Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Falling Mortal and the Only Dancer

This doesn't seem, somehow, a week for camp, and so instead here's something that simultaneously manages to be both more soothing and more bracing.  Miss Audra McDonald sings the poetry of Mr. James Baldwin as if it were exactly what she had been born to do, as indeed it may well be.

As you may have noticed, we've been having a spot of bother, not so much directly here in the Sandlands (elhamdulileh, as we say hereabouts), but in the region more generally.  Mr. Muscato and I are keeping a wary eye on what seems to be a distinctly disintegrating situation in our beloved Cairo, and we are just a tad more aware than usual that one's situation as an expat can change drastically, quickly.

But we carry on.  We've had a house guest this weekend, our friend The Teacher, who lives in a remote part of the country and comes into the capital now and again for a dose of cocktails and supermarkets, both of which are in short supply in her part of the world.  We were first pals a dozen years ago or so ago, back when I was a carefree bachelor and living abroad nearly for the first time, in West Africa, and we just happened upon each again last year.  It's an unusual thing in this transient part of the world to have such a comparatively old friend around, and very pleasant.  That she has a mouth like a truck driver and a highly entertaining tendency to pick up shop clerks and other random acquaintances just keeps things all the more amusing.

She headed out earlier this evening, and the house is quiet again.  The dogs are napping on the sofa, and Mr. Muscato and I are gearing up for another week.  Morning comes early, and all seems very ordinary, with the worries of the world (the several familiar places we've been watching overcome with fire and rioters on the TV screen chief among them) put as firmly on a back burner as we can manage.

Somehow, Baldwin's words (in McDonald's thrilling, heartbreaking, nearly perfect voice) shine through:

I know that love is the only answer
and the tight-rope lover
the only dancer.
When the lover come off the rope
the net which holds him
is how we pray,
and not to God’s unknown,
but to each other:
the falling mortal is our brother!

I have, this week, very nearly lost the last of my patience for religion, or more accurately for its followers, given the idiocy currently (and more acutely than usually) being displayed on all sides.  In its place, I rather like Baldwin's formulation: praying not to some final great unknown, but to each other, to the tangible world around us and the people in it.  Losing sight of that is part, at least, of what causes these appalling, indiscriminate upheavals, even as they themselves are the result of long abuse, misunderstanding, anger building up as cancers do and with very many of the same consequences.  I'm not wise enough to go much beyond that, and I find myself falling back on the song's refrain:  some days, some days.  Some days just getting through the day has to be enough.  Tomorrow we will start again, watching and waiting for what's coming on down the line.


  1. Having spent a day supporting the Campaign for a Secular Europe Campaign march and rally, and heard a vast array of erudite speakers - some directly affected by the chaos caused by religion of which you speak - I can only hope that somehow, some way, the idiocy of fanaticism can be restrained (if not eradicated) from the position of mind-control it currently appears to have... Jx

  2. In Steven Weinberg's words: "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion."

    I am holding a good thought for you.

  3. Audra was in fact born to convey great emotion and truth to the masses. I have seen her perform some half dozen times. Each time she has been pitch perfect with whatever song, poetry or prose that has passed from her lips. She has an inner light of urgency and warmth that cannot be contained. Each performance is chill and thrill producing.

    As for religion and zealots and blind faith and whatnot. Well, I've had more than my fill. I quite agree with the quote that John in Iowa has shared. I've been an unfortunate witness to a lot of evil done by the local hierarchy running the sect I was born into.

    I hope things stay on a low simmer in your area and then cool completely.