For Ryan

RIP Ryan Woods, November 7th, 2012

Ryan Woods had what many people dream of, and what's more - I get the impression he truly lived with grateful appreciation of his good fortune long before his cancer diagnosis.

Watching his story and reading his last journal entries is a lesson in cruelty.  It seems implausible to imagine he won't somehow be granted a miracle.  Death looms and strikes out with impunity,  more importantly, as Ryan explains,  this is not something to be afraid of.

Even if we accept world is a chaotic churning of events that respects no virtue, and can even reward vice and deception - why should this be held up to completely disprove any example of compassion and altruistic behaviour among human beings (as well as forms of these forces within countless other organisms in the natural world)?  Faced with stories like Ryan's, or Hadiya's, many people turn to nihilism as the clearest rational option.  What justice is there behind blind chance besides a bit of luck in heredity? Ayn Rand saw that, and we know what she came up with.  

Consider instead how Ryan felt worse for the people he was leaving behind, not because he isn't devastated that he is dying, but because his passing will ultimately end his suffering, while his family and friends will feel the loss for so many years to come.  Understanding the depth of these ideas in the midst of inconsolable tragedy, we might begin by abandoning the spiral of self-pity and ultimately, recognising there is no notion of self that is has much substance beyond these ties and collisions we make with others.

There is no need to deny any aspects of what we are, including our biological drives, natural self-interest and it's consequences.  Yet it would be equally foolish to attempt to deny all of the ideas (ideals) inherently experienced and manifested by the human animal that overwhelmingly tend conquer our small selves.  Including the sense of ill content when we turn away or neglect acting on those feelings, while they are consciously or unconsciously what we ache to give and receive.   Surrendering to this natural desire for connection and acceptance can affect the horror of existential uncertainty, and anchor your psyche, (and perhaps even your "soul") while on the precipice of death.  

Faced with an utterly unfair and unexpected end to his life, his health deteriorating, Ryan wrote on his blog following a black-out and seizure: 

In no way did I feel alone in any sense of the word. How could I have? I was being held in the arms of a woman who in every single way has given everything for me. I don’t remember clearly what she was whispering in my ear tonight (nor do I remember what she whispered during other seizures) but the fact that she was there holding me and whispering anything was enough to keep my body in emotions grip, in the grip of those tears that have eluded me most of my adult life. Those tears that have become so utterly freeing.

It feels good to cry. It feels appropriate, it feels like I”m doing the right thing, like I can’t be judged for crying–I can only be loved. And I desperately want to be loved. Sometimes when I cry, when I really cry and cry hard, I’m honestly just in search of confirmation that I’m not simply wasting time here dinking around waiting to die.  The thing is, I think you never feel more human than when you are dying.

If you've gotten to the end of the short film above, you saw his request to each of us watching. I don't think he asked for much, and I am happy to oblige.
What will your contribution look like?

Ryan's Blog

Singing to his Wife on Their Wedding Day
A Last Conversation between Ryan and the filmmaker

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