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.

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FW: Emails for the Masses

January 27, 2010 at 4:36 am (Question: What do you care about?)

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.

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Tiger Lilies

January 23, 2010 at 2:52 pm (Question: What do you care about?)

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.

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Stormy Thoughts

January 19, 2010 at 2:23 am (Question: What do you care about?)

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.

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A Beginning

January 18, 2010 at 4:23 am (Question: What do you care about?)

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.

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