The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “revenge”

Ruined Innocence

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Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国) Print: Night rape double-page illustration from volume 1 In Praise of Love in the Four Seasons (Shunka shūtō, Shiki no nagame – 春夏秋冬 – 色の詠)

Lir

I was still a child myself when I had a child of my own.

I was taken by a man – my father’s cousin – only a year after my first blood.

I knew, as I knew my own name, that he never thought of me again.  I was a convenient receptacle for his momentary arousal and release.  To him, I had no face, no name.  He was drunk, and I could see in his eyes that he was not anywhere near with me.   It was not gentle. It was not slow or kind.  He grabbed me, threw me down, pulled up my skirt and put his thing inside me.  I thought I was being torn apart. He made noise like an animal.  His hot yeasty breath filled my nostrils,  causing me to retch.  He didn’t notice.  He was finished quickly, wiping himself on my skirt.  The only words he said to me were to let me know that if I told anyone about what had just transpired, he would find me and murder me in my sleep.

When my belly started to grow full, and my mother understood that I was with child,  she beat me almost senseless.  How I had been made pregnant was not the issue.  All that mattered in that moment was that I was pregnant. It happened, and as a girl, it was my fault, my sin.

She demanded to know who. I dared not tell her the truth so I said it was the son of a farmer who had come to town for market day; that he kissed me, and I found him pleasing, and we lay together in a field.  (I knew enough about how babies were made to lie convincingly.)

Truth or lies, the outcome would be the same for me, I knew. There would be no justice.  My violator would never suffer any punishment.  To speak his name would only give me reason to fear.

The shame to the family was more than they could bear.  They sent me away to a place where I would not be known, and where my sins would not be reflected back on them, even though the fault lay not with me but with the very men who took their pleasures without responsibility or remorse.

I was sent to a sad and lonely place which kept fallen girls like me away from respectable citizens.

My father took me in the middle of one cold night, to a place far away, and left me at the gate of an imposing building. The old bricks struck in me both respect and fear.  I was pulled inside and before I could turn to wave goodbye, my father was gone.

 I waited, like the others, for the day of my labor to arrive.  The ones in charge kept us busy with as much work as our swollen bodies could bear.

A few months later, I had my child there, and she suckled at my breast when she needed to be fed, but other than that, she was kept away from me.  I knew they would some day take her away. They did not want me to love her too much;  to cry and protest when they pulled her from my arms for the last time.  I understood this and did not let myself love her.

While the other girls wore their guilt like a sack of stones slung around their necks, my own burden was anger.  I raged at the unfairness of it. Why should I have felt guilty when I had done nothing wrong? I was not a bad girl.  I did not offer my body to men for money or food or for shiny baubles, nor even for love. My maidenhood was stolen from me, violently and cruelly, despite my tears and shouts and pleading. Nobody else heard me. He made certain of that.   I had become a prisoner of my circumstances and of my own body.

In the meanwhile, I earned my keep cleaning and working in the kitchen,  as most of the other girls did.  I remained there until the child was weaned, and then I was sent out into the world with a few small coins to make my way as best I could.  I had no family, no friends.  There was nobody to watch out for me, no one to rock me when the sadness overtook me. This was supposed to be my punishment, but for what I never understood.  I was not the one who should have been punished, and yet, my life was a ruin because of that man.

I was far from my family and even if I had the means to return to their town again, they would not want me.  And I didn’t really want them.  I did not want to be with people who would treat me so unjustly,  who thought of me so ill.

I was fortunate to find some work in a respectable house as a scullery maid. I was grateful they have me work without a proper letter, and they did not treat me unkindly.  They paid me rarely, and only a few small coins, here and there.  Why did I need money?  They gave me food and shelter,  a uniform and some cast-off clothing.

After time, it became my job to go to the square on market day.  The kitchen maid knew exactly how much each item cost and only gave me just enough money for what we needed, but I was quite clever at bargaining, and was able to pocket a little bit here and there, and the maid was never the wiser.

Some days, I was told to hurry home. But other times, when she was feeling generous in spirit or if the family was away and there were no meals to prepare, I was allowed a few glorious hours for myself.  On such a day, especially when the weather was fine,  I felt truly alive.

One day, on my way to market, I picked some wildflowers and braided myself a beautiful floral crown.  A pretty young girl admired it.  After a quick negotiation,  I sold it to her for a few small coins.  Her friends, in turn,  admired it on her head.  Each week, from then on, I would make a few flower halos and sell them to those girls whose parents had given them a tiny allowance to spend on whatever they wished.

One of these girls was the daughter of the mushroom seller.  We made each other laugh and so we became friends. I taught her how to braid flowers and she took me with her into the woods to search for mushrooms.  We were both surprised to discover I had an instinct for it.  I understood which fungi liked which conditions, and where we were likely to find such conditions.  I could sense where they hid.  There was not much time for me to search. Conditions had to be just so on a day when I was free, but whatever I found, I sold to my friend’s father, for him to sell to others.

And in these ways, in this way and that, slowly, over the years, I saved enough for what I had been dreaming about for more than a decade.

I bought a fine dress.  I rode back to the town of my birth, which was many hours away. I had in my possession a knife borrowed from the kitchen.

I knew where he lived.  I knew how to find him.   If anyone was going to be murdered in their sleep, it would not be me.

When I arrived, I immediately set out to locate him.

But he was not in his field. He was not in his home. He was in none of the places where men gather.  I had arrived driven with revenge but finally I was worn out from the traveling, from searching, from burning anger.  I wanted to do my worst and be done with the deed. I could wait no longer. I needed to act while I still had my courage. I asked somebody where I might find him.

“In the graveyard,” I was told.  Many years before, he had been hurt by his plow and died weeks later from a creeping black infection.

My feelings were all a-jumble.  Disappointment.  A different taste of anger, now that my revenge had been stolen from me.  Relief, because I wasn’t even sure I could have carried through on my plan, even having dreamed about it for so long.  A sadness at my wasted life. And under it all, a sense of freedom;  a new beginning.  His accident had saved me from committing a mortal sin. Perhaps this was God’s gift to me.

For the rest of my life, and still,  I sifted through all those emotions,  trying to make more sense of them;  trying to come to a conclusion about what it was all supposed to mean.

 

(note on the artwork:  I did not have the impression that this narrator was Japanese, but the act itself as depicted here is as it was shown to me.)

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Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey.
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The Path to Power

imam-zanzibar

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Mus

I will tell you the story of how I,  a man of little substance or deep knowledge, came to great power.

When I was a boy,  I was not well-accepted by the others.  I did not have the talents necessary to make friends. I had a birth defect that made my body weak on one side. I could not kick a ball.  I was serious-minded and dull,  with little sense of play and no sense of humor.  At best, the other children ignored me.  At worse, they physically abused me.  Even many adults regarded me as dim-witted because of my infirmity.

I found my protection by becoming the errand boy to the village imam.  I was happy to fetch him tea, or deliver papers for him, or sweep his small study.   Under his aegis, I was safe. The other boys dared not bother me.

I quickly learned to make myself indispensable.  Certainly, I was obsequious and flattering, and assiduously followed the studies the imam set out for me. But more importantly, I was efficient.  I learned to anticipate his needs.  Once my basic schooling was finished,  he kept me on as his assistant and secretary.  I became his gatekeeper.  Nobody got in to see the great man without my permission.

He took me under his wing, and allowed me to sit in on many of his meetings – consultations with people in the village who had personal or spiritual problems, legal proceedings which required his judgment or seal, the issuing of decrees which became local law.

He had no living male children, so he groomed me to one day take over his position.  He taught me the book and he taught me the law.

He was a good and wise man, but there were many times when I felt his decisions were too lenient.  I believed in stricter punishment for those whose morals strayed too far.

Eventually,  my teacher passed on.  He was an old man.  I was only in my forties.   And I immediately took over the role of village imam.  Nobody objected.  Clearly it was the old man’s will that I succeed him. In any case, nobody else was qualified.    Since I, myself, had never rendered any judgments or given counsel,  there was no reason for anyone to believe my decisions would not be as sage as my predecessor’s.

But they were not.  I could not remain as objective as he was. Those boys who abused me when I was young did not remember,  but I did.  And now they were men, in need of rulings and favors and advice.

I was severe in my punishment.   I was often cruel with my advice.  My decisions often leaned against those who’d hurt me.  I was strict with most everyone because few of them had been very kind to me.  They had no choice but to obey me. I was the law.

I, too, died an old man.  I had no wife or children to mourn me.  Few were sorry to lose my guidance.

I had been given the opportunity to become a man of God; to nurture the spiritual in both myself and in others,  to deepen my understanding and compassion.   Instead, I abused my power.  I took pleasure in petty revenge.  I was no more loved going out of the world than I’d been coming in.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

My Husband, My Jailer

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falling down stairs

Am

I didn’t know him when I married him.  I was a young woman and he was much older than I was. He had never been lucky with women, never been married. My family arranged for me to travel from my country to his to be his wife. They said my life would be better there.

I was taught that wives should behave in a subservient manner towards their husbands so I knew my place.  I was clever enough to know I should hide my cleverness. I was efficient.  Reliable. Pliable.  Not too demanding, at least not initially.

This was my appeal for him.  He was a sad, weak man who needed a weaker woman to make him feel strong.

After a couple of years, we had a child.   I devoted myself to motherhood which gave me far more pleasure than my marriage.  I did not have too many friends.  My social circle was very small.  For the most part, I was limited to the wives of his friends, of which he had very few.  Some of the wives were also foreign-born, married sight unseen like me, but they were not from my country.  The language barriers made it difficult to share our experiences although I assumed their stories were similar to mine. I would have loved to have had a friend to talk to about my marriage,  but it seemed my own husband was not the only one who preferred to keep me from getting to close with others.

Initially, he was kind to me.  He sometimes lost his temper but he went through the motions of apology.  He pretended that we were a happy couple in love.   But we were not.  Soon he made less of an effort to control his temper.  He was an unhappy man and nothing I could do could change that, although I worked hard to be a good wife and give him what he needed.

I eventually realized that any intimacy we had at the beginning was purely fantasy. In reality, we had nothing in common.   When I first came to him, I respected him.  He seemed to me smart and successful and knowledgeable about the world, but of course this was only in comparison to the men I knew from my village.  When I got to know him, however, I recognized that he was not worthy of even my insignificant respect.   I tried to hide my growing contempt for him, but such things show on the face,  in the tone of voice, in the  lack of genuine interest in pleasing him.

He took out his anger at the world on me.   I could do nothing right.  I was useless.  He was going to send me back and keep our son.    No man would ever want me again.  Even my own family would reject me because I was such a terrible wife.  I would go back to my village and live out my days sweeping the streets, an outcast, a pariah.

I believed that he could do this.  Worse, I believed that he would do this.  I tried harder to put on a good face for him; to be obedient and of service.  I made myself small and invisible when I was not fulfilling his present needs.

And then, one day in the market, I saw a woman who had a face typical of the women who came from my country.   I said something to her in my language to see if she would respond.  To my delight, she did!  We became fast friends.

She had come over as a young woman and found work as domestic help.  The family she worked for was kind, and even allowed her to take some evening classes in school to improve her language skills.  This was something I dared not even ask my husband about. I already knew the answer.  I’d be punished in one way or another just for suggesting that I wanted to become more independent.

We met once or twice a week, me with my son and her with her charges.  We would do our shopping then steal a few minutes for ourselves in the park, while the children played. We chatted in our mother tongue,and for the first the first time since I’d arrived, I felt that I had a friend of my own, someone who understood me.

Even though, as a married woman, I had more status than she did, I was envious of her position.  She knew things about this new land that I never would have imagined and never would have discovered on my own. She was a window into the culture.  She might not have had much that was her own, but at least she was free (so it seemed to me, anyway.)

Eventually, I confided in her how unhappy I was.  I felt like a prisoner in my marriage, with escape being worse than captivity. I didn’t want to stay but I had nowhere to do. I had very little of my own money – just the little bit that I managed to hide away from my household budget.  It wouldn’t get me and my son anywhere. I had no skills and could not support us.  In any case, my husband would not rest until he had hunted me down.

I felt like a trapped animal.  The isolation of my marriage was unbearable.   If it weren’t for my son, I might even have killed myself but I would not leave him alone to be raised by that man.

In the early years, when I was merely unhappy, I used to pray for more kindness and understanding from my husband, more patience for myself.  Eventually, however, my prayers were not so noble.  I began to pray for his death.  I knew this was a sin, but it was the only path I could see to my salvation.  With him gone, I would be free and have the house and his money.

These wishes soon became manifest in my actions.  At first, I was defiant in small, secret ways.  For example, I would not wash all his clothes but rather fold them and put them back as if they had been laundered.  One afternoon, as I began to prepare dinner, I noticed the meat had gone bad.  I fed it to him anyway.  Slowly, I became emboldened.  Sometimes, I would pull plants from the side of the road and add them to his food, hoping that they were poisonous.  One day, after he beat me, I was so angry, I picked up some dog feces in the street and added it to his soup.

I would “accidentally” leave small objects, such as toys or shoes, near door and along the hallway, hoping that he would trip while drunk and break open his head.

I didn’t have the nerve to actually murder him, but I tried to give Fate a helping hand.  But none of these efforts,  not any of my prayers, seemed to have any effect on him.  How could a man so evil be so lucky?

I never told my friend about my prayers or small sabotages. I didn’t want her to feel responsible if I succeeded.  Maybe I was afraid she would encourage me to do worse to him, and that I would allow myself to be led.

Finally, one day, after many such miserable years, he was drinking in the local bar and simply fell over, clutching his chest.  I pretended to others to be sad – I had become quite good at pretending – but I was relieved that he was finally dead, and that I was not responsible for his death. (I didn’t figure my prayers had killed him because I’d been praying for a long time with no results.)

There wasn’t a lot of money left after everything was sold,  but it was enough to let me start over somewhere else.  I took my son and my friend, and we went far away, and made a new life for ourselves. It was sometimes a struggle, but at least we were free.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

Haters Gonna Hate

Originally posted March 13, 2015

acid

Na

My last living thought was of revenge. Not for one who had killed me for I died of natural causes. Rather, I died of the slow poisonous desire for vengeance which had coursed through my veins for decades. This was my own doing. I could have let it go. I should have let it go. But instead I let it eat me up inside like acid.

He stole my life. His fame and success should have been mine. That is what I believed. He stole my ideas; he stole my relationships; he stole my chance at happiness. He alone derailed my life’s plan and I could not, would not, let it go.

He knew I hated him, but he paid me no mind. To him, I was a pathetic nobody. At worst, I was annoying, like a housefly, incapable of inflicting any real damage. He could have destroyed me as easily as a human hand can squash a bug, but he did not waste his effort. This, too, fueled my anger, for he did not even consider me a worthy opponent.

I wasted my entire life on hate. The taste of bile tainted every possibility of joy. And whose fault was that? Still, I refused to release it, even though all the damage was to me.

I know now I traveled the path I was destined to travel. If he had not taken from me what I believed to be mine,  I would have lost it another way. It was not meant for me to be a success this time.  This life was meant to teach me to conquer resentment and anger. It was for me to learn to be happy with what I had. It was meant for me to learn to move beyond disappointment and push through to joy. But I could not.

And so, I must do it again.

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Think of others who might enjoy it too,  and help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 

The Wisdom of the Shepherd

first published Sept 27, 2014

 

Ib

[While I was channeling The Liar, (the previous post), a different fellow came into my head as a clear and powerful a picture. (Most often, stories come to me in words or as feelings).   He is an adult man, a poor shepherd in ragged clothes, tending his flock. He sits on a rock, with his rifle close at hand. The terrain is bleak and mountainous. I know we are in the foothills of the Hindu Kush… Afghanistan or Pakistan perhaps.]

“I grew up with it,” he said, showing me his gun. “It was an extension of myself. It never left my side.  I learned to shoot as a child and so I was an excellent marksman. When I was out with my herd, I was always scanning the horizon and the skies for predators – wolves, jackals. Even a hawk could take away a small lamb.”

“I also watched the narrow paths leading into our valley, keeping my rifle trained on anyone I didn’t recognize until it was known whether they were friend or enemy. In this way, I, like everyone else, helped guard the safety of our village.”

All well and good, I thought “aloud” to him, but this is not really a story. It’s just an image, and I might just be remembering that image from a photograph.   I need more.

He then “showed” me his small house – a typical low mud and brick hut. He told me he had four children, two boys and two girls. The girls were married and living with their husbands’ families.

Sorry, but this is still not particularly interesting. Yet he was coming to me so strongly,  I felt he must have more to say.

Don’t you have a story, I asked. A lesson?

And then he started to wax philosophical…

===

Living in such a small, isolated village, it is impossible to comprehend the life of a person who works in an office in a big city in another country. And the person who lives and works in a big modern city cannot fully imagine the life of a person who lives in a small village.

It is difficult enough to understand the feelings and the suffering and the pain and even the joy of your own neighbor; sometimes, not even your own family member. Each human being is at the center of his or her own universe. The reality of others is completely abstract. You might as well be on completely different planets.

When the feelings and hopes and dreams and pain of others are abstract, and when their needs and desires conflict with your own, it becomes easy to vilify and hate.

To push aside your own limitations in order to see beyond the limitations of others is the path to compassion. But this takes a tremendous amount of work and energy, more than most humans are willing or able to expend.

It takes far less energy to hate.

Humans like to believe they are compassionate but they make so many exceptions, that they are not compassionate at all.   There are always others — a group or a class or an ethnicity or a nation — for whom they make exceptions.   “Yes,” they say, “compassion is good BUT those people….” are this way or do that.  They are somehow unworthy of compassion.

And how many humans can feel compassion for their enemy, especially if they are trying to kill them? But without compassion enemies are always plentiful.

People claim to want peace in the world as if it is the responsibility of nations or governments. But peace begins with compassion within ourselves. Each time we vilify others, even a neighbor or an old friend or a family member – even if we feel justified because they have done us grievous harm — we move the world one step further from peace.

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Addendum:  Well, I have to admit, by these standards,  I’m not very compassionate at all!  Guess I have something to work on!

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Haters Gonna Hate

acid

 

Na

My last living thought was of revenge. Not for one who had killed me for I died of natural causes. Rather, I died of the slow poisonous desire for vengeance which had coursed through my veins for decades. This was my own doing. I could have let it go. I should have let it go. But instead I let it eat me up inside like acid.

He stole my life. His fame and success should have been mine. That is what I believed. He stole my ideas; he stole my relationships; he stole my chance at happiness. He alone derailed my life’s plan and I could not, would not, let it go.

He knew I hated him, but he paid me no mind. To him, I was a pathetic nobody. At worst, I was annoying, like a housefly, incapable of inflicting any real damage. He could have destroyed me as easily as a human hand can squash a bug, but he did not waste his effort. This, too, fueled my anger, for he did not even consider me a worthy opponent.

I wasted my entire life on hate. The taste of bile tainted every possibility of joy. And whose fault was that? Still, I refused to release it, even though all the damage was to me.

I know now I traveled the path I was destined to travel. If he had not taken from me what I believed to be mine,  I would have lost it another way. It was not meant for me to be a success this time.  This life was meant to teach me to conquer resentment and anger. It was for me to learn to be happy with what I had. It was meant for me to learn to move beyond disappointment and push through to joy. But I could not.

And so, I must do it again.

 

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