And Harvey obliged, wrecking something like 100,000 homes to one degree or another. Technically I only hit three of them, taking a crowbar to soggy walls and wrecked floors. It was quite cathartic. I did my hitting with friends from church. Like most everyone in Houston who wasn't a victim, we were doing what we could to help or if we couldn't really help, at least demonstrate that we gave a damn. The therapy I got from all the hitting was just an extra, probably not shared by very many others.
It was at my third house-hitting that I had a bit of an epiphany. There were two women there that I was friends with from church (or if not friends at least they never visibly blanched when I came their way). I could tell that this wasn't their usual line of work from their soft shoes that screamed 'nail wounds' and from the fact that during that entire day they didn't smash a single thing (they did the essential but IMHO less fun work of clearing up our smashing). But there they were, covered in dust and sweat, dodging flying boards and falling cabinets, the detritus of disaster. And inexplicably, there was joy - in doing hard work for people we would likely never see again for nothing but a thank you.
I noticed that their attitude was radically different than my schizophrenic friend's. Paranoid schizophrenia is a bit like cancer: it spreads in a person's mind until it consumes everything: every person is suspect, every event a portent, the whole world a threat. I realized that this is what terminal narcissism looks like....the total focus on self, so extreme that its victims can't even function. There is no joy there - nothing but terror and chaos. And I recognize that in my life: the times when I was most focused on myself were often miserable while when I chose (or was forced) to focus on things greater than myself and on others I was happier.
I think this overfocus on ourselves, this 'cultural narcissism' is what has been happening to all of us. We've become more and more focused on our private entertainments, on our own petty concerns and on our status as victims. And it is making us miserable. Perhaps Harvey was sent to remind us of this central truth:
"Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will keep it."