Mud and Muck

February 7, 2010 at 5:37 am (Question: What do you care about?)

Tonight I will try and find a conclusion to the initial question posed to me over a skype phone call from thousands of miles away. What do I care for, which somehow translated into what do I value, or rather how much do I value? I believe that at some point I started thinking too hard about such a simple question. One that required almost no thought, but rather a gut response. Though my first answer or attempted answer is true and valid, I think that somehow I missed the mark. That in the absence of an available metric from which to measure my willingness to sacrifice, that I missed the most important part of the question. The intangible desire to ensure that they are ok, that the bonds that exist are not shattered. It is from this revelation that I will attempt to summarize an answer that I have found to be complex and intangible.

The simple fact is that every email, phone call, and personal interaction that I have had since this quest of the mind, has reminded me that the number of things that I care about are uncountable. Not to say that it would be any easier to describe for you the things that I do not care about, but rather that the world is too full of the little things, of family, of interesting things for us to go out and find, and most of all the connections that we make. So, for a moment let’s talk about connectivity. Connectivity, a term referred to in the highest levels of academia in relation to globalization, can also have such a personnel and pointed meaning as well. The barista at the nearest Green Bean, to the friend that you share all of your sins with, are all connections that you make, some with more value than others but none the less, they are there. Now the metrics come into play. And it is this failure to have any distinguishable markers is what makes my statements so difficult. I have no clue what I am capable of in defense of that or those that I care about, I have not had to truly push the limits of what I am willing to do. That being said, it is safe to say that given what I do for a living, woe be it to those that choose to take from me something that I value.

My friends, my comrades-in-life, my comrades-in-arms, my blood, all have intrinsic value to me that is undeniable, and yes I could spend pages describing to you the values that each represent that I desire and will pay for with my time and effort, but it is suffice to say that you too share similar people and friends. So, an answer that is going to hurt to write is that I care about humanity, or at least the portions of humanity that are connected to me. I value the conversations, the gentle touch, the friendly tease, and even the smart-ass response, and maybe the occasional punch, but only from those that I hold in some regards. This is where it gets tricky. I value humanity only in direct proportion that it has value to me. Yes, I can see your eyes rolling, as you pull up quotes of Ayn Rand, but there it is. I am not unconditional, nor am I selfless service. Though I am conditional and I will serve, I have value, enough value that those who know me, love me, or respect me will understand that they know, love, and respect me because of the values that I bring to the table. The barter mans trade on what I care for, should scare some of you, especially my do-gooder friends as I call them. Though, if they were to read this page I would remind them of the values that they display and hold that make me want to know, love, and respect them.

I can see now that I have gotten off topic. What do I care about? Well, I still am not sure, though recently I believe what I care about is changing. This past week an ex-girlfriend moved to Iraq. She is small and beautiful, with such a brilliant mind, and I found myself for the first time feeling protective of something that is not mine to be protective of. She is more than capable of getting by on her own, but that was not enough for me. I have a specialized skill set that is designed for Baghdad and she does not. Somehow, this was translated into giving her rules, advice, and objects that I think will better prepare her for this environment. Why would I do this, well for one, I care for her. For another, this caring manifested itself into a concern or worry that could be partially alleviated if I knew that she would respond to events in a certain way. Maybe this is the natural progression of things.

So, I guess, protective feelings, connectivity, the small things, all placed together could get me very quickly to world peace and ending poverty. Then as I finally approach this inevitable position of the modern intellectual elitist, I remember that I also feel that there are numerous people on this earth that should be the home for stray bullets. And I also know that the sins that I have committed will out way any single serving sentence of a do-gooder.

Tonight as it snows in DC it rains in Baghdad, as the streets close down and the city grinds to a halt in DC so to does it in Baghdad. The mud is thick and will stop you in your tracks as you muck your way to work. It was on a similar dreary night that I watched a young girl turn on her father. Her testimony was enough to have me and those that work with come and pick him up. He was an AQI Ameer and responsible for some of the more recent attacks in the city, responsible for the deaths of tens of innocent. In her anger she sentenced him to death, though I am sure this is not what she intended. I remember the night not so much for the man that we were detaining but rather for the difficulty in walking to and from anywhere in the mud that was created by the rains. Specifically the way he and his two sons were covered in the mud as we made our way to our trucks. Iraqi mud is different, it is thick, yet with the ability to splash and dry onto anything. As I walk back to my room this morning as the sun tries to break through the clouds that are still drizzling, I must watch my footing stepping up into my room, no different that climbing back into the truck.


  1. Debo said,

    You and I had the “Selfless Service” chat long ago. It is appealing to see that your point of view hasn’t changed. Although there is no way that I should expect it to. You have a well thought out and articulate argument, the surface of which you barely scratched here. I wonder if it is the realization of everything that we get out of life and experiences that makes it hard for us to believe in selfless service. That somehow the emotional and psychological salary we take home every day makes us ineligible for the fringe benefits of “selfless action”. In other words, if someone blindly goes through life “Doing the right thing” for others but doesn’t see the love/belonging, self-esteem, and self actualization that they are receiving for their efforts, is their sacrifice somehow more noble? Is the fact that we are more self aware robbing us of this nobility? I don’t know. Is the good that we do right now outweighing the marrow that we suck out of life while doing it? This might actually be the perfect situation for people like ourselves. Doom on us if we ever relish in the bad things enough that we feel fulfilled.


    • Kim said,

      D, as always your insightful and elegant responses are appreciated. And, yes somehow at least for the majority of man, actions lose their nobility when certain truths are understood as benefits for such actions.

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