Monday, February 23, 2009

Laughter and Forgetting, Tulips and Army Tanks

Today I was reminded of a great book that I read in university - The Book of Laughter and Forgetting - written by Milan Kundera. At the time of reading it, we talked about whether it was a political story, or was it a story of the human experience. I said it was political, since it was a story about the coping mechanisms that people use to survive horrific circumstances brought about by war and oppression.

Years later now, it occurs to me that the story was also about the human experience. I see parallels and similarities to the way people cope with that which they cannot control. In our society, we do not live under the threat of war every day, thankfully, but we do live with the threat of economic downturns and the related disasters. We are conditioned to fear the worst, so that when it occurs, we are prepared.

In Kundera's book, he writes about army tanks rolling past a woman tending to her flowers. I remember thinking, that would be terrible. But it was understandable, since she couldn't control whether the tanks came or went, but she could tend to her garden and possibly create something positive in a world gone wrong.

Kundera's metaphor is true today. Metaphorical army tanks plough through our lives, threatening the garden that we have cared for - our livelihood, our health, and yes, even our self perception. It is terrifying to think that one person can control another simply out of a need for self survival. It is even more terrifying to think that people can and do act out this insecurity every day.

So what are we to do? Wait for it? No. We do what Kundera's character did. We tend to our tulips, and laugh when we can. We look for the positive, and choose happiness. We try to live a good life, and remember that when doors close, another one opens. We do things to mitigate our personal risk at work and in our personal lives, thereby taking as much control as possible. And we look out for each other, and help those we can.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We persevere.
I live on because I'm curious about what will happen next.

And I know that, even after more cold and snow
Tulips will again grow.

And I forget how often I laugh. Just laugh.