Saturday, November 27, 2010

ghost limbs

Tonight I am thinking of Sudek and the war, his desperate searching for the limb that he lost in the war, furious at this war and that war and the wars we wage among ourselves, and the fear that war is as much who we are as love, and a part of me nods and knows that is true and I am not afraid but just resigned to the dark side of life that takes away what you most love when you least expect it, and you are looking for that thing the rest of your life, like some condemnation to hell, while others shop in malls or online and watch the fashionable TV shows, you reside in the black shadows of a pain so exquisite you would release yourself from it, but cannot because what you love might be out there, might be found.

The deep, necessary excavation begins. Last weekend or the week before I was listening to Selected Shorts on NPR, and transfixed by a story by T. Coraghessan Boyle about a man delivering a kidney for a transplant. He is, like all of us, caught in the immediacy of the everyday, of the things that we think of moment by moment of our urban lives as important. He is furious and frustrated as traffic impedes his delivery due to a mudslide at the nearby town of La Conchita.

A young woman frantically accosts him, begging for his help. Her child and husband are buried in the mud beneath the house while she had gone out only for a few minutes. Begrudgingly he abandons the everyday world of the traffic jam and follows her to the mess, where he hurls himself into digging, becoming the digging itself, excavating for he knows not what or why, but to uncover something that suddenly takes on more importance than even the awaiting recipient of the kidney still in the trunk of his car.

Maybe it is as much the abandoning as the digging. As we commit to the excavation, so maybe we abandon those things that no longer matter.

I had to search. Far outside the city, toward dawn, in the fields bathed by the morning dew, I finally found the place. But my arm wasn’t there—only the poor peasant farmhouse was still standing in its place. They had brought me into it that day I was shot in the right arm. They could never put it together again…
--Josef Sudek