Ozzie Ausband

Just another cage

I was people watching today -outside of a church-and caught myself mumbling, drawing a few curious looks from those passing by. People were buttoned up in tinsel & lace. All of it was fine leather & brand name stuff from stores selling the same tired things. As the saying goes—-’The greater the outward show…the greater the inward poverty.’ My usual skepticism … my judgmental mind was at work. Cynical. I am truly cynical. My experience in life has proven to me that most folks are fairly self-centered but -inwardly-pretty nice. My experience has shown me that people blindly follow gods & gurus… seldom asking why they think the way they do.

They sit in church & repeat words like parrots. When questioned they say, “I was raised a Catholic.” or whatever belief they might follow. I feel that it’s a good thing for there to be religious people in the world. My experience tells me that the world could use a few more good spiritual folks around. My experience also showed me the darker aspects of religiosity & its outcomes. I worked as an RN in a major hospital here in southern California for a few years. My study & field of medicine was Oncology. I dealt mainly with cancer & AIDS patients. It was grueling & depressing but meaningful work. It sounds cliche… but I ‘made a difference’ daily.

We had this one young man as a patient. He was a piano prodigy at an early age. He went to Juilliard in NYC & performed all over the U.S. He opened a jazz festival with the wonderfully exquisite, Japanese pianist- Keiko Matsui, in Orange County, which I attended. When he fell ill, his hospital visits quickly became a frequent occurrence. His body & immunity shut down & he rapidly deteriorated. His parents-whom the man desperately longed to see-refused to attend to him at his bedside. They were devout Catholics & couldn’t believe their sons diagnosis of AIDS. Though they -previously- had attended every piano performance & gushed at the ovations their son received, they had nothing but damnation for him now. I wondered if the fathers past was so laudable….hmmm.

When I telephoned the parents to relay the sons plea to see them, the father stated that, “I can’t bring myself to look at him.” He actually had a hospital chaplain pray for his son..”the sodomite.” This is an awful story…but one that truly occurred. I looked on in horror, yet with a strange fascination as well. I am always appalled at the human condition. I have seen hundreds & hundreds of people die…some in my very arms. I must say that I hold no shame in admitting to my tears.

I have watched & waited in those white, sterile rooms, listening to their tortured breathing . I heard the oxygen machines humming, sending greatly needed air to the cancer-ridden lungs sucking feebly at the tubing. I waited & observed. In the hallway, people moved like they lost all hope. I saw the family of one patient across the hall. They were sitting on plastic chairs outside of the room; staring at their shoes. They were as silent as painted people. I turned my attention back to my patients. I medicated those poor doomed souls. My vigil. Time crawled as they prayed. In those dark dawns, I never saw anything that led me to believe that a God or any higher power held sway. It was an exercise in futility. He never came. When I watched children die of Leukemia, it made me think that God was no longer on the job. I closed the unseeing eyes with my fingertips & said a small prayer regardless. I then called the Coroners office. The life with its religious belief seemed like just another cage to me.

You now ask me, “What does this have to do with skateboarding?” Well, it seems to me that its a simple study in the human condition. We can obtain our peace of mind in many ways. We can play piano, worship in churches, raise our children, paint, draw, skate pools or experience the raw essence of life by caring for those close to death. However, anytime we close ourselves to another person & their humanity, we ultimately cage ourselves. Thanks to Jim Goodrich for the image. Go skate…and be kind. - Ozzie

posted– originally–in January 2010