Folding old sweaters in loving maintenance (my friends tease me about the age of my wardrobe) I remember that nothing is forever,
not even the most important things. “Forever” said my ex-husband the day we married and even as he said it, I wished he wouldn’t because I knew it was a promise he might not be able to keep. Intent is admirable but it isn’t a promise. Along with most of the rest of my kind, I am sure I have made promises I have not kept but I have tried not to. And it is hard work, trying to offer a more accurate best while admitting that none of us know very much about what might be called the eternal verities ie God knows, and He ain’t telling.
“Promise you will never go away” said my five year old over thirty years ago. “I can’t promise you that” I said very gently, spreading my hands round his beloved back. “I don’t know. What I can promise you is that, if you love me the way I love you, the memory of that love will last forever.” It is human to look for talismans of love, every kind of love, but better to start in the knowledge of what you don’t know.
You don’t know how you are going to feel in 10 years’ time, after illness, the loss of a baby, being out of work, debt so all consuming it makes your teeth ache. You don’t know how you will feel about yourself or the other. And consolation in the face of disappointment is often very personal.
How many times have I left the house, having done my best with my hair and my face but feeling that I am not there: if this is life, it is shadowy, I have wasted it, I amount to not very much – only to meet one of my neighbours and his dog, or to be greeted warmly by a bus acquaintance, to be joshed by somebody in the street, or have the bus driver twink his lights at me like a wink. Any or all of those should be offered up as jewels at the Throne of Fire undoubtedly awaiting me. They do not last forever, most of the time they are very shortlived, but they help me to breathe more easily in the world I live in.
Most of the time human endeavour short circuits. It is at best half a tale, perhaps because all the time you are travelling in the direction of a goal, the goal itself is moving. I was never any good at science at school but I remember one of my teachers talking about molecular energy, that everything was moving, even if you couldn’t see it moving, and then seeing Victoria Falls which seems to be solid. Life is like those falls. Most of the time it looks static but it is always moving.
Of course then, there is moving as in pulsing or throbbing. And moving as in moving away, moving to build and moving to destroy. I move and you move but however we are bound, whatever the power of our intent, we may be moving in quite different directions. By the time we see this in concrete terms, it is often painful and ugly – though sadly, not new. We thought we had pronounced a charm against this dissonance, and what we have to face (better late than never) is that the charm we invoked is a wish not a magic. Nothing is forever.
Sometimes other things hold us and we weather terrible storms, like horses or oxen pulling a load. Sometimes we learn and though knowledge is not always comfortable, it often fits us better for what is to be. Sometimes we are just blind and stupid. And we confuse selfishness for strength.
Whatever you thought about the recent demonstrations, the filthy mess they left behind them and the old anarchist intent to get as many arrests as possible in order to disrupt the system, what they highlighted was that we think by not panicking “everything will be all right.” But it isn’t all right and panicking in terms of the environment is appropriate. Time is running out – I’ll spare you the list if you promise to think about it.