"Entre nous et le ciel, l'enfer ou le néant, il n'y a donc que la vie, qui est la chose du monde la plus fragile..."
In living the peripatetic existence of an author and a journalist over the years, I have often thought of these words by the French philosopher Blaise Pascal, which translate into English, more or less, as "between us and heaven, hell or nothingness, there is only life, which is the most fragile thing in the world."
You end up leaving a bit of yourself in a boteco in Rio de Janeiro, in an outdoor autumn market under slate-grey autumn skies in Paris, in a lakou in Haiti where the bare mountains witness drumming and dancing and singing that show you, despite all the material struggle, the beating heart of a people still endures.
And you realize that life often hangs by a thread. Life is full of tragedy and struggle, and I have known my share of people who wanted nothing more than to live, but who were deprived of it by some dictator, or a band of criminals or by poverty. And I've known people who couldn't take living and chose, though direct action or slow capitulation, to take their leave of it.
After a wrenching 12 months characterized by so much loss, it is easy to be engulfed by pain. But life has beauty, too, and the transitory nature of it, the fact that le monde est comme une goutte de rosée qui s'évapore aux premiers rayons de soleil as the wistful Syrian proverb that greets visitors to the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris states, is what gives it its intense poignancy. Todavía podemos sonreír, aunque tengamos cicatrices en la cara.
So, adieu to los que se fueron. We will never forget you. To those of us who have made it through so far, let's make the time we have left mean something. The world is all before us, where to choose.
With best wishes and love to you all.