observations and opinion
In her most recent blog post, the artist Lori Carson (that’s a video from one of her albums – she’s terrific, I think ) recounts the sudden death of a 50 year old acquaintance. Ms. Carson didn’t much like the deceased, she tells us honestly, but is still shaken by the passing of a peer. The late lady herself – also a blogger – worked hard to be healthy and to caution others to take care of their hearts. Then she died of a heart attack. The irony is awful, of course.
Ms. Carson declares this at the close of her blog:
If we knew in advance, we’d never leave anything until later. We’d say, “I love you, you know. I’ve always loved you.”
Really? Would we? Don’t we already know, “in advance” that we are bound to die? Not tomorrow or this minute or ten years from now – for many of us, that fact remains blessedly unknown – but eventually. We know in advance.
But still, we often don’t say it. This minute, this hour, this day will pass and I promise you, sure as the sun sets in the west, someone who loves you will not tell you. And most likely, you won’t tell someone you love, just how you feel.
What does it mean that we stay silent? What is “love” anyway? It can be devotion, generosity, admiration, affection, delight; it is almost always mixed with disappointment, yearning, impatience, fury and bemusement. I’m not sure if all these hues blur into one colour, or more likely, come out as a kind of plaid. It is complicated and whatever we may feel, we aren’t always inclined to say it or sometimes, we just aren’t permitted to. Circumstances get in the way.
And most often, whatever we may feel for someone, in the moment we feel something else more urgently, more invasively: hunger, curiosity or perhaps fear. Fear of rejection; fear of offense; fear of not getting the job done, fear of being a fool. Fear of giving up some inches in an endless argument.
Or we are distracted by the trillions of little blips that float through our brains, the seagulls in the sky of our minds. Whatever we’re looking at or thinking about, we genuinely believe it to be more important – or at the very least, more urgent – than the love we feel for others. And in the moment, that may be true: I have to work, I have to gas up the car, I have to climb onto that damned treadmill and run away the accumulated stress and calories of the day. These things matter. Add them all up, and they seem to matter more than this strange, waif-like sensation of love that wanders around inside the basement of the soul.
Or maybe we just don’t think that our love is worth enough, to pay whatever price is entailed, to let it show.
Long ago, I wrote a song (a not good song) which I called “Silent as Snow.” It described my feelings: tangible, beautiful, blinding in the cross-wind, piling up, blocking the path, then melting away to leave a grey, barren landscape beneath. As real as anything, yet silent. Silent as snow. And so it goes. We stay silent.
Silent that is, until we run out of excuses and distractions. Usually, sometimes near or at, the very end. I have always been struck by the opening voice over by Hugh Grant in “Love, Actually” when he says
When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love.
This is what Ms. Carson is talking about – not the knowledge of our inevitable exit, but of our imminent one. It is this reality, that people reach out to their loved ones at the end, which convinces me the passengers of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 didn’t know, until too late, that something was wrong with their plane. Had even one known and had a moment to act, he or she would have tried desperately to phone the ones they loved. But instead, they were silent. And always will be, it seems.
It may well be true when Hugh tells us, “love really is, all around.” We’re just too busy, or distracted, or important, or afraid to speak it.
You know, we’re all on that airplane. And we all know it.