started a search for new music. At work there's a small group of people who share music with each other and every now and then someone suggests a theme: Cheesy Internet Songs, Throwback Thursday, Foreign Music, Instrumental, etc. One day I requested "Sad Songs" as our theme which was immediately met with concerned responses.

"Are you okay?" "Did your girlfriend break up with you?" "Why do you want to cry?"

It's complicated to explain but every year I celebrate the birthday of a deceased childhood friend and for some reason I feel a little better when I listen to sad music.

Why do I do this? Why does it make me feel better? When is it okay to be sad? Is it healthy? I started down one of my rabbit holes of thought. I discovered the "stages" of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I found a great comment on reddit and an awesome quote about sadness from a South Park character of all things. These two quotes sum up very well how I am currently feeling about grief and how it can sometimes be good. Also I'm not sure if this is part of "Acceptance" but I think there's another stage past that called "Appreciation." Anyways here are those quotes:

"Well yeah, and I'm sad, but at the same time I'm really happy that something could make me feel that sad. It's like, it makes me feel alive, you know? It makes me feel human. And the only way I could feel this sad now is if I felt something really good before. So I have to take the bad with the good, so I guess what I'm feeling is like a... beautiful sadness." -Butters from South Park

Reddit comment from /u/GSnow:

"As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive. In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too. If you're lucky, you'll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks."