There may never be a day in which someone will truly know my experiences, but that does not excuse the need to express and to create imperfect bridges. Despite the gap between each one of us, this curse born to us from birth, through need of expression, I found solace through words. Growing up, I was not permitted to express. Culture and family dictated emotions as weak. As I hid the emotions of my face to protect myself, I found an exception I could hide. Emotions became real. It is a miracle that simple letters sing the purest human depths.
Forms of spectral breath
Gathered around my lip edge
Falling dust upon my eyes
The screech of laughter mine
My face a reddish mess
I fell forward and smiled
Crunching loose snow
I held on for dear life
By the glimmer of light
I once fell to gravity down this hill
Bruises of puckered blue
Grew on my knees
No matter—I thought
Tomorrow’s time will heal
Musing on this day
I place my hands into warm shelter
And in the air
For just a twinkling moment
I saw the stars align
And fall to Earth.
I watched as the watery surfaces smoothed out. The calming surface rose up and showed me the present that I could choose for her. It was an idyllic scene that showed her waking up on the dunes of a beach. The waters were the clearest blue there were, but it just felt so contrived and devoid of life. I breathed in and sighed out my disappointment. No, this present will not do. My creation needed something else.
I tapped my hand, once again, into the well, and the water, turning turbulent as it was in dismay at my rejection, bubbled up another image. This time, I saw the eruption of a volcano burst onto the scene with a screeching flame blossoming into her shape. A strange present—an intriguing start to life—but one not befitting for her. Deciding her present was more difficult than I thought. The well released a few bubbles to clear the image and then gurgled in disappointment.
What would a present befitting new life look like? I pondered many hours and yet here I was consulting the ancient well for answers. I thought of the dramatic, of the absurd, of the heartwarming, and the damning, but I could not set my heart on what was meant to be. What were the necessary ingredients for her present? I had summoned a few books of myths as inspiration to seek a beginning, a present, available at the moment of achieving consciousness to gift upon her, but all of them seemed dull and sometimes frightening.
It was critical to life that she obtain her own independence but also that she learned to avoid the same mistakes that my brethren made. She must be destined by fate to go beyond the selfish cruelty that left me as the final specimen of a cosmic experiment gone awry. She had to endure as the progenitor and the first sage of her people. She had to understand that life could not endure if it is fractured by sin. She must value life, despite being immortal. She must understand loss, despite having lost no one. She must understand suffering, despite no history to speak of.
The beginning must hold together the infinity of spirit that carried my people forward. The first breath should draw from the courage to thrive in this dying world but the second should draw from humility knowing that even the immortal and knowledgeable have much to learn.
I sat down on the ancient marble grounds, watching as the infernos of the magma swirl around me. The magical barrier kept the castle safe, but watching the magma swirl around, I felt so small. This place, hidden in the deepest core of the planet, is the final hope for us, but here I am trapped in indecision. The planet has waited long enough for healing after my siblings died fighting over it, scarring it beyond recognition. Could I prevent another catastrophe by removing all the original motivators of our hate?
I reasoned that hate could not come out of someone without need, but could it be that need itself is what lended to both our higher selves and our deepest tragedies? I looked at my creation, perfect in every way, but would a perfect present be, in all my hubris, the very folly that will lead to the void I sought so hard to fight back?
The well released a few more bubbles and fell silent again. The collective consciousness of the water seemed to agree.
At that moment and with no warning, I felt the planet shake and the magma chaotically ripple above me. The barrier began to shatter under the weight of the planet ontop. I felt the drain of the corruption on my mind expand ten fold. There was not much time left. I sighed again, and I carefully lifted myself back up, cursing myself for assuming that I had more time than I thought. I walked towards my creation, and created the runes on the ground. Each one needed precision that became increasingly more difficult as my mind became muddled. The roar of the magma rushing in grew faint each time I drew another rune. I redrew one rune a dozen times over, and another—how many times was it? Time was no longer on my side.
When all was ready, my breathing had become dangerously shallow. I summoned the last might of energy from inside of me and started the incantation. Citing the deepest magic ever known to my people, I created her, but during the incantation, whether due to my dying exhaustion, selfish imperfection, or unconscious will, I wove into her mechanisms a single flaw: she could not bare the pain of suffering. No, she would not suffer, because the magic was enough to protect her, but I knew as my eyes dimmed that her children will. She will eventually build them with her own hands with the knowledge and life I gifted her, but until she and her children succeed in rediscovering the most pure ancient magics, she would create life forms that, like her are immortal, but only if they are able to replenish themselves with source material. As mother, she will know the pain they will feel if they fail to do so.
I worried that this might lead to disaster—a mother so protective that she cannot let her children go, but I also knew her children’s sadness at lost independence would also become real in her mind. I thought about this with panic until I could no longer do so. I could not let my anxieties flood me anymore, as the peaceful draw of death was watching and falling over me. I gave her my blessing and faith. She would overcome even if the lessons would be hard.
Her eyes opened at my final moments, and in my final breath I saw her first breath of life. This was not the present that I wanted for her, and my mistakes would be her burden, but I knew it would be the only way empathy could exist. This would be my lasting memory for her at birth: a present that perhaps can only be found in the beauty of the flaw.
As the darkness started to take over, the runes triggered and sent her to the surface just as she was about to speak her first words, a mix of grief and exuberance on her face, with dream-like thoughts appearing in my mind. Before the final light went out, I saw her life: her grief overflowing onto the planet at my demise, her first discovery of building her children and home, her first awareness of emotion within them, and her family walking towards the light, that dimming light, drifting smaller and smaller, away, washed onto a shore I will never know.
A thousand cerulean faces shift
In the search of the light
Plucked from the darkness
It glows softly
The ocean depths rise within
Clear skies whisked above
Currents of sea white foam
Orbs of navy brushed on top
This canvas of ancient times past
A shining treasure unearthed
Pristine in form
Through the crusts
Of the deep
A collection of fish are washing
Through the cosmos
Their tails sending stars adrift
Their eyes dotted with orbs
As they swim further into the galaxies
They pass through comets
Dodging asteroids along the way
Ripples in spacetime sends them off
Will they ever find us?
The humans that watch them
From afar, we see their elegance
To only hope we find them tomorrow
Again, swimming in the waters of our pond
On nights like these, when the crickets are chirping away, hidden from my eyes, I am often alone in contemplation after a day of meaningless meandering. I often feel a sense of loneliness and a hole of meaninglessness even as nature soothes my mind.
I do not know what I want from life other than an escape from this oppressive hopelessness and meaninglessness. As I have grown up, it feels, as one old friend put it, as if I am adrift, anchor-less, in the world.
It seems to me that I want more from life, but reality was not made by the true will of the people. It was made to serve the distinct interests of the powerful, settling for change only when the bloodshed is too much for the eyes of the rulers. A part of me thinks this yearning is a selfish desire for greatness, for attention. I yearn to be a part of something important, something heroic, something that is able to change the world in a way that brings a better tomorrow. It feels both childish and primal. Wanting to matter and be considered important and influential may be my mind telling me that I lack connection, that I am wandering the world with many thoughts but barred from many entryways—the most important of which lies in the matters of the heart.
Perhaps it is the desire for greatness that dooms me to obscurity. I can write the greatest essay in the world, but such ideas mean nothing if they pass through deaf ears. It means nothing if there is no way to share in life the triumphs and frustrations that resonates with me. I can sit here and critique every attempt to improve the world and to point out every issue, but what is the point if we are living in a state of paralysis? Words are so easily written, but what about building up endeavors in reality?
To change the world feels like pushing against this oppressive mood that pervades all my relationships. Somehow, meaning and change became entangled in the foundations of my sense of connection. To counter a cynicism that feels too accurate for our times is a desperate cry for community and solidarity and survival. Without meaningful community, each of us dwindles. Each of us suffers. Each of us find ourselves confronted with meaninglessness and hopelessness somewhere in our minds.
It is hard to feel optimistic in the face of so many barriers, to hope that there can be something different, when our trust for each other has fallen so low. I falter to reason that humans can truly go beyond self serving goals—after all my own desires for change and meaning is for the sake of wanting to fill the hole in my heart of feeling disconnected from others and feeling a looming nothingness in the face of everything. How can one transcend such selfishness if the world actively bares down upon you to crush you, to desecrate what you hold dear, and to mould you into the obedience that people find, after many years of toiling and injuries, is most comforting and of least resistance? I can understand why people fall into cynicism. It is far easier to accept defeat and to tend to the small garden of our narrow lives than to try to tend to the greater arena of life’s most pressing problems.
I wish, most of all, in my selfish heart, that I can meet people who understand, without needing much conversation, the world like I do, while offering an uniquely complex alternative to the stale cynicism that has comfortably settled in. Such demands feel unreasonable, and at times, futile. The peers who relate see how much is constrained by a lack of coherent camaraderie. Many blame it on the economic systems, but I bitterly wonder if there are enough people of strong character that could create a new system that is not more vulnerable to corruption as the one we have now.
I feel a sense of tiredness, of wanting to stow away from the world and to never encounter it again. I feel a sense of arrogance to believe that I know better than most, but the more I engage, the more this arrogance is fed. It is how I perceive what entails progress being possible that disappoints me when I see the imperfections of of what exists.
Without people committed to each in unison, without a desire to sacrifice and genuinely work towards the wellbeing of each other, without understanding and passionate loyalty among members, without patience and tenacity to draw bridges, without a shared creed, we find ourselves going no where and scattered everywhere at once. But to create such conditions lends itself easily to cultish behaviors and groupthink. It’s far easier to inspire and coalesce around easy to understand and emotion-laden maxims than to seriously engage the mind. This is in part because each of us are biased and find ourselves divided by trivial differences. One can combine together a powerful force in temporary emotion, but it often does not last as these differences become obvious.
One most be loyal to basic principles of compassion and care for the other, to being willing to see the core humanity of each person and respect such, not by a matter of emotional manipulation, but as a matter of independent reflection and introspection, through both humbling personal experiences and through the waves of empathy that moves one’s heart towards wanting to alleviate suffering. One must see loyalty as fighting for the same principles but also in the hard and difficult work of balancing being as critical of ideas as the most cynical elder, to test each proposition in the flames of rational discussion and debate endlessly, while still being open minded as a child who is idealistic and eager to learn. One must be both aspirational and practical, with foresight and with humbled hindsight, with both steadfast beliefs and a willingness to change. One must be willing to stand with the group, but also assert their independent thoughts, to be empathetic and emotionally attached to each member but yet capable of emotional distance to ideas and criticism.
To achieve such balance, is, furthermore, not static. It is dynamic. Just as a team needs to know when to charge in to the fight and when to fall back depending on the circumstances of each battle and the methods of the opposing team, so does thought and action require adaptability. No situation is ever entirely the same just as one is never the same stepping into the same river. A well seasoned team may use similar principles to gather intelligence and to plan, but each battle fought requires instinct and adaptability to address the weaknesses and strengths that appear instantaneously on the battlefield. Likewise, one idea for one situation may not be wise in another. Knowing when to apply and when to go with another option is an exercise of timing, thought, trial and error, and luck.
To pull the heart and weave its strings while retaining the cool of the mind is to ask for a kind of enlightenment that goes beyond the current wishes, desires, abilities, and willpower of most people. This is where I feel the most arrogance in my cynicism. We are faced with such great expectations and requirements and responsibilities, but I severely doubt the capabilities of our world to truly create such conditions among most people. This is not because of personal failings or inadequacies—no. This is due to the sheer amount of resources and effort required to craft an individualized experience that guides all citizens towards all of these traits. I see our education system, riddled with inequities, trying to hobble towards this goal, and I see the forces trying to corrupt its force for selfish greed. I have doubts about my own abilities to be able to achieve such, so how does one reach for something beyond one’s own capabilities?
There might even be disagreement about the vision I have set forth. An easy protest is that some people are truly too bigoted, too discriminatory, to be a part of the conversation. I agree, as a closed heart and a closed mind often go together, but we must balance cynicism towards bad faith actors with openness that some people can change if they are willing. It may be difficult to know the difference, but without hope for change, we will never carve at the root issue, merely chopping away at the easily visible leaves that regrow so quickly.
Perhaps, in our imperfect world, one must plan for imperfect progress that often falls backwards as a feature rather than an unplanned inconvenience. One must use imperfect tools and imperfect solutions, but I doubt the lasting change that can happen if we devolve into believing that the ends justify the means. A corrupted consequence done in the name of justice will never truly be justice for all as it merely creates inequities in new forms and in other ways just as releasing new predators into the wild to cull a pest will eventually make a pest and hazard out of the now overpopulation of predators.
I do not know where to start with these desires, ambitions, and needs for something better, but I take some solace in writing them out. Knowing that I have a clearer end goal in mind allows me to establish, in my world, what it is that I truly yearn for. In an ideal world such would be common to find a person who balances all. It would be as if I am at home in knowing that others look out for me while inspiring me to grow. I can only hope that one day, in the far future, someone else will experience the joys of such a world. That is what I can hold onto for the future.
When I see my face in the mirror, I see the stoic mask I wore to hide from my mother. I see the sadness and grief that carved my mouth into a permanent resting frown. I see my eyes, and the stare that looks absent. I see my history of pushing people out, and desperately trying to keep my emotions in.
It’s a face that says “stay away” and even the smiles seven awry because it’s fighting against the weight of the past.
It is my life that I see in the mirror.
Time and time again
The vessel that holds our lives
In surveying the damage
You see the center crack that runs
Far right and then
Jeers to the left
You see the broken ridges of
People lost and gone
How the slices of memories
Damage your heart
What is left behind
Is where life spills out in grief
Tenderly, as you would
You pick up and mend
Even as life runs away from you
Even as the shards hurt
Even as the past bleeds out
What is left is never the same again
Tending to the wounds is honoring
The past that never was
As the gold shines through the brokenness
Bittersweetness life is held
Where everything fell apart
The center holds
Just one more time…
It’s easy for them to feast
To lay their greed filled eyes on
Those golden rays of Dawn’ early light
Broken by the pillars of glass and steel
Separated into a thousand corners
Blocked by the walls of power
Only in the few windows of high
Does light fully reach the eyes
Of bottomless darkness where nothing lies
But that is not to them the light belongs to
Even basking in the alleyways of democracy
Walking next the refuse of the world
One can see that it belongs to the People
A commandment held high by the sky’s steeple
As hard as they may try to shroud the world
As strong as their buildings may be
As insidious as their violence is
No leader, no priest, no hired man
Can turns the rays away
So that we may not have Day
Even as the light fades at Dusk
When hope seems gone and
When the vicious feeding begins
By the moon, by the stars, they sing up high
Truth and power never astride
The light still will arise
A Message from the Heavens
I lounged my body on my bed and sighed. Time droned on and washed upon the mountain of depression that was weighing me down. Everyday felt like a dark haze covering my mind, blurring all my memories into one feeling of ennui.
The days of the pandemic were ticking by on my calendar, and I was scrolling through the now infamous blue bird social media when I came across it.
Against all of the giant waves of existential emptiness, against all of the burning fires of bitter derision in the background of my country, and against all the caves of loneliness that we, as a world, were wandering lost in, a single beam of light pierced the fog and struck my heart.
Here in the darkest and most painful moments of my life, ascending up from the mindless and endless scrolling beneath my fingers, appearing from the void of internet content—a single ship sailing the turbulent waters of an Earth dying, a noble warrior against the tides of vitriol and hate—came a sight so beautiful, so eloquent, so emblematic of the feelings of our times that my breath was taken away.
Behold! Suddenly roiling down the flood waters of a street came a testament to the female power of resilience. It was so brave, floating down the water. With such poise and strength, it made the world stop and look. On its last harrowing journey in this world, it carried a message to the besieged world. Sacrificing itself, only the blessed onlooker knew what holy and final message this pot carried:
“This strong and independent biryani Ain’t need no Man”.