For Kabul

Yellow laleh fall
in shreds, our full
wheat pales to wreath;
now only white laleh
line our halls
of prayers, will you
hear our people cry?

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Reading “I’ll See Myself Out, Thank You”

“Ironic, isn’t it, that we can buy 50 different types of pasta or ice cream? We can choose a million styles of hair, or clothes, holiday destination or car. Tidal waves of consumer choice lap against us every waking minute. Yet when we need help to effect a simple, primary decision to ease out of life; when we want to avoid becoming a living shell, stuck in bed, in pain, staring at the wall for months on end, and thereby condemning our relatives to a similar suffering, we are denied that choice.” – Melanie Reid, journalist, severely disabled as a result of falling off a horse

For Manchester

Our red roses
lay down to rest;
three rivers aflow
with tears; my men and
women, my children,
we gather in grief but
our bees shall fly again.

Rely on Reason

It is important for us to rely upon facts as the realm of mystic and faith is vulnerable to abuse and manipulation. To support this, I draw upon Galileo’s experience and the myth of Apophis.

Galileo

In 1615, Galileo discovered that “the sun remains motionless at the center of the revolutions of the celestial globes, and that the earth both turns on its own axis and revolves around the sun.”

As the discovery contradicted commonly held views, detractors began to “spread abroad the idea that these propositions are contrary to Holy Scripture and therefore to be condemned as heretical” and they found “others who were prepared to declare from the pulpit, with uncharacteristic confidence, that they were indeed to be condemned as heretical.” […]

In addition, “They pretend not to know that its author – or rather the one who revived and confirmed it – was Nicolaus Copernicus, a man who was not just a Catholic but a priest and a canon.” […]

Hence Galileo had no choice but to make a case for himself. He remarked, “It seems to me that the starting point in disputes concerning problems in natural science should not be the authority of scriptural texts but the experience of the senses and necessary demonstrations. For while Holy Scripture and nature proceed alike from the divine word…it is agreed that Scripture, in order to be understood by the multitude, says many things which are apparently and in the literal sense of the words at variance with absolute truth. Nature, on the other hand, never transgresses the laws to which it is subject, but is inexorable and unchanging, quite indifferent to whether its hidden reasons and ways of working are accessible to human understanding or not.” […]

“So I do beg these most prudent Fathers to consider very carefully the difference between statements that are a matter of opinion and those which can be demonstrated. If they keep in mind the strength of logical deduction, they will better understand why it is not in the power of those who profess the demonstrative sciences to change their opinion at will.”

The unbending spirit of Galileo in his maintenance of scientific observation and truth, reminds us that we should too be fact finders and defend truth with reason.

Apophis

In Ancient Egypt, Apophis or Apep was the spirit of evil, darkness and destruction who threatened to destroy the sun god, Ra.  It was associated with several frightening natural events, such as the unexplained darkness of the solar eclipse, storms and earthquakes. It was depicted as a huge serpent, all-powerful and impossible to overcome.

To defeat Apep, priests of Ra would conduct an annual ritual: “Banishing Apep”. An effigy of Apep would be taken into the temple and imbued with all of the evil of the land. The effigy would then beaten, crushed smeared with mud and burned.

After learning of this myth, I felt great sympathy for Apep. It was the scapegoat for all that it could not control; its name cursed and its image crucified for natural events that were bound to happen. Hence, it is important to have knowledge. We have come a long way from the times of Gods and myths, but our human nature remains the same. We still retain some irrational fear, some imagination; yet all must be in moderation and reason shall inform most of our modern lives.

Sea of Troubles

“It is characteristic of many neurologists (and patients) that they mistake intransigence for strength, and plant themselves like Canutes before advancing seas of trouble, defying their advance by the strength of their will. Or, like Podsnaps, they deny the sea of troubles which is rising all around them: “I don’t want to know about it; I don’t choose to discuss it; I don’t admit it!” Neither defiance nor denial is of the least use here: one takes arms by learning how to negotiate or navigate a sea of troubles, by becoming a mariner in the seas of one’s self. “Tribulation” dealt with trouble and storm; “Accommodation” is concerned with weathering the storm.” – Oliver Sacks, Awakenings

In our lifetime of troubles big and small, we must learn to accept and manage every situation as it arrives. It must be done so with as little ego as possible, for trouble is trouble enough.

 

How to survive living with others

“In that long time of captivity I had also come to know all the many people that were in me. Here again, I saw the same: many different qualities in each man and each of them looking and seeking for expression. Though we were all different, our shared suffering had made of us a collective community. We sought to complement each other, to understand the different aspects of each others’ personalities and meet with them meaningfully. By so doing we were always aware of each others’ mood swings and frustrations. […] But as I came to know each of them in the confines of this room, I began to re-understand that each man’s humanity and capacity to love expresses itself in different forms. In those sharing moments I discovered qualities that were lacking in myself.

[…]

The squabbling, when it did come, came over insignificant things. Always it is the case that when the mind is empty or tired or when like a child we need to be fed, we cry out in tantrums. Some men needed to be proved right to gain a small victory over their neighbour. It was a means of restoring identity. We all needed these things and we sometimes turned squabbling like hungry birds fighting over crumbs. At other times we realised the pettiness and futility and turned away embarrassed.” – Brian Keenan, An Evil Cradling

The above excerpt provides advice on sustaining a marriage, or any other relationship that involves living closely with another:

  • We have many different qualities in each of us. We can be inconsistent.
  • We should understand these qualities and
  • meet with them meaningfully (i.e. not to pick a fight).
  • We must be aware of our own and their moods and frustrations.
  • We should seek to understand their expression of love.
  • We should discover qualities to learn from.
  • We should not care too much about squabbles.
  • Remember that both of you are a collective community.

All in all, we should seek to understand another, with patience and an open heart.

Laugh!

“As we suffered with a friend his deep moments of loneliness and grief, that awful renunciation of life itself, we each of us acquired, almost instinctually, a deeper and richer capacity for joy, for humour, for laughter. When you have so little you find joy in insignificant things.” – Brian Keenan, An Evil Cradling