THE EMPTY CHAIRS

3 Nov

To anyone who’s followed me along the route that started years ago on MySpace, you may have seen this before. It also appeared on Gather a few years after that, and I’m giving it one more outing because it always makes me think. Life is transient. We all pass on.

THE EMPTY CHAIRS

classroom photo: japanese classroom Japanese_classroomcopy.jpg
It’s a sad little subject, but it’s none-the-less part of our lives. And that’s because our lives are limited by the twin brackets of birth and death. It’s almost as if we’re briefly in parenthesis in a paragraph about the human race. I can’t help thinking that if our knowledge of our birth – the day and date we were born and each annual celebration – was repeated for our death then we would be truly miserable as a species. Knowing the hour and manner of our death would mentally and psychologically destroy us. That’s why the death penalty is so terrible. To punish someone by taking their lives is one thing – and maybe if the offender is so vile and his guilt so incontrovertible that it is generally agreed that he to deserves death then the worst aspect of it all is his knowledge that at dawn or noon or sometime on such and such a day he will die.
But I’ve not started this blog to write about the pros and cons of capital punishment. I’ve started it in order to toss a little thought into the broth of the written word on this site and see what comes out.
Most, if not all of us, went to school. Schooling is an essential part of everyone’s life. We accumulate the knowledge with which we will forge our futures. Education removes from all of us the need to invent everything from scratch: we proceed through life as a new chapter rather than the zillionth rehashing of an old one. And in our school-days we sit in our classes and become one of a class, maybe of thirty, of our peers. The class is the unit. We all have our chairs within the unit and we sit on them and assuming there is nothing to disrupt the status quo like a child moving to another region and thus having to go to another school the chairs are all occupied until, as a class, we leave and move out into the world.
We’re all young so it’s only very rarely we chance upon an empty chair. There was one in my class at school when I was in my younger teens. A boy, a small white-haired boy, passed away one night and left an empty chair behind him. It was the first empty chair in that class – and it was hugely sad. But the truth of life, the one incontrovertible truth, is even children sometimes die. It’s just as well, I suppose, that they don’t know the time and manner of their deaths, though some, like the boy in my boyhood class may have an inkling that their years may be numbered not in tens but in single years.
I’m largely out of touch with my school-days. I have forgotten many of the faces and names of people I once called friends, the serried ranks of spotty boys with their maroon blazers with the twisted grey and blue braiding. I have moved away, years ago, from the town that nurtured me and I sometimes find myself wondering about the empty chairs in that class now were we all to go back and sit in our old seats.
Most of the teachers will have passed on. Their seats will be empty, and many of them were decent, kindly men, though there was the odd sadistic bastard amongst them. But on the whole I liked them. They enriched my life. They gave me the seeds of any wisdom I may have now – and it is genuinely sad to think of their empty chairs.
It’s about sixty years since I sat in my chair as I started my secondary education in the maroon uniform. And that half century will have had its casualties. Some of the chairs will be empty. Life’s like that. It goes away, recedes into a darkness we sometimes call the long black night. It’s easy to see, when we count the empty chairs, how simpler folks than us had to seek out a meaning for things and create, in their own image but immortal, a fantasy deity with his gardens, his clouds and his afterlife.
In another decade I dared say more chairs will be empty and maybe, in yet another, most of them. Will mine? I have a great deal more to do with my life, and a huge number of words yet to write, so I hope I’m still there. But a tiny thing, a bacterium here, a virus there, can set the final ball rolling and who can possibly know when he finally walks away from that lovely chair for the very last lonely time that it is exactly that: the last time.
© Peter Rogerson, 17.07.09

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2 Responses to “THE EMPTY CHAIRS”

  1. pambrittain November 4, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

    I was lucky. I’m only temporarily in a wheelchair (and it ain’t empty).

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