A gesture of grace


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Category: Reflections Date: 23 Dec 01

A doctor tells the parents of a baby who dies in his office to carry the dead child to the police station. What thoughts could the grieving, humiliated parents have towards their fellowman as they walked towards police officers with the dead baby in their arms?

What kind of savagery is this?


Eighteen-year-olds, with baby faces, are charged with the slaughter three gentle middle-aged and elderly people. A senior Customs officer is gunned down, by all accounts because he took his duty seriously - was straight and not open to bribery.

What kind of despair is this?


An actor, Devindra Dookie, with the talent to transform, translate ordinary life into something meaningful, extraordinary on the stage, loves books, plays and ideas for themselves, and not as an investment for the material gain it might bring him in the future. A man worn down, over several decades in a society that doesn’t value anything that isn’t material.

What kind of frustration is this?


You read it in the letters to the editor, in the barely contained hysteria of callers to talk show hosts, in the voices of callers, in the brusque manner of the maxi taxi drivers.

What kind of rage is this?


A time when good manners are considered an indulgence to those who have nothing better to do. When ‘good morning’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘excuse me’, is interpreted as weakness, fear or sarcasm because it is so rare; because people don’t believe good manners are a way of showing consideration to fellow human beings, not a way of showing off, and don’t bring you down.

What kind of obscenity is this?


The rich buying extravagant presents for one another and their spoilt brats, while rolling up their glasses against the boys on the highway trying to make some money by selling fruit.


Take the doctor.

He lives in a society where the only lives that count are those of the wealthy, famous and well-connected. The poor don’t have feelings.


Take the 18-year-old boy and his alleged accomplice.

Did they have the opportunity to attain an education?


Take Dookie who committed suicide.

I saw him over the years doing banal radio programmes in a damp underground building where he once handed me one of Chekov’s plays. And I wondered: “How does he survive in this intellectual desert?”


I, like many others refused to ‘see him’ because his tormented state made me uncomfortable, want to question my life, values and country and who likes to feel that?


There was no real vent for his acting talent apart from the usual slapstick comedy on offer here. The isolation and loneliness of being invisible, because he was not “normal” (of course he wasn’t - he had artistic rather than monetary inclinations) led him to grief, drink, the streets, a crazed state and the final decision to sit in his car and put out his brand of light because few saw it.


Take the callers, the fuming maxi taxi drivers.

They are forced to stand by and look while people at the top get something for nothing. Why should they have dreary lives, hustle, when those in positions of power ruthlessly abuse it to their own financial benefit?


What can solve it, make us all happy?

Money for all?


The proof is in the grief of people who have money to burn and now don’t care if it does, because the person they loved has died, or far away, or is never coming back.


What then?

Empathy = Grace

A sense of context. We are part of the vagrant, and of us. Products of the same society. A civilised country is measured by how well it takes care of its vulnerable. People who don’t feel the need to give back may as well be stray dogs on the highway.


But it’s practically Christmas Eve.

So amidst the rage, a gesture of grace, from the pomerac tree that is generously sprinkling its dusty blossoms in circular swathes, staining green leaves and trunks of trees with that glorious mixture of hot pink and deep crimson.


Grace comes to those who seek it, although not in the quantities you might wish. It comes with the news of the community that sent out 12,000 hampers to the poor, of the woman who takes in an eight-month orphaned baby in for Christmas, with the knowledge that there are people who quietly collect grace and spread it like the pomerac blossoms to those of us lacking in it.


See the crimson dust glitter in the sunlight, float up, spread far with the breeze.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur