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My Statement

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Two days ago, a friend in a party asked: “What is your statement?” She meant what my philosophy about life and the world is. I said, “Frankly, I don’t think I have a fixed view (or a statement) of the world.” She said, “You quote all these books, but don’t claim any opinion. That is strange.”

I said, “Yes, I read a lot, and I don’t see a problem in quoting writers I trust, or better, trusted by many in intelligentia. Besides, I don’t quote for the sake of it. I use books as reference points because they reflect my views of the world in some ways.” She said, “But, what is your view(s).”

She would not let go of putting me up against the wall. I said, “Look, the nature of the world is too complex to allow me to make a singular statement. Things change so rapidly and so do my thoughts on discovering new possibilities. So, I don’t know what my statement is.”

Although I did not know the answer, it was, to be honest, a great question. I kept pondering as our conversation progressed. Finally, I said, “My philosophy is humanism or secular humanism. I stand for reason and science over myths and against oppression and injustice.” She seemed slightly convinced, but I was not satisfied with my answer because I doubted it was my statement. It did not describe how I see the world.

I thought my statement is the people at the gathering: the Vietnamese, Indians, Lebanese, Chileans, Pakistani (myself), Americans, Africans and African Americans. My statement is the dark night and the starless sky above. My statement is the cigar, beer and wine on the table. My statement is the fire next to the table.

My statement is the floating river and the cool breeze on the bridge on Raritan Avenue. My statement is to walk and lose myself to the silence of the streets in the dark. My statement is to doubt, and question because what I see does not exist in reality. And my statement is that I am lost in the world and don’t have a statement.

Aslam Kakar

 

The Evening Walk

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Music sets me on fire while I walk. I long for nothing but some time with myself. Alone. On the streets of the town. Under the trees with no one in sight. In the beauty of the darkness and silence. All I sense is thoughts and emotions. Happiness. Sadness. Helplessness. Nothingness. Aloneness. I see white and pink flowers in the street light. I feel their smell. Summer just started, but I thought flowers blossom in the Spring. Or maybe it is different in this country. But I like it anyways. I feel good.

But who am I? How did I end up in this town? Why walk in the dark? Why not do something else? Like go and sit in a coffee shop and read a book or write, and drink a cup of coffee. No, I should stop because I won’t be able to sleep. I have to wake up early tomorrow. And I just came home from the shop. I thought I should go for a walk.

Why am I afraid? What is fear? Why I can not rid of it. I do not know. I think I understand it but can not completely control it. It disappears and reappears like the hair on my face. I have to cut it if I don’t want it. Most of life has been like this. Can I be a great writer? Maybe, if I work hard. I think I can be. Think about where I started. It is possible, but I need to work hard and read a lot. No one can be a writer without writing. Everyone goes through the pain. All human beings have the potential to write, and so have I. Even if I can’t be a great writer, I am going to fucking keep writing. I just need to.

What will happen after Ph.D.? Will I get a full-time job as a professor? Will I be able to afford to live in a decent house? My room is not too bad, but a better place would be beautiful. Thank God I am not on the street because I could be if I do not work hard. Life is hard, man. Oh no! I am going to die too one day. What do I want to do before death? I want to write at least one book about my life. My village, the mountains, school and childhood friends. And my mother.

That house is so big and beautiful. Look at the cat in the window. How can these people afford such big homes? I heard they have to pay thousands of dollars in taxes. My yearly earnings are barely enough to pay rent and buy food. These thoughts about death, health and rent are scary. I should think about something sweet. Yeah, I should. But, why some people have excellent jobs and others, equally talented people, have to struggle. When, mostly, it is just a difference between nineteen and twenty, as people back home aptly put.

Life is fucking cruel and unfair. Some people have riches just because they have them. Others don’t have them just because they don’t. They are fucking miserable and all they get is more misery. Yes, I understand hard work pays, but for some, it doesn’t, no matter what. But do I care about riches? Do I want to be rich? I do not think so. I just want to have enough to live a decent life. I don’t want to end up on the street or die of a disease because I can’t afford a doctor. This is so scary.

It is going to be OK. Think about something beautiful and positive. I am calm, kind, confident and fearless, although fear is fucking existential. I listen to people. I try to understand where they come from. I always think about increasing my knowledge of the world. I read a lot. Sometimes, I read three to four different books on the same day. It is never enough though. But it is good. It makes me stronger but kinder. All I need is a calm head full of ideas.

I think this walk is enough and I should return home to take a shower and eat. Which book should I read tonight though? Sapiens by Hariri or reread Justice by Sandel? I think I should continue with Hariri. His story of the empires is interesting.

I am home from the thirty minutes’ walk. This is what I recall from the many random thoughts.

Aslam Kakar

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