We are nothing but shadow and mist – By Freddie Kissoon

We are nothing but shadow and mist

Freddie Kissoon

Here are some of the lyrics from the theme song of the movie, “Last Tango in Paris,” definitely the second greatest existentialist film ever made after the Italian masterpiece, “La Dolce Vita.”

“We don’t exist
We are nothing but shadow and mist
In the mirror we look as we pass
No reflection’s revealed in the glass
Don’t you know that the blood in your vein is as lifeless
as yesterday’s rain?
It’s a game where we come to conceal – the confusion we feel” 

This is one of my all-time favourite philosophical songs that so vividly inform the mind that everything in life is fleeting. Tennessee Williams put it so poignantly when he wrote in “The Milk Train Does Stop Here Anymore” that each step we take in the present immediately becomes the past.” People with power, status and wealth need to understand that lesson of human existence. Everything in life is fleeting and one day fate turns you into a shadow.

I wonder what is going through the mind of former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy. He was the ‘bling-bling’ president that married a European superstar singer while he was president and hobnobbed with the wealthy French classes. He lost in his reelection bid, then, failed in the recent French primaries. The French hardly remember Sarkozy. In his ostentatious days, Sarkozy failed to bear in mind that we are simply shadow and mist.

Megastar of the fifties and sixties, Elizabeth Taylor (incidentally she starred with her husband, Richard Burton, in the film version of the “The Milk Train Does Stop Here Anymore,” under the title “Boom!”) didn’t want to grow older. She grabbed on to the coattail of the younger superstars, of which Michael Jackson stood out. I remember watching Tina Sinatra on ‘60 Minutes’ speaking about her father, Frank, another megastar of the fifties and sixties. She said Sinatra was an unhappy man because he didn’t want to grow older and couldn’t stop being in the limelight, so he performed until he got sickly and frail. She told 60 Minutes; “It is funny how you delude yourself.”

I think of Hamilton Green, Bharrat Jagdeo, Kellawan Lall and others who like, Sinatra deluded themselves into thinking life is permanent and the sweet-smelling rose they wear on their lapel will never welter. I grew up in social activism with Hamilton Green as perhaps the country’s most powerful man. Whereas Forbes Burnham was the cultured face of the PNC Government, Green represented the strong arm symbol of PNC power. Green tolerated no criticism and anti-government protestors were reminded of that. It was an intriguing read to digest, with Green in 2017 lamenting his precarious financial standing since 1992 when the PNC lost power.
I remember when I came back from studies abroad in 1984, Mr. Burnham was still president, Green was still powerful, but the rising oligarch was presidential advisor, Elvin Mc David. Mc David’s power was almost equal to Green. Married to a white, Jamaican woman that he loved to parade to the public, Mc David was the custodian of PNC power. One afternoon I was jogging on the seawall in the vicinity of Subryanville. Mc David was strolling on the wall with a school of bodyguards. In his hand he carried a long black whip. This was your typical Latin American man on horseback.

Mc David grew older and alone in his Queenstown home. He always requested that I come and chat with him. For some ungodly reason, Mc David would open up to me. Months before he died, he became obese and could hardly see. In chasing away some mischievous youths in his yard, he fell and his spectacles cut his eye and blinded him. Mc David didn’t accept that we humans are just shadow and mist.

I saw Bharrat Jagdeo in 2016 with Odinga Lumumba at the Oasis Café. No one looked at him. His face was directed downwards at the table while Lumumba spoke in hushed tones. This most powerful man in Guyana from 1999-2015 had become a figure that no one noticed. Kellawan Lall was as powerful as any PPP Minister. A few months ago, I saw him at the Bourda Green buying fruits. He had a bent, tiny frame; the shirt-jack was crumpled and besmirched. He could easily have been mistaken for a homeless gentleman.

Finally, after leaving my mechanic in Bel Air village, I drove through the street where the parents of Khurshid Sattaur live. Khurshid was on the bridge, he came up to the moving car, held on to it and shouted to me. More on this in another column.

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  • REGINALD CHEEATOW  On 05/22/2017 at 9:22 am

    This is one the best articles by Freddie, I have ever read.

    Reggie Chee-a-tow

  • Ron Saywack  On 05/23/2017 at 2:43 pm

    “The Milk Train Doesn’t (sic) Stop Here Anymore” 

    Throughout the annals of time, humans have been in perpetual search for the (wishful) fountain of youth and eternal life. But the reality is, neither is achievable. It is only but an elusive dream!

    We get all but a solitary chance at life and this is it, this is all, folks. The fact is, we did not exist prior to conception nor shall we continue to exist after death, unfortunately. There is no evidence anywhere to the contrary. Sorry to burst your bubble of delusion.

    We are made up of trillions of cells and the cells have a finite lifespan. Our telomeres are a diminishing return.

    What are telomeres and are their function, you may ask?

    In the nucleus of a cell, our genes are arranged as twisted, double-stranded molecules of DNA known as chromosomes. They replicate throughout our lifetime. After each replication, the telomeres (tip of the cells) become shorter and shorter. And there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop the inexorable, aging process. But that doesn’t mean that humans will ever give up trying to achieve the impossible.

    The story of King Canute exemplifies it. One day, the king went to the seashore to order the waves to stop rolling in. When that didn’t work, he went up to his palace and fetched his royal chair and placed it by the seaside to accomplish his wish, all, needless to say, in vain.

    In denial of our mortality and ephemerality, we seek refuge and hope for eternity in religiosity. We have invented a blissful place in space called heaven where the streets are paved with gold and where we hope to one day reunite with all our deceased loved ones. We simply cannot accept the finality of death.

    Alas, the most practical advice we may lend ourselves in this cosmic moment is to celebrate life to the fullest, with the hard, cold understanding that this it, this is all. There are no tomorrows, disappointingly.

    • walter  On 05/24/2017 at 3:08 pm

      I totally disagree, and this discussion did come up before, usually heads into “Does God Exist” refuse to believe that all the thoughts of man, music, love and.. just disappears, explain Mozart and other prodigies, might it be possible that this precious information can be transferred? I believe your beliefs reduces the power and “Depth” of God. There is no definitive answers, at least for me.

  • Albert  On 05/24/2017 at 12:12 pm

    “We get all but a solitary chance at life and this is it”

    I think it was War and Peace where Tolstoy ended by writing ‘Enjoy life its all we have’. Our mothers gave us birth and we will all die. What matters is the experiences we have in between.

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