Finding Love, Coping with Grief, and the Absurdity of Writing the Great American Autobiography

Ali&Nathan

Seems like as my age increases, so do the chances that someone will tell me that I should write a book about my life. I suppose that’s true of anyone, but I feel like I get told that same line far more frequently than the average bipedal mammal. Although I don’t know if you can really consider yourself a card-carrying biped if you don’t walk and never have.

Hi, my name is Nathan Herman… I’ve known Les since I was a teenager (I’ll be 33 next month), I have SMA type II – http://www.mda.org.au/Disorders/Atrophies/SMAII.asp – and I’m writing a book which I will begrudgingly label an autobiography. Although it is true that the majority of the content of this memoir is centered from my point of view, I am not the hero of my own story, I’m more of the damsel in distress. I’m the enduring apostle, the loving Herald, the bard dedicated to singing the praises and building the immortal legend of the woman who saved my life.

Her name was Ali, and six years ago she lost her own life.

About six years before that we fell in love despite the fact that we lived over 3000 miles apart. I was 20 years old, I weighed somewhere around 35 pounds, was bedridden, suicidal, and on hospice. Ali had just graduated high school, recently attempted to commit suicide, suffered from depression, anxiety, and a few minor to moderate learning disorders. Both of her younger siblings had special needs… Her younger brother is non-verbally autistic, and her sister has Williams syndrome – https://williams-syndrome.org/what-is-williams-syndrome. I excelled in school up until high school where I nearly flunked out, I’d never been in a relationship, and had three completely able-bodied younger brothers. Ali and I met on a message board for fans of punk music in general, and the band Green Day specifically. I mistakenly thought she was gay, and she correctly thought I was a geek. We were friends for a few months before I realized she was hitting on me. We fell in love almost instantly. She lost 40 pounds, I gained 40 pounds and she flew across the country to live with me. We saved each other’s lives, though for Ali it would only be the first time either figuratively or literally she would save my life… It kind of became a habit for her in intervening years. That’s the extremely condensed cliff notes version of our early relationship. If you’d like to read a little bit more about this, here is a article written about this a few months before we moved back across the country to get married: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20050214/NEWS01/502140713

Ali would prove to be first person to consistently tell me that I should write a book about all of my experiences. Though I didn’t think that I had really done enough to warrant an entire chronicling of my life, I did admit that my disability had given me a somewhat unique perspective on the human condition. I felt like unless you had done something truly noteworthy or were famous in some way, you didn’t really deserve an autobiography.

A few months before Ali died, I relented and began writing a few prototype chapters for what would become my book. It would start out as my book, but end up as Ali’s book. To say that we were in love would be a disgustingly serious understatement. Ali and I wove the very fabric of each other’s lives. She was my best friend, my wife, my caregiver, and my muse. Most of my life I wanted to be an artist, and after finding Ali I was the most productive and successful I had ever been. So when I lost her, I shut down for about a year. I disappeared into a haze of pain killers and anti-anxiety drugs. Those months are a mottled, ugly fog for me.

When I managed to emerge, I knew what I had to do. I had to tell the world exactly what Ali had done for me and who she was. I wanted to tell all of humanity exactly what they lost. I was able to get around my aversion for the audacity of writing an autobiography by telling myself that it wasn’t REALLY about me, it was about Ali. I had never seriously written anything in my entire life, and hadn’t even tried to write anything more than emails and journal entries since high school English.

So how do you start writing about the most important thing in the universe to you when you have zero confidence and experience as a wordsmith? I clenched my jaw, and just… Wrote. Slowly, one chapter at a time, over the course of years. Just like I waded through the hip deep quicksand of grief day after day, I trudged through Ali and I’s story one page at a time. Every week I would try and focus on one story, one memory, and drag it out of the mental vault where I kept all of my most painful and cherished experiences. As my condition has left me practically motionless save for the use of my right thumb, I write almost solely by dictation.

The training text for the dictation software states that you should try and speak evenly and without emotion, like a television newscaster. Yeah, good luck with that when when you’re narrating the most painful months and years of your entire existence.

Nevertheless, I have come to a point where I need to begin thinking about publishing this story which has become nearly sacrosanct to me. I’ve heard almost nothing but horror stories about the entire process of getting published. Stories of heartbreak and merciless rejection. I’m a little bit about delicate snowflake when it comes to critique and ESPECIALLY rejection, so the concept of blindly throwing out my and Ali’s story for strangers to swat down seems like excruciating torture. One thought, one fear screams maddeningly around in circles within my head:

What if it’s not good enough?

Every time I’ll be rejected, it will be like someone is telling me my life isn’t good enough… Ali’s deeds of heroism and love are not compelling enough for the average reader to plop down five dollars for. It’s one thing when you craft a story from scratch from characters and settings in your imagination… It’s quite another when it’s your life; when it’s the memory of your most beloved that you are trying to market. The thought of failure and rejection is paralyzing (something people already think I am, anyway). So how do I move forward from here?

I don’t know yet. I think I’m just going to have to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and jump. The same way I woke up that first day after my wife had died, the same way I embarked on a quest to immortalize her memory while knowing nothing about the craft of writing, I must now see if the past five years have been a fool’s pursuit… To see if I’ve been chasing windmills. Because really – that’s all you can do in life. Sure, you can be afraid to engage, to put yourself out there… To talk to that girl, to apply for that job, to be true to yourself, to risk failure, or to face death… But you can’t let it stop you.

For every person that’s told me that I should write a book, I’ve had 15 tell me I’m “inspirational”. As flattering and well-intentioned as that is, it’s bullshit. I’ve done what billions of people have done since the dawn of man: I’ve lived my life.

I’ve loved more deeply than I ever could have imagined, I’ve left everything I knew to protect that love, I’ve seen great and terrible things, I’ve been submerged in the blackness of the brink of death only to come back to the land of the living staring into the crystal blue eyes of a girl named Ali. I have touched the sun and I have lost everything. All of those things are experiences however, not accomplishments. I hope that if people do find inspiration in what I write, it’s not because of my disability or the tribulations that I’ve endured. I hope it’s because I was able to help them get to know the personality and feats of love and courage demonstrated by a 5 foot tall, painfully shy girl from Boston.

Anyway, I’d like to thank Les for allowing me to ramble on his blog and thank you, the reader for actually making it this far. If you’re in publishing, an avid reader, or just a believer of the concepts of hope, love, and salvation, feel free contact me.

Because, man… Have I got a story for you.

nathanwritesthings@gmail.com

Nathan’s websites…

Writing

Art

TitanFloyd, the Ticklepuss RIP

TubbyTitanI just said to Orion (Titan’s twin): “Where’s Titan?” He started looking around the room. I think cats grieve, too.

Titan went to the rainbow bridge in November, because he was so ill.. Their beautiful Mum, Scratchy (I didn’t name her!) was put to sleep in September, 2013.

My heart is broken, again. And even when it’s repaired, I know that Orion – who’s 17-and-a- half, will go before too long. It’s hitting so hard, already. I miss Titan the Ticklepuss. I miss his meows. He used to sing the song of his people, right through the night. I nick-named him Pavarotti, because he sang so much.

I love Titan as much as I’ve loved anyone… maybe even more. He was there for me through all my troubles and pain. I knew him before he was born… when he was a squiggle in his Mum’s barrel tummy, and I was there the moment she gave birth to him. And I was there, at the moment he died, when the vet injected him. He was so ill that the anaesthetic killed him, rather than the second injection they were going to give him.

I told him, over and over and over again: “I love you!” Then I watched those beautiful, beautiful eyes just stop seeing me.

The vet left me with him and I cried my fucking eyes out (not literally). I stroked him and, for the first time ever, he didn’t purr.

He was dead… dead… my little boy, who my brother Paul – who died in 2014 – called his brother. And he was that much to us. He is my family.

Going back a little, I had to get a taxi to the vet, and I put Titan on the back seat, in the carrier case.

The taxi driver said he hoped Titan would get better, then I told him it was his ‘last journey’. He was so sad for us. When we got to the vet, I got my wallet out and he said: “No. This is free. You both take care.”

It was such an enormous gesture of kindness. Humans are good souls. It’s politicians and the media that make us afraid of each other… who make us kill each other.

If only we could be more like cats… present and loving unconditionally, we’d change the world.

“The Curious Incident of the Cat in the Daytime” – That little guy got me into trouble.

http://lesism.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/curious-incident-of-cat-in-daytime.html

(P.S. If anyone has the will and ability to contribute to my ‘fighting fund’… I need carpets… donations would be most welcome through PayPal, at ‘Lesism@btinternet.com’. Anything would be greatly appreciated.)

DEATH IS NOT A DIRTY WORD – Guest Blog, by Dr. Quincy, M.E.

DEATH IS NOT A DIRTY WORD

By Dr. Quincy, M.E.

 Klugman

I’m Dr. Quincy, M.E. and I’m here to tell you that death is not a dirty word – and if you hadn’t already figured that out from the title of this article I’ve got a good mind to revoke your MENSA membership. I’ve agreed to take time out of my busy schedule trying to fight corruption in City Hall so as to share some of my knowledge and insight with you. Furthermore, by my calculations three murders go unsolved every day I’m not at work because the LAPD are astoundingly ineffective when it comes to solving murders, so you’d better make damn sure you’re appreciative.

When I received a message from Les Floyd on Facebook asking if I’d consider writing a guest entry for his internet diary, I was unsure. But then he informed me that my recent words of wisdom and true stories on so-called “social media” inspired him, so I was only happy to oblige in the hopes that I could work similar forensic magic through my words for your eyeballs. I’m still relatively new to Facebook and things like it, and honestly, I don’t get what’s so “social” about something that keeps everyone at a distance. Websites will never replace my favorite booth at Danny’s, where I can share a gin with my reasonably-talented assistant Sam. Not literally share a gin, you understand. He’s on a good enough wage that he can buy his own.

As a medical examiner, I deal with corpses every single day. You may have seen many of my exploits documented on my television show a few years ago. Let me tell what is a dirty word, or rather, phrase: reality TV. Nowadays it’s all self-obsessed young people trying to avoid doing actual, meaningful work. Back in my day, television companies weren’t afraid to showcase real talent and hard work, like my own experiences and those of my good friend Columbo. Fame has always been a drug to many snot-nosed punks, and I’ve seen the fatal consequences of those who mainline it. People will never learn. But that’s why I’m here. To try and teach them! And by ‘them’ I of course mean ‘you’.

Did you know that the human body decomposes at a rate of approximately 60mph? Or that several of the gases caused by the process can be used as highly lethal explosives? Death holds many mysteries, but thanks to my due diligence I’ve uncovered around 76% of them. We shouldn’t be afraid of him. One way to do this is to humanize Death as both a concept and individual. If he calls round your house in the middle of the night, you might think to call the police – but he’s not a burglar so don’t treat him like a common thief. He’s only doing his job or, if you’re lucky, popping round to give you notice that he’ll be back soon. Treat him with respect and courtesy. Unless he really is a burglar, then you should call the police.

Here’s another tip: Death can take many forms. Unfortunately for many of my clients, he chooses a bullet. That’s too small and fast to notice until it’s too late! My advice: don’t fraternise with people who own guns. Unless they’re cops. Or me, because I own a gun. I don’t think Sam does, though. I suspect he’s really good at some form of martial arts so his hands are like bullets.

VARIOUS TV PROGRAMME STILLS

I recently investigated a case involving a boxer who punched himself to death. Terrible business. And what provoked such a startling and unorthodox suicide was so bizarre it lead to a television company pitching a brand new series about me, to me. They want to call it The Dr. Quincy Mysteries and have it where I do what I do best – solve murders! But the twist is I routinely uncover strange and unusual causes. Now, I’m not saying it’ll be supernatural, but it might be supernatural. I said to the company “You want to see strange and unusual? You oughta come with me on a drug bust!” I once infiltrated a house full of kids high as kites on drugs. Hashish, Mary Jane, Horse – you name it, they were all on it. And they had these awful Indian-style rugs on the walls and played vinyl records of progressive rock on a constant loop…! It was the sort of place where you wiped your feet leaving. Any of those kids could meet Death any day. We all could. Sometimes Death uses our own bodies against us, other times he uses someone else’s bodies against us. And there I am, figuring out what the hell went wrong.

I’m going to let you all in on a secret now. I’m renowned for guarding my private life with all the tenacity of a freshman trying to score with a girl on prom night, but I think this is the right time for sharing. I’ve been writing a novel about a famous forensic expert called Chuck Connors. He is entirely my own creation. He regularly goes on adventures with his best friend, The President of All the Americas. I didn’t invent him; he actually exists. Along the way they both learn important life lessons, often while combating a new outbreak of Bubonic Plague, or unruly punks, or the undead in Cuba. The President uses all the resources at his disposal to create fantastic and astounding devices, such as an Adventure Jet and a car that can talk and drive itself. I’m downright convinced kids these days could learn a lot from these two men, so I’d like to share an excerpt with you to close this article. I think you’ll agree that it ties in nicely with the overall theme. And who knows? Maybe it’ll inspire enough of you to look at your life in a new light, or maybe even lead to the creation of a best-selling movie or computer game. But what do I know? I’m only a highly-qualified medical examiner.

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Chuck Connors stood over his arch-nemesis Buck Summers with all the triumph of a world-class gymnast. “You’ll never learn, Buck,” he said. “My fists are augmented with the power of justice, whereas your face is powered by evil. It can never beat me, whereas I can easily beat you. Which in fact I just did. With my aforementioned fists.”

“You might think you’ve defeated me,” Buck snarled, “but by this point we’re only halfway through the novel so you can be sure I’ll somehow escape and our paths will cross again!”

“Or you won’t, and a new, more exotic villain takes centre stage!”

“Chuck!” The President shouted his best friend’s name as he ran over. “I’ve just had my chief of staff on the Adventure Phone—turns out there’s an exciting and dangerous adventure brewing in Peru. Something about germ warfare and reanimated cadavers!”

“That’s preposterous!” Chuck spluttered the words like he didn’t like the taste of them and just wanted them the hell out of his mouth. “It’s medically—or rather, forensically—impossible for a corpse to reanimate!”

“Sounds like my backup plan is now my main plan!” Buck said with a devilish grin. “Wait until you see what I have in store for Cuba!” He laughed like a maniac. Maniacally, you might say. “I’m going to teach you both that death is a dirty word and I’ve got a potty mouth!”

“Death is not a dirty word, Summers,” The President argued. “Nor is it something we should be afraid of.”

“I couldn’t agree more, Mr President,” Chuck agreed. “And I’ll tell you what you should be afraid of, Buck. Prison. Because that’s where you’re going!” And with that he punched his enemy in his stupid ugly face with all the grace common to the hands of a world-class forensic expert.

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Missing Mum

IMG_5787At the time of writing this, on March 17th, today is the second anniversary of my Mum’s death. I’ve missed her every single day since, and there comes the realisation, as you process your grief, when you know you’re going to miss them for all your days to come.

My Mum was my parents. My Dad left when I was about eight or nine-years-old and she worked long, hard hours in a sweet factory, to pay the bills and make sure we had everything we needed. (I’m the youngest of five, but two of them had flown the nest by then.)

When I was a young boy, I would run down the path in the estate I used to live in, and she’d have just got off the bus, and I’m jump up on her and she’d swing me around. If I’d done that in the later years of my Mum’s life, when she was frail and had turned into an old woman… I would have been charged with manslaughter.

I love her so much. Always. I always did and I always will.

When you lose a parent, your world changes. There becomes a before and an after. Reality fractures.

Losing my brother last year, combined with the sobbing mourning of my Mum, then being exiled from London and the woman I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with… and becoming homeless. It’s no real surprise I went a bit AWOL in a mental sense. It’s quite a lot to deal with. I think I said elsewhere that it’s been something of a psychological tsunami… wave after wave of heartbreak, confusion and loss.

For months on end, I actually believed… I’d made myself think this was the only sensible option… that it was my last day. Suicide was imminent. It was terrifying – every waking moment and in jagged dreams… that’s all I wanted… to end my life and escape the agony I was in. I think I annoyed a lot of people with my sporadic ramblings about topping myself… but they weren’t cries for help… that was actually how I was feeling… right on the edge of ending myself, actively plotting on how I was going to do it. I was having a ‘nervous breakdown’, as they used to call it. Full on. I had a Crisis Team from the comfortable hospital who’d meet me every day and have a chat and try to bring me out of my malaise – essentially, my new best friends were paid to talk to me.

And from the depths of that despair and horror and heartbreak… I’ve risen up again and I’m ready to forge the life I want to live.

My Mum gave me the most precious gift… consciousness. She created me, loved me unconditionally all her life… and now she’s gone, I still have this amazing gift – the present – and after months of tumbling confusion and self-hatred, lost in my own head, returning to my peaceful centre is such a heartening relief.

I cried a little, this morning, when I woke, but with a snot-bubble smile at the end. The rest of the day, I’ve been feeling energised, positive and creative, and it’s been such a long time since I had this drive and this focus on the truth that I can actually build the life I want to lead, if I work hard and stay conscious. I’ve got at least ten books in my head that have been percolating up there for years, with plots imagined at bus stops, supermarket queues and sleepless nights. They need to get written, so that’s what I’ll do.

It’s hard to build a raft when you’re trying not to drown, but I’ll get out of here. I’ll find a home to call my own – get some rescue kitties and lots of soothing purring. I’ll write and keep on writing until my imagination runs out or death guides me someplace else.

In the late Summer and Autumn, I was really so confused and angry at people in my life, who I love, just turned their backs on me. I was ill. I have a note from the doctor to say I was having a breakdown! I’d gone rogue, or whatever. I said a lot of hurtful things, lashing out in pain, and rather than burning bridges, I think I may have nuked them.

Now, all the anger and bewilderment and negativity has fallen away again.

If I hurt these people I care about, then I hope, someday, they find it in their hearts to forgive me. I’d gone bananas, proper. I cannot, though, hold their current lack of forgiveness as a burden. It’s not mine to carry. It’s up to them to deal with that business. I felt betrayed and rejected by the people I loved the most… and they weren’t very nice to me… but all is forgiven, this end. And, most importantly, I have forgiven myself. The past is done… it’s gone… you can’t change it. I’m in an awkward situation, being a homeless, but getting out of here and finding my own home… that’s going to be a great chapter in my autobiography. I’ve had an interesting, sometimes surreal life.

“The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less.”Eldridge Cleaver

You’ve just got to let all the psychological debris you’re carrying fall away from you. Live in the moment… practice conscious awareness… meditate… there is only now, for us, and it’s such a wonderful present. It’s the greatest gift any of us will ever be given. Tune out of the repetitive, looping nagging in your brain and stand silently, listen to the traffic or the sounds of your area. Look at the clouds and actually look at them, rather than just glancing up like you’re checking for rain. Feel the breeze on your hands and face. Take deep breaths and be conscious of them. Focus on your lips and take notice of the rush of air as you breathe.

You can overwhelm your nagging mind by falling into the senses. Taking a hike up a mountain overwhelms the senses and the mind falls quiet… consciousness takes over. It’s almost impossible to look from the peak of a mountain and have worries about bills or relationships running through your head. I’m sure the same is true with many other activities.

I feel like the real me is emerging. All the negative emotions have been discarded. I knew how to do that all along… but I guess grief is like an addiction, and you have to go through that mourning process. It’s an important phase of recovery, so I was told at the comfortable hospital.

But here, now, again, I am happy and at peace with the world and myself. And I’m fired up and determined to use the new psychological and spiritual strength I’ve ripped and knitted and bulked through my trials, to build a new life and set about making a raging success of myself while helping others through their own dark times. I’m stronger than I ever imagined I could be. Proof of that is I’m still here.

I made it through the toughest time of my life. I did it. I had a lot of help from some incredible friends, but in each challenge and tragedy, I’ve gained the strength I needed, just at the right time to get me through.

My future is a blank page. I have no ties to anywhere or anybody. I’ll find a home and I know I’ll fall in love again, and then some other woman would become the most beautiful in the known Universe. I wonder if I’ve seen her face, yet, or chatted with her on Twitter or Facebook? Perhaps she’s a complete stranger to me, now, and there’s an adventure ahead to make sure we bump into each other? The Universe/Multiverse moves in mysterious ways! I’ve been witness to that many times.

And this adventure that’s coming… and the blank page I’m going to write a great life on… it’s all because of my beautiful, selfless, eternally loving Mum – Brenda Floyd.

Apart from the tears, this morning, today has been more of a celebration of her life, rather than there being a focus on her passing. I’ve thought about her so much and smiled. Precious memories warm my heart, whereas before, when I was losing the plot, those memories would break my heart over and over, balling me, crouched down on the floor, inconsolably sobbing – rocking with tears.

My Mum gave me life, and I truly want to live, now. I have – hopefully – a few more decades ahead, and it’s going to be a most splendid trek into the unknown. I have lots to do, and I’ll do it. I will find treasure through my work. My best writing is yet to come.

Thank you, Mum. I love you and miss you so much.

Ah, for one last tight hug… out of the ether, just for a minute to say goodbye properly…

 

P.S. If you find any of my blogs useful to your own life, I’d appreciate a small donation (towards my survival/new flat funds), if you can afford it, via PayPal, to:

Lesism@btinternet.com

Literally, perhaps, for a cup of coffee you’d buy me if you saw me huddled up on some street corner. I may get there, yet! 😛

Facing Grief

IMG_5787It would have been my Mum’s 76th birthday, today. I miss her so much, and my brother, Paul, my precious little cat, Scratchy… and the rest of my stupid family that I doubt I’ll ever see again, and my beautiful, beautiful two surviving, old cats… my boys; my life companions for more than sixteen years.

I’m over my ex – we can’t get divorced until May 1st… which is going to be such a big day, because Avengers: Age of Ultron hits the cinemas then. I am so excited and looking forward to that day and watching that film. Perfect timing!

The cataclysmic confusion of the break-up has lifted and cleared. I’m glad I’m not with her, even though my life is in such a state of flux at the moment. But now that’s gone, I’m hit with these waves of grief… it’s time to face it all, and it breaks me down so quickly, so surprisingly… in private, in public, walking down the street… but I’m glad I’m immersing myself in it, at last. I’ve initiated contact with a grief counselling service in the area. I’m on a waiting list, but they’ve sent me leaflets and it is unlocking me, allowing me to finally begin to accept the impossible fact that they’re dead… they’re gone… but they’ll always be loved.

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My doctor’s surgery is opposite the maternity hospital I was born in. It’s now a University campus, but it will always be where my life began, the moment my Mum held me in her arms, at last, and loved me every moment, through all my trials and troubles and fuck-ups, unconditionally, all her life.

To be here, in this homeless hostel, without anyone in my family to talk to, is so hard… so damn hard, every day… but they left me for dead, they turned their backs on me and supported my charming, successful narcissistic, abusive ex who’d call me a cunt, so often, in private, ridicule me in public and make everyone laugh with her while I just smiled and took it.

I should never have married her.

The third day with her, when we first met, before we were married, we were listening to music at the hotel we were staying in, and Eva Cassidy’s ‘Fields of Gold’ began to play, but I tried to turn it off, because it reminded me of my Mum’s death.

She was very, very drunk and insisted I listen to it, then she laughed at me when I began to cry. (I never felt I could talk about that grief, with her, after that, and I didn’t. I just held it in and tried not to break.)

I should have walked out right then… but she said she’d probably have killed herself if she lost me… then, of course, she kicked me out of what I believed was my home, less than three months after we were married and I had become her unwanted property, less than a week after my brother’s funeral… where she watched me carry his coffin… where she held my hand during the ceremony, while I was sobbing my broken heart out.

And though I share these details, I am so relieved to be free of that… free of her… and now, my new life is unfolding… my wisdom is returning. I have so many stories and theories to write down and share with others who may need them, just at the right time for them.

This grief is hard… losing my Mum, my beautiful kitty, Scratchy, and then my brother, and then my family… of course that’s difficult. Of course I had a breakdown… of course I was angry… of course I was utterly broken, destroyed and of course I fell into a living hell… but I am out, now… I’m on my feet again, and I’ll cry when I need to, but I am moving on, stronger, wiser and more peaceful than I’ve ever been.

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Hell

Repair

I have a new friend who has helped me smile and laugh again. I have other friends that have held me up when all I wanted to do was fall… all I wanted was death. So many of you, on Facebook and Twitter, have sent me your love and lifted me, too.

I’m am so fortunate.

I recognise this, now. I am here. I’m moving into my own flat or house in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I have a roof over my head.

If my Mum was still here, or if she’s looking down on me from I don’t know where, she’d smile and she’d be proud, because she’d know the best of me is about to be unleashed. And – sorry for the swears – but about fucking time, eh?

Life: Part Two… it has begun. I’m going to build something brilliant, and love all the days I have left to live. It’s one thing writing down that intent, but now it’s time to alchemise them into actions.

Loss

NewAvaLesism2

“I will take negativity and make it inspire me.

I was not a book from a library.

As I stand here, alone, I declare I was not a loan;

To be picked up and dropped off at a later date.

And you barely even made my spine bend.

Just skimmed through some of the interesting bits then skipped to the end.”

– Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip: “You Will See Me”

For my lost family…

The Peshawar Attacks – By Muhammad Talha

AttacksMy name is Muhammad Talha. I am a Pakistani. I have been living and working in Dubai for 2 years now. I have a small wonderful family… a beautiful wife and two children (daughter and son).

I woke up late this morning, around 11:00 AM, to the sweet smell of tea priming up on the stove and the sound of the Tv set (tom and jerry taking each other on with pots and rakes). I washed up, had breakfast with my wife and daughter and changed the channel to a news network in Pakistan. I expected to see the usual images of the ongoing street protests in the country against last year’s rigged elections. Instead I saw the distinct image of army personnel in a civilian street. I thought to myself, “so the military has stepped in… Go Nawaz Go!” But, in a minute, my surprise turned to disbelief. When the reality showing on the box had finally settled into my mind and turned to horror a silent tear brimmed and trickled down my face. I hid it so my daughter wouldn’t start her questions (she is a very observant and inquisitive 3.5 year old). At that time the news was showing 29 children killed. Being a parent I know that the ultimate sadness for a father or mother is on the slightest harm coming to their child… no words can express the grief on their death. But having your child murdered is another dimension of pain. I switched back to Tom and Jerry and strode back to my room to settle down the turmoil in my heart and mind.

I grew up in Karachi. I have had numerous mobile phones snatched on gun point, tended to an uncle who lost a limb in a bomb blast, seen cars set to fire, heard gunshots and bomb blasts close to my house, seen protests and government brutality on them. I have seen, on TV, attacks on mosques, churches and Hindu temples. I have seen reports of honour killings and rape. I thought I had seen the full spectrum of human degradation, hate and violence… but I have never felt greater despair and anguish than today. As such I can go on about how bad I felt but I believe every one of you, especially the parents among you, already know that feeling. So I will divulge to other aspects of this ‘happening’.

For me, there are 4 aspects we can talk about:

  1. The facts
  2. Islam’s take on this incident (and on terrorism in general)
  3. The motives
  4. The Solutions

Facts

Lets quickly get the facts out of our way:

  • TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) sent 6 attackers in army uniforms and suicide jackets to a school
  • 10 blasts were heard and gun shots went on for at least 6 hours.
  • 141 were killed – 132 of them children (all below 18 years of age)
  • 122 injured

Islam’s take on this incident (and on terrorism in general)

I believe, and I hope you would agree, that no religion should be judged on the actions of a handful of deluded, crazy, inhuman low lives. Therefore, I have chosen to keep it simple and give you 3 verses from the Holy Quran to make the point.

  • Chapter 5 Verse 32

…if anyone slew a person―unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land― it would be as if he slew all of mankind: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of all of mankind. Then although there came to them Our Messengers with clear Signs, yet even after that many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.

  • Chapter 6 Verse 151

…take not life, which Allah hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.

  • Chapter 4 Verses 90-91. The first verse is the infamous Jihad verse which is always taken out of context and is incomplete without verse 91. The context is that a party attacked the Muslims at the time of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) these verses were revealed to guide them to deal with the situation.

Verse 90 …But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.

Verse 91 Except those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty (of peace) or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from fighting you or fighting their own people. If Allah had pleased, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you: therefore if they withdraw from you and (instead) send you (guarantees of) peace, then Allah hath opened no way for you (to war against them).

The motive(s)

You can see in the heading of this section that I have deliberately used the word motive(s) and not the singular ‘motive’.

As such, TTP have taken responsibility and said that the reason was “To avenge the Pakistan Army’s operation against Taliban in North Waziristan (Operation Zarb-e-Azb)”. I will not go into too many details about the Taliban and Al-Qaeda here but I hope I have made it obvious that they are renegades and their actions are completely un-Islamic. Religion is not the reason, heaven is not their goal. It is, in fact, all about money and power. The attackers themselves could possibly be (and probably are) brainwashed youth who may be blowing themselves up for the sake of God… but the leaders, the brain-washers are nothing but power and wealth hungry maniacs. They work for money and for the destabilization of many countries, one of which happens to be Pakistan.

So allow me to bring to your attention 4 major things going on in Pakistan right at this time.

  1. Imran Khan (whom I think many of you know already) has staged history’s longest… peaceful… protest against the Government (who came to power through rigging last year’s elections). It has been going on for more than 3 months now and is close to culmination. The present Government is corrupt to the core and would do anything to stay in power.
  2. About two weeks ago a huge government side deal was unmasked @ Reko Diq (an area in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan). It has huge reserves of Gold, Copper, Gemstones and second biggest reserves of Shale Gas (the closest alternative to oil) in the world. Total worth of the reserves are estimated at +3 Trillion Dollars. Government officials were trying to sell rights out to a foreign private company and take billions of dollars in kickbacks. It is all at stake now because of the media’s exposure of this treachery.
  3. Pakistan holds a critically important geo-strategic position in the world. Destabilizing Pakistan, waging war there and taking control is in the interest of many countries. Just to give you an idea about Pakistan’s geo-strategic position… here are 4 points
    1. It is the gateway to central Asia. It shares its borders with Afghanistan, China, Iran, Tajikistan and India
    2. It has an un-paralleled Transit economy. This is because Pakistan has one of the biggest natural harbours in the world, so it is the trading link of China, Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan to the rest of the world
    3. It has huge reserves of gold, gem stones, silicon, natural gas and shale gas
    4. It is the most important Muslim country because of its nuclear weapons capability and advanced missile technology.

So what I am trying to say is that powers within and outside the country have a heavy stake in Pakistan’s instability at this point in time. I firmly believe that the Taliban work for money. On their own the Taliban can do nothing… they need funding, training and heavy intelligence support to carry out such a plan. I cannot, and should not, single out any entity and put the blame on their shoulders (because there is no absolute proof)… but the least we can do is to try to stay informed when dealing with unknown adversaries.

The Solution

It is my humble opinion that education and the rule of law are the only solutions to this deeply violent situation in Pakistan.

Education, both worldly and Quranic, is necessary to prevent the youth from joining Al-Qaeda’s ranks. I guess some of you may think that Quranic knowledge is not the issue here… but let me tell you that the Quran forms the basis of the lives of most muslims. If they knew that a cleric was bull-shitting them by taking a verse of the Quran out of context to make his case… then the solution would be struck at the grass root level.

Establishing the rule of law is quite an obvious one isn’t it? But it is quite complex in a country like Pakistan. Law can be established by people with integrity who have been chosen by the masses as their leaders. For the past 67 years Pakistan has either been led by military dictators or one of two political parties who have literally been taking turns at coming to power (through electoral rigging). All of them have looted the country and instilled corruption to the core. The education system was never allowed to develop, the poor kept becoming poorer, the police and judiciary are in their pockets. The divide between the rich and poor is huge. They have even assumed that natural resources are their own and sold them in ways I cannot describe here.

Conclusion

One of the things I have tried to highlight in this blog is the huge potential Pakistan has of becoming strong and prosperous. I am sure the leaders of the world are equally aware of the same. But if they let our corrupt leaders buy land and own business in their countries (from money looted from the people). If they allow mass murderers to take asylum in their cities and actually control Karachi over the telephone (yes I am talking about Altaf Hussain). If they will be allowed to construct buildings in Dubai and horde money in Swiss banks. And if they rape Pakistan’s sovereignty and continue to kill 50 innocents every time they surgically bomb to kill one Al-Qaeda terrorist… then… I am afraid… the blood of the children killed today is on their hands as much as it is on the hands of the Taliban and the deluded killers.

Despite the gross picture of Pakistan you have seen above… the Pakistan I know is a different place. It is a country which produces some of the top GCE O-Level and A-Level results in the world every year. It universities pump out business people, engineers and scientists who get brain drained outside of the country in top positions. It has the biggest river network (which runs from north to south) and as a result has probably the best organic agricultural produce in the world. It is rich in minerals, coal, gem stones and gas. Its beauty is unsurpassed. Its people are patriotic. Its streets are teeming with tape ball cricketers every afternoon. Its armed forces are powerful and ready to die for their country. It’s a wonderful place. Not the horrendous terrorist pumping machine it seems from afar.

The world we live in is very complex. Actually human history has always been tumultuous and power games kept it complex. So I would say the fate of Pakistan and the world at large is in the God’s hand. I just remembered a verse from the Quran which I quote here to end this post.

Chapter 8 Verse 30

“They plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners”

By Muhammad Talha (@MTalhaImtiaz)