Here is an event which it has become my duty to declare:
all my life I have been searching for the world, then, while it hurtled through space at roughly 107 000 km/h with a spin speed of aproximately 1670 kp/h (it matters where on the rock you stand) then … this flower smaller than a small coin, caught a bit of the flare that fumed and spat from the sun eight minutes ago, and held it, like a promise, and though we move and in that movement find the earth to be such a place where pain and grief find us, no matter where we look, then also we must remember that it will pass. Everything passes.
And we are little more than caretakers of brevity called upon to do the impossible, to make a life with a brief spell on a brutal rock. But, here is where we have surprised, even ourselves- we have found beauty where there ought to be none. Are we not remarkable? Are we not better than we thought?
Every town dweller maintains an oasis. A patch of grass, green plants; a garden. This is an unconscious ritual of hope. There is a desert a few hundred kilometres away to the East. The sea is 5 kilometres away to the west. Brutal summer heat sucks everything dry and twice a week, we fight back with water. It is an endless cycle. It is an apt metaphor for the short lives we live on a fast moving rock that turns on itself whilst circling a star that is dying a slow and glorious death.
We love and, if we are lucky, are loved back. A welcome parenthesis in the absurd text of our lives, If we are fortunate, is the gift of children. If they remain happy and healthy then we are doubly blessed. At some point the people we love begin to die and the grief caused by their leaving either draws us closer to the faith of our choice or illuminates the absurdity of the condition of being alive. Perhaps both? I live in a constant state of mourning. Acutely aware of the imminent demise of everyone, I feel in all moments the loss of those with whom I am walking on the beach, for whom I make a cup of tea, with whom I look up at the sky and draw from the stacks of cumulus some shape or face or meaning. I live with the pain of loss even when nothing is lost. I anticipate pain the way swallows anticipate rain. There is a joy and a heavy grief in seeing the quick dives and low sweeps of these delicate birds. Some are drawn to the sea whose constant rows of falling froth laugh at the littleness of our human fear of endings. I am all endings says the sea. I end all of the time and look at me, see how large I am and with what force I end. Then our own ending seems alright and even normal, usual.
Against the violent current of nihilism I water the grass, the plants or dig a hole and place into it something alive in the hope that it will grow after I am dead. Hope is difficult. Putting a foot onto the floor and then the other is sometimes the most positivity I can bring to a day. Yet, I do not consider myself a negative person. Beyond the front door I am all smiles and mischief. The ones I love bare the brunt of my contradictory nature. My home is the birthplace of my being and I am not yet fully formed. It is here that I may express my disgust at the absurdity of human existence. Here that I hate people and love my dogs; despise the world and love my wife and children. I will love and hate with passion. I empty the glass of my being so that I am able to go out into my classroom and teach empathy and compassion. I can do this because I need it most and because I hate my self at times and people and the condition of life does not mean that I hate my self or life or the condition of being alive.
I am establishing limits. I will no longer entertain the simple minded. Those who elevate dogma of any brand above simple humanity. I cannot entertain such nihilistic stupidity. My brand of nihilism is entirely different. I marvel at the infinite dance of atoms whose rhythm gave rise to me. I am in awe of night skies and ants and feel the cosmos reshuffle itself in the dying twitches of a bee on a windowsill. I am grateful, to the deepest recess of consciousness, for my life and the ones in it that I love. I am also mindful of the incessant grief that marks the boundary of my existence. I will not accept this without some act of rage. Doesn’t my rage against the absurdity of life confirm my deep attachment to it? I find living to be a precious and beautiful event. I am just pissed off at a very deep level that it must end. If one’s finger bleeds at finding a thorn on the stem of a rose, one does not assume the rose hates you. The pain is an anomaly I am still attempting to understand.
I was entranced by a bullfight I watched in Madrid one Sunday afternoon at Easter. It was a manifestation of my conflicted being; the personality of soul on display. Ten minutes is all it takes to represent life. Our wilful pride swells as we swagger boldly and well dressed into the world silently crying out “look at me, look at me! Am I not the finest thing that ever lived? Am I not splendid? There in the prime of our lovely and beautiful naiveté we say to ourselves ‘but this is easy. Why did our parents and their old friends warn us about life? It is not hard at all. It is marvellously simple and I am so grand.’ Then from nowhere a bull is unleashed and it is not just there it is heaving and powerful and wants to dig its horns into you. My God, something wants me dead! How can that be? I am too pretty and young and wonderful to die? Then there is the battle and this beast that is as beautiful as you must die, or you will die. Life becomes in a moment not the style of your walk or the angle of your smile at admirers; it is simply that if you do not choose an action you will die. Something always dies at the end of it. At least once it will be you. Until then we must learn to not be so arrogant, to understand that everyone is beautiful and that everyone has their bull.
The last time we spoke I struggled to understand your words. A day later you were moved to ICU and two days later you died. But there were other, more important words that passed between us. We spoke often and for that I am grateful. There is a sense of closure in the love we knew we had for each other. I feel remorse at being over 6000km away when you were folding your life away. I wish I could have been there to hold your hand, just once. Sean did that for both of us. I know you would remind me that geography does not alter the state of the soul, that you knew we loved you dearly. We did, do. Now I experience the real cost of migration. You made our leaving easier by supporting it. You were brave that way. I also know it played its part in breaking your heart. What a big heart you had.
I shall visit Sean in April and together we will with care and all the gentleness we can muster, trace your life in the belongings you left behind. There will be letters we wrote to you as children, hand made gifts from your granchildren … you kept everything. Archeology of the soul. Memories will re-establish your beautiful presence and we will cry. We will encounter your absence in every room of the home. We will embrace your presence which is now only found inside of us. It seems darker and roomier inside, colder. I will feed your birds and water your plants and talk to you. We will laugh. In the laughter we will recall one of the finest gifts you ever gave your sons, the ability to find in the bleakest hour of the day a reason to smile.
This was meant to be a letter of thanks and goodbye, some sort of eulogy shared. Like our lives it is imperfect, a poor mirror of the vast emptiness your leaving has left. The words do not express my heart, they never do. At best, all they can do is point towards someone they are trying to embrace and whisper the words one last time, ‘I love you mom’.