-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."