I sit at a small desk, trapped between the cheep sprigs of a bed, and the fridge that is clearly marked ‘do not remove’ as if I would just up and heft the damn thing and walk away. I am hunched over and listing to Bob Schneider as I bang away on the lap top that is square center on the desk, the top of the screen barely touching the small hutch that is weighed down with books, papers, and the gloc. My elbows are on the table and my arms are wrapped around the cut-off plastic bottle that is being used as a rock glass for the Jack Daniels that sits just below my nose. In an attempt to saver every bit of the joy of drink I have placed it in a spot that allows me to breath in every wafer of sweetness. Yes, it is addicting, the smell, the taste, the feel of comfort that comes from some state side habit. I cant help but singing along with the song that is playing. The world can go away and hide behind the sunrise that is occurring outside my blacked out room. The poor souls that need my attention and decisions can wait; I am tired. In fact, the world can wait until I am ready for it again. Tonight was no different than the possibility of any other night. There is no difference in my world between possibility and reality, they are treated the same, with the same level of detachment. I want my humanity back; I want to feel again, so I bury my head into the electronic page that sits in front of me. Oh how I wish I was not good at my job.
The streets of Baghdad are not quiet tonight, nor will they be all day. As I do finally sleep, I have left the small portion of the city called Yusafiah in turmoil. I have separated families, changed the social makeup and forced more children to grow up way to soon. I have ruined the lives of a dozen men tonight, and those whose price I exacted was the least, are those that will be buried in the next two days. Such a world I live in. There are thousands of men and women who claim to do my job, yet in truth it is such a small number of us that are forced to exact violence upon others, forced to do the unthinkable. The night was quiet when I went to this town, even the dogs had decided not to make such a fuss, though that should have clued me in to how the night would turn out, and In all honesty, it did. There was no trap, no ambush, just a group of men that thought they were wrong done by and decided that they would not give up their homes, would not let intruders into their house. It is unfortunate because they were men with families, they told us that we could not come in, that they were protected by the law. Well tonight, my companions were the law and they thought otherwise, these were men that were wanted, with warrants, for acts of indiscriminate war, acts of barbarism. Before I had a chance to intervene, the night became bright under the explosion of artillery pieces precisely laid along the road.
The fireworks were incredible, the lights, and sounds were enough to amaze you. The fighter jet that came in next had me standing with my mouth open staring into the contrails of smoke and stars as he made an entire building buckle and fall. The night did fall quiet again, silence, the eerie silence that is unnatural, I have tasted it before, I have heard it before. The night would be quiet for another hour while we left, and then the streets will fill up as they are now; now as I sit and remind myself. Tonight I will sleep like a baby under the heavy eye lids of scotch carefully poured into a makeshift plastic cup. It is this cup that I find refuge, that I find comfort in. I look into the bottom of the clear plastic and ask what was the price that I paid. I have measured and weighed the price that others have paid tonight, but what in the end was the cost for me. Well I assure you it was not as much as the men of Yusafiah, though still heavy. Achmed, Mahmood, Ali, Mohammad, Yasid, and Saad will all go to the promised land and take with them the trophies of shrapnel to show Allah, they will stand tall at Mohammad’s side (blessings be upon him) they will see the glories that are for those that do good in the name of protecting those that cannot protect themselves. They died trying to prevent another tragedy, another senseless death. It is easy to see how some men can be confused into thinking that all deaths are senseless, yet I cannot see this logic. I have been trained and educated to understand the Kings Gambit in chess. To learn the sacrifice necessary for victory, the definition of the victory will tell us who is fit for the hereafter filled with the glories of your deity. In the end I hope to find my departed state without any of the accoutrements of the religions that I have seen on this planet because I will not answer for the acts that I have done. That is right, I will not commit to remorse, nor will I accept accolades, what I have done without humanity I should receive its rewards without it as well. Give me nothing but room to walk my way and alone, and do not for the love of your life, or those that you have heard about tonight, nock on my door for the next seven hours.
So, the scotch will burn the untrained tongue, and so will the lies that are spread across the printed pages burn your mind. As those with an education take the time to digest what is placed for mass consumption. We are reminded of the foolish nature of all humanity when another email is forwarded in an effort to promote some silly hoax with an unending chain, or enduring message that hasn’t stopped since such and such a date. Where will we go next and what will we believe. I would not like to have to quote a popular song to express the idea of only stupid people are breeding but it seem that I must. This in fact is just a rant that is the lead in to again answering the question posed to me almost two weeks ago to the day.
I care about the rational of our human experience, the betterment of who we are through education and experimentation, through living life. And yes, in this last sentence, you will actually find two things that I care deeply about. First and foremost in the broadest sense that the previous posts will fall into, is to live life to its fullest. To take on Thoreau’s quest to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life; this is the hallmark of my motivations at all times. Of course, each of the previous posts and the future posts in an effort to come to grips with what I am passionate about will revolve around this point.
Our minds, our precious minds, it is the last of what another can take from us and it is the first that we can master. To never stop learning, to push the limits of our understanding, to ambitiously seek out that which we do not understand. This is something that I care deeply about, shame on those that do not read, shame on those that do not ask why. I have spent a lifetime in the pursuit of answers, a lifetime coming to grips with reality each page at a time. The fundamentals of physics that brings me the tides that I will ride to shore, the mathematics that give me my patience in economics, the history and literature that allows me to connect with others thousand miles away from my suburbia Ohio homeland. This pursuit of knowledge, the idea of searching for answers, this energetic attack for reason and logic, is so key to my very existence that is an aphrodisiac when I find it in others. Yes, you may have your fun, that I have just said that nerds can turn me on, but it is the truth.
I have stood in the presence of Olympic athletes, and yes have felt desire to be able to perform as they do, I have also stood in the presence of mental giants, the brightest that our country has to offer and though I desire and wish to have the power of a boxer as he faces his opponent in the ring, I cannot help but know that I would give so much more to be able to write and argue against those who are above contestation. The world works it mysteries on us all, and we all have dreams and aspiration and ideas that drive us forward, for some academics and scholastics mean little, and their times in school is short. They will not read, and what little they do read or listen to is without context. These are the men, the droves of humanity that read emails that are forwarded to them and pass them on as gospel as the unique insight for the day. These are the people that are the masses or mob, the ones that religion and cable TV is tailored for. These are the masses that argue without logic or reason, and therefore are unopened to facts and figures. These are the ones that I truly feel sorry for.
Another sunrise across the city and the morning call to prayer echoes into the courtyard. I am greeted by an Iraqi Intelligence officer, Salam, Subah Alquair (the Romanization of Arabic is tricky at best.) Subah Ahnur, he replies, the day as begun again. I look out at a society that has lost its intellectuals, its free thinkers. Yes, there is a new crop emerging, those that have returned from exile, or those that have been marginalized for the past five years waiting their turn. It is their turn now, and they take the cues from the top. As Maliki and Dulami flex their new muscles of sovereignty so do their subordinates, our influence is being diminished on a daily bases. Muluzam Ahwal Achmed looks to me and smiles, he too has tasted the scotch that is in my room, and is headed to bed, as am I, we work together throughout the night, and this past night was no different. I close the door to my small room and climb into bed, and think about what I can learn tomorrow.
I walk among the tiger lilies, each so small and quaint, their gentle breath barley a whisper to my nose as I meander through the pond. Each among them perfect in their own right. I have learned to care about the small things, about the intangibles that are forever drifting in and out of our subconscious mind. I have learned to care about the colors the sun makes on the waters of the ocean, and the sound the breeze makes as it passes by the flags at the marina. These are the little things in life that one must find beauty in. Or maybe not, maybe it is but my own obsession with the collide-e-scope of smells, colors and textures that world offers me and you every day. Though it would seem to most that this is something less than the quality of importance that I have somewhat describe for you in the previous post, to me it is not. I have the heart of an artist and his brush is in my mind. Each day I see the beauty that surrounds us and take pause in the understanding that all of us are not so different than those tiger lilies that I have muddled my way through.
The pond waters move as my feet push into the soft underbelly of the shallow marsh. The bamboo straightens as I push it out of my way, and the field of lilies opens up before me in a cascade of purplish hues. This is magic; this is a stunning achievement of serenity buried behind the swamps of the low lands. The things I care about are out there, hidden behind trials and suffering, behind sweat and blood, but when the fog has been lifted and the path is exposed one is able to find the things that we hold most dear. I would like to tell you that the answer is much easier than I am making it out to be, and maybe it is. But, I am struggling, my feet are sinking into the roots of the very lilies that I am holding dear and I am unable to recognize what I am walking through.
Maybe each of us is no different as well, to the tiger lily. Maybe we are but one little piece of a giant mosaic of purplish hues that are spread about haphazardly across a globe. Maybe it is those that cannot stop looking at the mud that they are walking through to notice the beauty of all of those that surround them. A much easier question was once asked of me, and I believe that I have found that answer, what would make one holy. The intangible knowledge that the person that you are dealing with has been elevated above and beyond our own human rational, to a status, for lack of a better word is holy. I have found it to be those that do not need help in seeing the beauty that exists inside each and every human being that walks the earth. Though I as well stick to the reality that to find these shinning lights of beauty one must first wade through the mud, to throw off self perception, lies and the horrible actions that people are willing to commit.
ereading the passage above I realize that though I have found some metaphysical journey upon which I use to answer the question, of what do you care about. Well, maybe I care about the journey. Maybe I care about pushing others to recognize the possibility of beauty in almost everything. That man in his glorious imperfections can be holy. This is what I care about; I care about those small moments. The moments when your boot is three inches into the mud of the Tigris river flats, and the weeds grow taller than you. Every step forward and you are assured that your boot will end up coming off and will be left in the flats. Then as you sweep your arms and the bamboo straightens out, the purplish hues fog your eyes. I pause, pull off my head sets and kneel into the mud, reaching out I grab a lily and bring it to my nose and breath deep. It is these moments that I live for….
Authors note: though this portion of the narrative did happen, when I did breath in, this particular lily (not a tiger) smelled like a dead animal with the light overture of gasoline. I am not sure that would bring wild plant life from this particular grove to my face again, I guess we all get smarter.
Finally pen to paper and the words seem to come faster and faster, possibly resurrecting a small glimmer of hope that my creativity is not lost. Now I must be careful, gently blowing on these small embers of ideas and build them into the insights that I demand. Patience is the key once again; patience in life, work and in play, and now even in writing. It is of some note that the patience will allow you to achieve the impossible by playing the tides to reach hidden destinations, though the irony clearly is that if you play the tides wrong and wait, then you will miss out on the very opportunity. I have yet to determine who I admire the most, those that will fight against any wave to reach the shore, or those that calmly wait for the one wave that will bring them to the sands in style.
The conversation of the previous night was again a topic of concern for this evening. What do I care about, the haphazard answer of world peace and to end poverty were greeted with head nods and smiles on the video response. Why would this achieve this response? Though I wish for these things, I do not go out of my way actively achieve either of them. These lofty goals are nothing more than talking points as I stand on the stage at a beauty contest. Do I really care about these things, have I invested time and effort to resolve these problems. The answer is no, so with the notion of starting much simpler than these lofty goals; I tonight have recognized the easy one.
I care for my family, and at different levels depending on who they are within my tribe, I care for the blood of my family. I will have gone out of my way for those members sometimes without regard for my own well being or benefit. So at some cost I have been willing to give for the betterment of others that share my name. This I would say in its most basic form is something that I care about. Of course there are caveats to the statement, as nothing is this simple. I no longer do this without regard to my benefit, a feeling of debt to those that raised me, protected me, educated and pushed me is gone. I feel nothing in that regards, and struggle with what level of self sacrifice am I willing to endure for my immediate family. This should give you pause if you are not in my immediate family because you can guess where this is going. For the rest of my tribe that has never lived closer than a thousand miles you will most likely fare worse in my hierarchy of debt and willingness to suffer at your expense.
Though the last thoughts would seem cold, they are the truth, and yet they do not detract from the fact that I do care for my family. For my brother whom I have nothing in common, for my father who I sensor what I can and cannot say, and for my mother who is almost as cold as I am in some aspects and has a heart larger than should be allowed in others.
The desert sands have picked up again sending the denizens of Baghdad scurrying for their homes and shops. The famed American military that walks the streets at day and flies across the sky is grounded and hunkered down on their mega bases. The day moves on toward night, with no change. You can hear he winds over top the calls to prayer, masking the beautiful sounds of the minarets, and masking the words of hate that are spread form their spires. I sit alone in a small room with my books and notes, recording the passing of the moments waiting for my own boss to return from meetings with the Minister of the Interior. I was told that he would want to see me; I was told that I should be prepared to discuss with him the growing complexities of a situation that has no solution that can be found by those that are looking. I look over at a map and track the day’s events I my head, and am reminded that though I can see clearly on the map what has transpired I still have no way of depicting or understanding what will transpire in the course of the hours, days and weeks to come. These thoughts are best left to the dreams of the restless and the hopes of the brave, and I believe that I am more the former than the later, and will head to bed.
So, I opened a new blog that I have not used. I am not sure why I have become afraid of the page in front of me but I have. I fear the words that I might write, that the creativity is gone, that the emotions that used to drive the words from my fingers to the digital page have left and will not return. I know that it cannot be the case. I still feel, I still bleed, I still want, miss, desire and attempt to love, with the same amount of passion that I once did. Or maybe I am delusional, and am attempting to justify my place alongside the rest of the humanity as they struggle with the same problems that I struggle with. Maybe over the course of the next (period of time, year) I will find some of the answers. Maybe as I start a new series of adventures that I will come to grips with a reality that I have pushed against for so long. I guess the bottom line is that I am tired of not knowing, not knowing what I want out of life, what I define as success, and even what I care about. I am tired of the carefree and haphazard way upon which I have chosen my life. I see what I have written and roll my eyes at the way that I have placed this feeling upon the table.
But, there is truth in what I have written. I have traveled the world and have been successful at my chosen profession, and yet still have no goals, no aspirations that aren’t whimsical or fleeting. Last night on a Skype phone call from the other side of the world I was asked what do I care about, and much to my own displeasure I was unable to answer that question. I did not know, nor could I guess on the spot anything more appropriate than “peace in the middle east.” Ha, so maybe, just maybe, some introspection will bring clarity to my thoughts and an answer to the question that was given as a homework assignment. Maybe and just maybe I took the question way to literally.
Well day break is upon me, and I must get some sleep before I go back to wondering the streets of Baghdad. The city cries out its morning prayer as I black out my window and finish typing what notes I have from the previous night. The city comes to life around me as I shut down, the cafes fill up with old men who smoke pungent cigarettes and drink their tea. Politics will be the discussion this morning as the news finally hits the streets that over four hundred names were taken off the ballot for the upcoming elections. A couple of them were prominent Sunni figures that carry weight with the Tribals (a term to denote the Bedu Arabs that maintain their identity with the tribes of the desert.) Well, those issues can wait, as my bed waits for me.