I look forward to spending the morning of the first Sunday of every month in front of the television. No, not to watch cartoons. Well, not anymore! But, to watch BookTV's "In Depth" program.
This time it was an extended conversation with Luis J. Rodriguez.
If you are like me, you are thinking this: " Luis Who?"
I had no idea about Rodriguez. But, BookTV is featuring him, perhaps to also coincide with Cinco de Mayo?
Knowing nothing about him was all the more the reason to watch the program--something new is what I am all the more keen about. I hate to be comfortably ensconced in an echo chamber.
I didn't have to wait for long to earn that nugget. Rodriguez commented about a remark that he heard when young, which made him think a lot about:
You are gonna die anyway. Die for something big.Yeah, die for something. Big or small, for something. That appeals to me. I suppose it has always appealed to me. Even if it is all an unproductive tilting at windmills.
Everyday life is nothing but an opportunity after another for us to make our statements on what we live for and, hence, what we will die for. In that everyday life, we don't seem to appreciate the gravity of the fact that we "are gonna die anyway." We fight over things big and small, even over the spelling of bougainvillea!
A solitary experience death is. In talking about old stories from the village in the old country, father described the death of a woman, a few years his junior, whose death was literally solitary. A woman whose grandparents were one of the richest people the locale had known.
"She died alone, unarmed and unattended" father said.
Though the Skype video was not working, I am sure he picked up on the fact that there was nothing from me to acknowledge the relevance of "unarmed and unattended."
"We memorized the poem Only a Soldier in our high school days" he said and went on to recite the first verse. I made a mental note of it.
We are gonna die anyway. Probably unarmed and unattended. Why not live, and die, for something?
Only a Soldier!
By Anonymous (?)
Unarmed and unattended' walks the Czar'
Through Moscow's busy street' one winter's day.
The crowd uncover as his face' they see:
"God greet the Czar!" they say.
Along his path there moved a funeral,
Grave spectacle of poverty and woe -
A wretched sledge, dragged by one weary man
Slowly across the snow.
And on the sledge, blown by the winter wind,
Lay a poor coffin, very rude and bare;
And he who drew it bent before his load
With dull and sullen air.
The Emperor stopped and beckoned to the man:
"Who is it thou bearest to the grave?" he said.
"Only a soldier, sire!" the short reply;
"Only a soldier, dead."
"Only a soldier!" musing, said the Czar:
"Only a Russian, who was poor and brave.
Move on, I follow. Such' a one goes not
Unhonored to his grave."
He bent his head and silent raised his cap;
The Czar of all the Russians, pacing slow,
Followed the coffin as again it went
Slowly across the snow.
The passers of the street, all wondering,
Looked on that sight, then followed silently;
Peasant and prince, and artisans and clerk,
All in one company.
Still as they went, the crowd grew ever more,
Till thousands stood around the friendless grave,
Led by that princely heart, who, royal, true,
Honoured the poor and brave.