Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A New Sensation

The good thing about life is it's so unpredictable. You never know when something good is going to come along. Or something bad. So little of what happens to you is under your control. No matter how much you plan and work toward an outcome, there's really no guarantee you'll get what you want. Most of the time we don't even realize how small things add up to something truly terrible, or supremely sublime.

For the last year or so I have been reading (and re-reading)"The Great War For Civilization" by Robert Fisk. Fisk is a newspaper correspondent currently working for the Independent in the UK. The book is an epic chronicle of his observations during a long career in reporting on war and its aftermath in the Middle East. I don't agree with all his political views or overall philosophy, but I was impressed with his in-depth research and historical perspective.

Among other things, the book discusses the impact of Western actions during and after WWI and how they contributed to the Armenian Genocide under the dying Ottoman Empire. The subject matter seemed relevant as I now living in a country which was part of the Ottoman Empire. I also live close by the former home of Enver Hoxha who was named in honor of Enver Pasha, one of the Young Turks most responsible for the Armenian Genocide.

Six degrees, Kevin. Only six degrees.

On Sunday, Christiane Amanpour hosted the CNN International special event "Scream Bloody Murder." Another dose of genocide reporting on Armenia, Germany, Rwanda, and Bosnia. Lest you think I am some sort of mass murder fetishist, I must confess I only watched because of Christiane. I first saw her reporting on the fall of the Berlin Wall and was fascinated by her exotic looks. Later I came to admire her intelligence and journalistic integrity as much as the bottomless pools of her eyes and the cling of her sweater. Anyway, it was an excellent, if depressing, documentary.

Monday morning I was up early taking a friend out to the airport. Cold morning, still dark, head full of sleep and no shot of coffee yet to focus my mind. Heavy fog hung over the fields along the new airport access road, particularly soupy in the vale of the Tirana River. My mind was full of dark thoughts courtesy of Fisk and Christiane.

Yeah, the Turks had been here. The Germans too. No doubt these fields have seen their share of blood spilt. Greeks and Romans. Illyrians. Serb, Venetian, Italian. Each era sends a new wave of blood, setting the stage for the next atrocity. The misty acres around me brought to mind Fisk's reference to Carl Sandburg's poem Grass:

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work -
I am the grass;
I cover all.
And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?
I am the grass.
Let me work.
On the CD player INXS provided the perfect soundtrack to my pessimistic mood:
The devil inside
The devil inside
Every single one of us the devil inside
Here come the world
With the look in its eye
Future uncertain but certainly slight
Look at the faces
Listen to the bells
Its hard to believe we need a place called hell
After a quick turnaround at the airport I headed back to town in the same frame of mind, contemplating man's ceaseless cruelty to his fellow man. Blood feuds, internments, firing squads...
But as I crossed the fields, things looked different. The sky in the east was lightening and the misty fields seemed less funereal. The impending dawn changed the mood from death and mourning to one of anticipation. No matter what terrible secrets the grass concealed, it's dewy lushness also held the promise of life. The mist no longer a shroud, but the cottony wrapping of a brand new day.
Just as the sun peeked over the crest of Mount Dajti, flooding the flats with sharp clear light, INXS added their voice:
Sleep baby sleep
Now that the night is over
And the sun comes like a god
Into our room
All perfect light and promises
That quickly life changes. I dropped the windows and let the cold wind blast my head clear. Cranked the volume up and sucked in lungfuls of crisp morning air. Mssrs. Farris and Hutchence wailed on about "a new sensation" while I reveled in my new frame of mind. Tirana glowed fresh in the morning light. Quiet, lying motionless in a brief calm before the day's business begins. I parked and dashed into the local bakery for a fresh-from-the-oven loaf of bread. I ate it as I ambled down the sidewalk, senses awash in bread smell, chilly air, and all the anticipation of what may come next.


Anonymous said...

That is indeed at good album by INXS... Thank you for your thoughts.

traveler one said...

Surprisingly a really wonderful post! A beautiful mix of jumbly thoughts with a bit of foggy poetry thrown in. Perfect.