Monday, June 27, 2011

Complexities in Human Existence

Source of picture: Now Public
"... the arbitrary and capricious nature of life -its randomness- is something very difficult for us humans to accept ...the end result is of one's own contemplation upon an evident reality: "Horrible things happen to innocent people all the time, for no good reason."- David Guterson on his book, 'Snow Falling on Cedars'
The above quote is from a book I hold quite close to my heart. I can't remember how I came across it but I'm very glad that I did because it was a story that didn't conclude in a happy manner. Not all of the characters received what they wanted (and no doubt, I was angry!) but realising it now, the truth in the book was far more important than a happy ending. Sad, but true - in every sense of that phrase.

I recently started a new job in the city area a few weeks ago. To get there, I have to take the train into the city station. From the train station, I then take a 5 minute walk through the shopping area to get to the building. The shopping area is a popular place for the homeless to be at. Alot of them can be found sleeping or begging outside shops. The ones that are slightly better off sell copies of The Big Issue. On my first day at work, I passed through the shopping area at 8am and surprisingly, was greeted by an elderly man at his Big Issue vendor. He said "I hope you have a wonderful day, ma'am." I was grateful for him saying that as it made me realise how long it was since I had greeted someone in that way.
'I'm 18 and homeless.'
This is just one of the many signs one may find the homeless holding in Perth. It worries me when some individuals make the assumption the homeless are going to spend the money given to them on drinks, cigarettes and drugs. Sure, that may be true for some. But the majority of them have good intentions and have sadly, found themselves in situations they had no control over. I remember listening to my lecturer in a Social & Welfare Law class saying that the homeless shelter she often volunteered at, was predominantly made up of miners who had lost their jobs when the Financial Crisis crippled part of the mining industry in Western Australia. They came back home to their partners, who then kicked them out of their own home. Many applied for jobs but soon found out that their skills weren't transferable to other sustainable occupations. No money, no house, no family. If that were my life, I'd probably drink too.

This post has no intention of being over-bearing and pushy for people to help the homeless and poverty-stricken (although, it's something that I believe each and everyone of us should be doing, regardless), but to reflect and reiterate Guterson's humbling thoughts. Terrible things happen all over the world, for no good reason. An evident reality I try not to admit too often.


  1. So sad.

    I get angry when people say "everything happens for a reason"... It doesn't! Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people and even when good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people, that's not because they deserve it... It's just chance. Random.

    A lot of homeless people are those who have lived normal lives until they suffered a head injury... Which changed their personalities, made everyday life harder for them, estranged them from loved ones, made secure employment very difficult... And eventually led them to live on the streets. Instead of looking at homeless people and thinking 'lazy' or 'addict', I wish people would think 'misfortune' and 'that could be me'.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with you, Laura. I do say the phrase "Everything happens for a reason" - but only in the context of human encounters. (So, I guess I should modify that phrase to 'Every human encounter happens for a reason'. Haha.). We meet people to better ourselves, or, in some instances, not let ourselves become.

    But to apply that notion to people deserving what they get is too harsh. It is chance and randomity(?) at play.