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September 4, 2011


Many of my friends and family knew of this disease even before I did. I am one of those back-water hayseeds who don’t have commercial television, so I never saw any of the law firm ads promising millions of dollars to victims of Mesothelioma. When my oncologist first gave us the diagnosis and mentioned that he will back up any lawsuit I plan to file, Peg and I only looked at each other wondering what kind of TV fantasy this guy was living in.

I have since caught up, but I still haven’t seen one of those ads, thank god; however I have filed with a law firm. I chose one that didn’t try to lure me with the promise of a huge settlement, didn’t give me false hopes, and had a good reputation for serving their clients emotional needs as well as their financial ones. I’m not going to paint an overly rosy picture of an industry that rightly or wrongly has a reputation for exploiting people’s misfortunes; but the fact remains that I did initially learn more of what I know about Mesothelioma and about taking care of myself in relation to the disease from my law firm than from anywhere else. And as with most things in this world, the truth is much more sobering than fiction, and the truth is that most people don’t make a lot after all is said and done on these lawsuits.

My reality is that I will be happy if I just cover my own expenses, lost wages, and maybe a little something to leave Peg … if only to help her pay for her own health insurance in the future. I have never in my life worked with a lawyer, and I’m not exactly comfortable pursuing litigation. Peg -of course- wants nothing to do with it! However, even though I am at peace with my fate (I refuse to play the role of victim … even with this) the truth is that, even though I do have Badger Care (thank you Governor Doyle), my disease is costing us, and we didn’t have that much to start with. The truth is also that the asbestos industry (like so many before and after it) played the odds and decided it would make more financial sense to pay out any future lawsuits than to slow the stream of profits by making public what the execs in the industry knew long before I was ever exposed: asbestos is a carcinogen.

Even with this knowledge, I am not impassioned about going after a “bad” guy. I am not fighting a cause; and am under no illusions of being a Don Quixote tilting at windmills. I am only taking advantage of a set of circumstances that happen to benefit me above so many other individuals who suffer unfortunate or unfair situations in their life … many much, much worse. Lucky for me is all I can say, and I am grateful for that luck, but this is all that it is. I am not interested in a big settlement were that even possible; but I would probably be much more enthusiastic about pursuing this sort of litigation if I thought it would really affect the nature of the kind of greed that can so casually justify and contribute to human suffering. But, aside from that, I want to refrain from participating in any justification of greed in myself.

Alas, the sum total of all the mesothelioma lawsuits in the world … the sum total of all the lawsuits in history  …. will obviously not put a dent in the nature of greed anyway. This vice exists in a climate of tolerance, and most of us participate in this to some degree, myself included. Greed saturates the water we swim in. I think most of us reading this blog understands that fact to some extent, so I needn’t elaborate on it. Besides, I have already stated earlier that it is not my job to judge, and I am grateful that it isn’t because I would have to start with myself, and I know where that ends up. My job is simply to see my own barriers to an authentic and integrated life, and work to remove those barriers by being present to what true value really is. Being present to one’s life is a state of being, but it is also a process. As long as I am progressing along that path, I need not feel impelled to judge myself. As long as there is progress, there is change and there is hope. In this we can each celebrate with joy as we move along our chosen paths.

What about the “bad” guys who actually go out of their way to create a climate of greed? I can only imagine the hell they are creating for themselves. I can only imagine what it must be like to live as if power and affluence are all that matter in life. I can only imagine the loneliness and isolation and fear that must be present in a persons reality in order to spend so much of one’s life energy to continually feed this delusion and this impulse. I can only imagine what they are missing out on that is beautiful and free in this world. I can only imagine what my life would be like right now, as I face death, if I too had adopted this attitude.

Even though I admit that mine is a wimps way out, I can admit that I now have the luxury to pity those lost souls who are searching for meaning in all the wrong places; for I will not much longer have to live with the results of their delusions about life, other than to carry the sorrow I feel for those of you who do have to live with that. But if you can just remember that your main responsibility in life is to nurture your own sense of presence, to nurture you own depth of love, to nurture your own potential for compassion, and to nurture your own desire for truth, you will be okay and I will be at peace.

And I suppose (if my beliefs have anything to do with reality) I will be back again anyway to join you all in this task.

Hmmmmm! There is that blessing or curse thing again!! Which is it?

Well, I’ll let you know when I get here; but right now I suspect it is much closer to a gift than it is to a penance.


6 Comments leave one →
  1. MikeL permalink*
    September 7, 2011 2:07 pm

    Once again, Rick, as the agnostic hoping against hope, I want to believe that the rationally fair and balanced idea of karma holds sway in the universe. In this way, those infected by the greed and pathology of immoral capitalism will be held accountable for their sins.

    Short of that, your noble acceptance and lack of malice towards their wanton evil only slightly helps counter my furious rage for their actions that are taking my brother from this world.

  2. Lynda Schaller permalink
    September 6, 2011 1:24 pm

    Whew, this entry touched me especially deeply, particularly:
    “But if you can just remember that your main responsibility in life is to nurture your own sense of presence, to nurture you own depth of love, to nurture your own potential for compassion, and to nurture your own desire for truth, you will be okay and I will be at peace.”
    I think I will post that somewhere I can see everyday (and where Dennis won’t see it and tear it down!) (I’m sure there is a metaphor there if I were clever enough to pin it down.) I am humbled by your perspective that our well-being is what puts you at peace. I will hold that before me as a template for my own growth and my own attempts at giving.
    Endless love,

  3. Rebecca Wainscott permalink
    September 6, 2011 7:50 am

    The Real Work
    It may be that when we no longer know what to do
    we have come to our real work,
    and that when we no longer know which way to go
    we have come to our real journey.
    The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
    The impeded stream is the one that sings.
    – Wendell Berry, Collected Poems

    HI Rick,

    This came today through a site I support called Heron Dance. I thought of you, and the beautiful song of your journey that’s emerging through this blog.

    I certainly support your decision to pursue some kind of settlement, and so glad you’ve found someone to advocate for you. I deeply honor your search for an understanding of the nature of human greed. We are immature fallible creatures, who have yet to learn where our true wealth lies. You are helping us all to uncover that truth.
    Hugs, Rebecca

  4. September 5, 2011 9:48 pm

    I liked the way you picked the lawyer. Good thinking that.

  5. September 5, 2011 8:35 pm

    You are the gift, my friend…..and, yes, you will not put a dent in the greed that covers the planet but you are awake to your responsibility…our responsibility…….not to add to it.

    Love, David

  6. mokasiya permalink
    September 5, 2011 6:40 pm

    In the mastery swim and swirl of duality, is it this or is it that? is a third way, the gift way, our true nature, opening our hearts and souls to all that is, to all that is unkown, in each breath, even for a moment when we become awake, alive, dead, present, where there is no longer a we, or us or them or me or i, just an is-ness, just a smile, blessing heart to heart, soul to soul – loving – all the parts.
    I am touched by your journey, your way of speaking your truth.
    Thanks for sharing the gift.

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