Saturday, March 13, 2004

Spain weeps

And I sob with her. Those brave and anguished Spaniards, we are told, have poured out en masse in drizzling cold throughout Barcelona, Seville, Valencia and as far away as Canary Islands. In Madrid, a sea of umbrellas in reported to have formed over the rain swept streets as millions marched to pay homage to the dead and to protest these murderous acts. A young man reminds the reporters, “It is not rain, sky is crying.”

And the same words appear over and over again, “We were all in those trains.” Somehow we have come to expect them. Yes, we recollect how we have recently all been American, and Iraqi; Serb, Afghan and Bosnian; Palestinian, Tutsi, and Australian, and… Israeli.

We instinctively expect more. A pathetically false and morbid cosmopolitanism! A death pact! It has become our favorite clichĂ©….the almost annihilation of our imagination--just another one of those “things” heading for extinction.

My tears though are partially of shame. I had to pause, to read, to reflect, and to establish distance in order to begin to sense the magnitude of their agony and to begin to empathize. Life has a way of imposing a coarseness of spirit—a creeping numbness. How could that have happened? And happen to me?

It has become a number’s game. Add, subtract, multiply, divide, and compare. 50,000 or so Iranians overnight in Bam; 550 Americans and counting, give and take a few, in Iraq. 10,000 Iraqis multiplied by 2 or 10 depending on your preference, plus those 500,000 children, or were they merely 50,000? Or only 50? Depending on politics of division. 10,000 French during the summer heat, 3,000 plus or minus 112 in N.Y., and in Afghanistan? Well, who knows for sure, 3,000, 30,000, or 3,000,000? Who cares, really? What’s in a zero anyway? Whom did I leave out? Why shouldn’t I have? Hard to remember anymore.

So here we have in Spain 198 dead and 15, 00 wounded; well almost 15, 00 give and take a few. Names? Ages? Stories? Passions? Hobbies? Fears? Frailties? Quirks? Impulses? Likes? Dislikes? Favorite movies? Favorite sexual positions? Favorite flowers? Dreams? Desires? Aspirations? Hopes?

All squashed in an instant.

Think the beauty that is life and the beings who engage it. Think the ephemerality of what is given to us through sensory impressions, and the evanescence of those who take in all the imprints appreciatively.

Nowhere in the vast space of any universe, no moment in the infinite horizon of any time, offers us such an instant of convergence. Moments, in their constitution, are unique and we can not help but marvel at the magnitude of the loss after each particular individual explodes into nothingness.

The Japanese sensitivity and wisdom allows them to compare the plight of passing beings to that of “dew even now being shaken from the tossing branches.” And they mourn, lamenting every single one.

But our lives go on, no?

So do yourselves a favor and yell out loudly…. we were NOT all on those trains!

Others were: the individuals who are no longer able to tell enchanting stories; their particular faces no longer visible--never to be touched, smelled or kissed again. They were the real victims.

The rest of us remain still mostly petrified of dying, and sadly, even more terrified by living.

And so it goes on, my friends, as it has always: life.

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