Posted in Miscellany

the world in my eyes

On one fine day, a tiny Bushman in Southern Africa comes upon an empty coke bottle thrown from the cockpit of an airplane to desert sand. Thinking it is a gift from the gods, the man sets out a journey to return it to them. Along the journey, the Bushman encounters a pastiche of humanity in a kaleidoscope of the events he comes upon till he reaches an edge of a high cliff mysteriously enveloped by the rings of clouds and throws the bottle into the deep, exclaiming, “The Gods Must Be Crazy!” As I see now, I am in the chorus with him on the top of the cliff overlooking the world.

Nevermore than now have I witnessed the epic moments of history that appear to be atavistic in terms of nature, motive, and consequence. A convenient way of relating the human tragedies to the scourge of gods and God will only put me on a par with Pangloss, the ever-positive pious philosopher who thinks all is God’s will for the best in the best of all possible worlds. The Taliban chanting the name of Allah in their will, Christians taking pride in being a new chosen people, and other zealots of any religion all have had recourse to their deities and used their belief systems as weapons of dominance over others. From the Coronavirus pandemic that forever changed our ways of life to the collapse of democratic Afghanistan by the Taliban and the devastating effects of Hurricane Ida in Louisiana, I see a phantasmagorical display of people’s faces in sorrow and distress in my mind’s theater.

Following the news about the current situations of Afghanistan and its people links me to the Trojan War, which lasted about ten years with the Greek allied powers destroying Troy in the end. From the burning city of Troy comes Aeneas, a royal warrior who escapes the mayhem with his family, carrying his elderly father on his back, holding his little son’s hand besides. That image is always particularly heartfelt because of the Trojan hero’s humanness, unlike his more glamorous Greek victors. What happened in the past happens now and will always, such as the images of parents passing babies to soldiers across the sharp razor wire two young, Afghans falling from a plane climbing high in the sky, and the lifeless bodies of the young and the old, women and men strewn over the dusty ground outside the airport in the aftermath of suicide bombing.

Back in the States, Hurricane Ida ravaged Louisiana, leaving thousands of people stranded, homeless without power (for about a month from now), and sufficient supplies of sanitation, clothing, and food. They lost everything, and nothing is what they have now. I cannot erase the image of a woman from a news interview who said the hurricane took everything from her family, then breaking into tears. Then there is news about an elderly man viciously attacked by an alligator in a flood presumed dead while his wife took a little boat to get help outside their flooded isolated community. Would the man have been swept away by the rapid stream of the flood? Would the alligator that had attacked the man have returned to him for more? Or would the man knowing or believing that was his end have let himself dissipated into the murky waters?

Is this the same kind of significant feeling of epic moments I am experiencing as what George Orwell should have felt when witnessing the death of a Burmese condemned man on his way to the gallows, the carnage of WWII, and the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War? Orwell posited that one of the reasons he wrote was to record historical moments he was living with his own perspectives and feelings, not necessarily popular or compromising. My intention to write this essay is similar to Orwell’s but more with sheer egotism of getting the heartfelt sorrow off my chest and tears away from my eyes. But I am not so sure if that proves effective with the images still vivid in my mind.

Posted in book review, Miscellany

Broken Will, Lost Soul

RE: 8/12/2018 article of “Broken Guy goes down with plane” from the Los Angeles Times

However bleak and and fatalistic his views on Death of God and Nihilism might be, the one definitive thing German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche knew was this: “Anyone who has a why to live can bear also any hows.” How reassuring it is because it means that even if life presents you anything but shattered dreams, aborted hopes, and clipped anticipations for whatever you try to work out, as long as you still hold steadfastly onto a sense of purpose – that is a why to continue this so-called “life”- your life will not end in nil, or in crash such as the man I read about in the newspaper today.

His name was allegedly known as “Richard Russel,” according to his bantering with an airport controller during his audaciously precarious aerial heist of an passenger aircraft he had stolen from Sea-Tac Airport in WA. He was reported to be a 29-year old former ground service agent at Horizon who had also run a bakery with his wife until 2015. It is reported that he died in crash on a wooded area on Ketro Island south of Seattle, WA by saying, “I wasn’t really planning on landing it.” The plane did not hit any structures nor did it cause any collateral damages to private properties, since the island itself is underdeveloped. The whys and wherefores of Russel’s quixotic joy ride have not yet been manifested in the course of the current FBI investigation, but judging from his communication with the controller, he might have been suffering from existential vertigo in which he had lost a sense of purpose, a why for continuing his life in dealing with demands of tasks that everyday life had imposed on.

In case of art imitating life, Russsel on the passenger aircraft reminds me of Don Quixote who, on his beloved Rocinante, gallops toward the huge windmill to vanquish it, a stereoscopic symbol of pompous hypocrisy of life that generates nothing but the ills. Foolish, yes, needless to say. But heinous or even insidious? Hardly so. Stealing is one thing, but ending his life out of emotional distress is another thing, as they are apples and oranges in the sense that he meant no fatal harm on anyone by using the stolen aircraft as a weapon of mass destruction as in the case of the terrorist carnage of 9/11. I wonder what might have gone through his mind in the cockpit of the plane as he was nearing to the end of his life: a phantasmagorical display of his memories that he had collected through life, willed or unwilled? Perhaps, being a pilot of the plane might have given him a tactile sensation of being capable of piloting his own life, that ineffable stupendousness of capability, which would have given him the equal dose of confidence at the spur of the fateful moment.

Playing a pseudo psychiatrist is not my forte, but it is viable to think that Russel ‘s contemporary strains of life and postmortem malady that anesthetized his Reason and thus emboldened him to do such a foolhardily venturesome act at the expense of his own life are something that we can feel pathos at the least. And that is why I find it hard to criminalize him by putting him into a moral/ethical Procrustean bed, which also brings me back to an act in Macbeth:

“Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage; and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”