The Wings of the Butterfly

by Abdassamad Clarke


"There is much that is strange, but nothing that surpasses man in strangeness."

When I remember these words of Sophocles I am heart-sore at the thought of what has gone and yet heart-whole. To suffer at the hands of passion is pain indeed but better by far than the life lived in ease and cocooned from all trouble. How I remember an old man telling me about his life in that troubled time when he was cosseted by functionaries of the state who attempted to ease him through all the traumatic transitions, as they saw them, from childhood to adulthood, from marriage to divorce, from employment to unemployment and retirement. He realised that if it had lasted they would have been around to ease him into his grave without trouble and thus have robbed him of the unique event that was his death having already robbed him of his life. “Rage, rage at the passing of the light!” is indeed better advice than the insipid zombiehood passed off on that sorry generation.

But this of course is the record of the great historic rage that came to summon them from that easy slumber, as history all too often does. And I would hazard that the historic rage is man's own fury at the domesticity which the family and the state foist on him as his life's goal until his nature rise up and smash it in terrible wrath on the anvil of the age. Better had it been if he had risen, as did we, quite consciously and embraced struggle as the central core of his life, than the senseless rage at women and children that are the squalid wars of that which they call history. The man who has chosen struggle as his way, a heroic way, is safety itself to women and to children.

And so I have passed from passion to killing and war, for ever were they intimately connected. And passion took us from the security of a safe existence and robbed us of our night's sleep and of every rest in the common rut. If ever a people re-valued all values it was us, and it has left me little but a weeping eye and a sorrowing heart and I do not regret it. My sorrow had a direction and a goal as will emerge from this tale, but now it has no alighting place, and it is one of the weathers that my heart has come to know, and it descends on it like a sudden squall from out of the west, from the beautiful Gulf Stream of the soul, and I exult in it like a captain Ahab of the inner world. For the man without sorrow has no heart, and the man with no heart is not a man; the man without a heart is not a man.

Let me tell this tale, which is the tale of my shipwreck in the vastnesses of the heart, which I could not have foreseen as I set off in my youthly folly on what I thought was great and high adventure. Adventure there was but I account it all as naught except that hearts have come alive by it.

They say that young poets sing of death but old poets sing of love, so let me sing this song of death and love whose subject traverses both my youth and old age, and let me sing it as if it were about someone else. We will call him Sean Kennedy for my hurt is mine, but Sean's is a good story.

Chapter 3: The Great Crash and its Causes