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The Meaning Of Relationships

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Naked and alone in the snow.

"You, my old friends...

... Go in peace. For you could not reside here :

Remote here in the worlds of ice and stone."

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

The child had been born into a frozen world. It was not the case that it was during the winter season that her birthday had occasion ; it was not that she was born at the North Pole, nor at the South, for that matter. And neither is the adjective used metaphorically : it was not that the world into which she was born was motionless ; it was not that this world was emotionally cold and barren. (It may, of course, have been all of these things, her world ; but, that is peripheral, if at all relevant, to our story now.) No. Quite simply, the child had been born into a frozen world. But do not mistakenly believe that this world of hers was a frozen version of this world of yours. The child was not of this world. She was far removed ; she could not understand this world. Born red and creased and slippery like all babies, though squawking less than most, the child burst in a wet and bloody mess from the supreme warmth and comfort of her mother's womb - the only veritable warmth - into a frozen world, a white world, a world of ice and snow, an inhospitable wasteland of profound discomfort and cold stretching indefinitely beyond the horizon. The child was, as babies are, cooed over, tickled, stroked, bounced, rocked in adult arms ; the child was wrapped, in fur against the cold ; the child was suckled by her mother. Finally, the child was tied to her mother's back, and the mother was carried by the child's father. At intervals, the child was tied to her father's back, and he was carried by the child's mother. A strange way to live, perhaps, always either carrying or being carried. But to always walk on the frozen ground would be mortal, for the cold was such that it would permeate the body, freezing everything it touched, freezing flesh, freezing hair, freezing nails, freezing bones, freezing a beating heart, freezing a warm breath.

The child was a small, serious girl named Matilda, who comported herself with an air of solemnity and gravity. She was gentle and delicate, meek and subdued, never raucous or jocund but preferring rather to observe the behaviour of others, curious to understand the motivation underlying their actions.

Matilda found herself naked and alone in the snow, seeking amid the foule of dancers carrying each other through the frozen world one to carry her ; the cold was bitter ; the parental protection of before was understood. There was a numbness in her skin and an aching through her bones. Several lone figures she saw, lone as she was, seeking warmth as she was ; but alas, she and they did not fit ; their shapes were incompatible. She wandered across the ice, nodding or wincing a smile in greeting to the coupled dancers, aware of her need for warmth.

"I am Matilda."

"I am Philo."

They shook hands, trembling with the cold.

"Would you like me to carry you?" asked Philo.

Matilda smiled through her chattering jaw. "Yes, please," she answered. "I would love for you to carry me." And that was how it came to pass that Matilda met Philo. They danced together for hours. They were warm and cosy against each other, they no longer felt any cold. They became warm and invigorated enough to laugh and play, carefree. Matilda remembered this feeling from her infancy, this protection, this partnership, this sharing of thoughts and troubles and joys, this elation, this comfort. And her frozen world seemed a little more inhabitable ; until Philo made his great confession.

"Matilda, there is someone else I have promised to carry. And there is a baby, too."

Matilda did not think. Or maybe she did think, but it was only to think that she did not mind that Philo had made a promise to another, and that she did not think this promise could be a problem. Perhaps she was just so grateful to be warm that she refused to let Philo's promise turn her back out into the cold again.

"Matilda, this is too troublesome now, this weighs too heavily."

"I am sorry, I will not be a burden to you, I promise," she implored.

"But how can I carry you both?" begged Philo rhetorically. "I cannot - how can I?"

"I will ask less of you, I swear. I will make you carry me less. I will carry you more," she bargained.

"How could I have been so unthinking, Philo? You had made a promise. I should have known that you would leave me, because ultimately that promise binds you." She suppressed bitter tears that



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