2009-09-03 / Musings


I give up.

What does that mean?

Well, it is my distinct impression (or is it mere mirage?) that the drawing of distinctions, the recognition of difference and the subsequent definition of that difference, is necessary in a life that desires meaning. Socrates' words echo in my mind: "The unexamined life is not worth living."

He uttered that statement at his own trial for heresy. He was accused of encouraging his students to question the accepted beliefs of his time, to think for themselves. The punishment for this offense was death, but Socrates could have suggested an alternate punishment of imprisonment or exile that would probably have been accepted. But these alternatives would rob him of exactly what he felt gave meaning to his life: examining the world around him openly, with others. So he chose his own death.

People do not always get to pick their poison.

Kartika Sari Dewi Skukarno, a 32-yearold model, nurse and mother, was arrested for drinking beer in a Malaysian hotel in December 2007. For that crime, she was sentenced to a fine of 5,000 ringgit (about $1500) and six lashes with the cane.

The only punishment in Malaysia more severe than caning is death. Twenty-four strokes of the cane is maximum punishment. The rattan canes used come in two thicknesses. The slender cane is said to cause more pain, while the thicker cane causes more physical damage. The law used to exclude women, men over 50, the medically unfit and the insane. However, Muslim law, applied to the 60 percent of the Malaysian population that is Muslim, allows for the caning of women.

It is reported that Kartika wants to endure this punishment in order to deter Muslims from serving and drinking beer. She has even called for her caning to be done in public, to make the deterrent more effective. She has been quoted: "Who am I to question the Islamic authorities' laws? That is beyond me."

Those who are caned are naked, tied to an A frame. The caning is done by specially trained caning officers who strike precisely, without anger or pity.

It is said that the blue black buttocks of those caned swell to double in size, leaving permanent scars that remain after the two weeks in which only a prone position is possible.

Kartika's caning has now been postponed until after the holy month of Ramadan, a time of fasting, prayer, and purification.

The word Islam comes from the Arabic word that is translated as submission or surrender. But this pirate feels compelled to draw distinction: Is there a difference between submission and surrender?

The word submission comes from the Latin word meaning an act of lowering.

What is lowered? The mission, from the Latin for sending, is lower. The mission, if you decide to accept it, is on the knees lower, lover bound and disciplined lower, sights set lower. We can hear the creaking, then the splintering, of will being broken. I hear the words of Simone Weil: "Oppression that cannot be overcome does not give rise to revolt but to submission." Submission is sending lower.

Surrender, from the French, like submission, has the prefix meaning movement down. But while submission is a sending lower, surrender is a giving back under. What's the difference? I give up, again.

Then I imagine the "giving up" and the "giving back under" meeting in the vast middle between the subjective and the objective, between the idea and the reality, between the essence and the existence, between the desire and the spasm.

And now, miracle, I dare to eat a peach. I hear the mermaids singing. My voice wakes not to drowning, but to delight.

Even if it be mirage, I love. Because it is mirage, I love. This is my distinct impression. This is my examined life, my virtue, my public example, my pain, my swollen buttocks. This is my doctrine and my heresy. For this I willingly die in each moment, by every hand. I submit unwillingly. I surrender in bliss.

Vive la difference. (Not.)

— Rx is the FloridaW eekly muse who hopes to inspire profound mutiny in all those who care to read. Our Rx ma y b e wearing a pir ate cloak of in visibility, but emanating fr om within this shado w is hope that readers will feel free to respond. Who kno ws: You may e ven inspir e the muse. Make contact if you dare.

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