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Detained at Frankfurt Airport


I am sharing this story not because I wish to hear your opinions regarding what I did wrong (or right) but merely because I am sick to my very bone of all of us pretending our lives are picture-perfect, and of judging one another for flaws when we do release things that have gone wrong. Ironically, for this I am thankful to the internet in general and to social media for giving me a platform on which to be courageous and share my stories.

Over a week ago, I was traveling to Bonn, Germany, for the Conference of the Parties 23 (COP 23) to research capacity building opportunities for other students like me who get to attend this global annual climate change conference hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC). I had attended the same conference in November 2016 in Morocco, and so I assumed that I had a pretty good grasp of how things worked and what I was to be doing.

Turns out I was wrong.

With my Indian passport, Morocco normally requires me to apply for a visa. This is what I had done when I had visited Morocco for a study abroad in summer 2016. However, when I returned to the country for COP 22 in November of that same year, those very visa requirements were waived as I was attending on behalf of my university as an observer to that conference. So, I assumed that the same was true this year as well.

Turns out it was not.

To be clear, neither my university nor any professors told me that the requirements for Germany were different. On the other hand, these instructions were available on the UNFCCC website for everyone to see, and I never looked. After having contemplated on this for the past week, I have reached the conclusion that it was not because I was being careless, as I was completely aware that I hold an Indian passport and are that that passport has certain conditions attached for entering Europe. This thought was on my mind but I merely reasoned that those conditions were waived for the COPs, as a result of extrapolation from my past experiences and those of others around me, and that if they weren’t, I would have been told. I did not think to check the website, but I did write internally to my university’s administration to make sure I had everything I needed. I had the same papers this year that I had taken the last year to Morocco.

However, when I arrived at Frankfurt airport, I discovered that I was not to be allowed into the country as ‘Germany does not work in quite that same way’ (when I mentioned what had happened in Morocco the year before). Fair enough. I was detained at the airport for 24 hours where some individuals from the German police showed kindness to me, while others did not. I was then put on a flight back to the US, and sixty harrowing hours after I began, I was back home.

I will choose to keep other details about the ordeal private. In fact, I am not really sure why I am choosing to share this story here. I have spent most of last week avoiding conversations about this, except with a handful of people. I haven’t returned messages or calls, and avoided social media. And yet somehow, scrolling through my Instagram and Facebook a while back, I felt sick to my stomach of how we all pretend to live these perfect lives, especially when we travel to exotic places. I had planned to do a bit of it myself when I was in Germany! But when things go wrong, we choose not to share those stories with the world maybe because we are ashamed or because we have been taught to hide our pain and misery, to hide ourselves when we are most vulnerable and afraid and not at our best. That leaves people thinking that everyone except them is leading a happy, perfect and fulfilled life. I guess a part of the reason I wanted to share this story was to jolt us all into the reality of how this just isn’t true. Writing is my catharsis and it is also the tool with which I choose to reveal my subjective truths to the world. So here is a subjective truth for all of us: when we start to venture out into the world, we run into loopholes and we make mistakes (and hopefully learn from those mistakes), and that is the price we pay for all those beautiful Instagram selfies and boomerangs and all the rest of that jazz. It can be easy to forget that there are flawed human beings behind our curated social media self-images. But there are.

There is a lot of processing still left for me to do. I may return with more stories as I do so.

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Poems

Home.


I wish I could put in words
What the wind whispered to me
As I left the place I called home
Wanting to leave and yet not wanting to go
My hands balled up into tense fists
And my eyes glazing over with a film of dust
Of every missed opportunity
In the place I called home

And from the catatonic drone
Of the airplane that carried me
I decoded a special message for that journey:
The days will grow long and then short again
And your limbs will untangle after life’s wrath
Is done with you, is through with you
You’ll see that where the shore leads
Is a beautiful and special space of warmth
A place you can call home too

But it wasn’t too clear then
When all I could see were strangers on an airplane
How my sense of home could grow
From beyond being held by my mother
I was misty-eyed with pain and that lack of special hope
That washed me away from people I had once known

And it isn’t always clear now
Why the smoke of hatred and the stench of fear
Has never been enough to extinguish me
Because sometimes I see that the world has become smaller
Scarier, yes, but more loving too
Indeed, my sense of home is growing
Like the links of a chain over strange shapes and objects
Into something warm and fuzzy and familiar.

What is home, I wonder? A place where we are comfortable and safe? A place where we are content and ourselves? For me, home has also been a place where I could hide, become invisible to everything that scares me (and there is so much that does!). But this poem was triggered for me by a dinner I went to last night; a send-off to the Conference of Parties 23, where I will soon be going. In the lukewarm October air of a beautifully lit garden, I met a group of people who were open and welcoming and accepting of who I am and what I stand for in this foreign country. Listening to stories and telling a few of my own, I came home with a belly full of earthy food and a heart overwhelmed with love. The skeptic in me took a step back last night and embraced the spirituality of the people I was surrounded by. The feeling was different and new to my melancholic heart. I just felt accepted and…in one of those rare surprises that life sometimes throws at you, I was even happy. That feeling burst forth into this poem today- does it mean that my sense of home has expanded for all eternity? Probably not, but it is growing. I am forever thankful to this space that I have found on the other end of the world where I feel like I can belong and fit in and be someone worthwhile. Despite all the self-doubt, self-hatred and agony that still haunts me, the present is washing over my past, those colors etched on my heart are fading, and I am becoming more than I was. And it is a strange experience for me to not be as scared of the little things anymore- to be letting go of complaints, of accusations, of scrutiny, of hatred. A part of me is slowly embracing a sense of peace, after all these years. And to me, in certain ways, that feels like coming home.

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#MeToo: An Uncomfortable Post


My social media has filled up with women using the #metoo; some narrating stories of sexual harassment and abuse (some rather harrowing stories) and others just using the hashtag to express solidarity with others who have been through something similar. And has this hashtag blown up!

I’m not surprised. I would be surprised if there were women who had never undergone any kind of harassment or abuse at all in their lives! I’m still waiting to hear even one woman admit that she hasn’t.

So I’m writing this post to add my voice and perspective to this issue.

First of all, why only women? I’ve heard it asked, why is this hashtag not ‘open’ for men who are abused? A valid point. More than one male person I know have shared stories of sexual abuse. The important thing to remember here is that sexual assault is not inherently a gendered phenomenon, but it becomes gendered in the way that it is socially constructed. The exertion of control and power that comes with sexual assault is understood as a masculine trait, and anybody who is at the receiving end of it is reduced to the feminine, looked down upon, ridiculed. It is absurd how much harder it is for men to even use a hashtag like #metoo to express that they have been harassed or assaulted sexually.

And so, my point is, that assault is not about gender in the sense of the genitalia you possess, but it is gendered in terms of how we understand it socially.

The attention to the victim is important, but so is attention to the perpetrator. The perpetrator of sexual assault is imposing upon the world a very specific persona of ‘manhood’ that is then supposed to define what all men should aspire towards. This is locker room talk, and persons with male genitalia who do not conform to it can be termed as feminine and thereby weak.

A few weeks ago, I was shaken by an incident on a bus. I take the bus to school every day, without thinking twice about it. But on this particular day a man climbed on to the bus. He seemed a little high, not that that mattered. But he was acting a little strange. He seemed captivated by a girl sitting one seat to the left of me, and she smiled back at him. At first, I thought they were friends.

The bus kept going and the seat between that girl and me emptied out. The man in question took the liberty to sit down there. He still had his back toward me, and was smiling at that girl, saying something to her. I was still unsure of whether she knew him. But then he put his arm around her. The girl appeared a little uncomfortable now but she still did not leave her seat or move. And then he asked her, in a very distinct voice, ‘can I kiss you?’

Without waiting for a reply, he leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek.

The girl in question was frozen now but she still made no move to get out of the seat. She was still giving a feeble smile.

Another young man sitting opposite us, looking as uncomfortable as I felt, said to the perpetrator, ‘Don’t do that.’ His stop came then, and he got down. So did the girl.

By this point, as the only other girl on the bus, I was extremely uncomfortable. It was evening and there was still light outside, but the bus was almost empty. I had already moved one seat away from this man but now he turned to look towards me. I turned my head the other way, deliberately avoiding eye contact or acknowledging his presence.

He reached out, nonetheless, and put his hand upon my hand. I had a visceral reaction to his touch, and I moved my hand out from under him and glared at him in a way that was obviously discouraging.

This seemed to enrage this man. He got down at the next stop, which was also my stop, and I followed him off the bus. He ventured off into an alleyway that led nowhere and I broke into a half-run as I went home.

That night and over the next day I narrated this story to a few people. I was given a range of interesting advice (you should have told the bus driver, you should carry a pepper spray or Mace with you), the strangest of which was by a girl who told me she once shouted deeply in the ear of a man who was about to assault her, and that shocked him. That’s interesting, I told her, but in that moment, I just froze.

And I don’t blame you, she said. Remember, it is never the victim’s fault.

It is never the victim’s fault.

What a strange thing to have to declare out loud! My reaction always is, it never is the victim’s fault of course.

And yet somehow, incidents like these always have an impact on me. They take me back to the first time I recognized being sexualized by a man: I was eleven. They take me back to the countless times I have had men press their bodies against mine on public transport, trying to fit their body parts into the curvature of my waist to feel…something, the times I have been catcalled or followed briefly, the time a couple of men on a bike flashed porn into my face and commented on my underwear.

But there is something more here- something we are forgetting to talk about. It came to me as I wondered why this hand touching incident on the bus shook me so much. I’ve seen worse. It always shakes me, but what was different this time? Had I merely forgotten what it was like to be objectified, given how less explicitly that happens to me since I have moved here to the US?

Perhaps that was a part of it. But it was more than that. Over the past three years I have surrounded myself with people and narratives that have empowered me. I am always on my guard- not against all men- but against men who exude that particularly stench of masculine entitlement that I now recognize so well. I like to tell myself that I will fight back against them now, not give in and let them get their way.

And yet, here I was on the bus with a man who could, just by touching my hand without my consent, flood my mind with everything that I have worked so hard to overcome. How strangely powerful he is, just by being him! And how reduced that makes me, just to have to be powerless like this!

And that, in one sense, is the sort of self-blaming internal dialogue that an act like this can trigger. It isn’t simply about the physical act of having your hand touched, but the mental agony of relating that to the myriad ways in which this world is masculine. And everything that that stands for.

I see posts of men touting that they are not the problem, but a part of the solution because they don’t look at women like that. They’re missing the point. This is not about your choice to not kiss a woman on the cheek, but about her lack of choice if you do choose to do so. I thought for a long time about the girl on the bus who was kissed, and did nothing. I wondered how she spent that night, how shaken was she by that man? Would she be comfortable riding the bus again?

I look out for that man, or for other men like that, every day on the bus now. I don’t expect to see him again for some reason, but I often expect to encounter someone else like him.

I gave that man the benefit of the doubt, I tried to put myself in his shoes. A male friend recently opened my eyes to the other side of sexual assault in ways that nobody else ever had. Without supporting the perpetrator, he asked me to imagine how a young man with all that male hormonal energy coursing through him, might feel the first time he sees up close a woman- any woman, given that he does not know what women are like, what consent might mean, what he should or should not do. Why does the conversation always revolve around cutting off the balls of this man in question or throwing him in jail for the rest of his life, or taking his life, my friend asked me.

The problem is deeper than that. The solutions required are deeper. I do not pretend to know what they are, but I can see in the eyes of a man who is desperate, the coursing of structural injustices that lead him on to grope, touch, feel…and do more….

There have been countless times that I have thought of myself as a victim. I have been fortunate enough, when it comes to physical abuse but the lingering emotional abuse of masculinity has haunted me for years, it has brought me where I am today. It is responsible, I firmly believe, for a large portion of who I became when I relinquished control.

Others who are less fortunate have suffered more. I shudder to think what something worse could have done, to a soul like mine. What something worse does every day to souls much stronger than mine. The internet today is chocked full of stories.

It is uncomfortable, I know. And not every woman will speak, nor should we expect them all to. But don’t shut down those who do. Let’s not ignore them. Let’s have a conversation here.

 

 

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Now that you’re gone


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Now that you’re gone from everywhere
And I no longer hear the winds roar
I can breathe in deeply, gently
But that gnawing feeling still grows
You see, I turned my caterpillars to butterflies
But their cocoons still litter the floor

Now that you’re gone from everywhere
I can be me in so many new ways
I can fall in love gently
Reinventing myself every day
And yet something lingers, beneath the surface
Something you firmly planted there

Now that you’re gone from everywhere
I pull away from the toxic lure
I become nothing and everything all at once
I conjure happiness out of thin air
You see, I choose to start afresh
But some memories still chain me here

Now that you’re gone from everywhere
And I can see the road ahead much clearer
I know what you imprinted upon me
All these marks will not just disappear
Now that you’re gone from everywhere
My body still feels you here
But through its aches and pains every single day
I quietly move toward a new frontier

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I stop, I start


I’m a strange creature. I write in the middle of the night. I stop, and breathe. I return after months, changed and yet the same.

I have been thinking about what I want this blog to be now. Blueloft has often been like my life’s pulse in some ways, a place where I lay out the quick and the dirty without thinking of consequences.

But….I am older now.

I like to think I am wiser.

But more importantly, I am different…

I am learning (with some success I might hope) how not to see my own rose-tinted life through a cracked looking glass at all times.

Us creative types are a little weird, you see. We are often self-absorbed and troubled, guarded and obtuse. We revel in self-importance and are likely to spin webs of words around our own lives.

I have been guilty of all of this. I do not want to stop entirely, but I am rethinking my purpose as a writer. Is it to record semi-autobiographical, cryptic truths on the inter webs? Or…can I use my power for good in this world, in some way? I like to think the latter, although ‘good’ is impossible to define of course.

And that is why I have taken a step back. I am letting my thoughts ferment, as experience builds me. I am learning to be a better version of myself, on my own terms.

You may not want to know this. I don’t know whose reading anymore, if anyone is. I know I have subscribers, but that often means nothing anymore, in this age of fast and bite-sized media.

While I go away and brood some more however, I wrote you another half-poem in my signature style today:

It is easier to see humans
Affected by maladies
That run from limb-to-limb
Tearing through the torso
Twisting along the spine

It is easier still to feel the stirrings of pity
In localized pools inside us
And even to absorb hatred, disgust, anger
At that unfairness held outside us

It isn’t as easy though, to see the snakes
That slither around inside us
Gripping fragments of life
And squeezing them bone-dry
Being told they’re just figments
Of our broken-down adulthood imagination.

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From the Beyond


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It has been a while, my friends. Hello. I have been…living with myself this past month and a half: learning, feeling, moving, breathing. Just the same as always. And today I felt the stirrings to return to my roots, to return to whatever transcendental place it is that Blue Loft comes from. That longing inside me to tell stories- to tell my story above all others, brings me back to this place again and again. I do not know why my story is of any importance to anyone but myself. And I tell it in bits and pieces anyway, jealously guarding myself from the harshness and critiques of outsiders. That compromises the stories I tell. But a part of me keeps trying to tell them, keeps pushing against the world to establish my stories within its cruel environment. Because ultimately, if I have the ability to tell these stories and give rise to a butterfly effect, I must do it.

Today- today is an important day. Today I did something I had been thinking about for some time but pushing back. It is something that may change everything. Or it may change nothing at all. I do not know. What I do know is that I did something….and tomorrow I will know a little better where this will lead me…

But for now I will tell you a story- one that I have lived but it is only in retrospection that I can find the bits and pieces that make it semi-complete for me. As I continue to add to this story in the future, I will find more and more of the jigsaw. And I do not know what the complete picture will be….

I was 18 when I started this blog. Someone asked me why I seem to write from a place of pain and sadness…why can I not write happy stories of love and blooming flowers instead? I didn’t know. I have never known why my writing comes from a place of darkness, what that darkness even is. What does it mean? Since when have I had it?

Since as far back as I can remember. At 16, I took to heart a task that was never meant to be mine and when I first started to fail at it, I  felt a cloud descend over my head. It hung there briefly, letting lose a stream of cold water on me, and then it went away and the sun shone again. At 14, I befriended a man I had no business befriending, and he led me down a road from which I could never recover. At 11, my best girlfriend and I were discovering secrets about the world that we were too little to know, and nobody stopped us. At 10, I saw my best friend leave town and felt my first wave of loneliness. At 4, I had already seen something inside me that statistics say only 1% of other people do.

I don’t know where it began. I know that this is not all of it. I know that this may not be my most significant story going forward. Or…it might!

Flashback four years from today, and I once found myself sitting in my room back at home in Ahmedabad, reading Guy de Maupassant under the bathroom light because I wanted the house to think I was asleep. I had spent countless nights feigning sleep during my teenage years, and reading fiction through various lights…the street lamp outside my window in Nazira, Assam; for instance, was my companion in getting through The Princess Diaries and Harry Potter at 15. That night…the night of Guy de Maupassant, I cried. I cried because I felt deeply in the core of me for the very first time, what it might be like to be engulfed by a black hole.

Black holes are strange things. I have often hung out by myself on their edges, sipping coffee, reading a book and crying real tears while the world feels like a stranger I have nothing to say to. But I turn around and find people, places, thoughts, and art waiting for me. Luckily I have never fallen into a black hole. But I can almost feel its emptiness, its nothingness from the distance. I can almost understand what it must be like to invariably fall into one and become blind, and lose color. How undeniably powerful a black hole is likely to be! How strangely sublime it is to write about, to read about, to listen to the trippy music and movies that depict it. And at the same time, how absolutely frightening to actually be in one!

I was drawn towards these black holes from a very young age. I played make-belief with myself where I was almost inside them. I chose to fall into black holes. I can’t help but wonder today if they chose me merely because I chose them.

As I write this, at times it feels, even to me, like I am almost being too dramatic. I know of people…friends…who have personally been through horrifying things. Things I wouldn’t even know how to survive. Unspeakable things happen around us in the physical world everyday…but they also happen in my head.

I have been told to think less, to change who I am. I was dictated simultaneously through my teenage years by the urge to be normal, the urge to be a rebel, and the urge to be ideal. I have, in turn, succumbed to each of these urges in different ways…performing well at school, dating the wrong people, and trying to be popular, all in turn. But today I know that I was none of these things. I was merely…different. I am different and I cannot get myself to think less. There are times when I briefly, fleetingly ‘fit in’, but then… there I am again, a round peg in a square hole.

And so the stories pile into my head. The deeper I dig, the more I find everything fitting into this narrative that I am piecing together these days. At times that gives me hope…by knowing this story, I can perhaps change it. At other times I am hit with inertia…the power of my will can easily fold under the weight of this world. It is too much to fight alone. That is why I have turned to my creative side to protect me. Sylvia Plath would be proud.

I am telling this story today…as lucidly as I can, because I owe it to myself, not to the countless people who have brought me to my knees in the past, either intentionally or otherwise. To them, I have nothing to say. To myself, I have everything left to say, and give…and this story is a part of doing exactly that.

It is a way of stringing along the bits that seem to fit and discarding the ones that do not. The picture continues to become whole, as I hope, someday, will I.

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A series of poems at midnight


Written between 12.00 and 12.40 am, when the world outside is hushed, almost as if you are the only person alive in the universe, alone but never out of thoughts! Published utterly raw and unedited:

  1. These metaphors inside me

You never belonged to me
I was
Merely the distillatory for stories
I was
A girl who found suddenly
That words grew on her like little bulbs
Multiplying by themselves and
At times breaking off like leaves from trees in fall.

It meant little to you but
I was
Carrying a letter on my lips and yet
I was
Outraged in my silent victory
And the leaves ‘whooshed’ down, multiplying these words
Carrying them like whispers upon the wind
Until they were heard and they were seen

And I wondered, what was I if not these metaphors?
I was
Just a drop in this confounding sea
I was
Molecules begging moral release
In strange, sudden waves of realization
I saw you never belonged to me
You were only just illusory.

  1. Nobody died.

Nobody died, but I
Found a pressed rose in the pages of my diary
My mind is not a poor man’s luxury
My mind is trapped, controlled
Like a being breathing in and out on its own
It is pumped by something extraneous
Something- invisible
It will take my entire life, trying to define and redefine
These walls on which I precariously perch

Nobody died, but I
Exhausted all the options in my mind
My small hands have lines in them today-
Crooked crisscrossing contours across my fingers
These lines are easy to see,
These lines are deepening everyday
Almost as if they were on the cusp of discovery
This is the price I pay to maintain
The sanctity of my burgeoning cells

  1. Judging by my sense of self

The intimacy is beyond me, it lies in the light
I wonder which way I will be pulled by your arms
But it is ironic that in the mind of a poet
The present and the future can sometimes strangely merge

I can almost feel the smell- that lingering scent
That makes me crinkle my nose, wondering
What deeper meaning can I derive here?
Like searching into the roots of an equation for an explanation to the universe
I tiptoe around this act- seeing myself, as though in a movie
Dissecting which little bits and pieces of this sorcery
Are mine to keep, to play with, to write about?
And which I must give away to you, irretrievably and forever?

  1. The war of the binary genders

What a toll it takes on a woman’s heart
When she must navigate this strange web of emotions
Hunting everyday with a knife where not all men will go!
And she must transpose this world of longing everyday
With one that is inhospitable, hostile
It makes almost no sense that these two worlds
Can exist without collision

Surely, one must end to give way to the other!
Perhaps some day, when we are all asleep
In the arms of something bittersweet
One will pause, and the other emerging victorious
Will swallow bits and pieces that seem…disagreeable
Perhaps in such a world order
The war of the binary genders will finally end as a draw.

  1. The Script of Bipolarity

Whoever wrote this script was mocking me
By day, I am asleep and flirting with the rim of depression
At night I feel reborn, sometimes rescinding my shallow life
In return for relics of a fallen wall

I swim in deep disregard for everything I wish to capture
Within my heart, and with my imagination
During the day I cast anchors, finding temporary homes everywhere
By night I am a castaway, mocking the shores in derision

This bipolarity astonishes me-
Am I often in control or never at all?

  1. Criticisms

Nothing is free from criticism, and yet
Nothing can truly be pried open for its light to befall
This guidance system is broken,
we are cruising but only partly in control
battling embittered, impassioned wars

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Reading 1Q84


Every night these days, I curl up with a book. I started by forcing myself. Not on the kindle. A real, physical, tangible book whose pages I can turn. An hour in bed with a story that isn’t my own. I cannot tell you how joyful it feels to read fiction, after having starved myself off it for so long.

I’m reading 1Q84- a Murakami classic. My heart is singing, connecting with characters, listening to their commentary, reimagining their works and my own. It is as the book suggests: 

No matter how clear the relationship of things might be in the forest of story, there never was a clear-cut solution…the role of the story was, in the broadest terms, to transpose a single problem into another form. Depending on the nature and direction of the problem, a solution could be suggested in the narrative. Tengo would return to the real world with that suggestion in hand.

That is what fiction does: it morphs the world a little, until something old emerges as something new, and you feel yourself renewed with a strange kind if glow that you had always possessed, but were running low on.

Oh Murakami, thank you for weaving your fantastically weird narratives with such grounded cores!

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“Meta-Questions” on the Road to Self Discovery


Disclaimer: This post was written only so I could process my own situation and channel my inner turmoil into words. These are preliminary, unpolished thoughts. This post is also incomplete in nature and kind off drifts of towards the end. Discretion is advised.

I function through self-discovery: it is very important for me to be in sync with how my mind and body reflects events that happen to me and around me (which is why I need SO much alone-time to sift through my thoughts and feelings). My quest so far has been largely personal- thinking about who I am, how I am seen in the world, how I can make myself better, what are my spiritual non-beliefs and beliefs, how I process information and my environment, what kind of love do I need in my life etc.

But off late I am struggling with something I’d like to call “meta-questions”. I think a part of my training in grad school has been preparing me for this,of course. Over the course of the past year, I have realized how dissatisfied I was in the direction that the world was going in. Simultaneously, I was learning how to fit in, in a very different culture- although I did not initially recognize it. I did undergo my own sort of culture shock. And I was trying to define myself as someone who is seen as “Indian”, thought of herself as global, grew up on values and books that were distinctly “Western” and was living in a culture largely capitalistic in nature. I was thrust into an academic world of critique, without being prepared for how to counter the caustic and biting narrative of how “f***ed we all are”.  Needless to say, there has been more than enough to process and understand in trying to navigate these multiple boundaries and often conflicting roles. Despite all this, I was starting to find a rhythm- a niche of my own, if you will. I was getting comfortable in my skin, in my role as someone between worlds, in my role as someone trying to make the world a better place, whatever that is supposed to mean.And suddenly, everything has changed!!

This is where the “meta-questions” came in. I define “meta-questions” as larger picture questions that feed into who you are as a person but are deeply tied into larger socio-political and economic contexts. I am pretty sure there has been research examining this, if I only had the time or willingness to look it up right now. Since I don’t, this post is likely to be highly intellectually flawed. Feel free to think of it as the random scribblings of a still-evolving grad school student.

In my mind, I see meta-questions (chucking the quotations) as larger-than-life questions, too much for one person to handle individually but nonetheless thrust upon all of us as though we are equipped to take it. We are clearly not. The socio-political environment we function in is too vast, with too many variables for a single person to comprehend in its entirety. But like a butterfly effect, its consequences can crash into us headfirst, leaving us with a mild concussion in the very least (let’s not talk about the worst it can do). Some of us brush aside these meta-questions, choosing to spend our life focusing on some of the more manageable questions (like who do I want to spend the rest of my life with?) or on no questions at all! But others don’t have the choice to ignore these questions- you may stumble into them at some point in your life and wonder how you can function with these larger than life issues nagging in the back of your head.

I have been feeling a little bit of that lately. I find myself thrust into these meta-questions more deeply than I ever was before, simply because the world around me is growing so bat-shit-out-of-sync with the one inside my head. I know that I have to fight it- but it is hard to know how. And that is when it struck me- the first step on the journey of self-discovery is often acceptance. Acceptance of what is happening around you is often misunderstood as surrender to those circumstances- as capitulation, as waving a white flag because your defenses have run dry. But it is not. Acceptance does not mean surrendering your cause. It simply means…seeing it for what it is, even if what it is is unbelievably out of your reach.

In acceptance, you recognize that you are suffering, or that you are fighting without direction, or that you are merely looking for the way UP and out of the water filling your lungs, or that you are puzzled by the world around you in the very least. Accepting may be the underlying foundation on which you build your reconciliation with those dreaded meta-questions. I see this as important to my process- you can argue that there isn’t time to go through all of these steps, and perhaps not! Or perhaps you can plow through them faster than you need to. But in the very least it is important to recognize and accept what is happening before you can fight it.

Okay- I haven’t thought more about this than that. I have lots of questions for myself: what do you do once you accept what is happening? how do you fight it? how do you love and accept yourself in an environment of toxicity that is heading in a direction opposite to the one you would like to see it go? Do you stop caring? Do you numb your emotions, steel your heart and just march forward? Do you challenge the meta-beliefs that cemented your meta-questions? Do you mine into the wisdom of the past, and look for how others’ dealt with them?

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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MLK and Agape- A Short Message of Love in Troubling Times


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Agape means understanding, redeeming good will for all men. It is an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative. It is not set in motion by any quality or function of its object… Agape is disinterested love. It is a love in which the individual seeks not his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people, or any qualities people possess. It begins by loving others for their sakes. It is an entirely “neighbor-regarding concern for others,” which discovers the neighbor in every man it meets. Therefore, agape makes no distinction between friends and enemy; it is directed toward both. If one loves an individual merely on account of his friendliness, he loves him for the sake of the benefits to be gained from the friendship, rather than for the friend’s own sake. Consequently, the best way to assure oneself that love is disinterested is to have love for the enemy-neighbor from whom you can expect no good in return, but only hostility and persecution. Source: https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/07/01/martin-luther-king-jr-an-experiment-in-love/

I recently read about the Ancient Greek concept of Agape, which MLK adopted in his pillars of non-violent protest, and have remained rather struck by it. Love for the oppressor exists because the oppressor too is hurting. Violence hurts both sides- the perpetrator and the victim. This love does not mean that you must embrace and love him on a personal basis, but merely that you recognize him as a fellow human.

This philosophy echoes Mahatma Gandhi’s tenet of nonviolence:

Nonviolence is a power which can be wielded equally by all–children, young men and women or grown-up people, provided they have a living faith in the God of Love and have therefore equal love for all mankind. When nonviolence is accepted as the law of life, it must pervade the whole being and not be applied to isolated acts. Source: http://www.mkgandhi.org/nonviolence/phil1.htm

In troubling times, it is good to keep love in our heart- perhaps it is partly a coping mechanism and in that capacity, not everyone will be equally open to it. At any rate, agape does not seem an easy sort of love- compared to the romantic love, or the love for family or friends, or a mother’s love- agape is intensely difficult to achieve when you have been violated and when you think something is unfair.

But agape offers hope because it purifies the mind and body of toxic emotions. Perhaps agape is a cultivated strategy for overcoming grief, hurt, hopelessness, anger and replacing it with “disinterested love”. Perhaps agape is indifference and forgiveness.

I have been trying to practice something close to indifferent forgiveness for years in my life and agape seems like a faint glow of hope in that effort. I know very little about it- but I will strive to learn more. I think we all need agape because responding to hate with hate will not really lead us where we want to go as a ‘civilizing’ species.