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Thursday, August 03, 2000


Shortly after Cynthia died, I recall Don listing some of her virtues to me during a phone conversation, and one of them struck me as so right-on and insightful it seemed almost a revelation, like he'd captured in one word the essence of her which made her so unique and which I'd never been able to pin down. And then amazingly enough I promptly forgot it and have been trying to remember it ever since (reminds me of those jokes about finding the meaning of life, but forgetting to write it down...).

I haven't been able to bring myself to grill Don about it... "So, tell me again, what were the things you really valued in your recently deceased wife? No, no, that's not it... keep going.... Nope, not that either. Name some more..." No, I think not.

Then this Monday I had lunch with word-savvy Andrew*, and I grilled him for it, throwing at him whatever fleeting concepts I could extract from my wordless brain, and he found it!


Pronunciation: ri-'zil-y&n(t)s
2 : an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

Resilience is an interesting attribute because it doesn't show itself until things start going bad. It determines how one handles everything from challenges to irrevocable catastrophes, whether one is affected or un-phased; it is akin to strength, and to self-responsibility. Do you look for help, and look to blame, or do you just accept what is and work with it? Do you break down in tears and hope for sympathy, or just keep fighting until the problem is solved or you die?

I am reminded of the main character of The Shawshank Redemption, or of an Ayn Rand hero (but not her heroines, oddly). You could drop Cynthia anywhere in the world, in any circumstance, and while she might say "Well Fuck! How did I end up in this predicament!", she wouldn't waste a moment whining about it until she'd found, worked, or fought her way out. Even in facing her own death, she simply plotted out the course of action which would buy her the most from what was left of her life, and did it.

The essence of resilience lies in responsibility. When faced with a challenge, do you simply strive to meet it, or do you hope that someone else will--that if you wait or cry or give a pathetic glance in the right direction, the problem will solve itself? (I guess it is a combination of responsibility with the basic will to live and prosper, because without that, even the responsible person may simply choose to curl up and die.)

But again, the tricky thing about resilience, the thing that made it hard for me to pin down and hard to remember even after I'd heard it, is that it's a dormant attribute. It is only in our own heads that we carry it forward, make it a part of our continuing perception of someone's character. It is like trust, it is a form of trust, in knowing what someone is capable of when and if the need arises.

To me it is incredibly important, this ghost called Resilience, and yet it is terribly rare in this pampered society of ours that breeds interdependence and obedience.

Where are the resilient?

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com