I was out all day yesterday. And sometimes days like that protect you from the horrors that we call news. News that streams in faster than we might like it to. News that you really cant escape even if you look away.
I was out all day yesterday, and that meant I was off the computer, talking to real people over pizza and coffee. We discussed writing, publishing, words, creative processes, trials and tribulations, writers block — we talked shop in a way that only writers can.
Meanwhile, the news streamed in. But it wasn’t until 8 pm when I came home and read about Peshawar. With the second news report, my palms turned cold, my eyes prickly with tears and my head was quickly pounding with anger and helplessness.
Does this happen to you? Do any of you have physical reactions to reading the news? This is new to me, and I don’t know how to deal with it. Most often, I take to turning around and sharing it with the cohabitor, the hugsband who is usually the calm to the storm inside of me. The one with the rational answer. The one with the right words, as succinct as they may be. And yet, even he turned quiet when I told him the news yesterday. No answers. No words.
I have an ambivalent (somewhat confused) take on religion and God. I am a believer, and I have a very convenient dependency on prayer (even calling it religion would be a stretch) — giving in to hushed prayers when in times of crisis, but I am also aware that this is just a psychological crutch that has no bearing on real events. If anything, prayers uttered hastily in times of trouble, are meant to centre and ground you, but I know there are other ways to achieve that. So increasingly, I have been questioning the role of religion and the point of it all. Especially given the quickly deteriorating geo-political state of affairs across the world, I’m beginning to strongly believe religion (in the form it was intended) has played its part for us. It has now turned into a trump card that groups of people are using to get one up on each other. It’s done it’s fair share of damage, its beginning to rot in the undeserving hands of those who manipulate and politicise it, and it’s time we gave it a do-over. Or better still do away with it.
Even closer home, over the last 6 months, we’ve seen the rise of extremist and fundamentalist factions spewing the drivel they call their beliefs. We’ve had right wingers claim they want a Hindu world. We’ve had churches burnt down. We’ve had leaders tell us they want the Gita to be the national text. We also believe cow milk holds the solution to corruption and cow urine is the answer to all medical evil. We’ve had vehement calls for forcibly reversing conversion to bring those who we think belong with us, back on our side. We want to cancel Christmas and turn it into Good Governance Day (what governance — oh the irony!) It’s almost like governance = asserting our supposed religious superiority. Oh and sweeping up streets.
And if it seems like I’m highlighting only the extremists, the examples that dangle at the extremes of the spectrum, this was exactly my fear when the new power came into play. That a fundamentalist at the centre, no matter how shrewd or calculative, focused or measured he may be, will provide steam to the chest-thumping extremists that lie at the fringes. They really don’t need much more to come to the fore.
Upset, angry and shaken up. I looked back at a picture I took earlier in the afternoon in the hope that I’d find some solace, positivity and hope. Then I shut down for the day.
I came online to post about some work woes. I had a post planned out in my head. I was going to mock a few clients and share some bizarre stories of things I’ve had happen to me. But I couldn’t do it.
It’s a bit messing-the-head-up to have an fb feed and a twitter TL half-filled with grief, horror, terror, many of us grappling with the shock and sheer helplessness that never seems to find form in words. And the other half filled with Christmas bakes, the minutiae of a food blogger life, pictures of decorations, the expected dose of glib viral content that has come to be the main function of social networking.
In the midst of it all, I saw this.
For Peshawar and for these times.
Via Sharanya Gopinathan on FB
Disbeliever, by Mohja Kahf
…I need a body outside my life that can travel and kneel
on the sidewalk beside a movie theater in Algiers
over the bodies of the supple children
who will never be my children’s playmates or marry them
over the bodies of the men and the women
who will never write a letter, will never phone me from Algiers:
“How was the movie? I love you. I love you.”
I need time outside this history where I can whisper in the ear of each of them,
By God, you will never be forgotten
By God, I will make sure the world
buries its face in your beautiful hair,
sings to you, learns your name and your music,
lifts you up in the crook of its arm like a gift
I am a disbeliever
in everything but the purity of the bodies
of the men and women–with or without the veil,
with or without the markings of the right identity–
in everything but the suppleness of children
I am a disbeliever in every scripture
in the world that leaves out
“How was the movie? I love you. I love you.”
Increasingly, I’m leaning towards a decided disbelieving. My father is an atheist, and I’m beginning to see why. Every religion professes righteousness, tolerance, peace — and yet every day we have the worst most horrible acts perpetrated in the name of religion. It doesn’t make sense anymore.
I browse fb for 30 seconds more. My head can’t take it. And I shut down.
One of my all time favourite Carlin monologues comes to mind. I watch it, it makes me smile ruefully
He hits the nail on the head, and you can’t help but agree.
“I really tried to believe that, but I gotta tell you, the longer you live, the more you look around, the more you realize, something is fucked up.”