“The tongue like a sharp knife . . . kills without drawing blood” ~ The Buddha

contemplation-too1

Contemplation Too, by L. Liwag©

Death by a Thousand Cuts

Ling Chi

I was listening to the radio this morning on my way to the doctor, and I heard a quote that I had not heard in many years. John Mar, co-head of sales trading at Daiwa Securities SMBC Co. in Hong Kong was discussing the worldwide stock markets, and he likened the situation to “death by a thousand cuts.”

The quote itself is actually Chinese and refers to a form of torture and execution known as Ling Chi. The punishment, which was used for high treason, dates back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The cuts would usually be made on the arms, legs and torso of the criminal, the “thousand cuts” an exaggeration referring more to the humiliation the accused would suffer before the final decapitation (http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Death-by-a-thousand-cuts).

braveheart_ver3

Of course, the Chinese were not the only ones to use this form of torture  and execution; their name for it just happens to be more poetic. The Inquisition was very big on meting out small measures of pain to the body in various ways before final decapitation. And who can forget the final scene in Braveheart in which William Wallace’s body is made to suffer various assaults in an attempt to make him confess his sins before his decapitation.

The “thousand cuts” have become a metaphor for any kind of slow, painful endurance, for anything from economics to failed business models to closing hospitals. It’s not just the one big thing that causes the death or collapse, but sometimes, lots and lots of small ones that, in the end, prove too be to painful to overcome.

The First Cut Isn’t Always The Deepest

Which leads me to my own interpretation of death by a thousand cuts. In pondering the phrase, it seems to touch much more on the soul than the body. By that I mean that the physical body can withstand pain, a lot of pain in various forms. But the psyche, the esse that makes us who we are, that is a different matter.

When asked to consider the source of pain to the psyche, most people would reach far back, to that first cut, the first cut that stays with memory, that has become so insinuated that it cannot be forgotten. Some of us have fewer cuts, some have more. For a lucky few, the cuts make no lasting marks, just faded memories of something bad, much like the wolf in the story that had teeth but never had the chance to bite.

For some, the cuts are a bit deeper, leaving reminders of troubled times, but no visible scars. And then for some of us, the cuts trail through our lives like a ribbon around a maypole: wound in and out and around, a leit motif to our lives, no matter how far we travel to escape them.

“The most unkindest cut of all” ~ Shakespeare

Amidst doubt, incertitude, and dismay, we may look back on some of our cuts—those we’ve received and those we’ve given—and realize that we have drawn nearer to the thousand than first we believed. We may wish that we could undo the harm we have perpetrated, or we may wish to exact our own harm upon those whose cuts have gone deeper than others before them. We may wish ill upon those we’ve watched who have cut others without a backward glance. We may wish we could enfold in grace those whose cuts are freshest and still bleed.

I have no answers to this conundrum. Perhaps the balm for these wounds comes in recognizing that they exist at all and then trying to leave the scars to heal. Perhaps not.

The unkindest cuts: why do you talk funny/your eyes look funny/chink/flip/who does she think she is/you’re not some princess/just think happy thoughts/why can’t you be happy like other people/it’s a brain tumor/you like to be unhappy/she taught me how to love/fuck you/it’s just not working out/I don’t understand what the big deal is/I didn’t lie I just didn’t tell you/you’re crazy/it was just something to do/I’ve never done it before/you are so uptight/it’s a tumor in the pancreas/about six months/don’t tell me that again/it’s always the same story with you/are you gaining weight again/I wouldn’t give you anything if you were dying/what’s going on with your chins/you have a tumor on your ovary/do we have to play with her/I only thought about doing it one other time/you are a lying bitch/she’s pretty in a different way/I told her I would tell you when you were old enough/you aren’t being a mother to your daughter/you look fat in that/what on earth are you wearing/I just want to die/don’t you want to know what’s on these disks/I’m not close to my mother/you are such a bitch/just do the paperwork/are you ever going to do anything with your life/your daddy would be so disappointed in you/I’m so glad that your father didn’t live to see this/I hate you/why don’t you look like everybody else . . .

More later. Peace.

Advertisements

Grace in Small Things #32

J-E-L-L-O-!

Today’s list . . .

1. Jello, orange jello to be more specific. Orange jello with mandarin orange slices to be precise. A very refreshing snack, not too many calories, great in the summer, love those little snack packs.

2. Pretty paper. As with all things related to office supplies, I love decorated papers with pretty borders. I have a file folder full of leftover sheets from the realty company for which I worked. Each month we sent out a company newsletter, and I had to pick out a theme paper for the newsletter. I would go to the paper store and look for different papers. I also had to choose the papers that would be used for different home sites. No borders here, but nice stocks and colors. The people at the paper store recogized me on sight.

3. I have a garnet ring that my friend Rebecca gave me. It was given to her by a former boyfriend, but she really did not like yellow gold, nor was she particularly fond of garnets. I love both, especially since garnets are my birthstone. It is very unusual and Victorian looking. It has an inset heart in the middle, and two outward facing hearts on either side with tiny diamonds set in between. There is a little bit of gold scroll work. I wear the ring on my thumb. It never fails to get compliments. I really love that ring.

4. I have a big, black bear named Robert the Bruce. My mother gave him to me one Christmas about 11 years ago. I named him Robert the Bruce because he is a hulking, round bear, and he reminded me of the character from “Braveheart.”

bentwood_walnut

5. Rocking chairs. I love a comfortable rocking chair and nothing is worse than trying to sit in an uncomfortable rocking chair. I have a Bentwood rocker that is almost 30 years old. I have rocked all of my babies in that chair. It is very comfortable for sitting for long periods of time and for rocking. When Eamonn was a baby and he had stomach problems, I had to rock him to sleep by singing “Unchained Melody” while rocking gently in that chair.

That’s all for now. More later. Peace.

 

If It’s Friday, It Must Mean Leftovers

elizabeth-the-golden-age-20070820115809887_640w

Elizabeth: The Golden Age (with Cate Blanchett and Clive Owen)

Best of List In No Particular Order

I just can’t put it together today cogently, so I’m doing something I’ve been thinking about doing: a Bests List. Feel free to tag me back with your bests if you want to play along.

Best Book:

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. The prose is beyond eloquent. Reading this book is akin to bathing in finely-scented oils: each time you read a beautiful passage, you think that nothing can possibly be any better than this, and then a few pages later, Ondaatje takes his words and lavishes them upon you until you feel utterly immersed in the exquisite way in which he mates his words to create something incredibly beautiful:

“New lovers are nervous and tender, but smash everything. For the heart is an organ of fire.” (Almaszy), or

“We die. We die rich with lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we’ve entered and swum up like rivers. Fears we’ve hidden in—like this wretched cave. I want all this marked on my body. Where the real countries are. Not boundaries drawn on maps with the names of powerful men. I know you’ll come carry me out to the Palace of Winds. That’s what I’ve wanted: to walk in such a place with you. With friends, on an earth without maps. The lamp has gone out and I’m writing in the darkness.” (Katharine Clifton)

Or this one: “He glares out, each eye a path, down the long bed at the end of which is Hana.  After she has bathed him she breaks the tip off an ampoule and turns to him with the morphine.  An effigy. A bed.  He rides the boat of morphine.  It races in him, imploding time and geography the way maps compress the world onto a two-dimensional sheet of paper.”

Best Character in a Movie:

This one was hard. I finally narrowed it to two characters: Henry the Fifth in Henry V,  starring Kenneth Branaugh. Henry V was one of England’s great king’s historically, and his depiction by William Shakespeare made him truly heroic and larger than life, a king men were willing to fight and die for. The St. Crispin’s Day speech delivered by King Henry before the battle is an incredible piece of oratory:

My other favorite movie character is William Wallace in Braveheart. Obviously, my choices have something in common. They are both men of valor, fighting for that in which they believe. Wallace is the less regal version of Henry.

Best Movie Soundtrack:

Hands down, for me it’s the soundtrack from Philadelphia. I know that the whole movie is incredibly sad, but the music on the soundtrack is, well, not quite as sad. But I think that it’s a wonderful compilation of artists and styles. Runner up would be the soundtrack from Hope Floats, which also features many unexpected artists and an eclectic fare. 

Best Coffee:

Starbucks Sumatra venti with half and half and sugar. Sumatra is a dark, bold coffee, which is the kind I prefer. I don’t like wimpy coffees, but I do like my half and half in my coffee. I’m trying to cut down on the sugar, though, since I just got the lab results back on my triglycerides (yikes!).

Best Song (five categories):

  • Rock n Roll: Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” tied with “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos
  • Country: “Amazed” by Lonestar
  • Classic: “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison
  • Opera: Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” from the opera Turandot, especially as sung by Luciano Pavoratti
  • Classical: “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber

Again, this is a category that is very hard for me to pick just one Best of, so I thought that I would make it easier on myself by creating categories.


200px-homicide_life_on_the_street
Homicide: Life on the Street

Best Series No Longer on Television:

This one was easy: “Homicide: Life on the Street.” Set in Baltimore, this gritty cop show ran from 1993 to 1999 and featured one of the best ensemble casts ever. The only thing that I could never reconcile was the question posed in the first episode of the first season: Who killed Adena Watson?

Best Cable Series:

Again, no competition: ‘The Tudors” on Showtime. Admittedly, I never thought of Henry VIII as sexy before this finely-crafted show aired, but Jonathan Rhys Meyers changed my mind. Intrigue, deception, backstabbing, adultery, regal staging: almost American politics, but with better costuming.

Best News Show:

“Countdown With Keith Olbermann” on MSNBC. I love this guy. He appeals to my sardonic side in a way in which no other pundit ever has. He can also show emotion, such as on the night that Barack Obama was elected or on the night of Obama’s speech to the DNC. I like a human pundit who has wit and brains and a segment called “Worst Persons in the World.”

Best Ice Cream:

Edy’s Butter Pecan. Yummy. Nuf said.

Best Poem:

“The Olive-Wood Fire” by Galway Kinnell. I could name at least fifty others, but this poem has stuck with me for a while: a man, rocking his son to sleep by the fire, dozes off, and sees images of war in the fire. Awakens to the placid picture before him: his son on his arms before the olive-wood fire.

The Olive Wood Fire
Galway Kinnell

When Fergus woke crying at night.
I would carry him from his crib
to the rocking chair and sit holding him
before the fire of thousand-year-old olive wood.
Sometimes, for reasons I never knew
and he has forgotten, even after his bottle the big tears
would keep on rolling down his big cheeks
—the left cheek always more brilliant than the right—
and we would sit, some nights for hours, rocking
in the light eking itself out of the ancient wood,
and hold each other against the darkness,
his close behind and far away in the future,
mine I imagined all around.
One such time, fallen half-asleep myself,
I thought I heard a scream
—a flier crying out in horror
as he dropped fire on he didn’t know what or whom,
or else a child thus set aflame—
and sat up alert. The olive wood fire
had burned low. In my arms lay Fergus,
fast asleep, left cheek glowing, God

Best Karaoke Song for Me:

“I Will Remember You,” by Sarah McLachlan. Perfect key for my voice, and I feel a connection to this song.

Best Movie:

usual-suspectsThe Usual Suspects. The casting in this movie is pure perfection. The plot line is completely implausible, but it is a movie that I will come back to again and again. I have no idea how many times I have watched this movie.

 Best line spoken by character Verbal Kint (played beautifully by Kevin Spacey): “Keaton always said, ‘I don’t believe in God, but I’m afraid of him.’ Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze.”

Runner up (and it was hard to choose) would have to be Lord of the Rings (I’m counting this as one long, nine-hour movie). I have read the trilogy once a year almost every year since I was an undergraduate. Peter Jackson managed to do what I thought no person would ever be able to do: He brought to life a set of books about which many people are fanatical, and in a way that is beyond description. I am still willing to relocate to New Zealand to be a gopher for Peter Jackson any time he calls.

Actually, now that I think of it, it has to be a tie.

Best Female Actor:

This is close, but I think that I have to go with Cate Blanchett, simply because I have never seen her in anything in which her performance was not superb; the movie may have been mediocre, but Blanchett is never mediocre. She has that chameleon-like ability that Meryl Streep has, but I like Blanchett’s body of work better.

Best Male Actor:

Okay, I am really not basing this on looks, but out of all of the actors working today, I particularly like Clive Owen for a lot of the same reasons that I like Kate Blanchett. Owen does not choose to do the same role over and over with just a different movie title. I loved him as Sir Walter Raleigh in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, but I also loved him as Theo in Children of Men, in which he is much more vulnerable and a victim of circumstances.

Best Tea:

Twining’s Darjeeling, hot, strong with sugar and cream. Wonderful alone or with ginger snaps.

Best Outfit Fall/Winter:

Levi’s jeans, black leather boots, turtle neck sweater, long earrings, clunky leather watch, full-length black leather coat, Calvin Klein’s Eternity, squooshy black leather Via Spiga bag.

Best Outfit Spring/Summer:

Bathing suit and sarong, or long sun dress, 4711 cologne, and Birkenstocks.

Best Book Series for Fun:

Harry Potter, all seven books. Best book of series, book 3, Prizoner of Azkaban.

Best Vacation:

Seven-day cruise to Western Caribbean, 2006. Just Corey and me: cave-tubing, swimming with stingrays, sailing on a catamaran. Great meals. No work. Wonderful.

Best Car:

86-oldsmobile-calais
Black Calais. Loved that car. It had a great stereo; it was great on gas, drove smoothly, comfortable interior.  Killed it in an altercation at a stoplight when right front bumper turned into accordion after tapping metal bumper of full-sized Suburban. Damage to their car: dent in bumper. Damage to my car: totaled.  

Best Day That Cannot Be Repeated:

The day that Corey and I went to Busch Gardens Williamsburg with my Mom and Dad. I hadn’t been to a theme park with both of my parents since I was a child. We had a wonderful time, and had our picture taken on the log flume. My Dad would die from pancreatic cancer less than half a year later.

More later. Peace.

A Little Romance, If You Please

Romance Can Be Subjective, Collective, and Wholly Impulsive

english-patient-poster

Most romantic scenes in movies (just my opinion, of course)

tristan-isolde
Tristan + Isolde

The English Patient: When Katherine and Almaszy are caught in the sandstorm in the desert, and he begins to tell her of the different kinds of sandstorms. It is an incredibly intimate moment, one that you know will lead to others to come.

Legends of the Fall: When Tristan (Brad Pitt) and Susanna (Julia Ormond) are making love for the first time.

Tristan+Isolde:  The scenes between the two young lovers in the hut on the beach in Ireland before they know each other’s true identity.

The Red Violin: Although this scene may not seem romantic in the traditional sense, the maker of the violin takes the blood of his newly dead wife and child and mixes it with varnish to finish his perfect violin, thereby forever sealing them into a thing of outstanding beauty.

walk-in-the-clouds
A Walk in the Clouds

Philadelphia: The scene in which Tom Hanks’s character, Andrew Becket, and his lover, Miguel, played by Antonio Banderas, are dancing together, in fact, any scene in which the two men are together is touching for its realistic depiction of a relationship in which one person is dying and the other person doesn’t know how to deal with it.

A Walk in the Clouds: The scene in which everyone is battling the vineyard fire, and Paul, played by Keanu Reeves, and Victoria, played by Aitana Sánchez-Gijón are wearing the wings. The scene is made surreal because of the smoke and the backdrop of the fire, but it is lovely.

Age of Innocence: Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) cannot consumate his affair with the Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), so he unbottons her glove and kisses her wrist, one of the most passionate kisses in film history.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: The scene in which Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) is moving away from Robin across the lake into the mist.

city-of-angels
City of Angels

City of Angels: Toss up between the pear scene between Maggie and Seth, and the scene in which Maggie is riding her bike with her arms flung out and her eyes closed in pure bliss. I know that what happens next is horrible, but for that one monent you know that she is filled with complete happiness.

A Room With A View:  The kiss in the field between Lucy (Helena Bonham Carter) and George Emerson (Julian Sands) is set beautifully.

Brokeback Mountain: The tenderness between the two men is laid bare after Jack dies and Ennis goes to visit his parents. In Jack’s room, Ennis find their two old shirts from Brokeback mountain hanging together. Ennis breathes in deeply and then silently begins to weep the loss of his one true love.

Atonement:  The scene in which Cecelia strips down to go into the fountain to find the pieces of the vase. Her complete lack of discomfort in doing so in front of Robbie shows that there is already something very deep between them, something that will only take a slight movement on the part of either one to make the relationship move to its logical next level. Briony’s interference ruins so many lives that night, something for which she will never be able to truly atone.

Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (1996):  When the two young lovers (Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes) spend their wedding night together and awaken full of joy. Shakespeare’s lines have never sounded so alive as when they were uttered in this film version.

the-notebook
The Notebook

Braveheart: The whole film post Murron MacClannough’s murder is William Wallace’s  search for vengeance and atonement for his beloved’s death.

The Notebook: The scene in the rowboat when it begins to rain and Allie and Noah realize that they have been apart for no reason. This only scene in the movie that is more painful and heart-wrenching to wach is the final scene in which the nurse finds the elderly Noah and Allie in bed together for their last, final embrace.

If you haven’t already seen all fifteen movies on this list, and you like a good, cathartic cry every once in a while, then I recommend any of them for an afternoon at the movies. I’m not a romantic comedy kind of person. I either like intense romance or spy/action thrillers. I did not include on my list some of my older favorites, such as The Way We Were, Casablanca, Dr. ZhivagoWuthering Heights, The Great Gatsby, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Out of Africa, Sense and Sensibility, Witness, and The Princess Bride.

I did not include The Princess Bride on my main list because it’s also a comedy, and that sort of negates the romance, but it’s a movie that my daughter and I have watched together a million times, and from which we can recite lines (“wuv, twoo wuv”).

wuthering-heights
Wuthering Heights

I’ll admit that I have to be in the mood for one of my crying movies. The English Patient is still my all-time favorite movie for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the movie  is almost as beautiful as the book by Michael Ondaatje, which is rare indeed. A Room With a View by Merchant Ivory always makes me want to go to Italy because the background scenery is incredible. The scene in Legends of the Fall when Tristan crests the ridge with the wild horses and the music soars still gives me goosebumps.

Ralph Fiennes in Wuthering Heights is so dark and brooding, the antithesis of his character Almaszy in The English Patient, in which he is intese, but golden. And for once, Nicholas Cage’s hounddog eyes are perfect for the sad angel in City of Angels. His eyes look like an angel in despair, which is what he is.

Perhaps the one movie that always tears me up beyond belief is Philadelphia. Watching Tom Hanks virtually waste away on screen is so realistic, but the musical score is amazing. When I’m working on the computer and I need heartfelt music (one of my bosses called it music to slit your wrists to, but I think that’s carrying it a bit too far), I play the soundtrack; it’s very cathartic. If you’ve never heard the soundtrack, it contains Bruce Springsteen’s academy-award song, Neil Young, Peter Gabrial, Sade, Indigo Girls, and Maria Callas performing “La Mamma Morta.”

Call me a hopeless romantic, but “in love, there are no boundaries.” I still believe in one true love. I still believe in great love stories. I still cry when love is doomed to fail. I still yearn for the underdog to win. I still want love to conquer anything and everything and to vanquish the cold-hearted and those who would try to come between a love that is destined to be.

So yes, I am a hopeless romantic, and I am a hopeful romantic. And because I know that it’s possible and that it’s out there, I don’t want my children to settle for anything less than their true heart’s desire. I’ve seen too many bad marriages that have started out for seemingly the right reasons, but there was always something not quite right. The smiles were a little too forced. The arguments a little too often and a little too petty. One person definitely dominated the other. Things begin to show through the cracks very soon after the wedding, and the cracks only grew larger.

So I don’t want them to settle. I want them to search until they feel that little flip in their stomachs, the one that doesn’t go away after a few weeks or months and has nothing to do with sex. I want them to feel real romance.

And so ends this compilation of my favorite romantic movies. More later. Peace.