Over at The Atlantic, Derek Thompson has some heart-wrenching posts by the unemployed about their frustration and misery. They write of how they suddenly got cut off from the rest of us “normal” people and how they long to rejoin us. Reading their stories made me think of how those who get a cancer diagnosis suddenly find themselves off in another country, off in Cancer Land, trying to get back to the land of the healthy.
It seems as if we are occupying the same physical space, but really, if you’re sitting in a coffee shop or on the subway next to someone who is unemployed or who has cancer, they are off in a nightmarish parallel world. Even our responses to them tend to be the same — empty platitudes and words of encouragement and false cheer that ring hollow both to them and to us. We turn away, we stop calling and visiting because we are afraid of them and their pain. We cling to our world, and we pretend it is the only one.