On holding all of it at once
and also wondering where God is
I’m thankful that I freelance at times like this. For the last week and a half I have felt mostly unable to function like a ‘regular human being’, feeling pulled this way and that by what I’m consuming online and continuing to choose to consume. Last week my mum and I channeled our energy towards the rescuing of an injured dog and her puppies from a park in Clifton, and that felt like something. But aside from that, very limited functioning, a heavy sense of purposelessness, a deep sense of tearful gratitude for things like the having of ingredients to make pancakes, and too much time spent on my phone. I wake up everyday feeling like my new job is Instagram activist.
I’ve never been so politically vocal before this event actually. Maybe about a few things, but a part of me always compartmentalized the Palestine cause as ‘other’. This is similar to how we Otherize so much in a perhaps unconscious effort to stay sane. This is why when Noor Mukadam was murdered, a certain class of people and particularly women woke up to the reality that this could’ve been them. It always could have, but now it was in our face, clear as day.
I’m not sure why I’m suddenly so invested in the cause. And I also know I’m not the only one - multiple friends I’ve spoken to have felt similarly incapacitated, lethargic, unproductive and relatively non-functioning. Is it the relentless murdering of children on display that’s doing this? Is it the ability to see so clearly the attempts to squash true voices and feeling a bubbling rage every single day at the madness of it all?
A lot of the inner torment I’ve felt this year has had to do with pain - physical pain. My inability to wrap my head around the brutality and torture that humans and animals have endured since the beginning of time, as my very sensitive teeth energetically shudder at the thought of my next scaling appointment. I’ve just been so baffled at what has been bodily withstood through time, and how could this be okay, and it could be me, and suddenly I feel like never leaving the cocoon of my home ever again.
I also think about God, or faith, or divine intervention. If the divine is always at play, if God is always at work, then where is God in Gaza? And if I have trouble having faith in anything that is good based on what I’m seeing, then how is it that the people of Palestine are showing themselves to have the most unwavering faith?
So I’m thinking about human suffering, and what the Buddha said about life being suffering, and about the temporariness of all of it. And about the word ‘sabr’, and the weight of that word, what it means. And about how it only makes sense that a people who have borne witness to nothing but suffering cannot possibly have faith in the earthly anymore.
While waiting for the rescue team to show up, we sat in the shade of a tree that was planted about 6 years ago, just a couple of meters away from the hellishness of the October afternoon sun. It felt like a tiny piece of heaven. It made me think about how heaven and hell might not be quite so far apart. And today it makes me think about the existence of polar opposite realities, separated by no more than a few kilometers. How can so much exist at once?
I don’t think this limited human vessel is equipped to deal with all of it at once. But I’m trying to muster up the energy to do what I can, like write. Earlier I felt the impulse to go and learn all of the history ever, forgetting how easy it is for facts and figures to go over my head as I read. I’m hoping to find purpose in what I’m feeling. I’m grateful to have the ability to even entertain the idea of not doing anything for a day or two.
Everyday this grows more and more intense. It almost feels like we need more horror to one-up the horror that happened before or else we won’t feel it as much. It’s mad and I feel mad and I think we may all be going mad. I imagine myself under rubble and a street I’m driving on suddenly being obliterated and I see a kid and actually I can hardly even look at children anymore. And here I am, physically so far away from where it’s happening.
It’s really difficult to hold all of it at once. I share on Instagram not because I feel like I might be changing anyone’s mind but because algorithms and robots are dictating our strategy for truth-telling and these brave people are being silenced everyday all the time and the least I can do is risk being annoying on my stories.
It’s a bit of a juggle. As I start to see Palestinians as extensions of myself, I must also do the same for Afghans being deported from Pakistan right now, and at the same time I must also remember that the reason they had to come here in the first place is part of the very same reason Palestinians demand freedom. This illusion of separateness but actually it’s all in so many ways the same, and recognizing the isms of all that is colonial and imperial as not just exercises in academic abstraction but our actual lived experiences, and if not ours then those of people very, very close to us.
I’m also seeing the world as analogous to the human. The ugliness taking place before us and the difficult realizations and conversations being had looks a lot like some collective shadow work.
The massacres have happened before, except now we are seeing it. And we have no choice but to keep our eyes open and actually dare to look.