The Land Where You Sit: “Life is short. Be a little more patient.” (a saying by Andrey Knyshev) Grigory Pasko, journalist There’s a word in the Russian underworld “blat” jargon – nishtyak. True, most people don’t really know what it means. They most often use it when they want to characterize something positively. That mug of beer really hit the spot – nishtyak! A great night out with your pals – nishtyak! But experienced zeks will tell you that nishtyak is… distance. Just what kind, maybe I’ll tell some other time. But today I’ll talk about our life – which is, after all, also about distance: the distance from birth to death, from start to finish. True, the Japanese writer and philosopher Akutagawa compared life with a matchbox: to take it seriously may be ridiculous, but not to take it seriously is dangerous. Our life today is comparable to a hurdles race, except that the hurdles are unknown and oftentimes appear out of nowhere. Just take atypical pneumonia – bird flu, that is – as an example. Or any number of other horrors, like the twin towers on 9/11, or the airplanes and helicopters that fall out of the sky from time to time, or hostage taking incidents…
Photo by Grigory Pasko: My son Pavel enjoying life
Human life has always been insecure. But back then, its insecurity was predictable. Nowadays, you’ve got a good hundred different medicines and treatments for simple radiculitis (most of which are useless, I might add). On every corner you see medical centers, clinics, insurance policies, psychologists and policemen with dogs and special services. But life hasn’t become any more tranquil because of this. Furthermore, anxiety has become the norm. A radio announcer says that the show will next air at such and such a time. And adds – if nothing happens… He adds this without a hint of humor. And we understand what he means. I recently learned that the members of an airliner’s flight crew always eat different meals – the captain, let’s say, takes the fish, the co-pilot chooses the chicken, and the flight engineer goes with the beef. Then they switch. So they don’t all get poisoned at the same time by something inedible. The life of an ordinary person is beginning to look like the life of a professional whose work is constantly fraught with danger. On any given day, anything might happen to us – from poisoning in a café (and not only food poisoning, as we have now learned, but ingestion of a rare toxin as well), to a terrorist in a concert hall, to an idiot policeman or a degenerate assassin in the entrance to our own home. Once again, as in all previous centuries, we are without any protection in the face of… life itself, for which death is just as natural a component as shadows are for a sunny day. “In this life, dying isn’t new; to make a life is significantly more difficult …” wrote the Russian poet Sergey Yesenin in a poem just before committing suicide. It was obviously not by chance that he apparently rewrote the end of this poem several times. The poems are different too in our times. Vladimir Kornilov writes “I am being beaten, damn it! With the forehead, then on the forehead… A bomb exploded In the entrance to my building… The assassin, having left a trace, Has disappeared without a trace. Everything is an agitated movement of agitated movements And all manner of agitated movement.”
But my son already knows what happened on September 11, 2001. (Photo of September 11 from indostan.ru)
In this agitated movement, which the king and poet and prophet who wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes couldn’t have even dreamed of, humanity is faced once again in all its glory, just like a thousand years ago, with the problem of how to SURVIVE. No nuclear umbrellas, or condoms, or gauze bandages can save us from any forthcoming cataclysms… And there is practically no hope whatsoever that the mythical beast by the name of “the state” is going to save you from anything. Thanks, but no thanks. Better stay as far away from it as possible, lest it accidentally harm me with its “love” for me, for my neighbor – more than enough of it to go around. And, like a thousand years ago – you can only count on yourself. …And you can’t not live. Well, I suppose you could, but… Like one humorist wrote: “Life is so good that you want to survive”. …Maybe, in the agitated movement of agitated movements, in this terrible and oh so wonderful life we will learn – at last – that the most important thing isn’t political squabbles, not the pursuit of money, not the phantom dreams of other-worldly rewards, but ordinary, quiet family joy (the well-being of the family – now there’s a National Idea for any normal state). And maybe we’ll learn how to love: our mother’s wrinkles, our wife’s smile, the warm little hands of our children, the sky over our heads, the grass under our feet, our own home, our friends and colleagues… We’ll learn how to derive joy from a sunny day, or indeed from ANY day! Because it may not be here tomorrow.