Define Progress

Saudade – a state of being. The understanding that something you long for will not return. A beautiful word if ever there was one.

The English language is truly crippled in its anxiety to accept more complicated forms of expression. True, it is easy for English to continue gobbling bits of dialect from other languages at the buffet of meaning, but there are times when a word’s beauty exists solely because it does not belong to your tongue. Saying words like these feels like having a visitor within your throat, curling around your mouth’s nerves and enlightening the air you breathe briefly. It’s their uncommonality to our ears that make them beautiful, no matter how melancholic their meaning may be.

Were one to google “saudade”, one would likely come across the oil painting by Almeida Junior. In it, a woman stares longingly at a picture, her face carrying with it the simple regret that seeps into the features when no one is looking. No writing can do the image justice, but whatever you feel when you see it will be enough.

Ahnedonia – a state of being. Inability to feel pleasure in circumstances you know ought to be pleasurable. Not simply a lack of pleasure, but the stopped-nerve sensation of pleasure’s amputation from your life.

A friend of mine introduced me to this one. She was so flippant about it, an indication of how far into the anesthetic of her own life she felt she had fallen. You are prepared for people to feel strongly either way, but never for them to lose the flint against which life strikes its joys. Are we not luminous beings? Perhaps. Perhaps we need to accept that the numbness of passing through life is a mechanism of our own survival.

I recently sat down and took stock of when last I laughed out loud. I mean, really, hosed myself at the table with that shrieking abandon children take for granted. I couldn’t recall the breathless joy of that kind laughter, the kind that takes you by surprise and leaves you drugged-warm and golden when your voice returns.

Kenopsia – a state of being. The sense of unease when walking through a public place that you know should be full of people but isn’t. a space is stripped of its human soul leaving little but concrete and a vacuum.

I went to Watercrest Mall. Its shops are mostly boarded and shut. The skip outside is full of broken glass but at least the floors have been cleaned.

I remain baffled by the lack of scrutiny in light of recent events. We have been trying so hard on rebuilding that we have not taken the time to examine what or why we should be rebuilding. Some inner pugilistic sense in me wants to revolt against all this order and scream. No one has publicly come forward and apologized. There is this uncomfortable haze of piggish obstinance for communities to step forward and be held accountable. I am not talking about police intervention or images of the SANDF lining the streets with fridges, I am talking about people doing the right thing and making themselves accountable.

It’s a disgusting lesson, but one well worth learning that right now, in their private thoughts, so few are willing to do the right thing. The anvil of consequence will be beaten upon, make no mistake, but the irony is that its blows fall softer when those responsible take active steps to account and atone.

We all know, but won’t say, that more than those arrested were responsible.

It would be easy to attribute this gross failing of character to those responsible, but it is hard to ignore our own inability to be accountable for the indiscretions we all get away with. As much as the correct thing would be for people stand forward and let the law land where it may, for me to truly believe that would happen speaks strongly to my own ignorance and stupidity. Why?

Well, who grows that kind of spine?

Instead, we are left with these multiple states of being to process. The inability to trust, to laugh, to return to a simpler time when things ticked over daily with godforsaken repetitive comfort. The reason everybody wants to rebuild to find that numb utopia again. We don’t want to walk through those big, empty malls. We do not want to be reminded some halcyon day is long gone. We want to laugh loudly and hysterically as though nobody is watching because isn’t happiness a friend from the past who should visit again?

Though I cannot help but wonder if there isn’t some other way we should be rebuilding? Perhaps before the claims are processed and hands are shook, there is some missing step? Perhaps we should turn the lights down low, pour ourselves a drink, and ask if we can be accountable for who we were when nobody is looking.

Avoidance – a state of being. To deliberately keep away or not do something.

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