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Thursday, February 09, 2006


The following short conversation is taken from SULA (1973:124-125) written by Toni Morrison

Nel: “But what about me? What about me? Why didn’t you think about me? Didn’t I count? I never hurt you. What did you take him for if you didn’t love him and why didn’t you think about me? I was good to you, Sula, why don’t that matter?”

Sula: “It matters, Nel, but only to you. Not to anybody else. Being good to somebody is just like being mean to somebody. Risky. You don’t get nothing for it.”

Nel and Sula are two main characters in the novel. They had been good friends since they were kids coz both of them were neighbors. After graduating from high school, Nel married her prince charming, while Sula went out of town to continue her study. 10 years later, Sula went back to her hometown. Nel was happily married and Sula kept single coz she thought that all men would leave their wives for another woman or for any other reason.

Nel found Sula extraordinary with that kind of thinking. She tried to turn all kinds of opinions upside down. When black people thought that they got jealous toward white people coz of privileges they got only by being born as white (in America, the traces of slavery done by the white toward their fellow black citizens were still hanging over strongly during the twentieth century despite the fact that Lincoln abolished the practice of slavery in 1863.) Sula turned it upside down. She said that even those white people got jealous of the black coz the black male were popularly known as to have bigger and longer penises than the white male. Therefore, the white spread belief that “White is more beautiful than black.”

It is not something astonishing, then, if that statement said by Sula attracted Jude, to fuck her. One day it did happen. Nel saw it. Consequently, Jude left Nel and their only daughter without saying anything, or explaining anything why that happened. Sula proved to Nel that “men were created to leave women.” Meanwhile, the friendship between Nel and Sula was broken.

The conversation between Nel and Sula above happened one day after many years passed, when Sula was seriously ill.

My contemplation is …

Why should people always expect something in return when they do something (they think) good to others? It means that they do that not wholeheartedly, coz they secretly wish something back. Is it that difficult nowadays to find people who are willing to do “good” things to other people without expecting something back?

What is “good” anyway? What is “bad”? Who has right to say that something is good or bad? Why must there be values like that? In reality, something “good” if viewed from one perspective, it can be “bad” if viewed from another perspective. Pangeran Diponegoro is a hero, for Indonesian people (we learned like that in our historical book/lesson, didn’t we?); while for Dutch, Diponegoro was just a rebel.

Why should we feel hurt when we think we have done something good to someone (let’s say a good friend), and then in the future we only find him/her do something on the contrary to what we expect and then it even hurts us?

Why should I feel hurt when one good friend of mine did something which I think that she was not supposed to do to me? It is my own mistake, right, to expect that she will always understand me coz one time she told me that I am her soul mate?

I felt like I was in Nel’s position that expected Sula to understand her. While before this, I always thought that Sula’s opinion—though difficult to be understood—was the best thing to prevent ourselves from heartache, from feeling disappointed.

Well, just like what wise people say, “it’s easier to say, and it is difficult to do.”

Cheer up, Nana. :)

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