Horror and Miracles
April 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
My chest rattles; I think I have either caught a cough on the bus or one of these Spring English trees does not want to be friends with me. The air is thick with blossom and pollen, and when I breathe I can feel a deep watery gasping, like the mouth of a frog opening and closing in my chest. I think of my Grandfather’s gas mask. It is strange to come from a land so scarred by war, where sorrow and hatred runs in the bone marrow, like a new strand of DNA. Here, in Britain, you are preparing for a future war of freedoms, and do not think about the war unless dispelling its terrible shadows with humour. This, I think, is one of the best things about the English ‘Oh no! A terrible thing has happened! Quickly, make it funny so that we can laugh instead of screaming!’ It is the best way to face down the Devil, laughter.
My country was too traumatised to walk away from the war, and after the horror of the Holocaust and the iron curtain, there was imposed a new iron fist of law called religion, as though if only the whole country prayed very very hard, the terror might not happen again, or as if prayer could wipe out the past, and God might part the clouds and lean His lips to our little Earth and tell us why.
I do not think about the war so much as many others in my country. My Grandfather was a great hero and escaped the Russian Gulag and nearly froze to death, and my other Grandfather’s ship was sunk by the Germans in deep seas but even though the waters were on fire with spilled fuel and all around him men were burning as they drowned, he lived – and these two miracles meant that years later I was dragged rubber-skinned and yelling into the world. Now when I think about the war, I try to remember first my miraculous Grandfathers.
I think it is funny that people ask God to show them miracles as though they are not happening all the time. There is a farm on the outskirts of the city that is lambing, and now many little lives with wary eyes and comically big ears are springing up and down the fields, and this is a little miracle. I am reading all the time about people falling off cliffs or having terrible car accidents and walking away, and these are bigger miracles. I have today seen the first rambling rose bud bloom, and this, also, is a little miracle. My body, like yours, is an interconnected thinking universe all of its own, whose brain can rewire itself, and many of these little universes together have created empires and technology and art, and this is such a big miracle that it is taking many millenia to happen.
But many unhappy things happen every day, too. The things that humans can do to each other, or animals; murder and rape and taking away all the rainforest as though it belongs to you. Some people call Earth the Vale of Tears, and I do see why. Even in the brightest moments of life, perhaps a woman saying ‘yes’ to a man on one knee or the explosion of bluebells in spring woods, there is somewhere else a child being beaten or a dog being kicked. As though the beautiful needs the abominable as its shadow, and I admit that my faith is tested by these unknowable things.