Monthly Archives: December 2008

See No Evil (part 2)

It was late November when I saw both “Blindness” and “Triage.” I had been meaning to write a post about the two even since, but December got in the way.

I had a homebound ticket to Brazil with December 10th printed on it. I had also promised myself and half the world to have a first draft of my dissertation by the time I went home — an unrealistic promise as it turned out, but which I tried to fulfill to the very last moment as best as I could. Add to all this the fact that this flight to Brazil would also mark my sixth move in two years, one could say I had quite a bit on my plate in early December. Little time left for blogging or for anything else.

The morning of December 10th found me sleep-deprived, mostly packed, high on caffeine and adrenaline, and pretty proud of myself. I hadn´t been sleeping for more than 4 or 5 hours a night in weeks — a feat that I had never ever in my life accomplished, especially not with the winter solstice approaching.

But after 7 years thinking that a doctoral programme was a black hole where my time and energy disappeared into the void, all of a sudden I saw my work coming together, and that felt wonderful. Add to this 1) the fact that in those three weeks I had performed three times with my two bands (and thought we sounded awesome) and 2) that I had got closer with friends who had been far away geographically or otherwise, the morning of December 10th made me believe I could do the impossible.

By noon, I had proofread, printed and handed-in to my supervisor the most up-to-date version of my thesis, which, though far for complete, was as close to completion as it had ever been, and that made me really proud.

Filled with satisfaction, I proceeded to my carrell at the library, where I left some of the left-over belongings which I could not take with me to Brazil. Realizing by this point that 1) I needed caffeine and 2) that I did not have a single penny in my pocket, I stopped at Massey College for a cup of coffee. I had no idea what time of day it was.

It turned out, however, that it was 1.35pm. Lunch had officially stopped being served five minutes before, but there were still left overs if one was willing to go for them, which I was. I got myself a tray and set down by myself in the almost empty dining hall.

There were only three other people finishing their lunch at this point. They sat as a group at the opposite end of the hall, diagonally from where I was. What with being hungry, sleep-deprived, on an adrenaline-high, in severe need of caffeine, and in a hurry to go and finish doing everything I needed to do before boarding the plane in the evening, I was almost done with my lunch before I realized that one of those three gentlemen was James Orbiski, sitting with his back to me.

But so it was. And in the state of mind that I was at that particular moment, there was no space, time or energy left for self-censorship.

I was unstoppable.

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See No Evil (part 1)

A few weeks ago I went to the movies to see “Blindness.” I´d been planning that for a long time, and was super excited: first, because I had heard many good things about the book and second, because I was in Brazil when they shot the movie (most of the movie, if not all, was shot in Brazil).

My feelings as I left the theatre are a bit harder to describe. Part of me thought it was a good story taken too far. It wasn´t just that some scenes were extremely unpleasant, but that they seemed unnecessarily so. In my judgement, therefore, the lack of verisimilitude was a big check minus for “Blindness.”  Thus I finally reached a verdict:  too unplesant to be true. Period. Which shows how little I know. 

A couple of days later, I went to the movies again, this time to watch “Triage:  Dr. Orbinski´s Humanitarian Dilemma.” As I entered the theatre, the film had already began, and the feeling of “I know this place, I know this person” gave me a tingly sensation of contentment as I searched in the darkness for a seat.  

When I first moved to Toronto in 2002, Massey College, a scholarly community at the University of Toronto, was my first home (and it still is my permanent address in Canada). I lived there for more than two years, during which time Dr. James Orbiski and his wife Rolie Srivastava were also living there.

They were both very active in the community, and always very willing to talk to the less famous members of the College such as myself. But I, in my immense timidity, had never in these almost seven years had the courage to do more than exchange nods and smiles whenever I passed them.

I knew he was famous. I knew he was busy. I knew he had been in Rwanda during the genocide in 1994. I even suspected that he had won a Nobel prize, thought I wasn´t really sure about that, because in my mind it was simply too unlikely that I´d be sharing  the same address as a Nobel prize winner. 

More than six years later, here I am in a cinema complex watching a documentary about my former neighbour Dr. James Orbinski. The familiar face and the familiar scenery gave me a sense of proximity that I had never experience in a movie theatre.

As the movie progressed the sense of “deja-vu” got more and more intense, but in a bizarre way: all of a sudden, I felt like I was watching “Blindness” all over again. Again, the punch in the stomach as I think of the awful things human beings are capable of when they know that “no one is looking.” Again, the sense of awe at the almost involuntary heroism of people who see themselves providing care to others in the most inhumane circumstances — not knowing whether they themselves would come out of the situation alive. I was trembling.

In a way, I was overwhelmed by the some of the same intense feelings that “Blindness” had provoked in me. But this time I couldn´t put them in a box, seal it and label it: “caused by a work of fiction taken too far.”  Rwanda was no fiction. It happened. And I know someone who was there and survived to tell the tale.  

I was in shock for days at end.

Unprecedented political ups-and-downs

In Canada: Prime minister suspended parliament from yesterday until January to avoid a vote that would most probably have removed him from government. This is less than two months after his government was re-elected.

In Brazil: President Lula’s approval rates reach a new record: 70%, surpassing the previous record of 64%, which was also his. This is after he lost three presidential elections in 12 years.

Curious, no?

Ofertory

From St. Joseph I learned
To love my work
And to work for love

Excruciatingly passionate work
Love that is a lot of work, hard work
A passion that I resist hopelessly
And to which I hopelessly surrender

This work of mine is a work of love
Love of God
Love of my country and my people
Love of my family and my friends
Love of my neighbour, near and far
Known and unknown
Lovable and unbearable
Love of my love

My God, my Strength, my Love,
I, little that I am, offer you and beg you
Accept this my work of love
Bless this my work of love
Multiply this my work of love
Put Your love in this my work of love

Do with it what you will 
As long as it’s pleasing to You
Add to it what I cannot add
Remove from it what I cannot remove

Even if it means taking it away from me
Even if it means removing me from myself
Hit delete, remove this selfish self from myself
Take away my egocentric ego
From my work, from my love
From me.

This work and this worker are Yours
They were created by You and for You
You put me into this
I trust You’ll get me out of it

This love and this lover are Yours
Created by You and for You
For the giving and for the taking
If You don’t want it, I don’t want it either

St. Joseph, patron saint of workers, of families
Of Canada, of the church
Of my own parish and my own family
Of my vocation and entire life
Twenty-nine years ago today
I was baptized in the parish
That bears your name

If that, perchance, grants me a wish
Here’s my wish, here’s my prayer:
Tell your wife,
To have a word with her Son
And tell Him
That I could use some extra help today

Thank you very much! Send word when you can!
Gratefully as always,
And then some more,
Ester.