08 August 2013

Let us recognize our family

Eduardo Galeano’s latest book, ‘Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History’ is not about children. Neither is it a comprehensive collation of important things that happened on each day of the year.  And yet, Galeano, like in most of his books, touches our commonalities worthy of celebration and warranting of lament, across continents and across the centuries.  Each day of the calendar has an entry.  Each entry recounts moment and personality.  And each description un-freezes moment and personality from year and address respectively; we see our ancestors, ourselves and the citizens yet to residence this earth.  The entry for August 11 is as follows:

‘As people know in black Africa and indigenous America, your family is your entire village with all its inhabitants, living or dead.  And your relatives aren’t only human.   Your family also speaks to you in the crackling of the fire, in the murmur of running water, in the breathing of the forest, in the voices of the wind, in the fury of thunder, in the rain that kisses you and in the birdsong that greets your footsteps.’
We can talk continents and we can string together centuries and generations.  We can think of home and household, and we can think of village, province and country.  We can think of a faith community or other collectives described by identity markers.  Or we can think of fire, water, air and earth; warmth and pyromania, cool and flood, oxygen and carbon monoxide, tilled soil and explosion-made crater. 

These things make us family, even as they can turn us into strangers or worse, enemies.  But fire is not containable.  The sun shines on all.  Water moves, through air and underground, welling up first to slake the thirst of one piece of land and its resident and then another and another.  Air moves. The monsoon does not require visa to cross boundary, does not know the language of tolls and would not care less.  And the earth, carved up by cartographer and politician, history and history-seek, moves around in the harvests yielded, in the sand that rolls on river-ways, minerals extracted and the buying-selling that cuts across identities; the absentee landlordism of our times. 

The elements were worshipped once.  Perhaps ‘veneration’ is the better word, the description that suited the practice.  Perhaps because our ancients recognized their inherent power to make mockery of difference; the tsunami did not check ID cards, neither did the fires of war.  Perhaps because they were aware that elemental mix can cut through time and space, unite disparate communities and erase what are largely artificial lines that separate human from human, human from fellow creatures, creatures from plant and plant from the inanimate. 
All these things speak to our connectedness.  All these things say ‘family’, unrecognized perhaps and even outcast, but nevertheless bound in elemental fraternity.    We are children, however old we may be, regardless the wealth of our experience; infants in the larger clan of humanity, innocent on account of our ignorance, pitiful because we are arrogant, made of hope because wisdom is touchable.  All it takes is to recognize family and to greet, embrace and converse as we’ve been taught in the wisdom of our ancestors that is contained in the customs of being, sharing, grieving and rejoicing. Together.  As suggested by our brother from Uruguay, sister-nation of Sri Lanka, Eduardo Galeano.   


Dileeni said...

The contents of your article are very true.

Anonymous said...

In a small Island where kids are arrested over a "theft" of a coconut or Jak fruit, this is an impossible dream. We are the biggest hypocrites on earth.