The Dead Palestinian Boy

“The death toll in Gaza has topped 1,400, with more than 40 people dying after another day of intense Israeli bombardment from air, sea and land.” –  Jason Burke of The Guardian, 31 July 2014

Sunday was family day at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa. Outside of the sound of children frolicking about the fountains, there was calm. But 6,500 miles away, the story was and is different, for children are exercising extreme caution and perpetual confusion for threats of the next explosion.

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The Dead Palestinian Boy walks by as a family enjoy their Sunday afternoon shaded by the Tampa Museum of Art building.

That Sunday, The Dead Palestinian Boy walked in and around Curtis Hixon Park, for he wanted to play just like any other child, but could only walk himself about like a ghost. His youth was stolen. Yet, The Dead Palestinian Boy was not interested in grown-up stuff like politics or even religion. He just wanted to play and prosper like any other child in the world.

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Near the beginning of the two-hour walk along Curtis Hixon Park

The Dead Palestinian Boy walked about and danced the loss of youth for two hours in shade and sun. Sometimes a child or grown-up would inquire about what it was all about, but The Dead Palestinian Boy does not speak. His movements are his words and message.

A boy walks closer to The Dead Palestinian Boy for he thought it was a zombie.
A boy walking toward the “zombie”.

A boy was convinced the The Dead Palestinian Boy was a zombie. Maybe he wanted to make friends?

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A family observing The Dead Palestinian Boy as the daughter holds the mother by the arm.

One little girl was scared and grabbed her mom’s arm, but The Dead Palestinian Boy had no arm to hold but his own. Mommy probably let her know it was just a show. If only the bombs raining down in Gaza were mere show. By the end of this show, the children with the bikes then returned to say their goodbyes.

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Children captivated by The Dead Palestinian Boy. By the end of the 2 hour presence, these same children found The Dead Palestinian Boy again to say goodbye.

Days later, The Dead Palestinian Boy made another presence, but this time at night. The children of Gaza get no breaks, neither day nor night. For 10 minutes, The Dead Palestinian Boy expressed these lack of breaks at The Brass Mug venue in Tampa.

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View the performance here:

Right now, are you ready to die?

“A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.” – Montaigne

Yama, Tibetan Deity of Death
Yama, Tibetan Deity of Death

There are two feelings the title may provoke, and one may be of fear (e.g. I don’t want to think about that) and/or bitterness (e.g. finally, yes, now I can escape). On the other hand, there may also be a feeling of gratitude (e.g. yes, this moment is as good as any other moment to be on my way).

The former appears to be rooted in the preoccupation with control and the latter with the acceptance or harmony with one’s space-time. Endings do not always need to have negative connotations, though many last moments do seem to carry much suffering. Those last moments are one of the things I have personally been exposed to from working with terminally ill patients as an x-ray tech for years.

I always come back to thinking about one particular terminally ill patient. She was relatively young (in her 40s) and warmhearted despite all her pain. She would never miss a wave goodbye after every examination, and even did so on her last day alive, which would have likely taken the last dangling string of strength to do. Despite all her suffering, this woman managed to appear grateful instead of bitter. She may have physically been dying, but her heart remained lighter than a feather on Osiris’s golden scale.

How did she suffer so, yet not allow herself to get consumed by it? The inscription upon Hell’s gate in Dante’s Inferno comes to mind: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Though the immediate interpretation of the sign may denote doom’s inevitability, one scholar had a different view. Professor Ronald B. Herzman of Dante’s Divine Comedy lecture series (The Great Courses) noted that the inscription may not be solidly for damnation, but a key out of hell. The antidote may be to surrender so that one could finally free oneself from the suffering. Oftentimes it appears that pride in our ability to change what may be unchangeable keeps us in hell.

This idea of abandonment of hope (surrender) may have a striking resemblance then to the idea of repentance, but perhaps the deeper meaning is not always observed. The idea of God is not necessary if sins are taken to represent shadows/repressions (evidence of strays away from our own personal intent/will) that need to be reintegrated back into the psyche to approach closer our life’s intent/will.

So if the question of death right now frightens or provokes bitterness, perhaps there are some shadows to face that feed off the ironic limitation of an overabundance of pride (inflated ego) in being the controller. In Dante’s Inferno, the very flapping of the devil’s wings (from the desire to escape) caused the air to cool and keep the ice frozen, which kept him trapped. How long, how many vicious circles must go on till we can fold the cards? Knowing when to retreat is a warrior’s skill in Sun Tzu’s Art of War and the mark of a sage in the Tao Te Ching. What image, then, bares so much more inevitability than that of death? Might as well embrace and even think often, even, of death, for death may approach at any second. It can be a serendipitous thing, for death is letting us be, for now. Hmm.

“Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting.”

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We may be drawn to a light that we forgot we originally emitted.

Before we can act upon anything in the outside world, there must be a starting point. Let the starting point be oneself, the root, the observer. We hope to begin with a healthy root lest the fruit should grow bitter or not grow at all. Maintaining this root is what I call self-love. This action requires listening on a deeply personal level. Self-listening will imply self-acceptance and even self-responsibility. The result is a further sense of liberation.

Self-love is the emphasis here because the self appears as the secret driver. Has anybody ever wondered why events closer in proximity to ourselves affect us more? When the Boston marathon bombing occurred, there was also a bombing in Iraq that had more than ten times the fatalities. Boston was more relatable to America because Boston hit closer to Americans’ own mortality. The self is very important to us, despite whatever cultural conditioning is running on our psyche.

If the root is the self, then to love another (bear healthy fruit), we first must self-love (bear healthy root), else we are striving to start a bonfire with wet fire logs. Let the damp self-victim dry out, lest we project a victim onto others.

Self-love is simple, yet simplicity is often lost amongst an amnesic cloud. How to remember in one step?

1. Self-acceptance

Self-acceptance may mean self-forgiveness. Our social network (family included) often distracts us from our true love (ourselves) to the point of perhaps depersonalization. What type of person desires another’s sacrifice of her/his self-love so as to reap the love benefits?  The scenario sounds more like malice than love. The person who expects such a sacrifice from another has her/himself lacked self-love and was her/himself the sacrifice at one point. Vicious circle.

Just as there is an inflated version of self-love (tactics of the inflated ego such as boasting), we can imagine an inflated version of agape–love without self-love. Put very simply, how can we love another if we cannot love ourselves?

Self-love also leads to the search for what we have been ignoring within ourselves. These shadows (repressions) are likened to a hushed child. Perhaps we should hear what the child has to say? If ignored, the child may manifest into nasty attributes the victim may not even be aware of.

And this was written because the child requested it, hence for myself, but the child loves sharing.