Friday, January 16, 2009

Tragedy and what I want things to be

Close up image of incense burning and sweet, scented smoke wafting sideways and upwards.
Dear Gentle Reader,

Your Heroine is in a foreign land. 


Your scribe finished taking the minutes of a historical society meeting. 


A migrant worker is dying from being hit by a bus as he tried to cross a busy, dark road. Presumably to save time. 


His thundering impact on the windshield of the bus woke your Heroine from a hastily snatched sleep.

She was the only one who tried to help him.

He lay on the road; his body, contorted with pain, became grunting, limp flesh now burned upon her mind.


I know. 

I talked with her.


And J**m is sitting by her Dad as he is desperately ill. 


There are tragedies and celebrations surrounding us all. 

Sometimes it is hard to see the celebrations, or to feel their joy and value.

I would like our lives, or at least mine, to always be a bit like this... 

(although I confess, I would rather be the one that remains, not the one leaving at an early hour, for this poem is evocative of friends dying sooner than expected. However what could bring sadness is instead remembered with fondness, heaped with flowers, and with lightness and grace, not despair...)

On Leaving Some Friends At An Early Hour
(John Keats)
Give me a golden pen, and let me lean
On heaped-up flowers, in regions clear, and far;
Bring me a tablet whiter than a star,
Or hand of hymning angel, when 'tis seen
The silver strings of heavenly harp atween:
And let there glide by many a pearly car
Pink robes, and wavy hair, and diamond jar,
And half-discovered wings, and glances keen.
The while let music wander round my ears,
And as it reaches each delicious ending,
Let me write down a line of glorious tone,
And full of many wonders of the spheres:
For what a height my spirit is contending!
'Tis not content so soon to be alone. 


But the reality is that life does not always seem so radiant and full of (almost) wistful happiness.

The serrated edge of  life sometimes seems to rip the beauty out of life and suck the air from a room that seemed so warm and full of promise mere moments before.


Even then, I would rather evoke John Donne.

Meditation 17 (excerpt, the fourth paragraph only)
(John Donne)

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.


But I know that that is not so for many. 

Your Heroine, and mine, tried to comfort the migrant worker.

She also tried to comfort the bus driver who will now lose his job, and therefore his present life and his dreams of a better life. Possibly he will lose his life. For hitting someone who broke the rules and climbed large barriers to get where he was. 

When there are a billion people to replace you, people can seem replaceable and expendable. And foolish chances can start to seem reasonable.

And only one other person on that bus tried to comfort the driver. 

And no one else tried to comfort the migrant worker on the road.


Life certainly can be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short as Thomas Hobbes opined in Leviathan.

I do what I can to take up the golden pen, and lean on heaped-up flowers, in regions clear, and far.

For myself, and for others.

And, specifically, for the living too.

I wish you only lightness, and shade when you need that too, and heaped up flowers.



I suspect this post will be removed very soon, as it may well be too private for your Heroine.

Post postscript

For those who desire the totality of John Donne's Meditation 17, it follows in the preceding post found here. (I decided this post looks too long...)


Cloudia said...

Strange how fond we can become of a fellow blogger. Really unexpected and extraordinary.
You, Our Heroine & T-Cat have become very real friends. Thank you for posting today; for tackling the BIG thangs; for being a delight - day after day.
Warm Aloha to you 3....

jjdebenedictis said...

Oh, poor Regs...and the worker, and the driver. How horrible. When you talk to her next, tell her she's in my and Andrew's thoughts.

Heidelweiss said...

I'm so sorry. I can't even imagine how horrible that must have been. And will be. I'm terribly sorry she had to experience that. I'm counting my blessing right now.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It just keeps coming after us, doesn't it?

Sepiru Chris said...


Thank you very much for very kind words, and yes, it is both unexpected and extraordinary.


Those three certainly felt it. I will, (tell her she is in the thoughts of both of you) when I talk to her in a few hours (its morning here) but she is likely to be unhappy with me for sharing this.


Thank you for your thoughts. There are a lot of blessings that many of us do not count because we are not really aware of them, they just seem so normal.


It does, but that is price of being alive and interacting with a greater world. And, I totally concur. It just keeps coming after us.

Which is why the metaphysical poets are such great succour to me.

"Thus, though we cannot make our Sun / Stand still, yet we will make him run."(Andrew Marvell, To his coy mistress).

Further thoughts...

As a civilian from a first world nation, there is a lot of very ugly death and misfortune that rarely happens near us, or, if it does, it is usually screened or sanitized.

One of the joys of life abroad is also one of the perils; a totally different filter, between us and life, replaces the filter we have grown up with and which we accept as being real.

In third and even second world countries, if you are not cossetted with wealth and literal body guards, it is easier for all of life, including death and disease, to smack up against you with astounding frequency and virulence.

Not just in moments when it impacts our families, but when it impacts strangers around us.

For Regina and I, our biggest challenge is not becoming too hardened and blasé, which is the natural protective reflex.

With a hard enough shell, things bounce off and damage themselves, not you.

Which brings me full circle to the very unfortunate situation last night.

Regina's Mandarin is truly fluent. Her Cantonese is so-so (more ma ma hu hu, but I don't know what that would be in Cantonese; my Cantonese is non-existent).

She was able to communicate with the driver and the migrant worker. But so could everyone else on the airport feeder bus.

All that the rest talked about was whether or not they would have difficulty catching their flight or their train, and how inconvenient this was.

Sometimes the downside of understanding a language is understanding what people are really saying.

Take care, one and all, and take up your golden pens before truly called upon to do so.

What am I saying, you four, and all my readers, already do. Keep writing then, and, lean on heaped up flowers every day of your life.


Barbara Martin said...

Posting this is an excellent message for us all that come to visit. Life is full of choice, and those choices are kept track of through the divine. The Heroine did what was necessary despite the tragedy, and that in itself was very brave. Tell her she is in my thoughts and has my blessings to soothe her soul. She should not concern herself about the others who did not assist.

Sepiru Chris said...

Thank you, Barbara, for those kind words. Your thoughts will be passed on.

Junosmom said...

I can sense your sadness and disbelief at the callousness of the others, but I agree with Barbara, all we can do in life is reach for what we ourselves know is right and at that moment as you can influence others by actions, but not change them. I am very much learning about that this week - living today, not worrying about what has been, what might be. Only today, for tomorrow, it might be gone. The world has long held injustices and sadness, people die, others live. Heroine did what she did because she was Heroine, and it was who she is. Your verses helped me. Another friend sent one as well:

I Was Regretting the Past
and fearing the future.
Suddenly God was speaking, "My name is 'I AM'.
When you live in the past, with its mistakes and regrets, it is hard.
I am not there. My name is not 'I WAS.'
When you live in the future, with its problems and fears, it is hard.
I am not there. My name is not 'I WILL BE.'
When you live in this moment, it is not hard.
I am here. My name is 'I AM.'

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Junosmom,

Welcome back, and thank you for your comments. You have mirrored what Barbara said, and I can see the value in what you both say.

The callousness of people still shocks me, and I was a mediator for years. And what you both say makes sense.