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Death and Rain

Rain again. Every day it comes an hour earlier and lasts a bit longer.

By the time you get home the earlier part of the day has escaped you and already feels like a lifetime ago. What remains is the 4.5 hours you spent chatting with the Germal girl--you suddenly realize you've forgotten her name. When she told you you never knew it would be anything you had to remember, but of course if you spend the better part of a day with someone and even make plans to meet tomorrow...well, then a name becomes useful.

We have seen much today. As much blood and viscera as I expect to see in a lifetime. The mass butchery was a live lesson in anatomy. Of course that is the notion we tourists come away with, though for the people who mattered, the "real" attendees, it was a funeral ceremony. Sometimes we forgot this amid the bloodshed and laughter, but I had only to catch the grief on one woman's face to recall where we were and our interloper status. The dirges, too, were hauntingly sorrowful and, when coupled with the image of smouldering sow in the distance, strangely cinematic.

Everywhere was mud and meat. Smoking ruin. The glassy-eyed, detached heads of buffalo and pigs. Carcasses in varying stages of butchery. Blood the color and texture of paint. All those hack-'em blood-and-gore movies were accurate after all. How mysterious life seems when you see it fleeing the shuddering body of a slaughtered animal.

Mysterious and cheap. God must watch our deaths as indifferently as these men spitting casually into the mud. Certainly no one but a few startled tourists heeded the screams of the tied-up pigs. In that sense the animals' slaughter was a perfect backdrop for a funeral--a reminder not only of our mortality but also of our insignificance.

I don't deny I take a different perspective than the Toraja people may have intended to provoke with their ceremony. Perhaps I too infrequently encounter death that my thoughts on it are so quotidian--I can't see beyond the frightening fact that one day my own life will be snuffed out and, with me, all my world. Nothing will take me on; nothing will remain. My life, which consisted of nothing, will return to the nothing from whence it came. If someone once cared, he too will be nothing soon, and nothing will go on, not even the echo of an echo's echo.

And so I sit amongst the blood and flesh until the rain threatens and we leave in a daze.

Posted by chschen 17:00 Archived in Indonesia

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