Monday, 27 January 2014

Arcs

Odd how looking at a rainbow can quickly take you far away from the initial contemplation of its coloured bands. The last time I saw one, I realised that the true fascination, for me, resided in its arc. The impact of a thing that rises out of nothing, stopping me in my tracks, before fading away into a distant and unknowable part of the landscape.

Disasters arc in the same way. Such an event, natural or man-made,  thousands of miles from the place we call home, rises from a point beyond our consciousness. At its height, we can’t help but engage with what’s happening. We are caught in the colours of catastrophe, feeling the heaviness of someone else’s plight in our hearts. We respond in different ways, and with a variety of offerings. We give something of ourselves in those moments before the arc descends into the aftermath. Everything in that short spell is clear and undeniable. The suffering is palpable, the frailty of existence too close for comfort.

As with a rainbow, the arc of a disaster finally succumbs and vanishes from our view. After only a short period of time, the detail that caused spontaneous weeping and soul searching is just beyond recall. We quickly backfill from the pile of particulars that make up our own lives, and it becomes almost impossible to separate an earthquake in Haiti, from a tsunami in Fukushima.

Almost exactly two years ago, I watched a television news report from Syria. The death of an eight year old girl created a bleak arc for contemplation. I marked it with words, the best I could. Perhaps this is what poetry is for? To trace an arc, to help us remember and, on occasion, to describe the brief existence of rainbows.

12 comments:

  1. I do think that's what poetry is for, at least in part. An arc of joy can be as fleeting, arising from who knows where and then sadly fading. I suppose life would be unbearable if things didn't fade, ebb and flow. They always do, even in Homs. The whole essence of rainbows though is to remind us of The Promise - 'never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life'. When it seems as though all will be destroyed then holding on to that promise, in my experience, does in some ineffable way actually help.

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    1. Wise words, jennyfreckles. To have a promise one can believe in, is a wonderful thing.

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  2. A very gripping post Martin. I do believe disasters, and heartbreak do follow the rules of rainbows. Each holding differences, and yet coming together alike in their birth. But then changing the rules, especially by their unique, essence that each of has locked within our own thoughts of them. I pity the folks that never bother to stop for a rainbow. Their fleeting beauty is priceless, and locks within our own essence. Truly.

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    1. Karen, thank you. I'm glad the post resonated.

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  3. I do indeed remember your poem of two years ago. Recently I had to turn the news off when a story about the extent and types of torture in Syria began. Reading your post, my thought was that another similarity between rainbows and disasters is that they are "uncatchable" and ultimately incomprehensible. You think you are getting closer, and they move. Mostly, though, rainbows are a symbol of hope and goodness to me.
    I do believe that poetry is a redeeming force, and oftentimes art is the only response that can come close to doing justice to the horrors that happen.

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    1. I also believe in art as a response, Christine. And signs of hope and goodness are always welcome.

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  4. A beautiful piece of writing Martin (the blog post I mean - also the poem which I too remember) - a creative metaphor, the arc of the rainbow and our experience of disasters from afar.

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    1. Thank you, Gabrielle. Much appreciated.

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  5. How true, Martin, and so beautifully phrased.

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  6. What a good analogy! And again, I really like the poem.

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    1. Vicki, about halfway through this post, the analogy seemed to wobble. But I'm pleased with the way it turned out in the end.

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