Sunday, December 30, 2007 

With Or Without Use

People don’t die, unfortunately, when the hope dies within them.

You can hear each beat inside the emaciated ribcage of the beggar child at the traffic signal asking if this window is going to roll down, feel the missed beat as the driver looks away or mutters a curse. It starts with this extreme sensitiveness to the daily parade of hopes and fears. Living with each nerve ending exposed, you are keen to each nuance of every person you come across. Someone doesn’t acnowledge you, you feel it as a stab to the heart. You see clearly the meanness in the actions of those you supposed to be fair, and you feel soiled by their perfidy. You see clearly the pettiness that results from the fear in the other man, and you are not enraged, but merely saddened by the degradation of the soul. You hear a tinge in someone’s voice, you read between the lines in a conversation, and it clenches the heart in a cold grip that chills every vestige of warmth. Your own troubles begin to assume a disproportionate importance as auguries of a bigger fate, strands of a faded tapestry of dreams. And then, somewhere, the last flame of hope is exuitnguished, and there is almost a relief , a welcoming of the cold after the heat of despairing batle, of the darkness that envelops.

The coldness causes a detachment, a stepping out of the self. One then stands apart, watching the self flail in futility at nebulous windmills. The troubles pile up, but the detachment also causes them to shrink in significance, just another set of broken threads as hurtful and as remote as others. Shorn of an identity as a person, you stand as an observer, watching the self flounder along further and further into trouble.

Of course, one doesn’t sink in lassitude. As the outside world screams at your doorstep, one seeks to drown out those voices in frenetic activity. Hundreds of mindless computer games. Scrabble. Reading random books. With the inner core lost, you seek to validate your existence, your importance by convoluted logic : by hurting people who matter. I can hurt them, so I must be. By grabbing, by crossing lines. They give in, so I must matter. The detached self watches as you degrade yourself, noting with passing interest the bridges that are being burnt.

As you watch, personal life and work both develop scenarios where the point of no return is imminent. Without any particular interest, you wonder what would happen if the self was allowed to continue its pointless way to perdition. An impersonal interest with which one sees the bright red lines blossom on your hands, the distanced yet enthralled attention that you pay to the slow numbness as oxygen deprivation begins when you settle at the bottom of the pool. And always there is that idea, that small voice, that impels you to see it through to the end this time. To let it all go, to seek possibly an oblivion that attracts more than any picturebook heaven would.

And then, almost reluctantly, one is drawn back into the vortex of the turmoil. Suddenly you are back in yourself, and there is no time for regret or remonstrance. And all else is forgotten as one concentrates on retrieving situations, on stepping back from the brink, on chipping away industriously at the masses of big and small issues that have piled up.

And then the confining walls have been razed to the foundations, and there is only the small voice asking if it would have been better to let all end this time, assuring that next time, one would slide on, one would let go, next time …

Walking away with the crisis resolved for the nonce, there is a sign that lifts your heart. You press on in wet sand in the gathering twilight. And now the moon is out, the sands are an expanse of powdery silver, and the waves that hit the rocks dissolve into shards of glass that abrade the last detritus of depression away. A slow joy awakens at the beauty of the world that has people who do care , a spark that re-ignites.

People don’t die, fortunately, when the hope dies within them.