Bucolic Scenes: Children Picking Horse Manure

By Isabel M. Estrada-Portales

Look at these beautiful pictures of children picking up horse manure, so that the public can leisurely ride horses at La Carolina Park in Quito, Ecuador. This is on a Sunday afternoon… when my own kids, who could actually be the mothers of at least one of these children, are throwing a tantrum about cleaning up their rooms.

We pass these children working every day. It is so normal that nobody pays the slightest attention. I remembered the time I visited schools in certain neighborhoods in Memphis, Tennessee and Philadelphia and had to pass a metal detector. I was enraged. I could not believe those children had to pass that everyday to go to class. With the callousness of those who don´t really need to make those choices, I said that over my dead body I would live in a neighborhood in which my kids had to go through a metal detector at school. I guess in my mind those parents actually had a choice.

These aberrations look so normal to us that it scares me. The manure was the least disgusting thing in this bucolic landscape.
Today is really not a good day. And then people are surprised of the addiction crises and the wave of suicides. I discovered today that children do have some uses. Only remembering that I still have two to put through college is preventing me from chaining myself to a bar stool and telling the bartender don´t even bother to ask if I wanted another shot, until they drag me from there in an alcoholic coma. I would consider a cocaine overdose as well, but my connections have apparently dried out.

I swear, if the species would consider mass suicide, from where I´m standing hardly another day has looked better. I´m sure there is a better part of me somewhere. I know it has been there before. But I think I may need to use fracking to bring it out today.

Here I am, deep diving in my mind in Rilke, Yourcenar, Hans Castorp´s beautiful and amazingly extraordinaire declaration of love in Mann´s The Magic Mountain, the exceptional hara-kiri scene, after incredible love-making, of the protagonists of Mishima´s Patriotism. I´m going back to all those old friends to find that hope I used to have that there could be salvation through literature. Sadly, one of those old friends is Sábato´s Fernando who broke the news to me quite early on that Germany in 1933 was the most educated country in the world. But, when you are 16, you still hope. At 41, apparently Fernando has won.

I don´t believe. Today, I especially don’t believe. But if there is a Christ to whom I can relate it´s the one Borges´ brought to us in Christ on the Cross:

Christ on the cross. Confusedly
he thinks of the realm that maybe awaits him,
thinks of a woman who is not his.
It’s not given to him to see the theology,
the indecipherable Trinity, the Gnostics,
the cathedrals, Occam’s knife,
the purple, the miter, the liturgy,
the conversion of Guthrum by the sword,
the Inquisition, the blood of the martyrs,
the atrocious Crusades, Joan of Arc,
the Vatican that blesses armies.
He knows that he is not a god and is a man
who dies with the day. It doesn’t bother him.
What bothers him is the hard iron of the nails.
He’s not a Roman. He’s not a Greek. He moans.
He has left us splendid metaphors
and a doctrine of pardon that can
annul the past. (That sentence
an Irishman wrote in a jail.)

The soul seeks its end, hurriedly.

You can read the poem, Christ on the Cross, by Jorge Luis Borges.
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