Nights of Scorpions

 

The Pieta

In one of his best-known poems, ‘Night of the Scorpion,’ poet Nissim Ezekiel describes the agony of a mother who was stung by a scorpion. Those were days when the rustic people would rely on traditional cures rather than take the victim to a hospital. So the “peasants [who] came like swarm of flies” “buzzed the name of God a hundred times” and uttered prayers and chants. They believed that the sins of her previous birth would burn away in her present pain and that the misfortunes of her next birth would be decreased. Her pain would make its momentous contribution to the balancing of the sum of all evil in this illusory world.

Some twenty hours pass before the pain loses its sting. When it does, the mother’s consolation is: “Thank God the scorpion picked on me / And spared my children.”

That is mother’s love.

Mother is an emotion, an emotional bond. Perhaps no other person on earth – perceived as a concept – has received so much attention from poets, artists and sculptors. Michelangelo’s Pieta housed in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is one of the most enduring and endearing tributes to maternity. The dead body of Jesus lies in Mary’s lap. That was the final sword that pierced Mary’s heart.

When Jesus was taken to the Jerusalem Temple for the presentation ritual, the holy man Simeon prophesied that the child was going to rewrite history as well as drive a sword through Mary’s heart. The sword must have pierced Mary’s heart many times like when Jesus asked, ‘Who is my mother?’.

Jesus had a messianic duty to fulfil and hence the sword – the distancing between him and his mother – was unavoidable. Family ties have little role to play in the life of a messiah. The messianic vision is cosmic. Messianic redemption cannot be limited to a family. Hence the mother will have to lose her son. That sword is inevitable.

The rather unpleasant truth is that every mother’s heart is always susceptible to swords. Every child begins life as a part of its mother. The part-whole relationship continues for a few years of infancy and early childhood. For the mother, the child always remains a part of her though the child will grow up and become a separate individual who has to find his or her place on the earth. Time will undoubtedly pass steadily and draw the mother and the child apart.

We live in a world today that draws the mother and the child apart too soon. One reason is that most mothers are working women today. They have to attend to their jobs during the daytime. For some mothers, it could be night-time. Children are deprived of the most affectionate touch they can get in the world. They are deprived of the emotional warmth that can come from nowhere else but a mother’s heart. A child that grows up without getting that touch and warmth is likely to be an unwholesome personality. No wonder, we have too many abandoned parents today living in old-age homes or living separated from their adult children.

Psychologist Erik Erikson argues that the mother lays the foundation of the personality. He calls it ‘basic trust’. Basic trust is the cornerstone of the psychologically healthy personality, according to him. He defines it as “an attitude toward oneself and the world derived from the experiences of the first year of life.” Trust, for him, implies both trusting others and oneself: trustfulness and trustworthiness.

This attitude is established first in the mother-child relationship. It is at first an unconscious process. Every hug from the mother, every kiss of hers, every touch of hers, adds to that trust and reinforces it. With each of those, the child begins to feel an increasing sense of security. It is that sense of security which eventually helps him/her deal with adult crisis situations.

Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) illustrates eloquently the importance of a healthy mother-child relationship. Schopenhauer’s mother was a popular novelist who considered herself a genius. She had a temperament and temper too, as Will Durant puts it. She was unhappy with her prosaic husband and when he died she took to free love. Schopenhauer could not bring himself to love his mother at any time. Consequently, he grew up to hate all women. Not only women, alas, he hated the entire mankind. He became one of the most pessimistic philosophers of all time. Speaking about his pessimism, Will Durant says, “a man who has not known a mother’s love – and worse, has known a mother’s hatred – has no cause to be infatuated with the world.”

The mother matters much. The mother shapes the personality. The mother determines whether the child will grow up to be a saint or a sinner, a philosopher or an entrepreneur, a success or a failure. William Makepeace Thackeray was not exaggerating when he said that “Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.”

Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother, as a wit put it. We learn the primary lessons of life, the basic life skills, from mother. Mother is the shaper of destinies. Mother is indeed a god in that regard. Pain is part of her being as much as love is. There is no love without concomitant pain. Nights of scorpions are every mother’s prerogatives.

 

PS. This was originally written for an eBook that might have been published for all I know. The editor-compiler didn’t care to send me a copy of the book though I was invited to its online release. Now months have passed. So I take the liberty to post it here.

PPS. This blog is participating in The Blogchatter’s #MyFriendAlexa2021 campaign.

 

Comments

  1. beautiful writing about the power a mother holds..it made me reflect on myself and my relationship with my mother๐Ÿ˜

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  2. Every word written here is true, the reason many young couples, who got this awareness refuse to bring children to this world. The society, unfortunately, tends to look down upon them for being sincere to themselves as well to the the children remaining unborn.

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    1. Indeed such decisions deserve great respect. It's no use bringing children into existence unless one can't ensure their healthy growth and development.

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  3. Nice post on Mother and Motherhood. She is the God on Earth.

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  4. Well said Sir, " Mother is the shaper of destinies". The only unconditional love that exist in the world even before the arrival of the baby is mother's love!

    Archana
    archusblog

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  5. Excellent post on motherhood and the mother-child relationship + how it shapes us as adults.
    - shinjinim.com

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  6. There is a Shakespearean tragedy when it comes to mother and child. What you said about how a child is always a part of the mother and thus a mother must bear the pain of "losing" the child is both heroic [child no longer needs mother] and tragic. There is so much tied in that one relationship.

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  7. Mothers are such beautiful people and douch to shape the hearts and minds of their children. Beautifully written!

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  8. Wow this is such a beautifully penned post. Loved reading this

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  9. nice post on mother and motherhood, so touching

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  10. While i do agree with most of what you have written i cannot agree to the lines that a working mother's children are deprived of warmth too soon. If anything else a working mom is made to feel too guilty that she tries to overdo what perhaps a stay at mom can not.
    Having said that i do agree mothers hold a very essential place in moulding the child. Also i haven't got your name in reading list i came on my own ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

    Deepika Sharma

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    1. Thanks Deepika for being with me on your own.

      I worked for 8 years in a girls school, my first job. I was young, all my students were girls and more importantly all my colleagues were female for a short period. My colleagues taught me about this problem of a working woman-mother. It is a problem. But we overlook it out of certain compulsions and necessities.

      We can discuss this further if you wish... ๐Ÿ˜Š

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  11. Such a heart touching piece, such is the love of a mother.

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  12. This is such a beautiful post on motherhood and mothers.

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  13. Beautiful post on mother and motherhood. It's the mother's affection and guidance that makes or mars the personality of a child.

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  14. I totally agree with the fact that there is no other bond stronger than a mother-child's bond specially in the early years. " For the mother, the child always remains a part of her though the child will grow up and become a separate individual who has to find his or her place on the earth." this is also absolutely true.
    However , I do think that mother's have been conditioned by the society to act as martyrs and self-sacrificing for their children. so much so that even if they take some time off from mommy duties it brings with it guilt that debilates and eats away the soul.
    There needs to be a balance and a realization that mothers are also persons in their own right with their own dreams and desires

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  15. Wonderful post! Very honest and thought provoking.

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  16. You have compiled so many ancient meaningful stories which are relatable to life. It is the best post I have read today.

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  17. wow. coudnt agree more with your words. how true is a mothers love, sometimes we often ted to not acknowledge it.

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  18. I have read this elsewhere too. A touch can reinforce their trust in us parents. Our parents did it rarely as they were busy making ends meet. But, we can try and do it as much as possible.

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  19. Very well written sir. This is the irony of life whomever your are more attached with feels the most pain and that's true with mother child relationship. Despite of sharing the strongest bound... Going away makes it very painful.

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