Friday, February 23, 2007

The Strawberry

Like the previous 'literary' post, this is also a small literary piece, inspired by a recent business flight where security was even more intrusive than usual.

The Strawberry

“The bomb exploded in the forward compartment, I guess about 12 rows ahead of me. First the raw sound, so loud it hurt. My seat rose up as if on a see-saw – I was actually looking down on the carnage when slowly the plane tore in half and I was projected - through gut-wrenching pressure and unbearable force - into the night. Some moments of tumbling as my seat righted itself – I was falling bottom first with the air howling around. Shielded from the blast, I entered a curious state of peace, despite the whistling of the wind around me, and the constant chaotic buffeting.

They say that when a bomb goes off in a plane, everyone dies, or is instantly rendered unconscious. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m sure that some of my fellow passengers had indeed been torn to pieces by the explosion, but I was perfectly unharmed – so far, I reminded myself.

I thought inconsequentially of the Zen story about the monk pursued by tigers. He takes the upper path followed by the leading tiger only to find a dead-end. Climbing down the precipitous slope he sees beneath him the second hungry tiger, waiting patiently. He can hang on only a few more minutes. At his side is a small plant, with one ripe and mature strawberry. He takes it, bites into it, closes his eyes and savours the delicious taste.

I will impact in only a few minutes and I thought I would be terrified, but I’m not. I think of my life as a long thread and it happens to end here. Perhaps more as a lifelong work of art, which in some sense abides: God knows, I tried to make something of it.

No. Curiously, I am furious at this outcome. It has deprived my wife and my children of the years of life together, with me, to which they had become accustomed and to which they were completely entitled.

Unable to change the inevitable outcome, I lie back and withdraw from present reality - and with them this last time, I savour the moment.”