Love & hate, hate & Love
Whenever I try and single out the one race or the one nationality or the one sexuality for its crimes and injustices past and present, I am very shortly after, as right now, struck with how hopeless doing this really is. What good is pointing fingers? What does it really do? Are the people who are doing it any happier? I know I am not. I know the people who are pointed at are not.
I am in Birgu, Malta. At sundown today, I was walking the steep slabs of polished limestone looking for somewhere to eat when I heard the sound of a hymn being sung timed rhythmically with the bellowing of a church bell. I walked into the dark humidity of an old Norman church that opened out and above me into a magnificent, cavernous space, sparsely congregated. I put on my face mask, quickly blessed myself and took a seat at the back and bowed my head reverently. The priest was blessing the Host, praying aloud in Maltese. I did not understand anything except the common interjections of “Josef” and “Maria” and “Ġesù”. But I heard the language of my Mother who is some ten thousand miles away in my country, that she left this country for when she did not know too much of this world. I thought of these colossal, tiny, Maltese women. How gigantic they will always be to me! I thought about how many people have died this year. How many will still die. Very suddenly, I was sobbing like a lost little boy. Silently I heaved, completely uncontrollably. I cried so hard my mask filled up like a cup with snot and tears and I knew I could not reuse it again the rest of the day. The mass ended quickly after that and I had my eyes closed tight, too soggy to make contact with the old ladies I heard shuffling out silently beside me. My convulsing shoulders were giving me away, my breath caught in my chest. I had to pull myself together. I had the feeling that the man sitting by the door was waiting for me to leave so that he could close up. He smiled graciously at me as I wiped my eyes. Outside the sun almost gone, I walked in a daze gasping the still furiously sultry air. One day all of this will be gone. We will not be here to see it. But it will all end! Just then, a man my age from sub-Saharan Africa walked past me and we made eye contact and I smiled at him. He was so shocked and greeted me with a raised hand that was not extended in greeting but rather keeping me at bay. The look in his eyes was fear. This wrecked me and I felt so completely hopeless. I wanted to hug the man and hold him tight because it seemed we needed each other at that moment. If he could have seen me but two minutes earlier he would know really that he had nothing to fear. If we could all see one another at our utmost vulnerable and desperate, just even once, without the endless defending and masquerading. What we see is that there is fundamentally - beyond culture, colour, belief, language - nothing different between any one of us. We all, very much too well now, know grief, sadness and pain. We are all dying to laugh again. We all want to love and be loved back. We all want to swim in the water. We all want to fuck passionately and without shame. We all want to eat good food and quench our thirst. We all want to sleep-in. Nobody wants to die alone.
No doubt so much damage has already been done and everyone has played their part in turn. Every nation, every race, every sexuality has hurt. I myself swing constantly like a heavy pendulum between absolute love and absolute malice. The pendulum has only ever for a moment fallen still! I know that the latter exhausts me. It sucks me completely dry and breaks my spirit. When I am feeling good, loving costs no effort. None whatsoever. It is as natural and easy as the tides and the moon. It drips and oozes like honey from a stone. It refreshes and revitalises my soul. I hum like a content old man meeting his old faithfuls down by the bay where he sells them fish he caught that morning himself and they are so pleased to see him again and be recognised by him, and are loved just as unconditionally.