Suddenly

I went to work this morning.

And so today began in its ordinary way.

Wrote a email.

Briefed the staff.

Held a meeting. Met the students with birthdays. Conducted an interview.

Felt a little unwell and told my P.A. I would drop in at the doctor.

Six hours later I have just woken up from an operation. All is good. It was quite a mechanical thing really: eminently fixable. No ongoing concerns. But it is still quite a surprise that I began the day with an email and ended it in a hospital bed.

It makes me think. The people on the news expect ordinary days. Then their sister goes missing. Or their son is in a car accident. Or they receive news from a distant capital city of a freak storm or a plane crash or a crazed gunman – and everything is radically altered. All of the best science, the most powerful rhetoric, the most ardent political activism won’t bring their loved one home. Won’t change the news.

On the way out of school today I passed on a message to a colleague. And I told her of my speedy exit to ready myself for tonight’s operation. She told me that she is looking after her elderly parents: cleaning their vomit; negotiating their tired verbal attempts to understand what happens next for them. She used the word ‘raw’ to describe her experiences.

It is her love that makes it raw.

There is a strange comfort in peeling away the pretence.

Once, when I lost control of a vehicle, and had to attempt at 80km/hr to undertake a hand brake 180 degree turn to stop the car – with no previous experience – with only the memory of watching the Holden stunt team do it at the Bathurst race track – I felt this strange peace. For a moment I saw death’s cold eyes. I remember saying to God that if this was it, then that was OK. I had young children and a fabulous wife, and I desperately didn’t want to go yet, but what could I do? Death be not proud. But I could not be proud either.

As I lay in the ante-chamber to the operating theatre tonight I knew that my daughters’ phone calls of best wishes each all had that slightly panicked tone – What happens if someone makes an error and my dad is not OK tonight? Of course I am part of the enormous statistical majority and am now sitting up comfortably in my bed. Death was not proud tonight. But, even in my trust in God and western medicine, I could not be proud either. I had no control.

When I stood beside my languishing father in Tweed Heads Hospital in December 1994, and held his hand whilst he breathed deeply, then paused for ninety agonising seconds before breathing again, I felt the suddenness. The loss of all control. This was a day that had begun ordinarily, before it brought out its nasty little surprise. My mother woke me that morning to tell me Dad had a headache. Could I drop down some tablets? Four exhausting hours later, after holding him on his bed whilst he lunged and pawed, gasped and jerked, I stood beside him whilst he breathed and then stopped breathing. It was raw.

Yet it was what it was. The truth.

The only thing that keeps me being human in the rawness of life is love. And much as I appreciate the study doctors have undertaken to fix me tonight, love is not explained by the science. The science only goes so far. The doctors who operate, love. Holding your convulsing father on a bed is an act of love. Cleaning his vomit is an act of love. Regretting the loss of a distant sister is an act of love. And God, not the sordid mechanical universe, is love.

 

 

But I really love being married…comments on ‘Gone Girl’

‘Gone Girl’ is a gripping film. Quite the farce. Its duplicitous characters act out their attraction and pain in a community that bases its raw emotional responses on the fickle and self-serving concerns of the media.

Yet when I exited the film I wanted to say to the other cinema goers ‘But I love being married’, as an act of affirmation of the trust I feel towards my wife even though the characters in the film generalise their agony to all those who are married. I wanted to rebel against its ‘farcical realism’.

The film could be seen as a parable on the dangers of trust.

Perhaps Ben Afflick plays both an ironic Christ and a deceitful Hamlet. It was Harold Bloom who claimed that Hamlet is the new Christ of literature. The West has replaced, in some of its literature, the man who acts out of sacrifice and love with the man who ponders his own fraught circumstance and then acts with equivocation and occasional senseless violence.

It is questionable if Afflick ever really ever loved his wife. Love itself is questioned as even being possible. There is lust, and insecurity and obsession. But does anyone love? Perhaps the twins do. Perhaps the policewoman. Any ultimate devotion Afflick has to his wife is proof that he has no virtue, no moral courage. It is in this that he is an ironic Christ. All he can do is ponder moral questions, and make vain and soul-sapping attempts at resolutions. It is in this that he is a deceitful Hamlet

And Rosamund Pike’s character leaves no justice, or even vengeance, to God. The pain she feels, she inflicts. She is victim and perpetrator, victim and perpetrator.

And as I watched the film, and found its narrative strength drawing me into it, enjoying its twists and moral pain, I found that I could not conclude that it was just a sophisticated narrative of the sins of the world. Yes, it delves deep into the ‘heart of darkness’ in both genders. It evangelises a misogyny and misandry at the centre of the human heart.  It smears away any pretense that the viewers might have that they can act with love of their own accord. It is a mirror to our own equivocation.

Is there therefore no redemption?

I note that if there was no artistic memory of the Christ that Afflick’s character is not, or no sense that love is possible (possible even in the sad milieu of their lives), then it loses its dramatic tension as a film.

Love remains extant.

And there is hope that the director thinks so too. I think again about the sister and the policewoman. Even the Defense Attorney. The policewoman is true to her vocation. The sister is true to her brother. The Attorney, whilst ostensibly chasing the dollar, believes in uncovering the truth. These are acts invoking justice and altruism.

Ironically, even in the heart of darkness, the idea that ‘God is love’ can’t be undone. It is out of the bottle.

And yes, despite my desire to rebel as I exited, I enjoyed the film.