Sometimes I read non-stop. I pour every ounce of spare time into a book. Somtimes fiction, sometimes non-fiction. For the past week or so I've been consumed by Pearl, a novel by Mary Gordon.
Here is the premise:
A young American woman studying language in Ireland chains herself to the American Embassy. She has not eaten for six weeks. She will not eat, she will not drink, she will not move or be moved. She writes a treatise, explaining what she is doing and why. She wants nothing. She has no demands. She just wants to die.
What brought her to this place? This determination? She wants peace. She wants the peace treaty to end the violence in Ireland. She wants the IRA to stop bombing. But personally, she wants to apologize but feels she is unforgivable. She hurt someone. She feels responsible for his death. She cannot live with this. She says that we have an inherent will to do harm... a tendency that will not go away. She wants people to look at this. Her death, she thinks, will make people look at this.
I understand her point.
Life and death. Most days, there is no immediacy... no urgency. We just don't see it because nothing seems "life or death." Nothing seems to be on the line.
"No need to think about that now... I've got time. No need to do anything about that now... it can wait."
For me this book was about waking up. Somehow we have to wake up from the notion that we have an interest-bearing savings account... storing up time that we will spend tomorrow, next month, next year, in five years. So why sit today when i'm tired and I don't feel good. I have time. It can wait.
I started kong'an (koan) interviews two weeks ago. My teacher set a watch down in front of me and asked "What is this? If you say it is a watch, I will say wrong."
I clap my hands together really loud. For three whole seconds my mind is blank. I say "WEIGHT!" as loud as I can.
I have no idea what the right answer is.
But the immediacy of death points to the weight, the gravity of time. When someone is so willing to give it up... to end their life for a cause, we take pause. We start to feel the weight. We start to wonder. We slow down. We forgive. We appreciate.We look at how greedily we hold on to our own lives... how perfectly unwilling we are to give it up for anything. We marvel that someone could be. We look at our lives and the time that we have and we wonder if we are doing enough with it.
Pearl. It is an amazing story... one I wouldn't have read if it wasn't recommended to me.