Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Is there any truly smile?"

Eve of Thanksgiving, and I'm thinking on a phrase a student wrote on a paper last week. "The blue gang beats the red gang and violence stops, but there will be no peace when the red gang fights back," he wrote, "Is there any truly smile?"

"Truly smile"--an 18-year-old Japanese student, fresh to American college, translates every thought on paper.

His phrase glimmers near the old, impossible claim of Aristotle: "My friends, there are no friends."

We seek friendship beyond revenge--the bloods and crypts, Israelis and Palestinians, Angles and Algonquian--but does any friendship exist beyond gratitude? My student hopes for an end to reciprocal violence, which we rightly denounce, but how often we dismiss the violence that hides under thanks, under reciprocal gratitude? My obligations to you outweigh my will. My love for you breaks my self into parts. My face seeing yours will match it, leaping into place with a grin.

Beyond reciprocity, "is there any truly smile?"

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