Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Incidental mercy

"…But don't exhume this; there's no sense
In scouring ruins. Why condense
The happiness that floats above you
By seeding it with doubt and pain,
Crystals that force it down as rain?"

[Phil to Ed in The Golden Gate]

While reading these lines from Vikram Seth's verse novel, esp. these

Why condense
The happiness that floats above you
By seeding it with doubt and pain,
Crystals that force it down as rain?

("Why not?," Ed might have responded.), a recurrent thought about grief being more weighty than happiness occurred to me. Vikram's imagery is stark. Why seed the cloud of happiness that floats above like a deceitful apparition, lest it acquires the gravity of sadness? What's happiness but an escape from adventitious suffering, as Professor Sapolsky might say?

Let me discuss a bit with reference to The Hours. Clarissa tells her daughter,

When I am with him, then yes, I am living and when I'm not, things do seem sort of silly.

But in the end, it is Richard's death that releases Clarissa. What does her quote mean in the light of the ending? Does it mean that Clarissa sought release from the suffering, the same suffering that brought her closer to a notion of "living"? Did she wish for a return to the triviality of existence that she escaped in the company of Richard?

Or does it mean that her unrequited love for Richard blinded her to the pain that she felt at not having been the one he "chose"? I have a theory for this.

She had been carrying him within her (and continued to) all this time- the essence of Richard. And it caused her such pain, such irredeemable pain that she wished to see it crushed, for it to not be validated. For that space of rejection to not get honored and that's what ultimately happened.

That is, in a roundabout manner, his loss made her feel glorious. She cared for him, even as the man he chose to love moved away. It was her revenge against Richard. "See," she seemed to say, "I am the one who cared for you till the end."

Clarrissa discovered relief not in the event of her lover's death (which shattered her), but in the details of it. It was an act that was laden with incidental, sudden mercy. The morning he threw himself off the window, it was only mercy, as I see it, on Richard's part.

How long have you been doing that? How many years cleaning up the apartment. What about your own life? What about Sally? Just wait till I die, then you'll have to think of yourself.

He had said to her earlier.

More than anything else, it was one mammoth act of benevolence.

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