The Honey Jar
- I was sitting in Dublin airport recently, looking out through acres of glass windows at the procession of exiting jets; at summer's blue skies with their cotton wool clouds; the tableau of distant landscape moulded by centuries of habitation and seeing all around me the scurrying crowds, the endless flowing stream of lives unfolding. Feeling the strange vacuity of travellers and wanderers in our hyphen between departing and arriving. We were like a swarm of bees converging on their aerial hive, laden with our pollen of suitcases and expectations, then winging away again in ones and twos into the huge garden of the world.
My own departure now, up and away to Gatwick. Below me England is a jig saw puzzle of ragged farms, a quilt of greens and furrowed tawny browns, fields dotted with the spoils of summer's gathered hay, hedgerows and emerald coloured pastures, forest tracts and the black specks of cattle like handfuls of tossed seed. And dim coastal towns huddled against the tide, and the tiny furrowed wakes of pleasure craft scooting about on tidal estuaries and brown seas.
At my ongoing departure gate I sit next to an unkempt elderly man, his deeply lined face like that of the poet W.H. Auden. He peers at the world like an old disapproving tortoise, the lined face above the swivelling neck. He notices my ragtag Peace Run t-shirt and tells me all such efforts at peace are futile. We talk a little about the world situation , the to and fro of travellers he is oblivious of the other passengers and speaks in a loud voice. His son stepped on a landmine in Afghanistan and died at the age of 22. They sent home his gathered bits in a child's small box coffin. He asks me, have you ever lost someone you really loved? Yes, I tell him, but he does not enquire.
When I heard my son was gone I stayed in my room for a week, he tells both me and his now attentive audience. I walked round and round in circles in my grief. I couldn't bear to stay alive. Something died inside me. My boy had given me a big jar of honey for my birthday, a last gift, and I kept spooning it into my mouth, a meaningless, absurd act of consolation and remembering my face was covered in tears and honey. I kept calling out his name as though to bring him back.
Now from his wallet he shows a picture and we dutifully crowd around to see - the son that died far from home is looking past the camera, smiling as though at another, or at some private thought. He is not in his fatal battle dress but a startling blue shirt, looks away into the distance with the optimism of the young.
When we board the plane I have an empty seat adjoining mine and no one is there to talk to me. But all the way across the Atlantic sea I remember the strange pathos of the dead son's honey jar, picturing the sobbing father spooning the golden sweet syrup of the bees into his mouth, the bereaved man's lined and wretched face, his hopelessness, and the endless sticky tears ..
- Dear Sharani and Jogyata,
Who would not cry after reading this? What a shirt can do! This man did not believe in peace (understandably!) but a shirt about the World Harmony Run made him share his story with a few passengers but now many do know it. They say, "Misery loves company". I don't want to know *how many* experiences of this kind only God knows! Remember? "Humour My Only Saviour!"
A wise person once said that human consolation does not last long let alone for good. May this poem does the impossible.
"I am so fortunate
That my life is loved
By countless people
And I am not a hopeless soul."
* * *
- This reminds me of a similar event that happened in the circle of my friends and relatives some 16 years ago, when a father lost his most precious son. While it was bad enough for all of us to deal with the loss, it was absolutely heart-wrenching to observe that man's pain. I mean really-really.. really(!) It seemed that stricken with such grief, a human being can not manage to live on.
I saw that person recently, and he fully recovered, although it took a number of years. We shared some memories of long, long ago, and I noticed that he got, in a way, changed. Actually, strange to say, but the whole tragedy managed to bring forward some subtle quality that I would never expect.. some sort of appreciation for life that his old rigid, intellectual personality would never accept. I felt as if he was whispering between the lines: "I was wrong, there is something else, there has to be, it can not be just nothing, just- enjoy while you can then get annihilated, the emptiness, life must be something else or about something else".
To finish up, I'll quote the very famous psychiatrist Carl Jung, from an interview where he talks about how something in us rejects death.
"I have treated many old people and it's quite interesting to watch what is their Unconscious doing with the fact that it is apparently threatened with a complete end. It disregards it! Life believes as if it were going on. So I think it is better for an old person to live on, to look forward to the next day, as if he had to spend centuries. Then he lives properly. But when he is afraid, when he doesn't look forward, when he looks back, he petrifies, he gets stiff and he dies before his time. But when he lives on, looking for the great adventure that is ahead, then he lives... Of course, it's quite obvious that we all are going to die and this is the sad finale of everything, BUT, nevertheless, there is something in us that doesn't believe it, apparently. But this is merely a psychological fact, it doesn't mean to me that is proves something - it is simply so. I may not know why we need salt, but we prefer to eat salt because you feel better. And so if you think in a certain way, you may feel considerably better. And, I think, that if you think along the lines of nature, then you think properly."