I’m not sure. But – unless I’m struggling with the darkness within – I like to sustain the illusion that death is actually much further from me than it really is.
The point I’m trying to make is that I am the most unpleasant, rude, ignorant, and all-around obnoxious arsehole that anyone could possibly have the misfortune to meet. I am dismissive of the virtuous, unaware of the beautiful, and uncomprehending in the face of the happy. So if I didn’t understand I was being asked to be the best man, it is because I never expected to be anybody’s best friend, and certainly not the best friend of the bravest and kindest and wisest human being I have ever had the good fortune of knowing. John, I am a ridiculous man, redeemed only by the warmth and constancy of your friendship. But as I am apparently your best friend, I cannot congratulate you on your choice of companion. Actually, now I can. Mary, when I say you deserve this man, it is the highest compliment of which I am capable. John, you have endured war, and injury, and tragic loss — so sorry again about that last one. So know this: Today, you sit between the woman you have made your wife and the man you have saved. In short, the two people who love you most in all this world. And I know I speak for Mary as well when I say we will never let you down, and we have a lifetime ahead to prove that. Now, on to some funny stories about John...
Do you understand what I'm saying?"shouted Moist. "You can't just go around killing people!""Why Not? You Do." The golem lowered his arm."What?" snapped Moist. "I do not! Who told you that?""I Worked It Out. You Have Killed Two Point Three Three Eight People," said the golem calmly."I have never laid a finger on anyone in my life, Mr Pump. I may be–– all the things you know I am, but I am not a killer! I have never so much as drawn a sword!""No, You Have Not. But You Have Stolen, Embezzled, Defrauded And Swindled Without Discrimination, Mr Lipvig. You Have Ruined Businesses And Destroyed Jobs. When Banks Fail, It Is Seldom Bankers Who Starve. Your Actions Have Taken Money From Those Who Had Little Enough To Begin With. In A Myriad Small Ways You Have Hastened The Deaths Of Many. You Do Not Know Them. You Did Not See Them Bleed. But You Snatched Bread From Their Mouths And Tore Clothes From Their Backs. For Sport, Mr Lipvig. For Sport. For The Joy Of The Game.
I laugh, and it’s laughter, not light, that casts out the darkness building within me, that reminds me I am still alive, even in this strange place whereeverything I’ve ever known is coming apart. I know some things—I know that I’m not alone, that I have friends, that I’m in love. I know where I came from. I know that I don’t want to die, and for me, that’s something—more than I could have said a few weeks ago.
I feel to that the gap between my new life in New York and the situation at home in Africa is stretching into a gulf, as Zimbabwe spirals downwards into a violent dictatorship. My head bulges with the effort to contain both worlds. When I am back in New York, Africa immediately seems fantastical – a wildly plumaged bird, as exotic as it is unlikely.Most of us struggle in life to maintain the illusion of control, but in Africa that illusion is almost impossible to maintain. I always have the sense there that there is no equilibrium, that everything perpetually teeters on the brink of some dramatic change, that society constantly stands poised for some spasm, some tsunami in which you can do nothing but hope to bob up to the surface and not be sucked out into a dark and hungry sea. The origin of my permanent sense of unease, my general foreboding, is probably the fact that I have lived through just such change, such a sudden and violent upending of value systems.In my part of Africa, death is never far away. With more Zimbabweans dying in their early thirties now, mortality has a seat at every table. The urgent, tugging winds themselves seem to whisper the message, memento mori, you too shall die. In Africa, you do not view death from the auditorium of life, as a spectator, but from the edge of the stage, waiting only for your cue. You feel perishable, temporary, transient. You feel mortal. Maybe that is why you seem to live more vividly in Africa. The drama of life there is amplified by its constant proximity to death. That’s what infuses it with tension. It is the essence of its tragedy too. People love harder there. Love is the way that life forgets that it is terminal. Love is life’s alibi in the face of death. For me, the illusion of control is much easier to maintain in England or America. In this temperate world, I feel more secure, as if change will only happen incrementally, in manageable, finely calibrated, bite-sized portions. There is a sense of continuity threaded through it all: the anchor of history, the tangible presence of antiquity, of buildings, of institutions. You live in the expectation of reaching old age.At least you used to.But on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, those two states of mind converge. Suddenly it feels like I am back in Africa, where things can be taken away from you at random, in a single violent stroke, as quick as the whip of a snake’s head. Where tumult is raised with an abruptness that is as breathtaking as the violence itself.
And I was your moon because I shined brighter than any other star in your universe and you were my darkness. Without you I could not see the depth of my light and with you I could set the night a glow. So we needed one another—the dark and the light. Your fear. My courage. Connected, but separated. Different, but the same. A synergy that made no sense, but every bit of sense. We were neither a beginning, nor an end. We were somewhere in between our madness at sunset and the reality we awakened to with each sunrise. We were the ghosts of timing and fate. We were neither fantasy, nor reality--- we were a purpose somewhere in between.
Please don’t tell her I’m here,” the woman in the closet said, with a strange sort of desperation. Despite the cold outside, she was wearing a cropped white shirt and tight dark blue jeans that sat low, revealing a tattoo of a broken heart on her hip. Her hair was bleached white-blond with about an inch of silver-sprinkled dark roots showing. Her mascara had run and there were black streaks on her cheeks. She looked drip-dried, like she’d been walking in the rain, though there hadn’t...
If I’m lucky, I philosophize about life’s principles on worthwhile standards that meet the test of time. I say, if I’m lucky, because I could be born into a world where principles are drilled into me at an early age and the idea of thinking for myself is not an option. From 'Fillossofee: Messages from a Grandfather' by Robert Gately
I’m speaking of the pursuit of excellence in all things. All things! Presence of mind and devotion to craft. A great artist has these. A great chef. A great master of tea. There’s powerful kung fu in a well-built house or an eloquent letter, but the limit of your imagination is bones breaking and bullets flying.
I had a theory; I’m not sure if it was my own but it worked for me. Public spaces, such as streets and subway stations, became inhabitable as I assigned them some value and imprinted an experience on them. If I recited a snatch of Paterson every time I walked along a certain avenue, eventually that avenue would sound like William Carlos Williams. The entrance to the subway at 116th Street was Emily Dickinson’s:Presentiment is that long shadow on the lawnIndicative that suns go down;The notice to the startled grassThat darkness is about to pass.