A Matter of Perspective

I have been thinking about how many of my days are spent with my physical difficulties crowding the front of my mind. Certainly a large chunk of my conscious thoughts is magnetically pulled into that space. I would guess that builds a self-absorption that could be a problem if not overridden by my everyday concerns for family and friends, career and community. Then along comes the horrific slaughter in Paris last week.
My good friend Charles Osgood opened Sunday Morning this past weekend with the straightforward statement, je suis Charlie, joining those all over the world saying in solidarity, I am Charlie Hebdo. For days, there was little. to think or talk about except the dangers of the world and fragility of life. And for more than a moment, there was something much larger to grab my mind.
The world is a perilous place. I fully believe none of us is safe. Anyone can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have not been feeling particularly sorry for myself this week. I am not obsessing on my frailties or even self-absorbed. I suppose I will get back to that soon enough, For this moment though, it seems there is something more universal to think about. That is both a burden and a welcome relief.

22 Responses to A Matter of Perspective

  1. Joan Z January 15, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    I could not agree more. Stepping outside of my head for perspective leads to gratitude, which is always a good thing. The challenge for me is to just remember that technique, to remember it will always deliver me from the pity party that disability will always throw for me. I turn the pages of the daily paper, skimming the numerous awful headlines, and I try to watch the evening news. So much evil, awful, frightening stuff. But when I ask myself why I do all of that, it’s for this very reason. I have much more to be grateful for than I have to be pissed off about.

    • Richard M. Cohen January 15, 2015 at 8:28 pm #



  2. M January 15, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

    R. – can you give your POV about why media isn’t covering the Boko Haram massacre that happened around January 9th as thoroughly as Charlie Hebdo? You have more wisdom. Please speak.

    • Richard M. Cohen January 15, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

      I cannot even spell wisdom. Boko Haram is very hard to covewer. They may be the worst. Strapping explosiovews on a 10 yuear old girl.

      • M January 16, 2015 at 10:17 am #

        Yer right – its spelled wizdumb. I fuhgot.

        That was a satisfactory answer though. But sometimes…just sometimes…I wonder if the world is rated NC-17, and what we see is only the PG-13 version — including what we see about illnesses? I know nothing – I guess I just have a big mouth. Thanks for your thoughts as always.

  3. Jan January 15, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

    Agree: life IS about perspective, I think.

    And that perspective can be influenced by the world around us, what we see/hear/do (and not see/hear/do), health, work, attitudes–our own, and others’.

    And it all can be scary, even overwhelming at times. When younger, I heard about things. But now, I experience them, know firsthand people who do, too. And I’m more aware of those I don’t directly know, it hits harder.

    Harder to think about it all than to “do and be.” With MS, I’ve often said that I can talk about it easily; I just can’t THINK about it too deeply or too long. Hard to fully grasp living in oppression, in total fear.

    • Jan January 15, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

      Last sentence referred to world issues.

      • Jan January 15, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

        Hard to think about, but I DO. The world can be a very tough place, indeed. So yes, I understand Joan and being grateful.

    • Richard M. Cohen January 15, 2015 at 8:35 pm #

      Hard for anyone to grasp.


  4. Hilary D January 15, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

    Agree with Joan. I hate how much MS consumes my thoughts. I take every opportunity to get it out of my mind…news, kids, wife, coaching, bourbon (sometimes), anything at times will do I wish I was better at focusing on how great my life is and enjoying it.

    • Richard M. Cohen January 16, 2015 at 8:37 am #

      I think all feel that way. It took Paris to drive MS out of my head. Maybe it just goes with the territory an d we should not be hard on ourselves. We have enough on our plates.


  5. Yvonne January 16, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

    Boko Haram is unfathomably horrible but unfortunately,fortunately, they do not threaten US nor our allies directly so those atrocities don’t get the coverage. Russian atrocities in the Ukraine gets more coverage even though their nor nearly as genocidal. The comparison is MS research compared to Cancer research. Both horrible but Cancer research gets more money and coverage. Unbelievable that many still don’t know how debilitating MS can be unless you are directly impacted by a family member or friend or the occasional celebrity that raises the flag. Our outrage is usually limited. I’ve had the disease for over 30 years but never really cared until my MS progressed to the point where it really affected my daily life. Then I was like “hey where’s my telethon,march,research trials etc.?” It took me 25 years to get outraged. We are human and therefore fallible and sometimes ashamed. I realize importance is subjective. Sigh….

    • Richard M. Cohen January 16, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

      There is overwhelming horror in the world, and I find it impossible to sort out and evaluate objectively. All is what it is.


  6. Brian Melton January 16, 2015 at 11:00 pm #

    Non stop what if’s consume me daily. I can’t remember a day in the last 10 year’s ms hasn’t consumed me.

  7. Linda Lazarus January 17, 2015 at 8:22 am #

    I remember an essay I once read, by Roger Rosenblatt, asking us to ponder whether or not we are our brothers’ keepers. Why care about those far away whom we can not possibly help?
    His answer in the essay applies to some discussion here. We need to know in order to stay vigilant. So therefore when we see the guy down the street we think to do something, somewhere if we are alert to the sufferings of others.

    I probably forgot the exact ideas in the essay but this idea has always stayed with me. Being alert to the suffering of those we cannot help makes us work to help those right down the way from us.

    • Richard January 17, 2015 at 9:16 pm #

      Nice thought.


  8. Elizabeth January 17, 2015 at 10:59 am #

    I’ll never forget the troubling comment that my friend heard from her sister who has a severely autistic child. “Your worst day will never be as bad as my best day.” My friend felt like her struggles were invalid because her sister’s life was constantly filled with much more consistent and severe stress and frustration. My feeling is that everyone’s struggles are subjective. Empathy is like gold these days. I see people complaining about a bad haircut or that someone has insulted them and I think, if that’s all that is going wrong, my empathy will go to someone else today. My house is being foreclosed on because I can’t work right now, but you’re right your hairdresser should be ashamed!

    I certainly have had a real pause in my self absorption and become worried about the world in general. I remember telling my son when he graduated from college to travel the world for a few months while he could. Not now.

    I think it’s hard to feel security with this disease because there are times when we are vulnerable physically and financially. I feel like that is exacerbated by the instability right now in the world. It’s hard to feel safe anywhere. It’s sad to see suffering everywhere. It makes hope much harder to grasp.

    • Richard January 17, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

      Your quote about autism is on target. Autism consumes. But we live our own hells, fighting awful realities. There should be no competition. We just make do.


  9. Brian January 17, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    I am not swathed in the assuring arms of dopamine, Richard, but I have faith. My aggressive primary progressive form of multiple sclerosis has left me unable to walk, disabled to work and affected by a host of related symptoms. All within 3 years of being diagnosed at age 37. Bummer, huh?
    Life is not rainbows and unicorns for everyone, but I believe there is an answer for all of us. The answer may not be your desired choice; it may be what is needed.
    Darkness, unfortunately, surrounds us sometimes. We may feel and observe that our health has taken leave and the world has, quite simply, gone bat shit crazy!
    But I know that this is just a moment in time and if light is sought in the chaos, it will be found. Godspeed to you and your readers!

    B. (By the way, I only use this abbreviated farewell to punctuate sincerity; it should be revered. Humor always helps to illuminate the path.)

    • Richard January 17, 2015 at 9:25 pm #


      Thank you. All of us grab on tlo whatever gets us through the night.


  10. Michael January 17, 2015 at 5:58 pm #


    I read something on the internet one day about a patient who was in the hospital, paralyzed during a relapse. He was looking out the window when a doctor came walking in. His words to him were, “know that when you are looking at the people outside, 90% of them have bigger problems than you.”


    • Richard January 17, 2015 at 9:27 pm #