Years ago, before I could face the pain of dealing with our Regional Office, I stopped at what is now Carl’s Jr for breakfast. After a delightful snack, I started back toward the SLC Federal building. As I was leaving the fast-food joint, I heard someone call “Roger,” but I looked around and didn’t see anybody I recognized. I then heard “Roger” again. This time a bearded indigent man approached me. It was an individual that I had gone to graduate school with, an economics major.
He told me he was living on the streets. He said he was trying to finish his master’s thesis, but that employees at the State of Utah were conspiring against him. I knew the officials he was talking about, and found his concerns to be farfetched. He seemed to be suffering from extreme paranoia. I offered him $10 which he took, explaining that he wouldn’t be able to pay it back. I then headed to work, almost running.
That afternoon I called a friend at USU and asked if he knew the status of my indigent acquaintance. The prof indicated that university staff and the homeless man’s parents had been trying to work with him, to get him off the streets but that nothing had worked. He was clearly suffering some form of mental illness; and there were issues about his meds. Sometime later, I ran into him panhandling at the SLC airport. He eventually dropped off my radar screen. Until last night.
Last night I watched the movie The Soloist. The flic only got mediocre reviews and nobody went to see it in movie theaters, but I found it compelling. If nothing else, it caused me to think about the plight of the homeless, particularly those who are mentally ill. The movie proposed no solutions, but highlighted some of the issues. If seemed like a perfect movie for a family home evening.
When I see the homeless pushing their shopping carts and camped out near railroad tracks, I always wonder about my own status. “There but by the grace of God go I.” I think all of us, in one way or another, are just one step away from some form of fantasy existence. Don’t we all wonder about a release from our current reality, isn’t that what religion is about? Don’t all of us have to work harder than we would admit to hold it together, to stay in our current reality? Don’t all of us flirt with mental illness?
When I was in college, one of my favorite songs was The Doors “Break on Through:” “You know the day destroys the night. Night divides the day. Try to run, try to hide. Break on through to the other side.” While the song, in all probability, is about drugs, it seems to me like a paean to sanity and insanity. And I guess each individual must decide which side you are trying to “break on through” to.