The Cape of Good Hope

We’d booked a tour, somewhat uncertain:

other people?

We’d much preferred to be by ourselves,

the two of us on our own –

at least that’s what we’d thought.

 

The mini bus arrives,

three Arabs in the back,

“Mohammed, Awfra, Achmed,”

the driver introduces them,

then adds “And I am Bobby,

originally from Chicago.”

 

Our group complete,

we leave the city ― stunning views:

the mountains, rocks, the ocean ―

also passing the poor townships

of “the other half” . . .

 

Rolling along on our way

to Cape Point and

the Cape of Good Hope,

“So, tell me,” Bobby asks,

“where do you come from, Mohammed?”

And the response is

“Baghdad.” ―

“Oh ―”

 

And everything stops:

my heart, my breath, all continuity.

Time stands completely still,

as if we’d hit a rock

and crashed the car, and,

after deafening noise,

silence

had descended, so that

you could have heard that pin drop. ―

 

When life continues,

after all,

my eyes fill up with tears, “Oh God! ―

Baghdad!” ― And we:

from London, from the country

that wages war against these very people,

together with the U.S., Bobby’s home.

“I pray for peace every day,” he says just then. ―

This surely’s not what tour guides usually say,

and our meeting ― what a gift from God,

what generous grace! ―

is not what usually happens either

on a tourist trip:

three Iraqis, one American,

and two of us, from London ―

and with each other we can share and voice

how we feel and our awareness

of the symbolic meaning

of us together on our way towards

the Cape of Good Hope.

 

At Cape Point looking out

into the ocean’s vastness ― blue infinity,

we pray for peace

and in good hope –

“Insh’allah” ― if God will.

 

Later, we talk more

how daily life in Baghdad is,

how life was hell under Saddam ―

Mohammed lost five members of his family,

an aunt was hanged;

how life is even worse now,

argues Achmed, as you can never know

when in the morning you leave home,

that you’ll return alive at night.

“No longer any safe zones,” Awfra adds.

 

“It’s hell, although a diff’rent one,

right now with the Americans.

But,” Achmed says,

“we need them.

We are not able yet on our own

to build democracy.”

This makes me choke again,

I think of home, of Germany,

just after I was born,

and after World War II: then

we, too, had not been able to create

democracy on our own . . .

 

Saying farewell, we embrace,

with tears again in our eyes,

“I pray that you’ll be safe,” ―

“Insha’Allah” ― if God wills it -, and,

“May God bless you.” ―

 

Numinously, the awareness lasts

of both difference and oneness:

that, yes, we do call God by different names,

yet at the same time know,

in this moment

as we hold each other, that,

truly,

God

is

all

One.

 

 

Gottfried M. Heuer

Addo Elephant House,

The Eastern Cape, South Africa, 20 August

London, 11 September 2007.

(From: Gottfried Heuer, ed., 2010. Sacral Revolutions. Reflecting on the Work of Andrew Samuels. Cutting Edges in Psychoanalysis and Jungian Analysis. Hove, New York: Routledge, pp. 144 – 146.)

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