Art imitates life, life imitates art … but what’s the deal with pepper spray at WalMart? It’s the theater of the absurd in overdrive. I sit here next to the pot bellied stove in my guest house, calm and distant. I don’t mind the distance from this facet of life. Though I do remember when I was here in late September, I had such longing to be part of the Occupy movement in NYC. Funny how things change.
It’s easy to turn away from the ugliness on display right now – greed and desperation played out in bizarre scenarios. I guess it’s not a surprise. Our world situation has left the majority of people feeling desperate, isolated, rejected. The politicians would have more pressure, more responsibility, more weight dropped down on the 99%. But will love and cooperation ever become more popular responses than “getting mine”? Somehow in the midst of the crush, we have to choose humanity.
I flew out of NY on Thanksgiving Day and within hours of landing in Kabul, I had a dozen moments where I stopped to appreciate all . First, I met a friend in the airport parking lot. He and his friends stopped to say hi and see if I needed any help. In the anxious moments when arriving alone in a foreign country, seeing a familiar face and having someone offer their help is such a blessing. About 30 minutes later, a friend from Herat called. She was expecting me to arrive and was glad to catch me! Another friend called later in the night. I hadn’t told him the date I was coming but he saw my Facebook status and called to welcome me. Simple human gestures of care and consideration made any feelings of loneliness fade away. Imagine feeding anxiety with compassion; isolation with care for others?
Zabi, the cook and house manager, made me a simple and delicious meal of yellow lentils, potato with peas and carrots, and warm, fresh bread. His friendly smile and caring disposition made me feel at home in seconds. The warm stove, red embers, and hot shower also softened my longing for home.
Love, kindness, and appreciation is transmitted person to person, through small acts. And those most valuable gifts cannot be bought, sold, or snatched away in a pepper spray haze.
But we must face the ugly and desperate parts of ourselves. We must understand that we have been made fearful and competitive by forces that want us to fight each other, rather than systemic oppression. But friendship and trust can always be rebuilt – no matter how bizarre things have gotten. What would our relationships look like if we chose a different route? Our ability to be creative and imaginative will lead us towards healing.
It’s good to be back in Kabul, where aerial bombardment, land mines, suicide attacks, and yes, pepper spray have not yet numbed people’s ability to be human, to connect with one another. You can’t hold on to love when you’re trying to grab an X-Box. You have to put down the products and reach out a loving hand.
Somewhat related news … A three-year old border collie in Denver was voted the leader of the Occupy Denver. “Newly-elected leader Shelby will be leading this Satuday’s Occupy Denver march against Corporate Personhood and invites all other civic-minded dogs (and their leash-holders) to join. If a corporation can be a person, so can a border collie!” (It’s always funny to read how political commentators will rail against such declarations of creative resistance but the absurd oppressive practices are somehow completely rational.)