stay or to go. Purgatory on earth. The agonising wrenching indecision, the
continual weighing up that goes on every day in peopleís lives.
applies to marriages, jobs, love affairs, homes, careers, immigrants,
roommates, business partners. It is a recurring theme in literature. Dick
Whittington found his city paved with gold when he went. Anna Karenina
ended up dead under train tracks when she went. Some like Beauty stayed
with the Beast because the flame was around them all the time, except she
hadnít seen it. Itís about rolling the dice, taking risks. About
going, about staying. Itís about VS Naipaul, who had to go to keep it
alive. About Derek Walcott, who has to keep coming back to our islands.
About Earl Lovelace, who needs to be here to keep his flame alight.
When the question of going or staying isnít an option, people
live in limbo all their lives, their body in one place, their heads in
another, their minds in turmoil.
does she stay? We ask of a woman in an unhappy marriage. Why doesnít he
quit? We ask of a man in a dead-end job. Why doesnít she go home? We ask
of a homesick foreign student. As we all learned the hard way, life is not
lived in sharp blacks and whites, but within the confines of that dull
grey world of compromise. And within that world of acceptable respected
stereotypes, a multitude of hearts beat with rebellion.
devoted wife and mother may, even as she serves the evening meal, feel
pangs of resentment that not a moment in the day belongs to her; an
honourable husband, who fulfills his role as a good provider and father,
may long for days untrammelled by responsibilities and a demanding wife; a
businessman may hanker once more for the independence he had before he was
forced to bring in a partner. A well-placed executive may long to shed his
suit and sail around the world. Behind the acceptable stereotypes, close
beneath the thin skin of our everyday masks - of the diligent employee, of
the perfect wife, are the real untold stories where imagination and
yearning join together like two pieces of flint that may prove to be
dangerous, if it turns into a flame.
nothing is black and white. The flame - call it the dream, call it
intuitive human impulses for pleasure, call it selfish longings that have
nothing to do with responsibility, call it a life force which keeps
drudgery and the prospect of death at bay, is mercurial - it dims, goes
out, flares up again. Some are lucky enough to live the dream, flame
turned high into a flambeau. But the nature of life and the elusive nature
of the high flame of life is similar to that of passion - too much of it
and it can burn you out.
how Madame Bovary died after giving in to it. See how Romeo and Juliet
died feeding on it. The bewildering thing about this flame, this yearning
and longing we all have - (Bernard Shaw called it the Life Force,
Nietzsche called it the affirming the Superman) for people, for things,
for lives, is that it sustains us - more than that, gives us that
unexplained exuberance over life: at a dawn drawn out by a chorus of
birds, at the curve of a childís cheek, at the way music can make you
remember a precise emotion way back in the past, at walking into a room
and feeling your heart leap at the sight of a beloved face, at
unrestrained laughter or dancing.
our very nature, we human beings always are balancing this flame, doing
just enough to keep it alive, while keeping an eye out in case it is in
danger of burning us. So here we are, presenting ourselves as this or this
but really complex beings with opposed desires. We waver between a longing
for security, and adventure, between passionate love and the lower fever
of enduring love, between digging down our roots and need to flee and see
new worlds, between stability and the adrenalin of the unknown, between
the womb of small phlegmatic warm islands and cold climates with sharply
glinting edges. We watch our flame, heaping fuel on it if it runs low with
activity, hiding if it gets too bright with the instinctive knowledge that
it is this flame that separates us from the run-down dogs on the highway;
it is this flame that allows us to celebrate our lives as human beings.
biggest crime then is not paying heed to a flame run down with despair,
drudgery, sorrow, bitterness, rage. It always is within us to get it
going. With little gestures like doing something we never have before,
pushing ourselves to achieve a goal we always have considered a little
beyond us, or grand gestures, like leaving or deciding once and for all,
that you are going to stay, and be happy staying.