Tsunami; On Dignity and Suffering

Having just linked to a piece at Inside Catholic in the post below, I find myself linking yet again.

In the wake of all these images, and the mind-numbing loss, suffering and dignity on display in Japan, IC editor Brian Saint-Paul just dropped me a note that they are reprinting a piece I wrote after the Christmas tsunami of 2004, which is still very relevant, and which I find difficult excerpt:

When I was a little girl, our family knew a Frenchwoman. I don’t recall her name, but I remember her vividly. She seemed to me very glamorous and mysterious, forever wearing a too-bright shade of lipstick, smelling of a heavy overlay of carnation and a dim underlay of what I now recognize as vodka. She would always gravitate toward the children, where she joined in our games or (endlessly) corrected our accents as we sang “Frère Jacques.”

Part of what made her seem so glamorous was the suggestion about her that she knew something we did not — that she had made an acquaintance with darkness and had never completely broken free of it. In retrospect, of course, there is nothing glamorous about that, but when you are five or six and you come to understand such a thing, you feel almost heady in your wisdom, included in something grown-up.

The reminder that this madame had something bubbling beneath her too-gay surface was always the same. At some point of an evening’s cheer she would cover her ears to protect herself from hearing any bad news. “Ah, non. Do not say! It is too, too sad; I cannot bear it! These colors are too dark! Give me only the pastels!”

When I was five or six, that seemed like a grand plan by which to live one’s life. It sounded wise, and sad, and true.

Since it is a rather difficult piece to excerpt, I hope you’ll read it all

Browse Our Archives