The touch is made first in the womb
and born in the gore thereafter.
Then comes the feedings, the colic, the changes,
the clothes, the tournaments, the boyfriends—
the days of your dreams wrapped up each year
and sealed to the heart with a kiss.

But then it’s that day after surgery and you are
in the shower with your frail, 85-year old mother
and she’s bathing her baby girl again.
And then, later, when it’s her in the bed,
and as the bed settles into the ground—
that is when you realize this is the closest you can get;
I am because we are.

Ubuntu, sometimes translated as I am what I am because of who we all are, or, as it is here, the more succinct I am because we are, is an ancient African word from the Nguni Bantu language meaning humanity to others or the simpler humanity. Computer nerds (like yours truly) will know it as the name of an open-source version of the Linux operating system.

There are many ties in families: blood, obligation, and love. All are important, but only pure love—love without reward or obligation—love for love’s sake—is transcendent above physicality.

Thank you for reading Transcendence. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.


Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed is © John Etheridge, The image is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.


Filed under Poetry

4 responses to “Transcendence

  1. Here’s a word for you: dilection. Comes from the latin dilectio. One of my favorite words. It refers to pure love, tender love. It can be a love between man and woman, God and man, parents and children, man and animals.
    After many years of hearing from everyone “what is the meaning of life?” I managed recently to answer (albeit for myself) this very question. The meaning of life is freedom and love. I came to realise this while I was trying to understand the writings of a great man (a saint) that had a not only a fascinating mystical experience but also an extremely interesting mind. Pondering upon the writings you come to understand that life has no meaning without freedom and love – no matter the circumstances.

  2. beautiful and profound Lines!
    Thanks for that.🙏

    “Humanity is a quality we owe to each other”
    Michael Onyebuchi Eze

    one of my favourite quotes.