17 February

A Beautiful And Surreal Morning

by Jon Katz
Maria’s Triumph

It was a surreal morning to me, I was disconnected from my work – no computer. I took some beautiful photos in the morning light, but I can’t share them with you.

I don’t know if all my work and new chapters and all of my photos have been damaged or destroyed in the computer crash, possibly the result of some kind of attack. I am waiting for the computer repair shop I use to open and get the news. So far, silence.

Maria called me very briefly before midnight to say she was heading out to the village of Bolpur for two days and would be out of touch – no Internet, blogging, cellphone service – at least until Sunday. We were both a little nervous about that.

We really are apart for a few days, she could hardly be farther if she was in the Antarctic. It is unsettling to  be writing this on Maria’s old laptop and to be waiting for the fate of my computer. This was supposed to be the week I was focusing on my new book. Maybe over the weekend.

And I am lucky to have this laptop.

I didn’t have time to say much more than goodbye to Maria, I got up to look at the itinerary that she left for me, and that I look at every morning. She did ask me to pass along that she will not be blogging until Sunday night or Monday. Her writing is so important to her now, I know how she feels. Our blogs are our voice and connection to our creativity, and her reports from India have been beautiful and powerful.

Many women say she is making this trip for them, and so she is.

Here’s her itinerary for today through Monday:

  • Feb. 17. Morning drive to the village of Bolpur. Check into TVE funded community based tourism hotel. Visit Women’s Interlink Foundation Community Center and enjoy home cooked meals from the hospitality training program. (This is one of the organizations helping the victims of sex trafficking, Maria may get to teach her potholder-making there.)
  • Feb. 18. Spend today visiting artisan shops and markets in Bolpur. Learn about initiatives to create jobs and keep young women in the village to prevent falling into trafficking rings in the big cities.
  • Feb. 19. Drive back to Kolkata in the morning and check into hotel. Visit to red light district crisis center in the evening.

So we really are out of touch for  awhile, and that feels strange. I plan to resolve the computer crisis one way or another, even if I have to buy another computer. If I’ve lost my photos, then they are gone, and I will take new photographs.  That is one of the wonderful things about photography, the world begins anew every day. My photos will also be free to anyone who wishes to use them.

And my editor has copies of my first four chapters, should it come to that. I don’t think it will. I backed things up on Wednesday.

I don’t wish to be a complete prisoner of technology, life happens, every day, and it can eat you up or give you strength and resilience. Perspective is part of my faith. Plato said be gentle, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Many of the people Maria is photographing in Kolkata would love to have a computer, even for a few minutes. Or hot water, or a place to live.  I am not important, in the scheme

The tragedy of technology is that for every good thing it brings, it also takes something away. I feel the same way about computer troubles as I feel about the loss of a dog, in a funny way.

I see all over Facebook that people are updating other people on the death and sickness of their dogs and cats, and chronicling their illnesses,  people seem eager to follow these losses and their details.

People share their illnesses and grief in a way I am not comfortable doing, and I hope it is comforting for them, I am sure it often is.  I respect them and their suffering, and we all deal with it in our own way, but I have chosen a different path for these inevitable consequences of being alive.

When I lose something, I go inward,  not outward. I have to help myself. Perhaps this is a survival technique, or a symptom of being closed.

I might just be blind to the comfort that is so readily available and so easily dispense.  I don’t really ever want to have so many people sorry for my losses. They have theirs, and I have mine, and how can I muster the strength and perspective to deal with my struggles if I am always handing them over to people? Everyone is fighting a battle, none of our losses are unique to us.

Before I share my travails, I must learn to live with them and accept them. In Maria’s post the other day she went to teach some trafficking victims how to make her potholders, but they didn’t get to her lessons, I’m sure she will get to them later. She acknowledged her disappointment and accepted this with grace, this is a part of life, just like breathing. It is not tragedy or drama. I would not say sorry for her loss, although I know this is important to her.

But for me, life is not loss, life is life.

Death and loss and crisis and mystery are not shocking to me. If you love dogs, you will see many deaths, they just don’t live as long as we do. What do we expect? Immortality for us and the things we love? That we are exempt from the laws of life and nature?

If so, we shall be shocked and disappointed all through life.

I don’t need to watch the news all day and I don’t need updates on the suffering and death of dogs. My computer crisis has rattled me – my whole creative is inside of that machine, and my plans and routines have been upended. But crisis and mystery is always around the corner, and perhaps it is because I am getting older that it is not a great shock for me.

I have seen firsthand how many of my plans live a very short life.

The question is how will I deal with loss and disappointment? Panic? Lament? Self-pity? Complaint?  Facebook or Twitter? I think not.

I worry sometimes that we use technology to hide and forget, and do not ever learn how to deal with the inevitable pain and loss of being human. I find, curiously, that I have never written on anyone’s Facebook page “sorry for your loss.” It seems too much like stealing to me. But that is just me.

Grace is not the absence of trouble, but the way in which we respond to trouble. Last night I read, meditated, thought about me and Maria and her journey into the Indian heartland.

Her journey goes way beyond a trip to India, it is a very personal journey of strength and affirmation. Like me, she is learning about the reality of life every day, and like me, it will make her stronger yet.


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