That Have Not Been Asked: 6
From John Berger's essay "That Have Not Been Asked" with photographs by Sebastião Salgado.
The worst cruelties of life are its killing injustices. Almost all promises are broken. The poor’s acceptance of adversity is neither passive nor resigned. It’s an acceptance which peers behind the adversity and discovers there something nameless. Not a promise, for (almost) all promises are broken; rather something like a bracket, a parenthesis in the otherwise remorseless flow of history. And the sum total of these parentheses is eternity.
This can be put the other way round: on this earth there is no happiness without a longing for justice.
Happiness is not something to be pursued, it is something met, an encounter. Most encounters, however, have a sequel; this is their promise. The encounter with happiness has no sequel. All is there instantly. Happiness is what pierces grief.We thought there was nothing left in the world, that everything had disappeared long ago. And if we were the only ones left, what was the point of living?
“We went to check”, said Allah. “‘Were there any other people anywhere? We wanted to know.”
Chagataev understood them and asked if this meant they were now convinced about life and wouldn’t be dying any more.
“Dying’s no use”, said Cherkezov. “To die once – now you might think that’s something necessary and useful. But dying once doesn’t help you to understand your own happiness – and no one gets the chance to die twice. So dying gets you nowhere.”