In the Midst of Our Lives


That’s where events happen, in the midst of our lives, while
other things are going on, here in Prague and elsewhere.
For the past month, much of my personal life has been
involved with serious reconstruction of my wife’s much ignored summer house up near
Litomerice, at the edge of the low mountains that border Germany.
Geographically not all that far from Terezin, the Nazi concentration camp and
that’s yesterday’s history in this green and welcoming area. Which is part of
my point. Now, that time in our lives
that counts for us, blurs history.
In the past month, while I was jack-hammering old concrete
and preparing to pour new, Egypt burst into the flame of a rejected, yet
democratically elected President, the first the nation has ever known. It
smells of CIA intervention, another of those meddlesome elections whose victor
didn’t quite suit us, but concrete must be jack-hammered. Egypt must wait and,
having waited, drifts into the mists of ‘oh yes, that too.’ For Egyptians, its
democracy instead of concrete that must wait.
Framing things up and laying wire-mesh, Obama damn near
bombed Syria, but I was sweating and trying to accomplish things I’m not all
that familiar with. That may have been his case as well. 
After a long day,
exhausted, distracted and looking for diversion, I came across a Charlie Rose
interview with Bashar al Assad, the much-maligned President of Syria. It was
diversionary all right, presenting a thoughtful man with well-framed and
peaceful views of what might be accomplished in the Middle East if all parties
would simply stand down their rhetoric. He frames better than I, but has more
experience in the craft at hand, while I am (perhaps too much) the prisoner of
American media.
Gotta hand it to Charlie, he has the balls to go there and
get the story first-hand, but the midst of my life is currently a desperate
need to pour before winter shuts me down. We all have desperate needs before
winter—me in Litomerice, others in tents in Afghanistan and yet others fighting
for the minds of the world in a desperate Civil War.
It’s a lot to grasp and too few of us make the effort,
myself included. I carry eighty-pound bags of cement down to the site of my
shaky endeavors, legs a bit weaker with each trip and my perspective changed
just a trifle, concentration disturbed. A hundred-fifty pound man, struggling
with eighty. There’s a lot of that in the midst of our lives.
Thanks, Charlie. This week I pour. Next week a wall to build
and Egypt and Syria will somehow solve themselves without my intervention.
Just as at Terezin.

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