“Most operas are tragic.” Gertruida is busy with one of her famous lectures on this Saturday morning. Rolbos is quietly celebrating Passover, so the usual Saturday party is a rather subdued affair. To prevent the group at the bar from simply staring at each other morosely, Gertruida has taken it upon herself to do what she does best: telling them what they don’t know. “The list is rather long: La Boheme, Aida, Tosca, Madame Butterfly, Rigoletto. Many composers are known for their poignant and sad stories of love and hate, and most of them end with somebody dying. Mostly, the plot is to use love, ambition and rivalry – to make the audience hope for a happy ending. Sadly, it doesn’t happen.”
“I saw something like that, way back in the 70’s. It was an Afrikaans film about forbidden love in a small rural town. Môre, Môre; by Elmo de Wit. The bad guy wants to kill the teacher who fell in love with the schoolgirl, and hurls a spear at him during an athletics meet. He hits the girl instead. Not a dry eye in the house. It was so sad, I had to see it three times.” Kleinpiet smiles at the memory. “So it’s not only Italians that make us cry. We can do it all by ourselves,”
“I suppose we all need to cry every now and then, Kleinpiet.” Vetfaan has been uncommonly quiet lately, and now gets rewarded by everybody’s attention. “Life is maybe a bit like Gertruida’s operas. We live in the hope of a happy ending, but that rarely happens. Most often, I think, relationships involve heartache. Boy meets girl; fall in love; says goodbye. Most love affairs end like that. Marriages, too. It’s the exceptions that make the rest of us believe in happy endings. So we end up promising ourselves: Tomorrow, Tomorrow. There’s always tomorrow. But, like we know: tomorrow never comes. It’s always a day away.”
“Indeed.” Gertruida lifts her glass. “Tomorrow is the symbol of hope. Somewhere, somehow, some way, tomorrow will be better. That’s what tragic operas are all about; It tells us tomorrow never comes…Don’t wait for something to happen in the future if you’re not prepared to live today to the full. Sure, things might improve; but you’re stuck in today. Forever, all you have, is today. The present. Here and now. This is where it’s at, and this is where you live. People destroy their joy by hoping and hoping – and forgetting they’re living the only now they’ll ever have. That’s the tragedy of life.”
“But then, Gertruida, it impacts on the way we live. Politics only exist because people hope for a better tomorrow. So do churches, for that matter. Society needs to reach out to to the future, otherwise Life makes no sense.” Boggel thinks back of the hope he had for a life with Mary Mitchell, and how much joy it brought him. Yes, he wanted it to have a happy ending, but while it lasted, it was the most glorious time of his life.
“That’s why the moment Rudolfo takes Mimi’s hand in La Boheme, it’s such a poignant moment. They’re on the brink of discovering each other. She’s ill and the relationship is doomed, even though they don’t know it at that point. They hope tomorrow will be better, but it won’t, of course. He’ll remain behind, penniless and alone, That’s not the tragedy, however. The tragedy is the beauty of their hope – and the sadness that they didn’t use the time they had to the fullest extent. He could have saved her, but instead they placed their hope in the future. He should have told her he loved her right than.”
“Yeah, Gertruida. Words.” Vetfaan signals for another beer. One of the new ones from Argentina that Harold sent. Araucana Rojiza Fuerte. He just loves this exotic brew. “Words lose their meaning if they are only a set of letters awaiting the future. It’s the now-words, the present-words, that count.”
“That’s what Easter is all about.” Oudoom surprises them all by joining them at the counter. “All human aspirations and hopes have limits. We hope for rain. We hope for fair government. We hope petrol will be cheaper. We hope love will last. But, my friends, all these things are bound to the little concept of time. We compare our past with our future. In that sense, Gertruida is right: do what you do, do well. Remember the song? Give all you heart and all of your love – I remember that from my student days. In human terms, we have to make the most of every moment we live.” He sips the new beer Boggel pushes over the counter and smacks his lips. “But there is only one hope we know will come to fruition.”
He waits for the questioning looks, stretching the moment.
“That’s what this Saturday is all about, guys. The silent time. The waiting. The deciples hoping Christ will arise again, but at the same time not really knowing He will. I mean, rising from the dead? You have to be crazy to hope that.
“But He did. And it changed the way we live, forever.”
“So, Dominee,” Vetfaan leans over, eager for an answer, “you’re saying there’s only one hope left in the whole wide world?’
“No. There are many hopes. Only one, however, is guaranteed.”
“And that is what is important, Oudoom.” Gertruida smiles benignly at the clergyman. “The rest is bound to Time. And Time is a tragedy waiting to happen. We reach out with our tiny, frozen hands to each other, only to know nothing lasts forever. When we reach to the warmth of Eternity, we will never be disappointed.”
“True. Give me another of these Boggel. It’s actually very good… Life is a tragedy, we know that. That’s why we love, we strive, we build, we gather…and die. There’s nothing on earth we can grasp with our tiny, frozen hands to hold on forever.
“I’m working on tomorrow’s sermon with this theme in mind. The only thing we do on earth, is to leave things behind. We leave possessions, poverty, wealth, hope, love. If that contribution is for the benefit of others, life is meaningful. It’s like a relay race. We get, we pass it on. One generation will follow the other. Along the way, we’ll have joy, we have fun, we have seasons in the sun. Remember that one?” Oudoom enjoys shocking his flock. They never realised his taste for oldies. “Soo… it’s about taking hands. Passing the baton. And knowing this tragedy will pass. That, my friends, is what Easter is all about.”
“Yeah.” Vetfaan downs his beer. “The stone hasn’t been rolled away yet. Tomorrow it will be. We’ll always have tomorrow. It’ll come.”
What a frozen little hand,
let me warm it for you.
What’s the use of looking?
We won’t find it in the dark.
it’s a moonlit night,
and the moon
is near us here.
I will tell you in two words,
who I am, what I do,
and how I live. May I?
Who am I? I am a poet.
What do I do? I write.
And how do I live? I live.
In my carefree poverty
I squander rhymes
and love songs like a lord.
When it comes to dreams and visions
and castles in the air,
I’ve the soul of a millionaire.