We are all of us aflame.
Watched “The English Surgeon” last night. About this neurosurgeon who lectured once in the Ukraine in the 1970’s, and toured a hospital there. He saw how fucking terrible and primitive their neurosurgery skills were, and their equipment, how everyone was dying of things we in the west stopped dying from sixty years earlier. So he hooks up with a guy in Ukraine, another surgeon, and he starts teaching him, and bringing in used equipment from hospitals in Great Britain, and seeing patients there. He goes back every year and has done for fifteen years.
In the film he goes to visit the mother of a child he operated on ten years ago. The child had a terrible brain tumor and he operated on her and it went badly and he said that he basically ruined the last two years of her life, turned her into a paralyzed, blind, helpless wreck. And then she died.
So he brings the mother some flowers. They drink vodka around the table and cry. He makes a toast to his partner, how they are trying to do something good, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
In another scene he sits with a stream of patients, looks at their MRI’s, and tells the Ukrainian surgeon what’s what.
“The tumor is all in the brainstem. Inoperable. The child has a year to live.”
“She’s blind. The damage is done. If we’d gotten to it sooner, she’d be fine, but as it is…”
“Inoperable. Six months. Maybe less.”
In Wallander last night, the inspector is talking to this beautiful woman at dinner, talking about his work, this case, these two murdered kids, and she tells him he needs to look at the bigger picture. The good he’s doing in the world.
“I don’t think there is a bigger picture.” He says. “I think this is all there is. We have our fragile lives, we do the best we can. I think about that dead girl, her boyfriend, and it doesn’t seem quite fair.”
It struck me as profoundly true.
There isn’t a bigger picture. There is just this particular, intimate failure. And then the next one. And the next.
On and on.
But how can you be brave if there is nothing to fear? How can you be good if there is no evil in the world? How love without hate?
We are drowning in this world.
Drowning and incandescent.
Peace be upon you.