Monday, December 02, 2013

Heroic Feats

Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say.
-Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., novelist (1922-2007)

A light bulb exploded somewhere nearby. The glass shattered into a shower of tiny fragments, and as they cascaded in the abyss of time, the filament burned in a flash of glory and died. I lay silent in front of the keyboard, staring at the blinking cursor and wondering what to do next, what to write.

23-year old Ernesto Guevara de la Serna wrote in the opening sentence of The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey, “This is not the story of heroic feats, or merely the narrative of a cynic; at least I do not mean it to be. It is a glimpse of two lives running parallel for a time, with similar hopes and convergent dreams.” In 1952, while still attending medical school, he and his 29-year old friend Alberto Granado started on a nine-month epic voyage across the South American continent from their home in Buenos Aires, Argentina to Caracas, Venezuela on board a 1939 Norton 500cc. The journey helped transform Ernesto Guevara from a care-free, middle-class university student into a Marxist revolutionary, who ultimately died as Che Guevara, one of the twentieth century most profound symbols and compelling heroes.

I'm by no means the reticent type, yet I had only blogged seven posts in 2013. It's easier to keep my rhetorical turmoil confined within. There will come the day when I can blab it all, of that I have little doubt. It would be too late then for my words to make a difference, but they were never meant to anyway. For you see, although I admire “Che” for what he lived and died for, I wasn't made of heroic material. I may have started this blog in 2006 as a care-free, middle-class, middle-aged Abufares, but I never expected a dramatic ascent to fame, nor a footnote in an obscure book of history.

Aris Messinis /AFP/Getty Images

While the future of my homeland is being deliberated upon over a slow-burning, yet scorching fire, thousands of my compatriots continue to die, meaningless numbers to an apathetic world, acceptable losses to the powers that be, victims to the modern day pecking order. What started as a deep sigh to breathe a lungful of the unsullied air of freedom has turned into a vicious war whose embers are continuously fed with coals of apotheosis and fanaticism.

This eighth post could be the last one of the year, so I might as well tell the “regulars”, who still pay my blog the occasional visit, that I've been writing behind their backs. Last month, I submitted an entry to the 2013 Writer's Digest Short Story Contest. I have no idea how it will rank among the more than five thousand other entries. It will be published if it makes it as one of the Top 25 finalists. If not, you'll be unfortunate enough to read it here. I'm currently working on a second short story, but my progress is even slower than Ban Ki-moon's expression of dismay, or was it disgust, over the "tragic" events taking place in Syria. This is not the time, nor the place, for cheery writing, and I'm afraid I don't make a decent commentator on world politics and current events. Since there only remains the truth that's worth writing about, I find myself caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Work has come to an almost complete stop here, but unlike those I once ignored and now despise, I haven't debased myself by blaming everyone but the perpetrators. Will next year, the one after, and those to follow be the same? If I have learned anything from the books I've read over the last eleven months, or from the wear and tear of growing older, it's that nothing lasts forever. Eventually, I will ignore those I despise, and fall head over heels in love with the ones I already love. I know that my own words will come back to haunt me for not being brave enough to have unleashed them when they would've counted for something, but in true existential form, I find myself stuck in this time and place with nowhen or nowhere to go. The least and most I can aspire for in my future is inherited liberty, for the price of pure freedom is too high for ordinary folks to pay. My consolation is that one day, truly free children will be born, but not until our guilty conscience is buried deep with us. Perhaps, I should write about them, the yet unborn, and the future they will forge, instead of lamenting a past that was never as rosy as I once led myself to believe. Happy Holidays Season Everyone!

15 comments:

Isobel Adams said...

True heroism doesn't always make the history books, Abufares. Actually, most of the time it doesn't. Sometimes we have to make a choice to quietly protect the ones we love over everything else and that choice is no less heroic then those who are loud in voice and action. I'm glad to see your writing whenever you post. Good luck on the writing contest. I'm betting we'll see you published. :-) I wish you peace.

Maysaloon said...

I look forward to reading your work, one way or the other. I think writing can help keep us sane especially when we haven't got any other outlet to express ourselves, at least from my experience.

You know it's funny now to see what paths blogging has taken us. I know maysaloon is dying. It will be a while, but I know that whatever it was at first, it seems to have fulfilled its purpose and its asking me to let it go. There is other writing that beckons, but I don't know what it will look like yet.

Keep on writing and happy holidays to you too

Robin said...

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.”
― John Greenleaf Whittier, Maud Muller - Pamphlet

Mine are not words. Only thoughts of love sent your way mixed with the inability to do a damn thing to keep a dear friend and his family safe. Is a thank you appropriate for writing? Probably not, but nevertheless thank you because whenever you DO write I and our mutual friend know you are "safe" whatever the hell that means under your circumstances. Will end. Merry Christmas dear Abufares. Til next time over lemonade and Virgin Maries, know you are loved by so many who have been blessed to call you friend.

Shannon said...

I am not sure what to say or what to add; I am a writer without words at the moment. Strength and Love to you and your family. Peace to Syria. I feel helpless but not apathetic. On a selfish note, I hope see a new blog post sooner than later. ;)

Gabriela said...

We have a sying in Spanish: no hay mal que dure cien años ni cuerpo que lo resista (no evil lasts a hundred years and no body will endure it).
So, my best to you and your so loved country. And those wishes are valid for the whole year, not only December.

Sean said...

'Meaningless numbers': to an apathetic world, maybe, but not to their loved ones. Not to me. My heart gets broken every time I see the news nowadays.

Thinking of you and your family and desperately wishing for a brighter future for you all.

abufares tartoussi said...

@Isobel
I'm mostly glad to be back so I can see you here :-)
Heroism, if pursued, becomes vanity. Only those who stumble upon it unexpectedly, and consciously make an altruistic decision deserve its virtue.
But you know me perfectly well and understand exactly what I do or don't and the reasons why :-) Happy Holidays dear friend.

abufares tartoussi said...

@Maysaloon
I always looked forwards to your posts as well, and thought highly of your spotless writing.
Blogging, unlike Facebook and co., is a three dimensional medium of "high" self expression. Only an accomplished individual, in whatever field, can blog successfully and continuously. Any idiot, pardon my wording, can post on a 2 dimensional wall. If blogging is a full course Italian dinner, facebooking is Whopper with fries and diet Coke, at best.
Experiment with other media forms but keep your blog going. As far as I'm concerned, it's the perfect stepping stone into professional writing. Thank you for dropping by.

abufares tartoussi said...

@Robin
Thank you for your kind thoughts and sincere feelings. I value your friendship dearly and look forward our next afternoon together. By then, my Lemonade should have matured into a gorgeous Margarita and I expect that your Mary won't be virgin anymore :-)
How about April?

abufares tartoussi said...

@Shannon
I hope that your household is free of the illness bug that has inflicted you for the last month or so. Get well and ready for a wonderful las Vegas Christmas (I always wondered how would that be like).
None of my friends is apathetic. I did a great job in handpicking them one by one :-) Your feeling of helplessness, however, is well founded. We, and the mass majority of the human race, are in that same giant boat together.
Thank you for your kind words and heart-warming thoughts. We should meet one day over... ice cream. That's the only thing I can think of when I remember Las Vegas. I was dying for some :-)

abufares tartoussi said...

@Gabriela
Thank you Gaby! You're the only friend I have who is wiser than me, lolll.
I wish you and your loved ones all the best for the rest of the month and for all the wonderful days that'll make up your life from now on.
If Ernesto and Alberto inspired me to do anything, it certainly is to visit your America ;-) one day. I hope I'll be strong enough to do it on a motorcycle, but even if I can't, I wouldn't let it spoil my fun.
Why don't you save a bottle of Pisco for me. The older it gets, the more reason we'll have to celebrate. And, ehem, I might bring somebody with me :-D

abufares tartoussi said...

@Sean
I know where you stand my friend. I understand how you feel.
Hopefully, you can come back over here and roam this country that was always one of your favorites.
I'll be around hopefully to have one huge celebration.
All the best to Emma and you.

Nahla said...

Abu Fares, I've missed your blog! Was deleting old links in my favorites, and your blog came up - a blast from the past. I'm glad you hung in there!

Nahla said...

In the spirit of the "ghost of blogging past", i looked up my old blog from your links (still there) and it seems someone has taken it over.

abufares tartoussi said...

@Nahla
Sorry it took me so long to respond. I haven't had access to my PC in a few days.
I'm thrilled to see you here :-) and wish that you get back to blogging yourself. I always enjoyed your insightful writing and human spirit.
Please come again. I'm not as active here as I used to be but I'm sure you understand my reasons.
Take care and let's keep in touch.