In my book-to-be, Catching Infinity, I wrote that life clusters around Zero and Infinity. When I first wrote that sentence several months ago, it was solely from a theoretical perspective. The female protagonist, Alice Liddell from Alice in Wonderland, now twenty years old and a postgraduate at Oxford, wanted to experience the breadth and depth of human emotions to root herself to this world.
Because for what purpose is life and the human body, if not to experience?
Do we just die, having left an enormous carbon footprint, with our life stories being remembered and talked about for one or two generations, three if we lead big, eventful lives? Or is life starker than that, namely human existence is merely about fulfilling biological determinism by passing on our DNA, creating a larger gene pool?
I recently faced a serious health issue, which of course brought Infinity right up close and personal. There was this mad rush, this swirling chaos, all revolving round my unfulfilled dreams, two more babies yet to be born, a renewed vow to live a more meaningful life, to make every single day count, and yes, to experience the breadth and depth of human emotions NOW, should Infinity choose to absorb me before the year ends.
When the years and decades that I thought were mine by right were suddenly condensed into minutes, hours, days and weeks, my inner life suddenly becomes the event horizon of my own personal Black Hole. Black Holes, which used to be the most exciting thing in the Universe to me, suddenly became ‘not nice at all’. Even light cannot escape its gravitational pull; in a Black Hole, everything will be gone, erased, scrambled. I was supposed to be getting married next week. How could I reconcile that beautiful, much dreamt-of occasion with what I am going through now, too sick to walk up the stairs? I don’t see myself when I look at the reflection that now stares back at me. In the short space of a mere two weeks, the woman that I had been was decoded into bytes and bits in a hologram-like Universe.
But in the case of life mirroring fiction, I wrote that order and chaos are not diametrical opposites. In Catching Infinity, the second female protagonist Karin Van Achterberg had to cope with her husband’s tumultuous mind in the aftermath of Alice’s destruction. But she, The Wife, found beauty and order beneath the chaos, because chaotic systems are an inseparable mix of the two. From the outside they display unpredictable and wildly random behaviour, ugliness even, but expose the inner workings and you will discover a perfectly deterministic set of equations ticking like clockwork to the steady beat of Love. Yes, according to Chaos Theory, there is an underlying order beneath it all. It’s just that we don’t often have the wisdom or the peace of mind to see it.
Thus, I took myself and my chaotic mind off to church to fathom the underlying order when my life was spinning off tangent. Church for me is Westminster Cathedral, the bastion of Roman Catholicism in the United Kingdom.
He, on the other hand, is anti organised religion, believing instead in a myriad of Hindu philosophies and long-dead Eastern sages. He often commented – only half-joking, I’m sure – that he has to do the Sudarshan Kriya and invoke the protection of Lord Krishna each time before he steps through the doors of Westminster Cathedral. But he, who gets woken up when I can’t breathe at night or when I am just being a drama queen, has been sitting in Westminster Cathedral with me stoically as I prayed my heart out.
“Do I terrify you?” I asked.
‘Naw, but your church does, Jac. It gives me the beebeejeebies just sitting here. But I pray with you, to your God, in your language.”
“Don’t,” I replied. “Don’t compromise your own beliefs for mine, or you’ll lose the sense of who you are. And right now, more than ever, I need you to be strong for me.”
“Jac,” he began patiently. “Beliefs, ideologies and even principles are just a set of rules to guide us by as we muddle our way through life. They are just ideals. They do not maketh us. Love maketh us. It does not make me less of a man to yield to you sometimes, Jac.” He paused. “Because I dare to. I have no fear because Love guides me.”
Being a mother of five, I resonated very deeply with his words. All too often we bring our children, especially our sons, up to be strong. We instill in them our values, our morals, our beliefs, and send them out to the world with siege mentality, to win, win, win, to be successful rather than to be of value to humanity. We prize success because in some perverse way, successful children are our justification as parents, our bragging rights to other relatives, neighbours and friends in our twilight years.
Yield is not a word in many parenting vocabularies, so over-written those vocabularies are by the word ‘success’. We don’t teach our children to yield – there is something shameful even in yielding because it is mistakenly associated with weakness and relinquishing control – but yielding is oh, so important, because if we don’t yield, we break. Put this in ‘real’ terms: some of the tallest buildings in the world are built to sway in the direction of the wind before righting itself when the moment passes. It takes an extremely strong person to put aside those childhood ideals, to be vulnerable even, to have the courage to go where life leads instead of clutching fearfully to old structures that stop us living meaningful lives. If life is not lived joyously, consciously and freely each day, for what purpose is life? The answer is in Catching Infinity, of course – big smile.
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