Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Weight of the World

Too many hopes are riding on one man's shoulders and to be certain the weight of these hopes will crush him or at least crush those who have chosen to put their hopes there. But perhaps he asked for it when he campaigned for change, he asked people to rest their hopes on him, to bet on him, to vote for change. He didn't really comprehend what he was asking, or perhaps he comprehended but thought he could do it, or perhaps he was too successful in getting what he asked for. But the weight of this world's burdens will crush him. No man can live up to these expectations, there's too much that has gone wrong with the world for one man to change it all even if that man occupies the most powerful position in the world. The quality of hope has changed, it has become a hope that something decent starts changing in the world, but the world is not a place for decent things to happen. There's too much evil, there's too much hate and it's easier to destroy than to build. 

With the kind of expectations that people have, he has no choice but to disappoint, not because he had the world fooled and that his hidden agenda was sinister, but because he is a good man and it takes more than being that to eradicate evil. Do I make it sound too simplistic like a superhero comic? Well, when it comes down to it, after all the shades of gray are attributed to their respective black and whites, it's approximated to this kind of simplicity.

A video I watched addressed to Obama triggered these thoughts. The letter to Obama relayed through video by an Israeli human rights activist was roughly save us Obama from the evil we inflict on palestinians and save us from our aching conscience. The video recalled Obama's promises to save the world, and they were calling him in to live up to these promises;  save us from our acts, save us from our sins. She asked him to stop how complacent the IDF soldiers felt while killing young children, to stop the inhumane treatment of Palestinians, to end the terror inflicted on palestinians by Israel. The woman in her letter said that she prayed for Obama to win even though she didn't believe in God. In a way, with her letter she was praying to Obama. How many of us want to send out a letter or video to someone out there to change the way we live? I would suppose that most people on the globe would want to send out a letter entitled Dear Obama, or Dear Mubarak, or Dear Qadafi even. The reason we don't send out to the latter two is because we're certain they won't listen, or perhaps we don't send out to others because we know they won't be able to do anything even if they wanted to.

The world has replaced the prayer to an all powerful God, to human beings who can hardly live up to their promises, who can only try to change the world and most likely will fail. The world says it doesn't need God anymore, but strip the world of the facade they believe in called a system and a government and you will see how much they need God. The ongoing prayers to other humans who control their fate is strong evidence that there is a need for God even in the presence of a government and rules. Who do you turn to when the law has failed you? When your leaders have failed you? When humans have failed you? When the world has failed you?

That woman in the video has chosen to turn to Obama, a man who has promised with words what we all want to see happen. He has promised that the most powerful man will be all that we wish him to be. But even if he did live up to his word, can he answer all prayers?

I'm not saying that God answers all our prayers, or that God must exist just because man has failed. I know many people who at some point in their life felt no need for God. I'm just saying that the need for God is real in a world gone wrong, when all the systems that man has made could not protect him. The need to thank someone, the need to call out for someone, the need to find someone to help you through the hard times, because I imagine it would be very lonely when all men as well as spirits have forsaken you. I see many lonely people, trying to find someone to call out for. They call out on people that will probably never be able to help, like another Obama who is probably too busy failing others he has already promised to make yet another promise. 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Late Party

I realized one thing that night. All hopes and wishes change with time. It's not only that they might change as one changes, but even when they're the same, they're different when they actually happen.

A few nights back I was invited to a birthday. The birthday boy was still in college turning 21, and needless to say, most of those that were invited were of the same age. I didn't know the birthday boy nor almost all the other young (mostly AUC) crowd.

I entered a fine old building. It was a fabulous building with an extremely high ceiling, but with excellent paint that gave the impression it hadn't aged. Yet its age seeped through the fine ornaments and extreme detail that had been perfected during its architecture and construction. It looked new but it wasn't modern, the floors were of dark colors, as if a sepia filter had been applied to them, but without traces of dust. I took my time observing the little details plastered all around, walking slowly towards and away from the elevator, and taking my time to look around before I rang the bell.

I felt very comfortable with the building, in a way it matched my essence; seemingly young yet old and classical at the same time. As soon as I entered however, things changed. The ceilings were still high, and the interior decoration was still classical with well placed touches of modernity yet despite my expectations of the crowd's age range, I still couldn't help but be taken aback by their young faces. It's not that they were exceptionally young, well, I did expect them to look older, but I just suddenly remembered that this is probably how I and my friends looked like back in college. That sudden memory took me back then, and I remembered how different my experience was of that age.

In a way I sort of envied them. They were a group of guys and girls who knew each other well, having fun at a party. I never had that, not the huge mixed group, not those parties. During my college days, I'd have been happy just to have been talking to a girl. To have a party like this was to my young self very remote and closer to a dream that I had fantasized about. I know I sound like a loser this way, but it's the truth of my experience. I knew friends of mine who were a part of groups like these, but I and other friends were seldom invited. We had trouble getting into night clubs where the stupid couples only rule was enforced, but even worse, our greatest fantasy was a venerated house party.

Anyway, as soon as I saw them, I was filled with Nostalgia towards my long gone youth and smiled heartily at theirs, but more than this, a gripping thought took hold of me. I thought how I would have loved to have been at a party like this when I was their age. It's not that I hadn't been to a house party after that, I went to many and went to clubs and met so many different people and groups and girls. It's just that at this moment, I wanted to be their age. I wanted to travel back in time and be that age and have this party. Their faces brought back the young me, who hadn't experienced all of this. I remember once when I was very young, I met a friend walking down the street with a group of his friends, they were going over to his house to hang out. One of the girls was very nice to me, and it blew me away. She stopped me and said something nice, something that made me feel I was part of the group. I think she might have even blown me a kiss too. I would have done anything to have been invited. I traveled in time and brought back the young boy who wanted all of this.

I became very aware of a thought that slapped me across my face; no matter what I do I cannot be that boy and I cannot experience this party even if it was everything I had hoped for. The one thing that changed is me, time has changed me and I cannot be that person once again. Once time has passed, the chance is gone. It didn't matter that I looked as young as they were and no one really noticed how out of place I really was. It didn't really make a difference that I could wing it or fake it, inside I felt old. I suppose that's how Benjamin Button felt as an old man, the experience of the years wrinkling his soul even though his face was smooth. I did try telling some of them that I dropped out, and that I didn't study anymore and they bought it cause of how young I looked, but this kind of acceptance lead me nowhere close to comfort. Later that night, as I was finally going home, I looked at my face reflected in the elevator mirror, and I saw the lines that were made with age. If they had looked deeper into my face, they'd have seen my age and asked what I did for a living.

I realized the fragility of the moment, that moment which so casually passes us by. It's broken when we don't seize it, and it's broken when we seek it at the wrong time. I recognized the passing of time, and I recognized the change that time can bring about. This isn't some sermon about seizing the moment and milking it for what it's worth. This is about the loss of moments and the hope for some that will never come and others that could never come. Sometimes moments, like answers, come a bit too late, and when they do, they don't mean the same.

Maybe there is a Zen message being sent to me after all. Seek the right things at the right time or something, don't look too far ahead or too far behind, dream for the closest moment, and let your old fantasies live on as memories that never were and give room to new ones.

I really don't think there really is a message. I think I experienced a moment. It was a moment like a window to the past. I enjoyed what fun I could amass being around young people. Perhaps that's why life in the past was more fun, not because one was carefree, but because one had more young people to hang out with.

Friday, March 13, 2009

More Death in Venice

I'm reminded by passionate friends who seek chaos:

"For to passion, as to crime, the assured everyday order and stability of things is not opportune, and any weakening of the civil structure, any chaos and disaster afflicting the world, must be welcome to it, as offering a vague hope of turning such circumstances to its advantage."

Thomas Mann - Death in Venice

Once more, words or reviews cannot do justice to beauty:

"He was more beautiful than words can express, and Ashenbach felt the painful awareness that language can only praise sensuous beauty but not reproduce it."

Thomas Mann - Death in Venice