The Oxford dictionary defines confluence as an act or process of merging; two rivers coming together to form a single confluence. Lately it seems as though my life has been impacted by several confluences.
Without any design, I have found myself in the midst of three interesting influences. Including my recent trip to the mountains, George Orwell’s novel 1984 and the Netflix series Black Earth Rising.
While driving home through Banff National Park, I muttered more to myself than anyone (I am prone to this behaviour) about how being in the mountains is good for the soul. My wife sitting next to me, overheard my muffled utterance and asked me why, and truthfully I was at a loss to explain my statement. Upon further reflection, I am still left with a bit of “je ne sais pas” but I also have, perhaps, a little bit to put my finger on. More than being awestruck by the scope of the peaks, or their snow capped beauty, it is in part their towering permanence towering over me. They have been where they are for eons, and I am but a blip, passing quickly by. Then there is the experience of standing on top of one of those peaks (Whitehorn) squinting in all directions from the summit, sunlight blinding. On Sunday, bluebird skies abruptly reaching upwards from sparkling white ridges, all I could utter was “fuck it is amazing up here”.
Sharing the day with my kid, who is far more brave than I, being challenged by him to ski down a run so steep that my heart and mind raced with anxiety and exhilaration. Seeing his joy, his excitement, the satisfaction of riding terrain that few would dare, filled me at the same time with trepidation and pride. I think all of this was at least in part, an answer to the why? There is something about mountains. There is something about granite uprisings that confound our understanding, our mortality, our reason, or at least mine. And then there is the cold, the snow, the ice, all of these, speak to me, convey something deep, too deep for me to comprehend. Maybe it has to do with the Scottish blood running through my veins? Who knows. We, my son and I are somehow bound together by the cold, the beauty and harshness of winter. It is a season I relish, long for, and likely will never despise, no matter how old I grow, or how loud my old bones protest.
Onto Orwell; more relevant today than ever, in the shadow of the puppet to the south. Freedom is slavery. Thought police seek to enslave, blue overalls rewrite history, eradicate it and mold it into a fabricated fiction. Truth is nothing but a mist burning up in the heat of the sun. How is it possible that a book penned seventy years ago can be more pertinent today, than it was when first conceived? Prophecy, prognostication, call it what you will, but as I read, I am challenged, caught off-guard by my present reality.
And then a story about Rwanda, the genocide of eight hundred thousand Tutsi slaughtered by their Hutu cousins. Oblivious to the holocaust at the time, caught up in being a president of students, occupied by trivial issues, budgets, Ralph Klein, a new library. How is it that a dramatization could strike so deep? How is it that two weeks in Burundi eight years hence could impact me so deeply. The divide between tribes, etched in my soul. The plight of Africa seared across my soul. Broken promises, poverty, hopelessness, chaos. A night of tears, torrents streaming down my cheeks, haunt me still.
Confluence. Different streams, past and present merge into a torrent of unrest; thoughts of jumbled poetry jostle themselves onto a page. And then to end it all, two nights of the Hobbit brought to life on a screen. The magic and genius of Tolkien adding to the mix. Parting words of my son, as he makes his way to bed…. How does he do it dad? Happiness and sadness at the same time, profound observations at fifteen, I think, almost fifty now. Thankfully he won’t have to wait as long as I, to unlock the mystery, he is already riding the path towards wisdom.