Behind the walls….

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https://redzhis.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/Behind the wall

Behind the wall

Photography is a hobby of mine, getting more difficult with this journey I am on, but I learned as a child that a picture is worth a thousand words. Words come easy to some, not on account of the possession of a mouth, lips, vocal cords or hands, I opine that they come easy based on who you are on the inside. Words have always been an essential part of humanity or better put, communication has always been an esssential part of humanity. In war or peace, communication always played a pivotal role. I look around and realise that without words and communication, not much would be the way they are today.  It is therefore not very difficult to surmise that we all use words allbeit in different forms. How we use them is an issue on its own, but the way we use them guarantees either a reaction or a response.

A couple of nights ago, I was telling my daughter about the biblical story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho, and when I told her that the walls were so enormous and fortified that chariots could race above those walls. Now we are talking about at least two war horses (noted for their temperament, constitution and loyalty), the chariot (usually constructed from wood with a decoration of some metal filigree) and one adult. Now that there in itself is some weight, by the time you factor in the effects of the force transmitted into the walls by the running hooves, the rotating wheels etc, it is best imagined that those walls were not a foray into construction by some individual who felt bored. They were built to withstand, provide refuge for the inhabitants of the city especially in times of war and also exude a sense of peace as you gained entrance to the city.

This was not what I intended to talk about however, in the light of recent happenings, this has been birthed. Walls signify fortification and with the evolution of dynasties, we still require walls even as individuals for our residences; be they grand or tiny. Breach the walls of someone else, without invitation, and you are bound to suffer the consequences of whatever you encounter behind those wall. I recall my first experience in erecting walls; the walls for the family home built by my parents, I remember the foreman spitting out expletives when the wrong mixture of cement, sand, gravel and water was used. For the ‘security’ walls, the concrete mix differed from what was used for other parts of the building and despite the grumblings of the artisans and workers, they just had to get it right. In order to gain access to the house, you had to first get past the wall and it was so much easier when you were invited in (we have always had guard dogs, as children and when we were still in the nest, set loose at night). Behind those towering walls, there were secrets that could only be guessed by those walking on the outside and therefore in times of conflict, reconnaissance was vital.

As earlier mentioned, photography is a hobby and with time, I realised that I preferred staying behind the camera rather than being the subject of a photo shoot and till this day, my best pictures of people are those taken when they were unaware because it tells you a lot. And so I am of that quaint school of people that believe that man has yet again tinkered with the status quo because there are so many ways of editing pictures that they just come across as unreal and therefore the thousand words are inadvertently influenced to create a story that appeals to the subject. I can remember visiting a studio, just to get some passport photographs and when the passport pictures were given to me, I almost dropped them in shock because he had gone the extra mile of editing away my freckles! This was at least 7 years ago, so the leaps and bounds photo editing has come through is not something I want to even deliberate upon.

As an individual, I believe that words and instrumental music (classical, opera etc) are true expressions of the writer’s hearts and if you attempt to tinker with that then your objective had best be communicated as well. If the objectives are not properly or clearly expressed, not only is that an attempt to mislead but you taint the interpretation. Admittedly, it took quite a prodding before I joined Facebook and the like, however I try to stay true and for years, my Facebook account lacked any pictures of me. The other day, with my daughter going behind the camera, I made a short video of what an episode of dystonia looked like and I posted it on my facebook wall, I am still reeling from the flood of goodwill messages that are still coming through. The most popular comment from people has been been, “I’m so sorry, I never knew this what you were passing through”. I am still stuttering from the number of calls from people who called me after seeing the video. In all honesty, that will go down as one of my first attempts at emerging from behind my wall.

By virtue of the compelling and overwhelming need to conform, many of us have successfully, for years, hidden behind our walls; tucked away securely in our comfort zone reluctant to reveal the truth because the truth is not something that is a crowd pleaser. On the contrary, it actually reveals more that you had wanted to and the interpretation is best left to the recipient. Nobody wants to appear weak and vulnerable because we have become brain washed with notions that vulnerability is a sign of weakness and weakness is something that should be oft despised. What makes us human does not lie in what we have acquired over the years, it is in the everyday gestures and expressions of our hearts carried through on platters of kindness, compassion, hope , trust, faith and love. No matter how much concrete we pour into creating our impenetrable comfort zone, whatever you portray when you want to emerge, is a far cry from who you truly are and that in itself is a deception of gargantuan proportions. In order to deceive others, you first of all have to deceive yourself and rationalising it logically, the person bound to be hurt the most is YOU!

Discernment is a gift that many of us have been blessed with, but few have bothered building it up and developing it with the right nutrients just like we do with our bodies. We have chosen to ignore the needs around us as we journey through, confident in our own self told fact; “it is not my storm” and “if I were in your shoes, this is what I would done”. Can I kindly hush you before you make a bigger mess of yourselves, YOU CAN NEVER KNOW HOW YOU WOULD RESPOND OR REACT IN THAT SITUATION UNTIL YOU HAVE GONE THROUGH SOMETHING SIMILAR. As we saunter down life’s streets, we encounter walls of all kinds – some standing tall, some crumbling and in dire need of attention and some completely broken down. What do we do when we are opportuned to see beyond those walls? What do we do when we come across a broken down wall? Do we join in looting the spoils or we help in rebuilding? Self-control is a trait (scripturally likened to a wall) that we all must have as individuals but when our walls become less of a necessity for us and more of a ‘keeping with the flow’, then it is time to stop and re-evaluate.

Some of us have been so sucker punched by experiences that we lay in the dirt, completely spent, greedily grabbing air into our lungs and watch in dismay as our highly decorated walls fall to bits. We lack the strength to even pull ourselves up but there is a choice to be made here, “get back on your feet, soldier!” or curl up in the dirt and wait for the final curtain drop. I might still be reeling from the annoying attempts of dystonia as it tries in vain to re-define me, but I will rise and with tottering steps, get out from behind my self-built wall because just down the road, there is a city whose walls are fallen in battle and its citizens paralysed by the sheer enormousity of being prisoners of war. There is no joy in being a prisoner and while we are constrained by events that we didn’t choose, we can redefine our priorities and make our lives count for something. This might be that chance to reach in and pull out that gift that you have so selfishly used on yourself and for yourself alone, and instead choose to use it in assisting someone else. I can whole-heartedly assure you that your fears of it running out will not materialise.

True, money answers all things but does it provide all things? And if the answer is a quiet yes muttered beneath our breath then it would make so much sense to apply it to providing channels for those things that cannot be bought. There will never be a perfect life, no dwelling on the mountain top forever and whilst you are basking in the sun, and getting a tan or luxuriating in the freshness of the cool air from the ocean side, remember that the sun will set soon and when the darkness sets in, pray that you do not stumble. Storms will always come, we can do nothing about the size or strength of the storm but the factors that you can influence, please do not hold back. For today, you are able to shelter a wandering stranger as his night engulfs him, tomorrow is a mystery that we can prepare for today by just being human.

Remember “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. My thanks go out to those who in the last few days (and those to come) have with no hesitation accepted me as their friend and brother, especially those who like me have hidden behind the walls of dystonia and Parkinson’s syndrome, know this; Champions can be born great or they can learn greatness. Each of you are champions because as long as you arise each day not knowing whether it is going to be a good day or not, you are making the choice to make your life count for something. No matter how heavy or long a rainstorm lasts, it can never wash off the smile on your face.

עד שנפגשנו שוב, אולי התענוגות שלו להיות העונג שלך לעשות

Adios!

Between two cities…..

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In the course of my remarkable journey through life, I have been blessed beyond measure by the number of lives that I get to encounter. And when I use the word ‘encounter’, I mean it literally – at train stations where there are no escalators or elevators. The chap giving up his seat on the morning train while people are still trying to complete their quota of sleep in an insane bid to multi-task. The fruit grocer who tells me to have an extra pound of grapes even though I just have enough for only one pound. The Procuring officer who, without a hint of irritation in her voice, logs in an extra thirty minutes (off the books) just so I get there on time to finalise my business dealings with them. The charming lady with kids who insists on helping me with my shopping despite my clamour for chivalry. I could list complete strangers who just by their actions with no regards to any form of obligation or brevity of time have become contacts on my phone book. Most of whom, I am fully aware, will continue dealing with their own issues as soon as they get off at their predestined stop.

Those are the family of strangers that I belong to and within the time frame of our interactions, I know that they have inexplicably earned a paragraph, a page, a chapter in my life’s tale. Today, I look at my phone book and due to the insistent demand for independence by my neurological system, I have figured out new ways of getting hitherto simple tasks completed with the least amount of added stress to an already over burdened system. To every name, there is a face to match because just like I was explaining to my daughter yesterday about how the brain is a muscle, I had hitherto engaged in mental exercises that ensured that my memory was catalogued. I do not forget faces or names but with the unrelenting clamour  for autonomy by my nerves under the strong influence of dystonia, I have learned how much of an anguish it is when I try to engage in placing a face when I hear a name or matching a name to a face as we converse…….and so I just reinvent a new method of mental indexing to lighten the associated burden of doing things the old way.

Needless to say, I still remember, and when faces and memories ricochet in my head like a hastily fired off shot from the muzzle of a Springfield XD 3″ sub-compact semi auto pistol in a tiny confined space, I have learned the futility of trying to catch the bullet or limit its bouncing around. There’s no good result regardless of how much effort I make and so I just reinvent new methods. Still there are lives that so significantly interspersed with mine that I cannot help but just put them in a category much more easier to rifle through. Now I chuckle when I remember “there are many ways to kill a rat” because now, it’s so amazingly simple to just open the door and let the rat go find someone else with the energy to alternate between the many ways of ridding the world of just that one rodent.

Within the space of four weeks, I learned of the demise of two men (way past the prime of their youth) who touched my lives in so much different ways as their locations. Two continents apart, one life being the only common factor, mine. One preferred to get from me as much as he could even though he rationalised it by saying ‘it’s because of your condition I am even negotiating with you’ – when in reality, there was no respite applied. The other, was as open-hearted as I have ever seen anyone been and even when he struggled to remember the subject of our last conversation, he would still embrace me and plant a kiss on my cheek while propping himself up with his walker. He gave more of himself than I ever gave to him because when the twilight comes creeping in, we more often remember the givers than the takers.

In response to my enquiries, one passed away alone with no relatives or friends with him until he was discovered by one of his tenants. The other had nothing but a long list of lives he had touched with his humility, compassion and smile; who stayed with him till he transitioned with a hymn on his lips and a smile on his face. Am I in anyway trying to make light of the fact that to every season, there is a beginning and an end? Definitely not, but I still cannot picture how sad it is to exit the stage alone and unobserved by the rows of spectators who watch our lives because in all fairness, we are all called upon to play our roles on this stage of life. And so, I know that regardless of how poorly a role you might have played, the least you deserve is a slight smattering of applause just for showing up. However, my question is why would I settle for the polite applause when I can get a standing ovation, not in response to fame or my gaudy attire but in response to the collection of individual lives that were so impacted by our meeting.

When the final stage curtains are dropped and your role is done, what would be the response? Mere courtesy or deep hearted appreciation, I choose the latter every day and so my intent is not to run around like I’m in a game of tag (well I don’t run anymore) but to ensure that whether the duration of encounter is measured in minutes or by decades, I gave of myself both in cash (when it’s there) and in kind. It is so easy to gravitate towards the company of those who give than the company of takers but remember that you are the star character in your own role, and whilst you may delight yourself in being ‘smart’; there is something within you that is meant to be shared with others. “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without wall” – Proverbs 25:28 Of what use is a city without walls, how do you provide safety for those entrusted to you?

We are all cities; size, population etc might vary but a city is what you are, and so in this arena called life, what makes you stand-out? Handouts from your fully stocked cellars and granaries might suffice for a bit but when the curtain falls and your granaries and cellars are pillaged and looted by strangers, the insignificance of your handouts would suddenly become glaring and shameful. We are cities stocked for the long run, and giving is a sacrifice but sacrifices are not a hobby in any location I have been to during my sojourn. Though my walls may be in dire need of a fresh coat of paint, and my watch towers have slowly lost their glimmer, there is still something to share with that stranger who seeks solace in the shadows of my walls. Though the buffet table be removed and the fountains but trickle slowly, there is still enough to parch both our thirsts. Though my blankets have all but lost their fleece, and the chandeliers are but a spot on the ceiling, I know that the warmth of our conversation; true and sincere, will create memories never to be forgotten when the time to part ways draws near.

Remember that time never stands still, but even with its passage when the arms of sleep so tightly embrace, memories will always be created.

עד שנפגשנו שוב, אולי התענוגות שלו להיות העונג שלך לעשות

Adios!