I have looked death in the eyes few times. For others but also for myself. I have been often told that there’s no God and no afterlife, but folllowing my encounters with death I guess I am too convinced of the contrary to listen to those sceptic voices. I do respect what other people think, but respecting others will never reduce my beliefs to nothing, on the contrary.
Most of the people have an absolutely disgusted look on their face when they hear about death. Some venerate it. Some fear it to the extent that they don’t even want to think about it. We’re all aware it exists. Most of us cannot understand it. But the same death that means decay, foulness, nothingness and still, is part of us just as much as it has been part of our ancestors too.
People turn their face away from death because they are scared or because they have been taught that it can bring disease or that it is unclean. Or because they prefer to concentrate on the life, rather than see the whole process, black and white, doing and undoing, life, death and new life again. For the immediate you and me, what matters is today, what we do, what we have, what we eat, where we go. But we live in a society that is equally one of death as much of one of life, isn’t it? Or maybe even more one of death than one of life? We eat meat, we cut flowers, people hunt, people get cremated and buried or offer their bodies to science. People sell weapons and wars are being fought. Some people thrive while others starve to death.
There is not only the beauty and goodness daily put on display for sales targets, but also the reverse side of it all. There are not only new born babies and blooming flowers, but also dead people laid to rest and entire systems that revolve around death itself. From the undertakers that earn a fortune while dealing with grieving families to the little beetles that eat decaying flesh, all have a little part in it.
Some of the birds that have nested last year have died, and a suite of insects and plants contribute now to taking apart and redistributing every material atom of them. Every little creature and plant that dies gets quickly surrounded by a cortege of creatures, just like a circus that comes to town and gets very busy before the show. Behind the scenes of it all nothing gets saved or lost, but everything is transformed in new matter for life, and so new life can find the raw minerals needed for it to emerge again.
Many years ago, as I was dealing with the water that was trying to find its way into my lungs, I had forgotten who I was or what I wanted from life. What I had eaten that morning or what I had in my bank account had no meaning at all. It was all worthless and the only thing I could gasp for was a breath of air. I was, I guess, not different than a wounded bird that beats its wings one more time before it takes a last breath. A little part of me knew that it could have been the final moment that day. And yes, it was scary. Scary because I had no idea what was about to happen. Horribly scary because I had no control over my own life. There and then I was not ready to give up. Between few heartbeats and a hope for air it occurred to me that I had not appreciated life truly until then. And God how I wanted to live!
In a mysterious way, a hand has been stretched my way. Not only a friendly material hand, but also a divine one. Then, when I finished coughing, with a horrible salty aftertaste and a stomach full of seawater, feeling sick and wet, I thought that it was not the time to go just yet, not until I would have learned the lesson of what life was all about. I think I was determined to take life more seriously.
I think I understand life and death more now, but like any person that has been sightless for many years, I am now awfully blinded by the intense light of the truth. That moment of salvation, the spark of life in my veins and the thought that accompanied them cannot be the result of an evolutionist theory, they are rather a mystery that my human mind is not ready to embrace just yet.
Other creatures are unaware of the realities of our human life. Birds and animals and plants cannot understand our complicated life and needs, our food, our languages, our customs. They do not consider themselves the greatest in the universe like we do. They have no idea what mathematics or science are, yet they are very much alive and lead a simple happy life. There are a limited number of neurons in our skulls, how could they possibly perceive the infinity of the universe? It is impossible. I am convinced that us humans cannot understand the whole complexity of life, all the dimensions that surround us, all the beauties of the universe and even less the mystery and greatness of the Creator of it all.
900 words, Adela Galasiu, 2016
Photography: Adela Galasiu, May 2016
Most people don’t know that I used to be, many years ago, a movie devourer. And when I say this I mean it. My love for movies has started when my late father started to take me to the cinema. In a communist country one could not see much on TV, but what was extraordinary in those times was that people were getting tickets to the “Cinemateca”, a cinematographic phenomenon that has impregnated my memories from early childhood. I remember going with my parents and seeing many art movies, western movies and movies one could have never got to see on TV.
Many years later I have rediscovered the cinematography dream as the communism has died and the Romanians were able to get free access to any movie one could dream of. Throughout the years I must have watched hundreds of movies of all genres. Then life took it’s toll and I didn’t have the time for this passion till recently when I got back to my roots.
One of the movies I have seen not a long time ago (but long after being released) is “The Book of Eli”. And what I made of it is a very personal statement and very subjective thing.
It is a post-apocalyptic tale, in which a lone man fights his way across America in order to protect a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind. “The Book of Eli” is not a commercial movie. It has griped my attention throughout the story and it has thrown at me some surprise moments that have made everything in the entire movie more surreal.
Eli, a lone wanderer, has been walking west across the devastated landscape of America for 30 years, on his way to the sea. 30 years is a lifetime. 30 years is a metaphor. 3 is a sacred number, a divine number and 30 is almost the age a man should have had in order to be considered an adult in the Old Testament. This speaks to me of the path of a man in a hard life, of the sacrifices one needs to make just to find his way.
How does Eli know he’s walking the right way? “Faith,” he says. This simple reply takes on added resonance later in the film. But also speaks volumes to those that think that life is more than just a physical existence. If life has a greater purpose and we all have a destiny, the difficult and dry part of it is to actually find that purpose and fight for it.
Eli is indeed a great fighter as he needs to be in order to survive after witnessing the catastrophe that has wiped out most of the Earth’s population and left behind ruin, desolation, victimized humans and roaming motorcycle gangs of hijackers and thieves. The Hughes brothers, Albert and Allen, film this story in sunburned browns and pale blues, creating a dry and dusty world under a merciless sky. Water is treasure. There’s no exuberance in this world, only survival. There’s no great joy in Eli’s life, maybe only the solemn joy of reading his book and hearing music long forgotten by most others. This wasteland Eli treks at an implacable pace. Set upon in an ambush, he kills all his attackers. He’s got one of those swords that makes a unique noise all by itself, so you can consider him a one-man army.
Washington and the Hughes brothers do a good job of establishing this man and his world, and at first, “The Book of Eli” seems destined to be solemn. But then Eli arrives at a Western town ruled by Carnegie , who, like all the local bosses in Westerns and gangster movies, sits behind a big desk flanked by a tall bald guy and, of course, a short scruffy one. In this town, desperate and starving people live in rusty cars and in the streets. We meet Carnegie’s abused wife Claudia and her daughter Solara, a prostitute in Carnegie’s bar. He controls everybody by fear and manipulation.
Carnegie needs Eli because he has maybe the last remaining copy of a book believed to allow the expansion and rule over many more towns. “RELIGION IS POWER” Carnegie says, and this phrase makes it even more clear that we talk about the last Bible on the face of Earth and about the thirst of domination rising in the human mind.
The third act seems to be taken out of many Westerns in which the hero and the girl hole up and are surrounded. That allows countless beams of sunlight to shine in the dusty atmosphere and work as a metaphor. It can be the hope in the darkness of soul and mind. It can be breaking the rules and going beyond Eli’s limits to make a dream and life mission come true. The image of Eli walking numb by the side of the street after being shot reminds of the incredible resistance of the human spirit in the worst conditions.
Populated by a vivid imagery , the movie has a magnificent ending , unpredictable and almost implausible, breaking apart from the movie and having a life of its own. The human mind and soul can be the carrier of a dream. The dream of transmitting a message to another generation, the dream of a better world born out of ashes. If there’s a message at the end of this movie that can only be that hope never dies and one should never give up his dream.
930 words, memyselfandela, January 2014
He was sitting on by the water in Mexico when it hit him how much he hated himself. Which kind of sucked. Because he should have been happy. He should have been ecstatic. After years of struggle and poverty and horrible physical pain (getting almost killed by a semi truck sucks too…) he finally had it. He finally had everything he ever thought he wanted. He was 30 years old, in good shape, good friends, professional success, fun toys, plenty of free time . . . Even better he was one of only three guys on a yoga retreat and was spending his days stretching and snorkeling and chugging margaritas with a bevy of beautiful, intelligent, passionate (and flexible) women.
He should have been happy. He should have been doing a victory lap around the mess that was his twenties and screaming to the moon about how he finally made it past childhood trauma and adulthood disappointment to become a “success.”
But he just couldn’t do it.
Nope. Instead of being happy, he was damn miserable. Angry. Emotionally nauseous and, worse yet, viciously angry at himself for not waking up to how good he had it.
One night he found himself sitting on the shore alone watching the waves come in. Everyone else had gone on to a bar to order large amounts of drinks in broken Spanish, but the bile in his throat and the voice in the back of his head wanted him to be alone. Alone and vulnerable.
It was pitch black but for the shine of the moon off the water and all he could feel was the pathetic bottle in his hand, the drink in his gut and the tension in his jaw threatening to break his teeth.
He wasn’t man enough to admit it, but he had tears in his eyes.
“Why?” he thought to himself in a silent whisper. “What the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I just enjoy this?”
It was a rhetorical question, so he was pretty shocked when he got an answer. It came in a voice as dark as tar and as toxic as venom.
“Because you don’t deserve it,” the voice in the back of his head grumbled. “Because you’re evil and dangerous and anyone foolish enough to love you deserves to be harmed.”
He closed his eyes and could finally see it: what he really thought of himself. Not a man or even a boy, but a creature with claws and teeth and a cruel, cruel grin. A creature who’s only glee came from clawing at his heart and pulling him down and reminding him to never, ever feel even one moment of happiness.
He flew home a few days later feeling like he’d gotten into a duel with Godzilla and damn it, bloody Godzilla won. The entire time on the plane home his brain stormed and he counted down the hours until he could go see his therapist.
“How are you?,” she asked as he walked in, her eyes half squinting as she searched his face.
For an hour he let the words flow out like a dying breathe, rambling at Speedy-Gonzalez-pace, desperate to get every hatred and criticism and imagined crime out of his heart and into the world. Finally, after minutes that felt like days he looked his therapist in the eyes and said:
“I’m so sick and tired of hating myself , beating myself up , punishing everyone around me … I’m wondering what would happen if I just decided to stop and actually LIKE myself for a little while instead.”
The therapist looked at him with kind eyes and a half smile and said “Well, that would be interesting, wouldn’t it?”
And so he did.
Right then and there he decided to try liking himself – maybe even loving himself – for a while.
And at first the creature in his head and his heart raged like a angry lion and dragged its claws against the inside of his skull.
But instead of arguing he did something kind of weird.
He pointed and laughed. He dressed it up in silly shoes and ugly makeup and mocked it . And suddenly a weird thing happened: he felt this glowing freedom rising in his chest and this crazy, irrational smile pulling hard at the corners of his mouth.
Suddenly he felt . . . happy. Ecstatic.
For the next two weeks he walked around on a love-high. His friends asked him what the heck had happened. His enemies got confused when he was actually nice to them. And that beast in the back of his brain shrunk and shriveled and cried.
Of course, it wasn’t exactly as easy as that, for every time he would fail or feel ashamed about something or feel like some woman was getting close he would feel that creature rise up. He would feel that bile on his tongue.
But now . . . years later . . . here he is with nothing to hide.
And years and years of anger and pain turned into . . . something simpler. Nicer. More wonderful. He’s not into the “woo woo” stuff a lot of his friends are, but he is into this one simple fact:
“Happiness is a choice. Liking yourself / loving yourself is something YOU choose to do, no one can make you miserable or happy but YOU.”
900 words, memyselfandela, November 2013