Month: May 2012

In the Temple They Were Singing

I like the name-calling the most.

The sounds here are different, always have been. It is different in the slave-world. Sounds are not as rich here. They do not resonate as much. And the colours are not as deep, either.

I find myself envying them.

The colours in the slave-world are exquisite. Especially red. Anubis loves it the singular colour more than most. We often joke (though behind his back, he has a temper) that Anubis is to the emerald red of blood as flies are to honey … or as the Slaves are to honey: I can honestly see no difference between the two analogies. Of course, in the slave-world, no jokes are made of Anubis. Or of any of us, for that matter; there is only worship: sustained and agelong.

On my last visit to the slave-world, I noticed something, and I have wondered at it ever since the paltry, undemanding trek: I had only just arrived, and unlike the rest of my varied and sizably-numbered pantheon of a family, I do not prefer to descend upon the slave-world in animal form. No, when I pay visit to the Slaves and their world I simply appear as one of them. It allows for greater access: animals are not welcome everywhere, naturally: man and beast are often at odds, warring incessantly, despite their starkly obvious similarities, and their long shared lineage. However accepting of the strange and peculiar you are, the site of a crocodile at your doorstep is bound to trouble you. The slave-world is a funny place.

No, I do not transform into their animals, although I do transform into many a different-looking Slave; the variety excites me, and men, unlike animals, allow for greater inspection of the slave-world and its people: men speak to their own, they unravel like ropes in the presence of their kind, and bear all secrets as if the secrets they hold in their chests pain them, and they ache to palliate the agony of holding it within them.

Many of my kind, however, undertake the practice of appearing as animals. Many do, but I do not. Do not misunderstand my intentions, though, I do not resent the practice (in fact, I think the head of a scarab beetle compliments Khephri’s form and gives him an aura of likable dread), it is just a difference of opinion. Nothing more.

Speaking of thinking things more than they are, I feel the following must be asserted: when We descend to the slave-world, we do not transform into animals. That is a misconception. One of the Slaves’ many flaws is a tendency to exaggerate, to embellish, and, often to amusingly catastrophic results, distort truth in favour of a myriad of motives: be it deliberate dishonesty, scheming to attain power, scheming to absolve their own sins, or, simply, distorting it because they do not know any better. They lie, because they have something to lie about. We don’t, for precisely the absence of the same.

The truth is: no transformation is involved in slipping into the skin and hide of animals. We simply appear to be who, or what, we wish to appear to be. We simply are, and so, we simply become.

I am noticing that I have come to think like the Slaves. The others would not make this mistake – they understand the presence of an unassailable line between godliness and servitude, and do not dare cross it. Perhaps the Slaves have had more of an effect on me than I want, or care to admit. I am becoming more like them.

But I must hasten to return to my story, and I regret my severe digressions. Perhaps those are something else that I take after them now – these sudden changes in line of thought. Certainly, Isis would not flounder with her words, and lose track of her original objective in speaking, neither would Hathor or Nun dream of doing the same.

Back to the story, then. I had landed upon the slave-world, and, for no reason other than pure whim, I had decided to appear as an old man: exhausted, commanding a wooded cane and white-bearded. I decided against visiting the Valley of Kings (again, something my brethren would not do) and opted instead for a walk along the RIver.

I admire the River. The mere sight of it excites and enthralls me. It bisects the Country in its entirety, coast to sandy coast. There is an almost humbling joy in seeing the blue beast. Almost, but not quite.

Unthreatening and in human form, I walked along the Great Blue. Commanding the feet of men is a refreshing change – they are delightfully slow. Men travel at snail-crawl speed, and that I enjoy. One often enjoys the different and unusual, after having been bored by the tediousness of the everyday. Yes, change is thrilling sometimes.

It had been nighttime. I found him, eyes thrust above, looking at the stars. The boy, lying flat on the banks of the River, lay unmoving, eyeing the heavens. His brown skin was illuminated, but only just, by the moonlight; I saw him only in the way that things are visible at night: bathed in darkness, with edges and ends indiscernible. It was after a moment of observing the enthralling sight (you must allow my enthusiasm, the imperfection of the ordinary is wholly absent in my world) that the boy was disturbed.

He tried to swat the disturbance away, but it would again return moments later. It was the utter contempt with which the boy hit at the fly that intrigued me most. Such hatred. Such utter disdain. Such scornful unconcern. Even for my majestic sensibilities, the act seemed unwarranted.

No action is without reason, and nothing is just anything: one cannot exist as an unaffected entity in this universe any more than you can force a mountain through a keyhole. (I realize, yes, that I certainly can, but the analogy seems fitting, considering the Slaves’ abilities – or lack thereof.)

The Slaves think themselves above flies, I certainly can see no difference, of course, but this isn’t strictly an examination of me. Perhaps it is a primal need to feel superior; at least superior to something, if not to many things. Perhaps the Slaves take that after us, or it is the other way round – it is difficult to tell. Perhaps they want to be just as powerful. Perhaps they envy us for our power. I am not sure.

Yes, gods have their doubts, too. Though far less often, owing to a greatly clearer view of things, and, also, our uncertainty bears higher consequences for anyone involved. Their uncertainty culminates with confusion, anger, and many a useless debate, while our uncertainty manifests in year-long floods and great wars that last even longer. Although, over the years, men have also manifested their confusion and debilitating uncertainty in waging war, to great, long, bloody effect (Anubis was thrilled at a short Frenchman’s endeavours, and a spindly German with the most peculiar choice of facial hair put Anubis over the moon with his dedicated, passionate attempts). And in that respect, we are not much different.

I have shared their world with them for long, listened to their conversation, become the object of their admiration and worship, and it has made me closer to them. They are being assimilated into me. It does not escape me, too, that we are more like the Slaves than is coincidental. We, the gods, are simply … more endowed.

Having observed enough of the boy and the roaring River at his feet, I drifted towards one of the temples. I could hardly help it, you must understand. After all, in the grand, towering temples, it was my name that was sang, chanted, called.

In the temple they were singing.

I stood between them, as one of them, and my anonymity amazed me. I am not used to my presence being so blatantly disregarded, still less am I used to being touched by them, having them jeer and speak and innocuously brush past me with their frail skin and weak limbs and unassuming faces. I stayed long enough to pay witness to one more round of the jubilant prayer-song (and on one occasion, I even participated). Their voices filled the air, reached high to the clouds, as if spreading to all of Kemet.

Then, just as unnoticed as when I arrived, I left the slave-world.

I was on my way back to my home, and that of the Gods of Kemet. My home, where the colours are but one: that of the near-absence of all colour, and where the sounds are but one: that of maddening vacancy and emptiness, of the near-absence of all sound. My home. Where the gods tread.

 

Nehes, nehes, nehes,

Nehes em hotep,

Nehes em neferu

Nebet hotepet

Anekh brak

Anekh brak

Tu a atu. Tu a atu. Nebet Aset …

Of Death, Hope, and Illusion

I’ve been thinking about death lately.

Death is generally reserved a stop on the Unpleasant Things list of things to be thought of – it’s there, sharing shelf-space with things like War, Famine, Poverty; just there with all those things we’d rather not think about, either because we can afford to (while you and I can ignore it, for the impoverished, naturally, debilitating hunger is nothing to turn a nonchalant eye to), or because we don’t want to.

Death is a prominent member, perhaps the most prominent, of an elite league of things whose banishment is, perhaps selfishly, brought about by comfort, and whose broaching is brought about by the daring, the intrepid, and the unshakably passionate and dedicated.

Death. I don’t think I’d mind it.

I don’t think I’d mind dying. It’s natural, it’s inevitable: I am mortal. It’s going to happen someday – that much I know. Death is everywhere, and where it isn’t (very few places at any given time), the idea of it is sure to be present; for some, baring fangs that merit untold dread, and for others inconspicuously smiling, reassuringly, like a friend of long years would. Everything is relative. My compassion is your weakness; my absurdity is your ardent belief, and so on.

All the same, death is all around.

Yes, the idea of death is all-present today, just as it always has been. Perhaps its universality is what makes us want to avoid; like claustrophobia, but with death as the suffocating, intrusive spaces. The idea of dying young sporadically dominates my every thought. I don’t know why. I could just be romaticising what I don’t have – that is to say, something beyond repetitive, tedious life. I don’t think I’d mind it if I was diagnosed with a tumor or a fatal disease. I imagine I’d just accept it. I’ve thought about it so much, I’ve even arrived at possible scenarios of how it would happen.

I’d hug everyone I care about for no less than an hour each.

Then, an onslaught of nostalgia. I’d love it if we’d all, in turn, recount things about our life together. The small things will have the most impact – the details, the shards of existence that, collectively and with connections that are difficult to discern, make up life. I’d laugh with them till our eyes water and sides hurt. Then, if I’m lucky enough, I’d cry with them. There’s a beautiful vulnerability to crying, and to its main constituent: tears. There’s beauty in seeing the edifice of our collected and composed selves give way, break, crack, and rupture, like a archaic fortress falling under enemy siege. There’s beauty in seeing a person degenerate into a less guarded being. It’s unpretentious. It’s purer. It’s honest. It’s real.

I’d also write a long note, a manifesto of sorts, and leave it behind after I’m gone. I’d make it –as mentioned- long and detailed, mentioning things that probably would only be significant to me – and there’s a reason for that: writing it would be cathartic. Its purpose would not be to have people mourn me (although I imagine I’d write a section of it for everyone I know, speaking to them directly); still less would its purpose be to glorify my death. It’s ultimately trivial –though probably a human need- to vie for attention, imponderably more so to do it in death.

Then there’s suicide. The only reason I’d take my own life is if I rationalize it, placate and efface every inclination of self-preservation, every inclination of willing away self-harm, with a philosophical notion that shifts my perspective sufficiently in favour of the deed. Perhaps I’d be making a statement – but it would probably have to be something other than the ones frequently made (I hate my job, I hate my family, I hate my life), I think I’d shy away from doing it for any of those reasons, simply for fear of cliché, and  probably out of a selfish want to be original. But perhaps it shouldn’t matter why you do it. But I think, for me, a worthy statement would be necessary.

One such statement, I imagine, would be to commit suicide for the sake of committing suicide, just to upend society’s vial of fear and abhor of the act, to do it and challenge the taboo around it, to become uninhibited, to embody what they dread, to laugh to their faces. To challenge the living with that which they would much prefer to cast away from mind and thought than discuss, or embrace. Or perhaps to show that death is peaceful, a genial entity that has forcefully, by way of our own faulty thinking (or perhaps confused emotional capacity) and through no fault of its own, been masqueraded as the greatest evil. One speculates, because one can only speculate.

But death is made to look ugly. It’s given a wretched face, fangs and a steely, untiring hand that robs us of what we hold dearest. But it shouldn’t be. Death is peaceful. If one were to live and be happy about it, then one must die and be happy about it. To both we are passive receivers of orders (we are made alive, and equally, we are made dead), so one must accept the reality and inevitability of, well, the inevitable, instead of fruitlessly fearing it (you won’t live longer by fearing death, so we might as well stop the pointless and useless practice). Death mustn’t be feared, only embraced. But it isn’t.

Death is hated and, I think, undeservedly. But it’s in us to hate death. It’s not often that the emotional overlaps with the logical, and here is an example of that. We’ve been born to hate death. We form attachments with others of our kind, again, because it is within us to. It’s human. We live to bond and love and laugh and, eventually, mourn. It’s always been like this – the most ancient of humans did it: growling hunters traversing wilderness in groups, and a group of friends enjoying a cup of hot whatever-in-a-mug, aren’t worlds apart, behavior-wise. It is innate subtext that has braved centuries of human development, ceaselessly evolving and engraining itself further into human psyche, all while preserving its essence so it may never suffer the attrition of our other attributes; it is the underlying code, and a part of it is to the effect of “form relationship, yes, you must, it’s necessary; it will make life easier.”

In any case, however I die, I’d like to die knowing that I sufficiently explored the world of men, and more importantly, my own world – my mind. I’d want to leave this collective existence with the knowledge that there wasn’t something I was fooled or threatened into believing, either by society, or worse, by myself and my stupidity, rashness, prejudice, ignorance, or cowardice. I would want to simply pass out of existence, without having caused any lasting unwanted effects. And perhaps above all, I would want to not be mourned. Not because sadness and tears are bad ( like I said, I actually think crying is beautiful), but because it simply is no use to mourn. It achieves nothing, and wrongly neglects what I hold to be true: As much as we might matter to those we love, objectively, we do not matter. No one does. To an unyielding and monstrously large behemoth of a universe, another cessation of an organism’s biological activity registers little, so little it almost registers none. We are small. We are insignificant. We are specks of dust in a space infinitely greater. But the illusion of importance is perhaps yet another of our mind’s instances of placing emotion over logic, and said incalculable importance is often attributed to those who’ve lived in close proximity, for extended periods.

But I could be wrong to say that. If an existence is an existence and nothing more, and if we will all die, then what difference does it make which of logic and emotion trumps the other? A worthy question, and one that I cannot answer. That’s often the case. But the point isn’t to find answers, that carries a distasteful and tragic finality: it ends things. But a continuous journey is more fulfilling: continually asking questions is imponderably more enjoyable, and lasts forever.

Soon, I will die.

And I would simply die, like the hordes of ancient armies, the rich and the poor and the intelligent and the dimwitted, and like the oppressed and war-stricken. Like everyone, I would die. Soon my name would only be called in readings of epitaphs, in uttering the name of my offspring, if any, or perhaps, if I prove worthy, in the conversation of those who knew me, perhaps while flipping through an album of photos, or after seeing something wholly unrelated to me, but that brings the thought of me to their mind. I would only be in whispers and thoughts, be they affectionate and fond or otherwise (although I’d much prefer the former).

But this is only what I hope, and reality could, and in all likelihood will, be entirely different. The unexpected is always what happens, because the expected is polluted with our hopes. Of course, I might not die in the -obviously romanticised- way I’ve detailed, with the lead-in time, the crescendo and emotional build-up; I might die so quickly that I register little more than the pain of a pinprick, and it would be foolish to attempt to list the multitude of ways I could die. In any case, what will happen will soon rear its face. Hopes and expectations have a way of detaching themselves from truth and actual occurrence. They separate like oil and water. All that remains after the illusions of what we think (or hope) will happen have been eradicated and deconstructed to fragments of dysfunctional worthlessness, all that is left after that purging, is reality. And that is, interestingly, another name for death: reality.

Thinking, What Matters in Life, and Other Troublesome Things

Note: this post is very abstract, and probably only makes sense to me (and even then, not so much, and I could be wrong).

A few days ago, I was struck by a realization. They’re great and illuminating things, if not always the most pleasant of encounters. My realization was of a very specific nature and kind, the one I imagine is the most powerful: some realizations strike like a hot, heavy brick to the face; just as sudden, and just as impactful.

But for the magnitude of the aforementioned realization to be understood, I must explain a few things about myself. It started a while ago …

My thought process consists predominantly of questions, and like all things, there’s a reason behind that. A much-repeated phrase of mine is that thinking is the delicate art of asking the right questions. It’s a strategy that, in times of deep introspection, proved helpful in clearing away much of my prejudice and bias; things so benevolently bestowed upon me by almost everyone, things courtesy of society, family, friends, passing acquaintances, everyone. To be human is to voice opinion, and to be young human (me, in this case) is to act a sponge to said opinion. Wittingly or otherwise, everyone has something to contribute to the growing psyche of young boy. About two years ago, after at least fifteen years of being force-fed said opinion, I’d grown to become a receptacle of a menagerie of absurdity; an amalgamation of irrational and often contradictory beliefs. It was a mess.

There was no conscious thought. There was nothing behind the actions I took; there was only blind, ardent self-righteousness. I thought I was acting on free will; I thought what I did was in accordance with the absolutely correct and infallible, but the truth is: I was more a drone than a person. I championed ideas of hatred and ugliness, things I now hold to be unthinkable, and discredited others for being of other opinion as frequently as I breathed.

It was interesting. There were pillars of truth in my head, unshakable things that seemed so until they didn’t; and like the greatest of realizations it seemed as though it had always been in plain sight, elusive and hidden, but nonetheless ever-present. It had always been there, but some things aren’t seen right away. It stunned me, and has flourished to form my every other belief and sentiment. I was proverbially stopped in my tracks. It was a very simple notion: What if I’m wrong?

You see, we have a hard time admitting to being wrong, and countless passionate arguments to the effect of “No, I’m right!” only illustrate this. It’s safe to say that humans enjoy being right – the glory of it pleasures us. Even when we find reason in the view opposing ours, many find it out of their ability to admit the other party’s correctness. We just want to be right. And I did, too.

I wanted to be right.

But I didn’t want the new structure of belief to be built upon untruths. The logical next step, then, was to apply the question to every possible notion that passes my head. It started with small things, as you might imagine; these things always have meager, soon-to-greatly-grow beginnings. The seed, foreign and teeming with exciting new possibilities and promises, had been planted. I accurately detail when it started now, yes, but I only realized that I had started questioning everything later on, long after it had happened. I only realized when I noticed its absence – the towering structure of my beliefs, my entire conception of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, had went up in flames.

But then there was the time of questioning; the unending questioning ensued; to use another much-repeated phrase: a new era had begun. It was a new phase that dwarfed the one before it in terms of both mental processes and introspection; a new phase that rose a phoenix out of the ashes of the former phase, and disgusted at its predecessor and its ways, strived to be anything but.

With almost every thought I had, another followed, the latter to the effect of “But what if that’s wrong?” In many cases, it became painfully clear that, in fact, that was wrong; I had been harboring racism, blind faiths, trite, discriminatory and contradictory notions. Things I have learned to abhor, but that had so forcefully been made to assimilate into me. I walked alleys that I had never walked before, and inside was clutter; inside were cobwebs and articles of a time that, I was determined, I would soon call bygone. It was a lengthy process, the closest I had -and have- come to finding myself, and, by the end of it all, I had come upon an outline of the person I am today. I found myself – a person that, to the best of my ability, was created free of meddling, free of the maliciousness of what plagues our society – entirely my own.

But then another problem walked into view. It was all well and good to take a critical look at things, but what do you replace the tired ideas with? And which do you replace, and which should be held in safekeeping? What’s wrong, and by extension, what’s right?

Questions, questions, questions. But where are the answers?

It could have been that I was asking too many questions too soon, that my approach was overzealous, but in any case the inevitable was to come; the shatteringly loud uncertainty of it all bore its teeth, and it was frightening – and very disorienting. That’s the trouble with emptying your mind: you have to fill it back up again.

Faced with that, I turned to the realms of the idealistic and virtuous, clawing at as many virtues and hurriedly installing them into the new psyche. Kindness, benevolence, hatred of none and love (as much of it as was fitting) for all, honesty, caring – it was all there. I didn’t realize at the time, but now that I think back, I was conforming to another image of how I should be, one proffered by the same people of whose bias and prejudice I’d attempted to purge myself – except this time, I was being fitted with value consistent with morality, and I was aware of it, as opposed to a passive receiver of unspoken orders.

The new change, I thought, was more transitional than decidedly stable. I opted for the path that I thought would have me hurt and do wrong none – on the contrary, it would have me be good; the same good that so many tout as being the highest standard of morality. I conformed, once again, but this time consciously, and with an arguably stronger sense of purpose. I didn’t know the truth, but until the day that I do, I resolved to become a saint.

But there was still the matter of the delicious truth, and my desire to fill the chambers of my mind –then occupied with being good– with it. So, I tried to find it. What was the truth, what was the inarguable absolute truth?

For the longest time, I told myself, in order rather than plea, to realize what matters. I became obsessed with it – that which matters.  It could be any one, or all, of many things: some obscure philosophical notion; the meaning of life; the reason for my existence; an end that I should devote my life toward; what I should do with my life.

It could have been anything, something, but of course I didn’t know what.

A few days ago, I understood what that is – the realization that I first mentioned (and that I would have mentioned right away, if only I didn’t have to add a prelude).

The realization was thus: That which is matters, simply, is that which I make matter.

It isn’t what is objectively meaningful, because I ampart of the equation, and by definition, what matters only matters if I make it so, or if it reconciles with what I think should matter. Now, that doesn’t provide a specific answer as to what matters, but it’s a step closer to the destination.

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a piece of the puzzle, a shard of the answer: the people I care about. They matter. Their happiness matters.

As a result of a number of events that I will refrain from mentioning, I realized that the people I care for are at least part of the answer I sought. Their happiness consistently translates to my happiness, and happiness is something I seek – you could say it matters to me.

There’s another interesting school of thought that I feel is worth a mention: nihilism. For a time, I was infatuated with it. Those who believe in nihilism (nihilists) hold that there is no morality, and that life is intrinsically meaningless. A word of love –or hatred– is but a wave in air, and a wave is but a distortion. A dead human is the same number of atoms as a living one, and so it doesn’t matter if, say, a person is saved from a burning house, or shot to death. I imagine that’s how those who step out of the confines of what we call sanity rationalize it. If nothing means anything, and if one believes so, then one becomes fearless, one becomes uninhibited, one becomes remorseless, one becomes absolute.

It’s a radical school of thought, and –at least for me– its radicalism makes it tempting to believe in. It’s certainly not a popular belief (at least, not among the people around me), and that is appealing – there is appeal to the new and dissimilar from the regular.  But I’ve come to rationalize it as being untrue:

As humans we only experience life though the senses, through our ability: perception. And the meaning we give to life is intrinsically ours, it’s an inherent part of being the human subject; then, if experiencing life, if the very act of living, predicates on a part of the human condition (perception), then how can other parts (attribution of meaning to life) be discounted as meaningless? If one takes into account one part of a thing, then I imagine one would equally have to consider all elements of said thing.

Conclusion: What matters to me, the long-sought treasure, is simply what I rationalize it to be.

It doesn’t escape me that, objectively and by virtue of an absolute truth and law that I’m unaware of, I might be completely wrong. I might look back at this years on, and laugh at my ignorance, but at the moment this seems the most logical set of conclusions. This, again, is no clear answer, but a means to finding one; guidelines to finding reason in being. Now I must resolve to not only find the rest of what matters to me (which I imagine many have to go through, too), but to also have the courage to uphold what I believe in.

I could be wrong, certainly. But I’ve found what I think matters to me.

That’s enough for now.

No idea is out of bounds, no thought is forbidden. You are what you are, and the only sin is cowardice.