30 May 2013

Intermezzo - or smell the roses

Intermezzo - by P.K.Odendaal - May 2013

This is not an intermission between the two parts of a very long film to enable you to fill up your popcorn, although that is one interpretation. It is also not a break in the proceedings or meeting to allow for coffee. For me it has a deeper meaning.
In music, in the most general sense, it is a composition which fits between other musical or dramatic entities, such as acts of a play or movements of a larger musical work.

Waiting for the future

In this piece I use it as a very serious interim activity between two other activities of almost equal or even more serious importance. The idea of an intermezzo is very lucidly used in the short story: 'Intermezzo' by Louis de Bourbon. It is the story of a man who is terminally ill, and waits for death. He contemplates life and death and prepares himself for the latter, although he chooses life and jumps in his thoughts between the two. Presently he has neither life nor death - so he is unwillingly drawn into the intermezzo.
And that almost fully describes our own lives.
Most of us live between two important events. Between the bitterness of a past gone wrong and the exciting prospect of a future which may be good. And in the now or the moment we try and forget the first and we wait for the second - and that is about as near as we can get to the idea of an intermezzo. What do we do in the now or the moment? We lead serious lives and wait for this bright future, which almost never comes. Like the proverbial pie in the sky.
And that is why we are urged to live in the moment, or to stop and smell the roses. If we would only stop and smell the roses, we will find ourselves soon in a position of this wonderful future, because that wonderful future is already here, but we are waiting for another more elusive one. If I can quote from an unknown source: 'Most people wait for a stroke of good fortune. I do not believe in good fortune at all, and people who wait for a stroke of good fortune will most likely wait until they have a stroke of paralysis.'
Yes, that is it - many of us live in this stroke of paralysis. There are so many adages which encourage us to make full use of our present condition, but we almost never heed it. And this way we never deal with life or with our problems, which really are our challenges and opportunities. People who are stuck on dogmatic religion suffer seriously from this disease.
I wish to tell a short story which may elucidate this problem. There was a flood somewhere and a person was forced to climb onto the roof of his house to escape drowning. He seriously prayed to God to save him, but somehow God never listened to his prayer. In the meantime a man with a boat approached him and offered to take him to dry land, but he refused, saying that he believes that God will save him soon. The man with the boat saved many other people, and came back twice to save this person and had to listen to the same story: 'God will save me.' In the end this person became very despondent towards God for not saving him and he started to blame God for the untenable position he was in, a position he thought was not of his own making. So he started to pray even more serious, and then suddenly God spoke these words to him: 'I have how tried three times to save you by the hands of the man with the boat, and each time you have refused me.'
And so we refuse this present for an uncertain future. We were never meant to live in the past or the future. The present is all we have. The gospel song says:
'One day at a time, One day at a time
Yesterday's gone, and tomorrow may never be mine.'
How can we live in the present or in the moment? There are about a million books which espouse this concept, and none have been able to save us from the past or the future. Not even for those who read them, and I have no better advice than they have.
Maybe if I really stop and get out of my car and walk over to that bush of roses and smell them, I will start to make myself used to the concept of considering what is around me, and not what is inside of me. I have heard many people tell me to stop and smell the roses, but none of them, by their own admission, have ever really stopped to do that. Maybe the advice we need is really as simple as this. We are known not to heed advice, especially when it is so simple.
So next time I see this bush of roses .. I am going to ……. stop and get out of the …….. car and ……………………… mmmmmmm, wonderful! Where can I stop next? You know … thinking about it … why should I get into my car at all again. What about just walking over to this other bush of roses next to this one and smelling that as well?

This car has protected me from the world. It has this shield of steel which protects me from exposing my vulnerability. It keeps me at a safe distance from other people and it shields me from the wind and the roses and the excitement of what goes on outside. It is so convenient and keeps me snug in this space I call my comfort zone and my personal space. Nobody can reach me here.
I want to stop living in this intermezzo, I want to stop thinking that the world is inside of me and not out there, a world and a creation which can be savoured and smelled and enjoyed and appreciated and be amazing. In the process, I am sure, that what is around me will also soon change me on the inside. Today I will stop trying to change the world outside of me with what is inside of me. This world is MUCH BIGGER and much more BEAUTIFUL than what is inside of me.

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