Author Topic: "Bridges": An Essay by Antonio Calipjo Go  (Read 10851 times)

Joe Carillo

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"Bridges": An Essay by Antonio Calipjo Go
« on: March 15, 2020, 11:02:33 PM »
By Antonio Calipjo Go
Forum Contributor

JAKARTA—A footbridge across a river swollen by heavy rain collapsed on Indonesia’s island of Sumatra, drowning at least nine people who were swept away by a strong current. About 30 people, mostly students, standing by on the bridge, could have caused a strain leading to the collapse.Reuters, January 21, 2020

On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.“The Bridge of San Luis Rey” by Thornton Wilder

Bridges are structures that span obstacles like bodies of water, chasms, or valleys to provide a passage for human and vehicular traffic. The first bridges were tree trunks laid out across rivers or streams. In tropical regions, fibrous vines were used to build suspension bridges. Some of the vine bridges built by the Incas of Peru were so strong they were even used by the invading Spanish soldiers. Sunbaked bricks, stones, and reinforced concrete were later used for the construction of sturdier bridges.

The Rialto Bridge, built in 1591 over the Grand Canal in Venice, is a fine example of a Renaissance bridge. Another famous bridge in Venice is the Ponte de i Sospiri (The Bridge of Sighs); it was built in 1600 by Antonio Contino, nephew of the designer of the Rialto Bridge.

The humpbacked moon bridges of the Chinese were less massive and more graceful than European bridges. A moon bridge is a highly-rounded arched pedestrian bridge, positioned so that it is reflected in still water; its high arch and its reflection in the water form a circle that symbolizes the moon.
A structure no less graceful but strong is the Golden Gate Bridge, a well-known suspension bridge that has become an abiding symbol of the City of San Francisco in the United States. It is said that when visitors leave, they invariably leave their hearts, which get stuck onto the steel spiderwebs of the bridge.

A box girder bridge built of concrete and steel, London Bridge spans the River Thames between the City of London and Southwark in Central London. It has been depicted in art, literature, and songs, the most popular of which is the nursery rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down.”

Tales about bridges abound in literature. Novelist Cornelius Ryan’s A Bridge Too Far gives an account of a failed Allied attempt to break through German lines at Arnhem in the occupied Netherlands during World War II. That novel’s title comes from this comment made by Lt. General Frederick Browning before the operation: “I think we may be going a bridge too far.”

Matsuo Basho (1644 -1694), the most famous poet during the Edo period in Japan and the greatest master of haiku, said this about a bridge:

Now the swinging bridge
is quieted with creepers…
like our tendrilled life.

A land bridge is a piece of land that connects two otherwise separate areas, over which animals and plants are able to cross to and habitate new lands. The Philippines, as we know, was once connected to the Asian mainland by land bridges that after a time became submerged as the sea levels rose.

The Doggerland used to be a former landmass in the North Sea that connected the island of Great Britain to mainland Europe during the last Ice Age. Rising sea levels caused this land bridge to get submerged, thus separating England from Europe. Indeed, this event might very well be considered as the first instance of Brexit in world history.

In real life and in literature there exist other kinds of bridges that do not conform to the traditional form of actual bridges. One such bridge is the umbilical cord in placental mammals that connects the developing embryo or fetus and the placenta. Oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood from the female parent crosses this roadway to get to the fetus.

Another such bridge is the rainbow, a visual phenomenon that comes in a marvelous array of colors. It has been romanticized in song as a harbinger of “a pot of gold” somewhere at the end of it, and as an enduring symbol of God’s solemn vow never to destroy the world again with another Great Flood or Deluge.

In October 1959 Junichiro Tanizaki, a major writer in modern Japanese literature, published The Bridge of Dreams, a tale of a young man who grew up in the shadow of his guilt-ridden obsession with the memory of his dead mother and his incestuous fixation with the stepmother who replaced her. Left disconsolate by his mother’s death when he was five, he was consoled by his nanny in this wise: “If you want to see your mama, you ought to pray as hard as you can. If you do, she’ll come to you in a dream.”

The Tale of Genji, written by the court lady Murasaki Shikibu in the 11th century C.E, is Japan’s oldest novel and possibly the first novel in world literature. Its last chapter is likewise entitled “The Bridge of Dreams,” an image that symbolizes the tenuous and precarious beauty of life itself and is described by the main character Prince Genji as “a bridge linking dream to dream.”

Indeed, dreams serve as bridges across which images, thoughts, and emotions pass through our mind during sleep; they are virtual bridges connecting the world of imagination and illusion and objective reality.

A straight line connects two points. A bridge connects here and there, then and now, you and me.

And so what kind of a bridge should we build? Not one that falls down, not one of sighs and sorrows, not one made of rope and tropical vine, not one of dreams, not one that’s swinging and swaying in the wind, and certainly not one that’s way too far for us to reach. We will build us a bridge over troubled waters, as in that haunting Simon and Garfunkel song.

John Donne wrote in 1624 in his famous verse against isolationism, “No man is an island… Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

And so Brexit in our time is about love grown cold and dead. We cannot be burning bridges all the time though. For Love is the land bridge that connects islands and continents, overarching distances and time. Love, even in the time of the coronavirus that is now upon us, is possible.

After crossing thousands of bridges in our life, somewhere at the end of the rainbow, there is God.

Thornton Wilder’s novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey ended with the following passage that, six years ago, I had caused to be carved onto my dear mother’s headstone:

“There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

Mr. Antonio Go, retired academic supervisor of the Marian School of Quezon City, is an advocate of good English usage who has been waging a lonely crusade against badly written English-language textbooks in the Philippines for many years now. Several of his no-nonsense critiques have appeared in the Forum’s “Advocacies” section.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2020, 11:16:14 PM by Joe Carillo »