Things to do in December when you’re dead

Friday, 18 December 2020 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

ALIVE – agitatedly – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara 

Ready? First of all stop. Then take a deep cleansing breath. And check your pulse. Heart beating? Blood pumping? Still breathing? Congratulations – you’re alive. Still. Barely. Perhaps clinically. 

As the poet said:

“For man, the vast marvel is to be alive. For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive.” Not with COVID-19?

“Whatever the unborn and the dead may know, they cannot know the beauty, the marvel of being alive in the flesh.” But by burning those bodies, we don’t seem to know, either!

“The dead may look after the afterwards. But the magnificent here and now of life in the flesh is ours, and ours alone, and ours only for a time.” And it is only in our ignorance that we say these things…

That’s part of the problem really. We feel alive. Yet we are dead.



And we have made an evident mockery of some of these incontrovertible truths. With scarce thought for even our own unborn, we have wantonly cremated the dead flesh of the sick of the other among us. In the face of expert opinion – doctoral, virological, pathological, global, institutional – that we don’t need to do so.

It is almost as if we – the majority of us – are also dead. And do not know or care to learn the lessons of the brute past. If we cannot, in fact we will not, but stubbornly and steadfastly refuse to know the beauty of our brotherhood and our belonging, we also shall die. 

The marvel of being alive in the flesh has been cremated by us. The weak because we fear; the shilly-shallying because we can’t decide. The silent accomplices; the twisted perpetrators – they are the traitors to our shared humanity and vitality.

This arrogant majority, this craven security, this assured sovereignty in our false sense of superiority, is neither sustainable nor safe… all flesh is as grass – it withers.

So we deny our brothers and sisters and their children their rights. And consign their offspring to the eternal furnace in supreme oblivion to our own vulnerability. Then disrupt the living among us who stand in solidarity with the beloved dead by dispersing the peaceful protests and dismembering the white tokens of our pale surrender before the beast crouching behind the guns. There is only defiance in the face of such presumptuous futility.

Thing to do #1: Stop being so shy – dare to stand up for another, the other, that brother of another mother: Sri Lanka.



We ought to dance with rapture, that we should be alive and in the flesh, and part of the living incarnate cosmos. Yes, despite that debilitating virus. In fact, because of it! Life is a box, a trap, an ocean, the wheel and cycle of atoms around a dying flame. We’re not – none of us are – getting out of this alive. Spoiler alert, sorry. So we ought to celebrate the vast marvel of being alive.

Yet, how can we? Politically, such a programmatic oppression of another community is bankrupt because it no longer needs communalism to win elections.

Theoretically though, it could still be construed as a ghoulish sop to the ever-watchful hound who guards the gate to hell… that maw which is the entrance to the darker side of our deeply ingrained psyche. Where patriotism is nationalistic chauvinism! Where only the conflagration of another holocaust will satisfy the bloodthirstily insecure among us!

Socially, it’s the conventional wisdom of diverting national attention away from the parlous state of the nation to a circus side-issue. It’s the looming economic apocalypse – sovereign debt obligation defaulting prime among these – that should affright and affront us so much more. Folks who are grieving, I’m sorry! We’re grass before the consuming fire of global economic realities. 

Demotically, it signifies and symbolises to me at least, the hate and self-loathing that some of us feel at our hybrid identity. 

Distinctives sharpen our sense of self. Difference seems to diminish us – this island-race, this melting-pot, this demi-paradise. 

Dishonestly, rather than confront our hybridity, our lack of exclusive particularist uniqueness, our sense of belonging to one another – we struggle and agitate to catharsise it. Our sense of unease at being among an alienated people clutching their cultural practices, by setting the nation to the sword of forced cremations.

Thing to do #2: Start a movement that will make a difference today – dance your defiance in the face of pushback, peacefully protesting at the state of the nation being put to flame. 



I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me. So it is natural, fitting, perfectly organic and entirely normal for a few of us to stand in solidarity with the wounded and hurting. 

That I am part of the earth below my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea. How strange, then, the silence of the waves of citizens who have declared themselves powerless to raise a clenched fist at the powers that be. Also not in the least condemnable: the resort to civil disobedience by a community that is largely, and for very long, law-abiding (save a diabolical few driven by fundamentalism and financing) and peacefully protesting.

My soul knows that I am part of the human race. My soul is an organic part of the great human soul, as my spirit is part of my nation. To stand in solidarity with the weakest (in every sense) of my brothers and sisters and infants is to cherish my state, save my land, love my country – over and above any misguided notions of identity, pragmatic motivations militating towards personal safety, or realpolitik.

In my very own self, I am part of my family. Yet, in a divisive milieu such as ours, one can’t help but get a sinking feeling – literally – when we turn to our neighbours to bury our own dead. No matter that the Maldives may be a more watery grave than anywhere in Sri Lanka. No matter the crying shame of adding insult to injury in exporting our inefficiency and lack of technocratic crisis management. No matter the tacit permission WHO gives nation-states planet-wide to bury their loved ones...

Perhaps religious beliefs are no more than a matter of the mind... if one doesn’t mind, it doesn’t matter – the mind is its own place: and makes of heaven a hell, a hell of heaven? There is nothing of me that is alone and absolute except my mind... and we shall find that the mind has no existence by itself; it is only the glitter of the sun on the surface of the waters.

Thing to do #3: Suspend all belief in the erstwhile importance of the individual under our dying liberal democracy.

(Journalist | Editor-at-Large of LMD | Writer doing things in Dec to keep alive)


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