Story 12 - Shopping for Glass
The other sculptures had a similar effect on me, but in a different manner. They reflected the beautiful soul of Sylvia, the brightness of Ushi's smile, Steve's unfathomable depth of understanding, Ross' boundless knowledge of things, and Tony's enthusiasm and his infinite patience with my lack of
'omnipotence.' It appeared to me that this glass art was designed to have this effect. It enabled one to look into ones soul, to explore ones
self-love as a human being. It appeared as if the sculptures captured the qualities of respect, honor, intelligence, alertness, ingenuity, care, affection, and so forth, that we had recognized to be essential elements of our humanity, that we had cherished as a resource for enriching one another. It seemed as if this art presented a testimonial to the principle that we had built our lives on, and our hopes around.
There was a great deal of power in this deep reaching feeling. I hoped that this feeling and this power would resurface also in Sylvia's eyes when she unpacked this artistic work. But which one?
"Two and a half thousand Lire, for all of then," the store owner repeated as he stopped by a while later. In the far reaches of my mind it occurred to me that it was customary in this country to barter.
"Three thousand Lire!" I replied.
"Mamamia! Three thousand it is," he said in broken English and left us alone for another ten minutes. As we admired our purchase, another place and another time came to mind that accented these lovely moments with a bitter taste. But the bitter taste didn't spoil anything. It made the precious moments even more precious to hold on to.
This had happened a long time ago. I had come to Java on a technical mission and taken a few days off afterwards to explore the countryside. The local travel agent had rented me his own personal Land Rover that was large enough to sleep in. I camped beside a meadow one night, just outside of a mountain village. In the morning I found myself almost surrounded with a profusion of flowers, a sea of delicate colors and shapes. The air was sweet with their odor. The whole scene sparkled with freshness in the bright light of the early morning sunshine. I got the camera loaded, it was a photographic delight. Some of the flowers had just opened their petals to the morning sun and to the ever present insects that came to feed in this richly delicate world of color and fragrance. To judge by the depth of my feelings for Heater, Ushi, and Sylvia, and in a different way for Tony, Steve, and Heather, that scene seemed closely related to our present world, and our being together. It was reflected in the sparkle of the sculptures'
and fractured light.
In my excitement of photographing the flowers I hadn't noticed the temple servant who was coming towards me, from a temple at the edge of the village. He came to pick flowers. He came with greedy eyes. He took bundles of them, in a basket. His God obviously demanded many flowers, a rich offering of living things for a dark, dead, image of stone. He wasn't careful in picking them. He tore them out, almost viciously, at least that's how it appeared. I nearly intervened. Maybe I had become too sensitive, if this is at all possible. I stepped towards him, but then decided to leave him be. After all, this was his home, not mine.
As I remembered the episode, looking at the sculptures, I also remembered Ushi's brightly sparking eyes
from that day when she was telling me about wanting to have a baby. There was the same sparkle. I could only guess what wonders this little life would have drawn into focus against the brutal poverty of our world in which life had become
so cheap and all things delicate, preciously fragile.
I didn't intervene in Java. It would have been rude. But should I act the same in this larger arena, in response to this final impending sacrifice that mankind was allowing to be set up against itself? This world is my home, too, I thought. The impending sacrifice is too immense in scope to be left to the private whims of some misguided utopian ideologues, or the servant of some insane tyrants that lay claim to the world. There is too much beauty in living, too much to be loved. Nothing in the world can justify sacrificing any of that to the rituals of the game of nuclear bombing. I shuddered, wondering how much of humanity had already been sacrificed, yanked off like those flowers, and cast into some dark places hidden from the sun in order to satisfy the insatiable greed
and the misused power and money of tiny clique.