In the air

(Original post: Στον Αέρα - 16/01/12)

I’ve flown many times. Sometimes because I’m being hunted and I’m trying to get away, others just for the pleasure of flight; sometimes it’s like I’m swimming in the air, others I’m launched like a rocket; sometimes I’m having difficulties and I lose my balance or direction. I’ve flown over cities and mountains, among waves and planets.

Always, of course, in my dreams.

Yesterday, however, I didn’t fly. Yesterday I found myself hovering effortlessly. That had never happened to me before. Momentum has always been a prerequisite for my dream flight and immobility in the air immediately activated Newton’s Law.

Despite this, I found myself hovering troublelessly. And the colours! They were as wonderful as a high definition screen’s. Maybe technology has indeed reached the point of realizing our dreams; maybe it has managed to actually surpass them. I had never before seen colours like these but in movie theaters, in science fiction, in computer games, in the most advanced graphics.

But here they were in front of me, around me. A superb, crystal, stunningly blue sky was stretching out in front of me and around me and superb stunningly – unnaturally – green vegetation was covering the ground way beneath my feet.

Somewhere between the waves of wonder and admiration I felt some pinches of fear. If I made to move, would this beautiful world disappear? The moment of hesitation passed as fast as it had come. Such a beautiful world could only exist to be explored and I would be a fool not to try it. Besides, this beauty, this wondrous magic around me could not hold common emotions, mundane reactions.

I made the first step in the air and it supported me. And there I was, walking in the air, supported by nothing, holding on to nowhere; I and this magic world. And it was so magical! Trees were floating, as if they had sprouted up from the air itself, sporting weird shapes since they were unaffected by gravity, but looking quite stable, as if they had figured out a secret way of attaching themselves on the vacuum. Perhaps the trees asked the air to hold me as well; perhaps I’ve had inherent this impossible knowledge myself.

I’d seen the gorgeous sky and the gorgeous green, but what I hadn’t seen was the water. A crystalline river was flowing in the air, rising and falling and twisting as if it was dodging invisible, immaterial obstacles, or maybe it was celebrating its absolute freedom of moving in any way it wanted for once, instead of being defined by solids and gravity. One of its endings was splitting in shiny, twirling streams, like vessels in an angiogram.

I approached enchanted,
captivated by the soft iridescence, the magical, impossible aerial flow of the water. I touched a few streams and, while my hands got wet from the water, they continued to flow undisturbed, as if they were being filled from nowhere.

A few drops got detached and were left hanging in the air like intact soap bubbles, like liquid prisms refracting the light, like liquid mirrors reflecting the world around them. I reached out, pushed some of them, and watched their course as they soared through the air and upset the rich foliage of a plant creeping on the nothingness. There they met the dew that already decorated its leaves, like little lights. I drew nearer and touched the bright green leaves. They were velvet on their underside and, on their top, silk.

The flow of the water and the whisper of my breath were the only sounds in this kingdom of peace. The rich light which seemed to emanate from the objects – as if it preexisted rather than it was coming from a source – was split by the crystalline water in the colorful iris. And I was singing to them. I was singing to the trees and the sky, to the water and the colours.

The absolute aesthetic supremacy… a true masterpiece of the subconscious…


An idea about ideas

All ideas need humans to support them, because they don't exist on their own. Ideas are parasites of the mind; they cannot survive on their own, they cannot even be on their own. Therefore, all ideas need me. I choose which ones I will embrace and not even to those do I easily offer permanent dwelling. With so much supply, I constantly search for better ones.

I don’t need the ideas. The ideas need me.

I replace ideas without hesitation or guilt. I have no responsibility towards any idea. On the contrary, I have responsibility towards myself to select, keep and support the ideas that express me for as long as they express me.

My ideas do not define me. I define my ideas.

The ideas of others pose no danger to my ideas; unless the others are unable to accept that we don’t all have the same ideas; unless they are unwilling to have their ideas challenged; and unless their ideas endanger my or other people’s physical or mental integrity. Under these conditions, not only do I not mind if others have different ideas, but I’m also happy to talk with them, because discussion reveals the weaknesses of ideas; and the recognizing of the weaknesses leads to the creation of new ideas that express us even better.

My ideas are completely negotiable; my integrity is not at all.

I am not afraid of changing ideas when they stop expressing me.
I am not afraid of not changing ideas when they keep expressing me.
I am not afraid of supporting the ideas that express me.
I am not afraid of listening to the ideas of others and redefine mine.

But all of the above constitute an idea. Let’s assume that at some point this idea seizes to express me. Let’s say that I stop considering my ideas negotiable and I don’t want to change them. If I change my original idea, then I keep following my original idea, that says I should change ideas when they stop expressing me. But if I don’t change it, I’ll keep following the idea that my ideas are negotiable. So, according to my original idea about ideas, all ideas are negotiable and replaceable, except for the idea that all ideas are negotiable and replaceable. (What an arrogant idea indeed! It sets rules for all ideas but itself!)

So, how open am I, really, to ideas, since I have an idea that I cannot not follow one way or the other?

(Original post: Μια ιδέα για τις ιδέες -16/01/09)


The table of the final truth

The beginning was difficult. We entered an auditorium shaped like a vertical matchbox. The floor was the smallest rectangular side of it with seats in an amphitheatric square bracket. You could neither ignore nor stay too far away from the cadaver that was lying, dumped rather unceremoniously, on the metallic table in the middle of the room; a man. The sight was not at all pleasant and the awkwardness of all of us was as obvious as it was expected. The smell of decomposition is not helping. Whispers and nervous chuckles sound among us as we scatter around the seats, trying to sit near classmates we are most comfortable with. Some get pale, some joke around, some try to show academic interest, some cold professionalism.

I gaze up at the blinding light coming from the windows on the upper part of the tall chamber and try to put my thoughts in order. This man has lost his life. How petty is it, being preoccupied with my own feelings, my own insecurities? How I feel is completely irrelevant. This hour belongs to this man, to his life. What’s more, whatever this man had been through is over. He’s not in pain anymore, he’s not suffering. He’s not doing anything else either, of course. The following hour would be difficult for us, not him. So, I simply had to deal with it. Funnily enough, it wasn’t as hard as I’d have thought.

The scalpel cuts the flesh. Always following the same predetermined path; like a prophecy about to be fulfilled, it draws its course and exposes one by one the inner layers of the material side of this person. Without fear, without passion, without any emotion, neutrally, like the official messenger of some higher, unmitigated truth, the coroner dictates the findings to his female assistant.

The assistant has certainly been animated from the pages of some dark novel: Thin face, white marble skin in full contrast to dark eyes and beautiful, long, wavy, black hair. An enigmatic beauty, she fits the picture so perfectly that the irony doesn’t manage to bother me.

There’s no other sound besides the meeting of the metallic instruments with the flesh, the steady voice of the coroner, the occasional rustle from the turning of a page on the assistant’s notes. Fifty people we might as well had been as lifeless as the man on the table… if one didn’t count the energy that can be only be produced by the weight of a collectively held breath. Fifty people and nobody makes the tiniest sound. The minutes pass, turn into an hour and keep passing and not even the slightest creak of a chair from somebody’s attempt to get comfortable, not even the slightest swish of some fabric from the smallest of movements has sounded. Nobody talks. Nobody moves. Nobody takes notes. Nobody breathes.

Like statues, like birds locked in the eyes of the snake, we watch wide-eyed, mesmerized, as the procedure progresses. Systematically, responsibly, everything’s cut, weighed, studied, and prepared for microscopy. 

And there are no more secrets.

Violent, barbaric, primitive, but with such control and coldness and seriousness, that it is impossible not to feel at awe. Whatever you’ve seen, whatever you’ve done, this is something different, higher; it takes by itself a ritualistic character.

If there is a god, there’s no way they don’t think we are exceeding our jurisdiction. If there is a god then every time a human is autopsied I’m certain they turn their back at as in disapproval for the mundanity with which we treat the matter of one of their creations.

But this mundanity, this seaming desecration, does not originate from lack of respect or from an insolent attitude, so it doesn’t come in opposition to the celebration of the grandeur of life. Besides, this is the grandeur of life; that it is the exception, a wonderful, occasional, vulnerable concentration of organization that all the forces around it try to degenerate, to dissipate – and, sooner or later, they succeed in it. Life is a relentless war, an ongoing attempt at maintaining a hole in the water during a storm.

And medicine is an important weapon in this war. That’s why they cause so much awe, the emergency room, the operating rooms, the defibrillation, the artificial respiration, all the extreme procedures that can delay the inevitable; the adrenaline, the responsibility. But the autopsy comes after the battle; after the defeat. It honors life in its absence. So unhurried, so cold. So crude, and yet so elegant, leading to the enunciation of the cause of the irreversible outcome… leading to the last truth.

Because, while the crime has already been committed, the culprit can still be found; and this is where they will be found… on the table of the final truth.


If I believed...

If I believed in God…

I wouldn’t be too happy or sad about specific events. The isolated actions of God cannot be good or bad. God sees the whole picture, while I don’t, so I can’t judge what is “good” and what is “bad”, except in a very limited time frame and with very limited perception of the overall results. Therefore, no matter how much I'd experience certain events as positive or negative, I would try to find out what God wants me to learn from them instead of thanking, or cursing, or begging him. I would depend upon my faith to find the strength to deal with the “negative” ones and I wouldn't let myself get too content with the “positive” ones.

I would never and for no reason blame him, of course; but I would never thank him for anything specific either. I would thank him constantly simply for existing, for being there, and loving me, and guiding me, and taking care of me; simply for caring.

I’d follow his rules with no hesitation and no doubt. The power and the righteousness of God are self-evident if you believe in him and they leave no room for negotiation. So, the path is very simple: Abide by God’s rules or repent every time you break them and you’ll be rewarded sooner (in this life) or later (after death). Disregard them and you’ll pay sooner or later. What, then, would ever be worth disobeying God himself for? Since I’d have a path that would ensure me the grace of God, of the supreme and most perfect being, why would I ever, even for once, go against him?

I would never ask anything of him, since I’d only want for myself what he wants for me. What’s more hypocritical than asking the highest intelligence to change its mind for you? Besides, why would he ever change his mind? If God wants your loved one to die in a car crash, then your loved one will die in a car crash. If he wants you to get your degree or a raise, you’ll get your degree or a raise. Why would the omnipotent being base such decisions on how many times you prayed or how intently you were focused? And, in the end, why bother him with such trivial matters? Most of our worries are insignificant in the face of God’s plan and anyone who serves him cannot not understand that they mustn't get wasted on such meaningless issues.

I wouldn’t worry, I wouldn’t fear for anything, since I would know that my soul will be safe in his hands, protected and safeguarded, for as long as I'm swearing my allegiance to him.

But I don’t believe. Without fear or favour, without pride or shame, I can state it, simply because it is so. And, although I don’t believe, my way is not that different than what it would be if I did.

Although I don’t believe…

I, indeed, try not to be too happy or too sad when good or bad things happen, because I know that the complexity of the situations surpasses my ability to understand it. Something that seems good/bad now, might be bad/good tomorrow, or have a later consequence that I can’t see yet.

I, indeed, don’t thank or curse anybody for any specific thing, although that’s because I don’t think there’s anyone to thank or curse. I, indeed, thank some things simply because they exist, in a secular and poetic pagan anthropomorphizing way; I thank the Universe, the Sun, the Earth etc simply because they exist, making it possible for me to exist, as well.

I, indeed, follow some rules without hesitation or doubt, those of morality. Some say they are subjective, but I have reasons to think they are, at least for the most part, universal and timeless. However, I follow the rules of morality not only without guarantee that I will be rewarded for that, but without guarantee that I won’t be, at least, punished for it.

I, indeed, don't wait for anything to fall out of the sky. I make the most of the opportunities that come my way and I try to create opportunities myself. And I always keep in mind that the point is to deal with whatever happens the best way I can.

But because I don’t believe…

I worry and fear about a lot of things, but mostly for my “soul” (unscientific term that I use to describe my conscious sense of integrity); because I’m not waiting for some god to show me the right path, to guide me when I don’t know what to do, to make me happy, to help me make people around me happy. I believe that whatever will happen, will happen by my powers, by the help of other people and/or by chance. I don’t believe in divine justice or Judgment, so that I will be vindicated sooner or later..

I’m not waiting for some god to teach me compassion, solidarity. And I don’t need some god to bribe me with a paradise and bully me with a hell to keep me from killing, stealing, cheating, tolerating lying, hypocrisy, greed, intolerance. I don’t need a god to teach me the value of love or to show me the human potential for
both the best and the worst.

No, I don’t need any God.
I need people.

I need my parents, my siblings, my friends, my neighbors, my teachers, my classmates, my employers, my employees, my clients, my passers-by. I need signs by some of them that, whether they believe in some superior being or not, they believe in me… they believe in us.