By Itane Vero
There will always be clear-cut moments in the life of a human being where he has to face the meaningless of life. While only a few seconds ago everything seems very ordinary, all of a sudden the treacherous veil that covered his surroundings, his relatives, his history and his considerations, is being raised. What just before looked appealing and blissful, is abruptly disgusting and joyless. Why is he taken aback so swiftly, so unexpectedly? Is it because absurdity is always around? It's always hidden in words, in behaviours, in nature. But like mould, it only decides to reveal it selves when the circumstances are right?
My instant of severe downheartedness, was a day in January when I took the train to office. In was the beginning of a new year. And that's also how I felt. Kind of hopeful, kind of optimistic. The weather was nicely attuned to my feelings. A shy drizzle fell from the reluctant clouds. Although the sun appeared to be a pale remembrance of a bright light, the temperature was up to 10 degrees above zero. The weatherman called it very mild.
I expected the day to become a normal day. My fellow travellers listened to music, watched movies on their cell phones or were just sleeping. Life in this carriage seem to be perfect. Evil forces like hate or revenge might exist but not in this train, I mused. Until the train abruptly came to a standstill.
The way the vehicle stopped made me feel suspicious. And my premonition wasn't wrong. Through the speakers came the message that we had to leave the train immediately. A suppositious package was found and the conductor didn't want to leave anything to chance. Two minutes later we were standing outside. And in those dreary forlorn hour, surrounded by a bleak world, a boring heaven and desolate human beings, the nonsense of it all grabbed me by the throat. Like I had stepped into a ungodly ravine and now I could only breath misery and sorrow.
In hindsight, the layover lasted only 50 minutes. By then the train could leave again. But the dreadful experience appeared to be so intense that I was taken ill the next couple of days. And during those days I came to the conclusion that I had to put some meaning to my life. Like a cook adds spices to a bland dish, like a politician injects some lies into a speech, I needed to insert a little value and significance to my wishy-washy existence.
The first Saturday I showed up at the Salvation Army, I was greeted by the major in duty. Her words, her gestures, her looks made me already feel extremely grateful and blessed. I wanted to hug her, tell her how I had longed to be part of this army of unpretentious soldiers. If it wasn't for the impeccable shape of her uniform, it would have offered her to be my foster mother.
My first assignment was straightforward. To clean the night shelter. I was handed over a broom, a bucket full of lukewarm water and cleaning supplies. Although I had gotten the assurance that the sleeping room would be empty, half of the beds were still occupied. Hesitantly but still feeling blessed I started scrubbing the stone floor. But after only a few minutes I began gagging uncontrollably because of the insufferable stench. And despite the fact I was humming the only psalm I still knew by heart ('Behold oh God, what cruel foes, thy peaceful heritage invade') I couldn't help but drooling, gagging, spitting and vomiting,
It must have been one the shortest term any volunteer has spend at the Salvation Army. Deeply ashamed and highly embarrassed I said goodbye to the major and her colleagues. Only after a few weeks I was able to have peace with myself. Maybe because spring was in the air, maybe because I was standing with both feet on the ground again? Off course, I still would love to find some stunning meaning in my life. But for now I have decided - when the train is coming to a standstill at a inhospitable place - I will smile at the flapdoodleness of my life, I will take a deep breath, put in my ear plugs and listen silently to We can work it out.