February 4th, 2006


(no subject)

:: A Close Brush with Death ::

Was surprised to chance upon this gem.
Was keeping B company at the office this afternoon.
With nothing to do, decided to see what's on Channel 5.
Initially thought of it as some ER-like drama.
Some ER-like drama centered on a dying patient.
Was about to switch channels.
Then heard the patient reciting John Donne's verses.
Paid a closer look and realised that she was Emma Thomson.
Got intrigued and took a closer look.
WIT depicts a university professor teaching English.
And dying of ovarian cancer.
As she copes with her life-threatening cancer,
She assesses her own life through the intricacies of the English language.
Especially the use of wit and the metaphysical poetry of Jonne Donne.

It was a tough film to watch.
The camera was centered on Emma all the time.
She speaks her fears to the camera, and hence, the viewer, me.
There was no reprieve.

I quote a review:
Vivian Bearing is a professor of English Literature
Specialising in the work of poet John Donne.
Hers is a scholarly life.
She is secure with her place in it;
Not yet fifty, she has achieved a level of comfort with herself.
As well as her work, especially in the class she teaches on Donne.
With her students she is a demanding taskmaster and does not suffer fools.
Not students who opt for immediate pleasures over Donne.
Refusing to accept youthful zeal as an excuse for academic impropriety.
In her classroom, she insists that those in attendance rise to her level;
She does not stoop to conquer.

Then, her world abruptly changes.
At first, wrapped in intellectual armour, she finds at least some comfort.
And respite in her beloved Donne.
But she soon finds that the pursuits of the mind, even leavened with a healthy ego
Attain a dimished capacity within the environs of a ravaging disease.
The eternity of the hospital affords her much time for reflection.
And as her illness progresses she undergoes a change in perspectives;
Taking stock, she considers such things as the aloof manner she affected that served
No purpose other than to distant herself from her students.
And she thinks about it now, not with regret, but differently;
Her intellectual acumen no longer separates her from her students,
Nor affords her a lofty perch from which she may sit in judgement.
She understands, at last, that she is not so different from them after all.
For as she discovers to her considerable dismay -- pain is the great equaliser.

It meant something to me.
Because even as the screen went black the film lingered.
It is something truly real.
The poetry professor sees life and death in the abstract through Jonne Donne's poetry
In turn she is viewd by a renowned doctor who views life and death as a case study in bed
And by a former student who does not know who to communicate with patients beyond superficial catch phrases.

While death to me is by no means a fearsome sentence
I am humbled by the lesson learnt: that at the end of the journey
We return to earth with no possessions, whether material and otherwise.
And also, to lend more empathy to those on the verge of passing away.
All should be forgiven and forgot.

Studied John Donne for my As, and he remains one of my favourite.
Was marvellous that this poem of his was quote before the end.

Death Be Not Proud

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

Arrrhh.. yes.
One short sleep past, we wake eternally.
And death, thou shalt die.