On responsibility

IMG_2262I recently finished reading the book “Stoner” by John Williams, a novel set in the first half of the 20th century. It speaks of a young man, William Stoner, who was born and raised on a farm but who accidentally discovered his love of literature while at university, which he initially attended in order to study agriculture. Literature became his life and eventually his only passion.

The premise sounds uninteresting at first, almost completely boring and devoid of any kind of intrigue, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. It was, for me, one of the best works of literature I’ve read in the past few years. Besides the excellent writing which gripped me immediately, the story of Stoner fascinated me because if you take out the dates and replace them with more recent ones, the book would stand as is, and would be just as relatable, if not more. It speaks of the choices we make as people. It shows the full extent of the consequences of our actions, and more importantly our inactions. It emphasises our (in)ability to detect our responsibility and assume it, or our utter blindness to it.

After having read the book I read a few quotes by the author, who claimed that Stoner led a good, happy life, in his opinion. I was shocked. For me, William made quite a few wrong choices, but in my eyes two major ones. All good so far. We all do. No problem there. My question, though, is why do we insist on believing that our choices are final,  permanent, unchanging? Why do we prefer to suffer for an entire lifetime for one bad choice as if we can’t reverse it at any point in time?

Is it because we are righteously punishing ourselves by suffering? Is it because we somehow believe that we don’t deserve better? Or, as Stoner justified it, that it is all our fault in the first place. I believe the truth is none of the above. All these are just excuses for a deeper and even more disturbing reality: it is too difficult to revert a choice, for you must face one too many truths in the process.

We seem to develop a Stockholm Syndrome with our choices. From some point on they resemble tattoos we can’t get rid of and cannot live without. Despite the fact that we may now despise them, find them ugly, and they no longer represent what we stand for, they lie so deep within us that we consider them to be of us: organic and alive, with our very own DNA signature. They are not. We put them there, we can take them out.

You know the question “what would you have done differently”? It is a fruitless question, for the answer is “nothing”. Stoner, for all his redeeming features, is an example to avoid. For he could see, and he could feel, and he could sense, and he did nothing. Whether he wanted the responsibility or not, it fell on him; he was ultimately unable to actively take his life and happiness, as well as that of his daughter’s, into his own hands and make it better, and instead chose to settle and suffer for a choice he once made out of innocence and ignorance, and lived in mourning and grief over it until his dying day.


On wisdom

elijah-o-donnell-760367-unsplashHow many definitions have you read on wisdom? How many quotes by famous writers, thinkers and philosophers? Are you any wiser? Which one approximated your own idea of it? If the past few years have taught me anything is that wisdom lies deeply within the insight and knowledge of when to speak and when to remain silent. The wiser I get, the more silent I become.

My silence was recently characterised as borderline hostile. It was measured in metaphorical distance, and viewed as a desire to escape and abandon. And yet when I speak, the gap is not bridged. If it doesn’t grow bigger, it remains the same; and so, I remain silent. It is a vicious circle of a deafening absence of words, and a jarring absence of meaning. What is wisdom if not the ability to discern when your words mean nothing?

On fresh starts

FRESH_1024x1024I don’t believe in them. I don’t think you can recreate anything. I don’t believe you can mend emotions. Once in love with the past, now I loathe it. A fresh start insinuates a simulation of something that has been, in the hopes of a reincarnation. Nothing can rise from the dead. You may give birth to a billion new things, but the past cannot be resuscitated, regardless of your desperation, in spite of your prayers, despite your longing.

It has become an oxymoron for me. You must first destroy, and then create; incinerate, and then throw away the ashes so they don’t smear what you wish to bring into a clean existence. You should not forget, but you must not recall. Memories have senses too. They will mislead you, though, trick you into rebooting what you think is ideal. It might have been; it is no longer. All moments are ascribed their own time. They belong there; so, please, let them be.

A start can only be fresh if it has just been produced, not reheated. The question now remains, can you reheat people? Warm them up so they reach the temperature of your own skin? And if you do succeed, how long do you think this fabricated warmth will last? Enough to kiss you? Tell you what you’ve been longing to hear again? Enough to care? You will soon feel the temperature drop again, and cold fingers is all you will remember.

Will you recover? Which memory is worse? The good that will never come again or the one you machinated and then watched fall short? Everything has been falling short lately. What have I done? I live in certain machinations. I breathe contrivances. I am empty, selfish, ignorant, and full of fresh starts that fail me one by one.

I am stale.

On certainty

img_6174A clock somewhere is ticking. But it’s being dragged. I feel like Sisyphus, but I’m not carrying a boulder up the hill. I am carrying time. I am desperately trying to move it forward; I have fooled myself into thinking it will somehow bring something different the next time it falls on my head or rolls away from me.

I’ve been waiting for something for far too long. I am now done. I have accepted my defeat. I have laid down my arms and I have surrendered. I have surrendered to a higher power: time.

I don’t doubt anymore. I am done. Now I am certain.

Our software dictates hope and optimism even in dire situations (maybe even more so in desperate times: another type of survival instict). That’s what I’ve been doing for more than a year, hoping. Now, even this very sentiment has become a joke.

An objective observer would have urged me to lose hope long ago. They would have given me an exit strategy and coordinates for an emergency evacuation. I have finally become objective, and I have my own coordinates. Now all I need to do is plan the route and start walking (away).

On doubts

2b64e9e23719b0523f315745c580119bI am sitting on a beach, on an island, in the middle of the Mediterranean sea. Hundreds of people are all around me, it is surprisingly quiet, though. I can think, read my book and listen to music on my headphones. I can doubt everything in peace. Why do we sometimes doubt and other times choose to believe in something or someone? What parameters affect our decision to either be true to our human nature and even question our happiness, or wear a mask and proceed in the dark…trusting, believing and without fear?

I am sitting in my desk chair, on the third floor, in the middle of Athens. No one is around me, it is surprisingly loud, though. I can’t think, read or listen to music with lyrics on my speakers. I found a playlist with instrumental music, mostly piano. Ambient, they call it. I can hear a sombre violin now. I can still doubt in peace.

It is a violent state of mind. It permeates every pore of hope and optimism. Doubt trumps fear. Fear is palpable, honest, reasonable even. Doubt is crippling in its effervescence, for it sighs uncertainty and distorts the validity of knowledge, even the one based on experience. You tell it what you know and it sneers. It rescinds all your senses and shamelessly welcomes you into a rabbit hole it has created just for you: underground rooms of memories, warped just enough to spawn disquiet.

Doubt is an ethereal beast, forged by the hand of vacillation. Its edges are blunt, its core lethal. It is a trickster. It keeps the doors open for it knows you won’t leave, not once you’ve entertained the idea of its existence. So you roam inside its kingdom and you become its slave; willingly, whole-heartedly, almost gratefully, for you’re convinced of its veracity. Your chains are customised, your blindfold weaved in your own image.

You choose to stay there for the truth you doubt no more is much more painful. At least in doubt you can be something instead of nothing.

On chances

take-at-least-one-chance-quote-1When we think about chances we usually have two misconceptions: one is that they come crashing down in front of our eyes, wrapped in Christmas lights, bearing a neon sign with an arrow pointing at the words: TAKE IT; the second is that they are infinite.

Neither is true. There are many, but they are not inexhaustible, and most of the time they appear incognito. It’s not that things can never be easy, or uncomplicated, or straightforward (which , let’s face it, they rarely are) but that from some point on we have to be willing to see them for what they are, or at least risk it and find out.

What we don’t realise is that by becoming risk-averse we are slowly becoming life-averse. As dramatic and hyperbolic as this may sound, it is sadly true. The trap is set in the lethargy we let ourselves lie in. We cocoon ourselves in the putative and comfortable slowness of time and we wait, postpone, wile away, wander, roam, meander from one familiar act to the next, squandering chances.

Tomorrow is always going to be there, so why sweat it today? Does it have to be right this moment? Surely not. IT CAN WAIT: and that is our live’s neon sign, if there ever was one. I can almost imagine chances as flies, buzzing around us, resting on our skin, and us nonchalantly, but always with a slight annoyance, waving them away.

I’m trying to remember the last one I blew. It was three months ago. It was something small, possibly inconsequential, but looking back now, I would have liked to have taken it. No matter where it led me.

For chances are like choices: they either reward you or come back to haunt you.

On confessions

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been a lifetime since my last confession. I have been callous with my thoughts, and even more so with my actions. But what I am most ashamed of are my inactions. My inaptitude: to understand in time, to acknowledge the significance of absence in everything.

I spent three seasons thinking myself to death. I died repeatedly. I was born every time simply because I never stopped breathing. My damn heart proved itself indestructible. My mind did not. I still find pieces of it under the couch, inside my pillow, deep within my pockets, in between pages of my everyday life. I put them in a white, glass bowl. Every few days I pick them up, spread them out and try to put them into place. They are all mine. They were all me at some point. Even if they only crossed my mind but never stayed, they still belong to me. I am forever liable. I have to face them.

It is strange, what we consider to be ‘sinful’. It is relative. It is highly subjective. If the divine or the religious is extracted, a sin is still “any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, lapse, etc; great fault or offense.” It’s a sin to waste time, Dictionary.com states as an example…and I have wasted so much of it.

I’ve had this conversation before, a million times. The range of excuses varies to an astounding degree. ‘People live as if they have a few more lives to waste,’ someone told me recently. ‘No,’ I replied. ‘Don’t you get it? Even if they had a thousand more, they’d still live it the same way.’ It shocked him. It shocked me too.

What if we were given a time machine? We’d all act the same, fearful of changing too much. The butterfly effect would once again render us static. You needn’t fear, though. Scientists have claimed that even if we do acquire the ability to travel in time, we will only be able to do so into the future.

Would you take a look, Father, if you could? I would rather not.

We’d rather be inactive for we cannot be judged. We’d rather be absent for we leave no trace. But just like silence, inertia is a choice; and we, as Sartre proclaimed, are our choices, Father.