I don't know what it means to be a man. A human being. The equation is all askew. The transformation rigid and icky -- uncomfortable to say the least. A boy has to slip into the shoes of a man, whether the shoes fit or not, whether it is for show or for real. A girl has to metamorphose into a woman; act her age despite being years away from that age. The dilemma stays. I often wonder if this constant nagging in my soul, telling me of my monstrosity, my own shortcomings, my failures at being what is expected of me; is it an indication of my ugliness or the truth of all humanity, all human beings? Someone once said, "To err is human", but whether we all feel inadequate at times is not the question I am asking, our internal fights with our demons is none of my concern today. What I am asking is don't we all know what cruelty all of us are capable of? And if we know this, what makes us the docile victim on days we lie flat on our beds, or curled up in a ball hugging our knees, welling up with disappointment that there is no way out.
"No way out." The very reason we set limits to our vicious nature.
Is inhumanity the very thing inherent to us that makes us human? And if it is, do we need to feel ashamed of this?
The flawed morality of our condition, that we have to present the best version of ourselves, and not the true version, how much of a conflict does this create in our heads? Are all our flaws supposed to be hidden away, in the wooden chest, locked in a dark place where no one is allowed to go to? But despite all our efforts to stay away from that place ourselves, how much in it do we actually succeed? Is inhumanity the very thing inherent to us that makes us human? And if it is, do we need to feel ashamed of this? Or do we just accept it and move on?
A lot of people cope with this -- and I know because I do the same -- by pointing fingers at others, calling folly supposedly out of goodwill, always, and I mean always from a position of power. Take away power from a man, and he will hardly be courageous enough to point fingers, or put blame on anything that is human. Isn't it why it is all god's will for the poor? Isn't it why the rich donate 10 times more for a cause in times of despair?
I know a man who is blind to the agony around us, completely incapable of understanding the needs of anyone except himself. But then I can either name him a narcissist and feel good about myself for a minute, or I can turn the same judgemental microscope towards myself and look inwards.
How terrifying a suggestion: to look inwards.
But if for a second I do, what will I find? What will you find, if you stopped giving bad names to others, withdrew from playing the blame game and looked within? And what would you do if you found the same man living inside you? Would you feel humbled or would this give you a free pass to be who you actually are, deep within?
And now the question arises, do we even want to know who we actually are deep within? And are we allowed to be more than one person on any given day?
We turn to god when we need a hand to hold... What we really need is the courage to hold the hand of the person sitting next to us.
These questions always go in circles; there is never a soft spot, a safe haven. We live in a grey area we don't want to believe exists for us, but it does. Like it does for everyone around us. And still everyone is trying their best. If there is one thing I could inscribe into my brain, it would be this: Everyone is trying their best.
Thích Nhất Hạnh once said, "Enlightenment for a wave in the ocean is the moment the wave realizes that it is water."
But we are all water. We are all just water.
Some days I hate the world, but never its people. Some days I resent god, but never his/her people. But people think in reverse. They resent people and never their god, as if that is the noble thing to do, as if somehow that is justified. We turn to god when we need a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on. The inherent idiocy in this is incomprehensible. What we really need is the courage to hold the hand of the person sitting next to us. All we need is the courage to accept that we are weak and sometimes we might need the shoulder of the people in our vicinity to cry on.
We can still do good, despite our monstrosity, despite knowing the extent of horror our hands can inflict on ourselves and more importantly, others.
Don't get me wrong, we are all monsters, and in a very screwed-up way, only when we understand this, can we find empathy for other human beings including ourselves. There might not be salvation, or a purpose, but that never means we have to let our purposelessness define us. We can still do good, despite our monstrosity, despite knowing the extent of horror our hands can inflict on ourselves and more importantly, others. The only generalization we need for it all to make sense, is the one we don't want to believe in: We do good things for others because we want good things to happen to us, but still, even knowing this, it takes nothing away from our wanting to do good. And this is a very important distinction to understand.
We are all monsters anyway. But then, we were all just water first.
Akif's debut book The Feeling May Remain is out now.