In The Bridge on the River Kwai Col. Nicholson stands on the recently completed bridge, staring at the quiet horizon and pondering “the sum total” of his life. Like all of us, he wonders what it represents and how and if he will be remembered. It’s a difficult question, one that can only be answered with mostly dissatisfaction.
I imagine most people with children are content to see their offspring extend the bloodline, knowing that a part of them fills the future. But what of those of us who have chosen the more selfish path, who see the benefits of freedom from spending so many years as caregiver and, instead, chosen a world of sometimes solitude and loneliness.
I think of my novel as my child. And like any other parent, I want my child to be successful, to make a mark on the world. But the world is so competitive, so fickle, so disparaging. Today’s flavor of the month is yesterday’s old news. My child will no doubt find a place on a shelf somewhere. But isn’t that almost the same as finding a final resting place? What keeps my child fresh, referenced and relevant? To have written something that stands the test of time – say, like Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” – takes great insight into the human condition and a profound way to interpret its meaning. Alas, not all children can grow up to be president.
In the end, Col. Nicholson is compelled to blow up the bridge, canceling out his and his mens’ months of hard work. And just like “the sum total” of his life, he’ll never know for what great cause he killed his child.
To be alive
Blowing your nose
Managing a task
Contemplating the weather
Thinking about the future
Imagining your absence
Becoming, to others, a fleeting memory
Life is so fleeting
Wrest it from death
To be alive
A wonderment, indeed