"Ignorance is bliss."

I had two of my Austrian cousins come to stay with me for one week this summer. They had never been to New York. They speak only a little English and I speak only a little German. We communicated with each other on the level of children. I have only met these cousins a total of 5 times in my life, and with the language barrier you will understand that I don’t really “know” them. I love them automatically because we are family, but I don’t know them. When you don’t know someone, you feel the need to make conversation, to fill up the silences. When you don’t speak the same language, filling up those silences can be exhausting. We actually were saved at times by modern technology by using the Google translator on the Internet. My point in all of this is the fact that, because we could only communicate like small children, we could not relay to each other the burdens or demons of adulthood. We did not talk about politics or religion, prejudice or greed. We did not talk about family feuds or closet skeletons. Aside from trips to Manhattan, we did not really let much of the outside word in. We ate well, we slept well and we worked hard to make each other laugh - not easy with a language barrier - but we succeeded. It was an interesting study on human nature.

Like many people, I guess, I am finding it difficult at times to remain positive with so much negative going on in the world today. Unlike my father who watches Fox News 24-7, I tend to avoid the news, but it manages to catch me off guard during a change of the channel, or the AOL homepage, or the “need to report” of a friend who doesn’t know I am trying to hide. I am guilty of this “need to report” as well by the way. I suppose it’s the “if I’m going to suffer this terrible news, then you will suffer with me” kind of thing.

One side of my family, my father’s, lives in Austria. The other side lives in Norway. For any of you who have been lucky enough to visit, I am sure you will support my claim that Norway is one of the most geographically beautiful places on earth. Norway has unfortunately made the headlines because on one of its idyllic islands, 68 young people were gunned down in a way that seems more like the plot of a movie than reality, and yet it happened. I know this only because my eyes fell on the front page of the newspaper that was lying outside my hotel room door when I left to fly home from Salt Lake City. I didn’t want to see it or read it, but there it was, the worst that mankind is capable of juxtaposed with one of the most beautiful things mankind can create, the sound of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I had just stood on a stage the night before singing with over 360 voices in this great Hall. It was a night honoring the people who serve in the military and it was amazing. I stood in the wings when not on stage and watched the videos and listened to the music fighting back the tears. They were good tears cried over good things. I went to bed with thoughts of the goodness of mankind. I woke up to the newspaper lying in the hall….

This morning when I opened my mail there was a photo of a familiar long time fan and a letter from her friend letting me know that this woman had committed suicide. It was ultimately this news that led to the tone of my words to all of you. I found it impossible to write about anything “light,” and Ellen and Amanda have been waiting patiently for my letter. I titled this letter “It’s All Relative” because for every burden we carry, somewhere in the world someone is carrying an even larger burden. We can tune out the news on TV, but maybe we should “listen” more carefully to the news that is going on close to us. Someone’s burden may be more than they can carry alone, and sometimes all it takes to lighten that load is to listen. I guess that is why we tell each other the bad news because even if it hasn’t happened directly to us, if we are feeling, caring people, then we feel and carry the burden. I’m feeling a lot this morning, guilt, because maybe I could have lightened the burden of this poor fan who could no longer carry her own… frustration, because it’s too late to find out… anger, because suicide should NEVER be an option, and sadness.

Thanks for “listening.”



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