Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Better Days

There is a scene in the film The Descendants where Matt King (the character played by George Clooney) was running, running … as if his very life depended on it. He looked comical, laughable; a middle aged man hurling across his quiet suburban neighborhood in shorts and loafers.

But I wasn't laughing. I thought to myself, I once was that man. Comical, laughable, stupid, silly.

I think human beings carry themselves with dignity most of the time; as we strive to do our jobs well, care for our love ones, do our daily routines. There is a certain nobility about it that even the most ordinary among us possess. A teacher struggling to provide food for his family, a nurse taking care of a sick patient. People trying to be good.

But terrible things happen ... sometimes; God-awful moments that break our composure, when we crack under pressure, when we lose control. Moments when we can't hide our terror and pain, when we wanted to squeal and moan and scream at the injustices of the world. When we sobbed and begged for the hurting to stop, because sweet Jesus, it's fucking unbearable.

The thing about it is; you won't really understand what I'm saying until it happens to you. It's just the way it is. Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic, in her review says these are the moments that teach us that "the hard truths of life are as impossible to escape as they are difficult to embrace."

Yet, embrace them we must. And afterwards, slowly by slowly, frame by frame, the world would reassemble itself and take on a new meaning. Some of it is familiar, while others are startlingly new.

Those who survive seem to be somehow different; like there's a certain weight in them. Heavier. The abyss stared into their souls and they stared back. They did not submit to the easier alternative which was to close your eyes ... and fall. They made themselves move. They endured.

"Grief, terror, love, longing --- these are intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and gravity, they had tangible weight," Tim O'Brien wrote in his masterpiece The Things We Carried

I once said that it is these things which age a man, when he begins to understand the joys and sorrows of the world.

Sometimes, I would catch an old friend and notice her face take on a faraway look. And I would want to ask her: Why so sad? Why that grayness in your eyes? Why feel so lonely? Not alone ... just lonely.

Three of my Tita Deng's siblings died in the past few years. One of them was a brother she dearly loved. He was her housemate, her companion. Her friend. She never really recovered, I think. She is turning 88 years old this year, and our talks are now full of her laments in life. How difficult it is to be old ... and weak. Her increasing inability to walk. How lonely she feels.

I would hold her hand and listen. Tell stories and jokes. She would laugh. All I really wanted to say is "I'm still here, aren't I? I'm still here."


the green breaker said...

it is good to talk with them. you know when you talk to children and feel like a child too, same thing she feels. sometimes you get some repeating lines but those are lessons. as you said, "They endured". they must know better albeit the days that have passed.

♔ıǝɹɯɐı♔ said...

And so I'll let myself fall. I don't wanna grow old. :)

Thanks for the realization.

cjgruet said...

Deeply poignant, Kane. Those of us who have been through the labyrinths of pain and come out wounded but alive understand well. It is in the dark nights of the soul that we struggle to catch a glimmer of light, yet find as well that even in the full glory of a noonday sun, we carry our pains. As the Histoy Channel so aptly described the Taj Mahal, it is a symbol of "a tear on the cheek of time". Ours can be gleaned in the eyes of those who carry pain but survive and still find meaning. Joy to you, my dear son!

Anonymous said...

i am not sure whether i would use "aw" or "sighs" after seeing Tita Deng's photo. What I do know is that there is a feeling, an overwhelming one, everytime i hear her name much more see her photo. It brings me back to the years of amazing youthfulness I once shared with her. I dont know how it feels when one uses a time machine, but i think it would be something like ths. Thanks for sharing this karl. -m

citybuoy said...

Nakakainis ka. It's amazing how you never realize you had something painful inside until you read something like this.

Minsan ba naiisip mo kung anong mangyayari sa atin pag-tanda? Magsusulat pa kaya tayo?

Anne Frank said...

its very beautiful Kane. Both what you wrote about and how you wrote it. This society gives a lot of importance to beauty and artificial things and we forget about the simplier ones, about our olders and the respect and love we debt to them. Lovely writing, seriously.

JJ Roa Rodriguez said...

I can really relate to this... Nice post...


R. Burnett Baker said...

A wonderful essay of love and caring, Kane. Why is it refreshing to hear these thoughts and laments from one of relative youth? I suppose it's because those of us who are the Matt Kings of the world suddenly, or not so suddenly, are faced with these very thoughts and (un)realities.

We are all young in our minds. The desires and aspirations never fade, well maybe just a little, but they're still there. As are you for your Tita Deng. My aunt, who I just wrote and posted a poem about last night, is also 88, soon to be 89. How did she reach this point of chronology, and why do I deny that we're all older?

Kane, do not neglect to not only listen to her stories, but encourage them as if tomorrow is gone! These times creep up on us like dusk swallowing daylight, and we need the comfort of these pasts.

Some of my most recent posts have been of old photos I'm scanning now with my new scanner, and begging the stories from those who are still with us.

At some point in our lives, it's all we have left: It's all that will ultimately matter.


Sonia said...

I think being able to carry all those burdens from consequences changes you. The hardships give you a certain serenity that only experience can teach.

Sometimes, I feel torn about whether I still do want to experience things like they are...or if I should just..not. Sometimes it can get unbearably painful.

Yas Jayson said...

The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.

Hector, History Boys