Saturday, August 12, 2006

Lightness of Being Alive

A Ray of Light Some books, especially specialized academic ones, can only be described as dry, heavy, lifeless, and, all too often, downright dull. A friend of mine describes the experience of reading such scholarly tomes as tantamount to eating sawdust. Frequently, when too many words are used, they seem to trip one another up, and in some strange way strangle the experience and squeeze the fruit of life into a soggy pulp. Words can entangle, ensnare and entrap instead of freeing, liberating and releasing the spirit. Gestures accompanied by few and spontaneous words oftentimes capture the experience. A simple anecdote by way of elucidation will make the point forcefully enough: Today as I wandered about in the men's department of a local store a young girl of perhaps fourteen or fifteen years, and certainly no more, approached and measured a tee-shirt across my chest and said: “that will do, you’re about my father's size.' She smiled as spontaneously as her impromptu and instinctive gesture. Somewhere beyond the entanglement of words two human beings had met. Some minutes later, as I walked through the mall, she and her brother or boyfriend or whoever - it doesn't matter who - passed. Again she woke me from my reverie, smiled and said: “I got it, thanks.” I smiled and said “good.” In a world rife with suspicion and gross mistrust of every stranger I am almost startled at this genuine human openness. I am reminded of Brendan Kennelly's veritable eulogy to such times of innocent openness between country folk when he was a youngster on the streets of Ballylongfort in Kerry. I can still hear him recounting how as a little boy he would listen to the stories of the old men and women and especially the blacksmith. Probably, and hopefully such trust still obtains today in similar country areas. It is all but dead in the cities. As I sit and type these lines the thought of such a simple gesture as this one today makes me rejoice in humanity. We hear too much of its deeper, darker and sicker side - its depravities, enslavements and impoverisments. We read too much of crime and too little of sin. It is the age of the voyeur and voyeurism - of cheap and sordid thrills. We hear and read too little of the goodness of humankind - its lightness, its love, its sincerity, integrity, innocence and wholeness. I will remember you, dear girl, as a straw of hope blowing on the winds of destiny; as a ray of light in a somewhat darkened world. You will enlighten more than one day, more than one soul, with your love. A picture I took of a small statuette (astride my computer in my study) made from lava rock (purchased on one of my many trips to Sicily) - it depicts the pieta' set in two open and caring hands - a beautiful insight into life, no?

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