The plague we suffer

juntos (1)When I used to live in Switzerland there was a couple that accompanied me during my workday commute on the tram. Entering the tram, they were already snuggled within each others arms, forming a single entity separated from the rest of the world — sometimes silent and sometimes speaking in hush voices during the trip. They disembarked the same stop as I did, but separated. He strolled to the right and she briskly walked to the left to catch a different line, but the same as I. After boarding the next tram, at the subsequent stop, I watched the girl rush out into the arms of her love standing at the very spot her doors open. They embrace for several seconds, then the girl steps back into our tram and lightly puts her hand on her heart as she wistfully watches her love become separated from her because the tram is pulling away. This repeated every work day. I always wondered why they did not just take the next tram together. Why did they need those few moments of separation? Was it to make the brief reunion that much sweeter?

Love is never strong enough to find the words befitting it (Camus)

I just finished a book who introduces the reader to various tenets of separation, called The Plague by Albert Camus. Since I was traumatized by the contemporary writing mentioned in my last blog post, I decided to read this French author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in the 1950s. I was first introduced to Camus when I saw “The Stranger” in boyfriend’s bookshelf at his parents’ home. Liking the book, I have been trying to tick off all Camus’ books from my book list. Just like his book “The Stranger”, the events in The Plague reflect Camus’ theme about the inevitability of death.

The Plague burgeoned in Oran to cause the quarantine — separation — of Oran from the rest of the world. Dr. Rieux treated numerous victims of the plague in a hospital and narrated The Plague rather objectively (yes, separating oneself from emotions of treating patients helps to complete the duty). Even Dr. Rieux’s observations of families and couples being separated and rejoined lacked any ardor. Perhaps because Dr. Rieux separated his own personal life with that of the passion of reunited loved ones he observed, it is up to the reader to imagine or reminisce of any ecstatic memory of being with someone again after a long separation.

Some excerpts from The Plague:

  • “Arms closed with hungry possessiveness on bodies whole living shape they had forgotten…he hadn’t time to see that form running toward him, already she had flung herself upon his breast. And with his arms locked around her, pressing to his shoulder the head of which he saw only the familiar hair, he let his tears flow freely, unknowing if they rose from present joy or from sorrow too long repressed; aware only that they would prevent his making sure if the face buried in the hollow of his shoulder were the face of which he had dreamed so often or, instead, a stranger’s face.”
  • “This is where, one evening just like this, I longed for you so desperately–and you weren’t there!”
  • “Passionately embracing and gazing hungrily at one another in the failing sunset glow–had got what they wanted, this was because they had asked for the one thing that depended on them solely.”

While some are engulfed in the pleasurable plague of love that can separate the couple from others of their world, some suffer plagues of character. The Plague espouses:

“Each of us has the plague within him, no one, no one on earth is free from it. And I know, too, that we must keep endless watch on ourselves lest in a careless moment we breathe in somebody’s face and fasten the infection on him…it’s a wearying business, being plague-stricken…that’s why everybody in the world today looks so tired, everyone is more or less sick of plague.”

Extinguish your plague and do not spread it to someone else.

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Whether or not there is freedom of speech does not depend on how freely you speak when you criticize high officials or people in power, but whether you lose your freedom after you speak.”

From a country whose reunification is a long-running dispute — Taiwan — to another country whose disagreements lead to isolation from the rest of Asia — Japan — it is a short flight. Baggage collected, I absorb the sounds of those reunited with their loved ones and the sights of eager faces waiting for their own separation to end.


*This is my first time posting from the WordPress app on my smartphone, I hope the post resulted well.