Tuesday, June 6, 2023

#157 / Strike Another Match #3


Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you
Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you
The vagabond who’s rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore
Strike another match, go start anew
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue 

     Bob Dylan, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"

That "strike a match" illustration, above, accompanied a New York Times book review of A History Of Burning, by Janika Oza
The review describes A History Of Burning as an "epic novel about an extended Indo-Ugandan family that is displaced, settled and displaced again. With each disruption of movement, the author skillfully interrogates sweeping themes of survival, inheritance, immigration, colonialism and racism. By any standards, it’s a daunting undertaking: Oza’s narrative traverses almost a century of time, four generations of family, five continents and multiple languages, with the story moving between the perspectives of 10 characters (largely told in the third-person voice with a few detours into the first person during the last quarter of the novel). The result is a haunting, symphonic tale that speaks to the nuanced complexities of class and trauma for this particular family."
The story told in Oza's book begins, in 1898, "when Pirbhai, an intrepid 13-year-old, is tricked into indentured servitude." 

Soon, Pirbhai is confronted with a life-defining choice: A colonel orders that he and his friend Rakesh set fire to a cluster of huts in order to clear the path for more tracks. “You realize what they’re asking us to do? Kill for them. Do their bloody deeds. We’re their dogs,” Rakesh says before running away. Pirbhai says a prayer for mercy, pours gasoline and strikes a match: “The dry thatching snapped into flames. The fire roared, cracked against the muggy air.” This pivotal destructive act haunts Pirbhai and generations of his family to follow.
Perhaps you can see why the quote from Bob Dylan came to mind as I read the review. In fact (and this is true both personally and nationally), the sins we have committed do not condemn us for life. "Forgiveness" is endemic to the Creation. Forgiveness and redemption. They go together. This is among the most profound of all our religious insights, and this is a lesson that Americans should learn. 

To be able to make use of the forgiveness that is inherent in our existence, recognition and repentance are both prerequisites. 
Let us not try to pretend that the sins we have committed are not sins at all. We need to admit them first. Then, and only then, can we "strike another match" and start anew. 

And now - right now - is exactly the right time for us to do this! Now is that time to strike that match. The fate of both of the "Two Worlds" we inhabit hang in the balance.
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