“There is a face of Sadness for those that do not have Sadness” Antonio Machado
Awaiting the blissful third shot of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, we took the time off our busy schedule to watch people from the simple vantage point of our seat. There were a few people waiting for the shot and others filling their drug prescriptions. They were of very different ages, socio-economic backgrounds, and health care needs. But they shared one trait: Profound. Unfathomable. Sadness.
Not a single one of them was chatting about inconsequential themes or laughing off. They all seemed too preoccupied with the daily up and downs of survival in these times where we have all lost our Sense of Future, our trust in a Better Tomorrow. This one and a half years of Social Isolation and Distancing have consistently gnawed at our human capacity to empathize and our commitment to live together. We have burrowed ourselves so deep in our bespoke cocoons that we can hardly notice who is standing next to us, and worse of all, who is trying to connect with us.
In a September 26. 2021 Washington Post article, Karla Adam said: “The United Kingdom, hoping to ease a supply-chain crisis and a Christmas logjam, will grant temporary visas to more than 10,000 foreigners to work as truck drivers and in the food industry…Britain is grappling with a string of shortages: Supermarkets are running out of goods, and restaurants chains like McDonald’s and KFC are cutting items form their menus. The truck driver shortage is particularly acute. Britain’s Road Haulage Association estimates the country needs about 100.000 drivers. The crisis spread over the weekend to gas stations, resulting in long lines at the pump.”
We are witnessing an Implosion of almost all the known social parameters of yore. Before the Pandemic, there was no shortage of British and European Union drivers willing to risk their lives transporting those huge tankers full of flammable liquids; the salaries were very good, which paved their way for access to a better lifestyle. However, after many of them were stranded in their homes without working at all, something strange started to seep in their tough blue-collar spirits: risk aversion. They appreciated the time off with their families and sharing the great little moments of life: their sons and daughters’ birthdays, their sports and music events, cooking a Sunday dinner with the whole family helping out, watching their favorite team, etc. When they were summoned, a majority had retired or were working elsewhere; it did not matter that most of them had to take a significant pay and benefits cut.
Paradoxically one of the few painters that could grasp the essential grip of Divinity in our lives and has been able to transmit it to humans through generations was a born rebel that drank too much, adored la bonne chaire des femmes and was often fighting with the Catholic Church to the point of almost being excommunicated. But he never was because they were in awe of his unique mastery of the chiaroscuro techniques. His visceral, bloody strokes accentuated the poverty of Jesus and his followers. Intoxicated with the lead from his paintings, he died too young, after a fight in Naples. His name? Michalangelo Merisi. Caravaggio. Master of the Raw Realism that still deeply disturbs us.
Note. This image of Caravaggio’s Saint Jerome writing was taken from Wikimedia Commons.
By Caravaggio – Self-scanned, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15219558
In this painting of Saint Jerome, a masterpiece now at the Borghese Gallery, Caravaggio captured the Doctor of the Church in a moment of pause of meditation in his travails of translating the Holy Bible into Latin in the Fourth Century. He is not depicted as a penitent but as a scholar whose resting right hand is casually pointing at the inkwell at the other side of the table and at the same time at the skull, a reminder of the inevitability of death and the futility of the vainly pursuit of material goods. The red cloak enveloping the ageing saint takes a physicality of supernatural protection from above.
What if the terrible suffering we have almost all of us suffered during the past few months of Pandemic finally has a sobering effect in our endeavors and attitudes?
What if, instead of foolishly pursuing just material comfort, we take a look at others?
What if we stop plundering the Earth’s Natural Resources and find the alternatives?
What if we stop minding our little miseries and start admiring our many blessings?
What if we tell our loved ones how much we love them again, and again, and again?
What if we open our hearts to spiritual values and bestow that gift to our children?
Therein lies the greatest antidote to the modern spiritual angst and the Triumph of Happiness.
As we will all finally undertake the very same journey, we might imitate the poet’s panache:
“And when the day arrives for the final voyage
And the ship of no return is set to sail,
You’ll find me aboard, traveling light,
almost naked, like the children of the sea.”
Antonio Machado – Campos de Castilla
Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.