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Until The War is Won

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I am the stone that the builder refused, I am the visual, the inspiration, that made the lady sing the blues.
I’m the spark that makes your idea bright, the same spark that lights the dark so you can know your left from your right.
I am the ballot in your box, the bullet in the gun, that inner glow to let you know to call your brother son.
The story that just begun, the promise of what’s to come and I’mma remain a soldier till the war is won.

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Nobility of Feeling

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There is a certain distinction of the soul, a high-mindedness prompting to gallant acts, that gives an air of grace to the whole character. It is not found often, for it presupposes great magnanimity. Its chief characteristic is to speak well of an enemy, and to act even better to-wards him. It shines brightest when a chance comes of revenge: not alone does it let the occasion pass, but it improves it by using a complete victory in order to display unexpected generosity. ’Tis a fine stroke of policy, nay, the very acme of statecraft. It makes no pretence to victory, for it pretends to nothing, and while obtaining its deserts it conceals its merits.

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The Himura Chronicles: She Writes Again

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Rage bounces within me like a ball: up and down, up and down, depending on the clues I find to strange riddle of your departure. I’ll be trying to get on with things, when all of a sudden that orb of anger will spring out, triggered by some association with you.

The lease on our apartment was due to expire a week after your departure to The Congo. I thought we’d renew, but at the last minute you said you didn’t want to stay in the same tiny house any more. There wasn’t enough time to find another place before you travelled. You were working long hours at the firm and I was immersed in my Masters. We decided to leave things until you got back. I would stay with my brother in the meantime. It all appeared reasonable then. Now, every development seems like another convenient maneouvre in your devious master plan.

You helped me pack before you left. We had few possessions, none of the furniture was ours except for the bookshelves. You combed through those, pulling off volumes and boxing them. I saw strange gaps between books and wondered how you were packing them. You said you were doing yours first. And I felt a pang that you had distinguished between yours and mine. Of course I had a special attachment to the books I had bought and read, but I had started to think of everything as ours. I suggested that it might be more efficient to pack them shelf by shelf, so they could then be unpacked in the same order. But you said that you’d already started doing things your own way and, in any case, you’d never liked the thematic arrangement we’d established, and maybe it was time to find a new kind of order.

How language can deceive! Now I understand the meaning of that expression: you only hear what you want to hear. All the warnings I missed ring in my ears now, like sirens.

My friends say I loved too readily, generously and thoughtlessly – leaving no room for doubt. But who wants to love with reservations?

The right thing is never easy to do, you claimed. May you suffer long and hard for your bizarre notions of goodness! What was the toss up in your mind? How did you justify things? Better one jilted woman than a family let down and a God rebuked? Better the flimsy promise of eternity than the warm, pulsing absoluteness of NOW? Better a life half-lived than a death that means damnation?

It’s hard to imagine how you, the star of Debate Club when we were in school, devil’s advocate extraordinaire, able to argue any issue from any premise, a man who makes a living from deliberating over nuances – could convince yourself that you did the right thing.

And I don’t know why I didn’t bear in mind that you were also a star in Drama Club. You were and are just an actor.

Religion is insidious. Faith – my brother says – is like a form of theatre, all dressing up and ritual. Believers are actors who’ve lost all sense of reality. Most of them are also hypocrites, but you can’t really blame them for it. They set themselves up to fail because all religions ask the impossible: that you submit your will and thought to some supernatural being.

But you always appeared quite your own person. Yes, you prayed and fasted and observed halal, but these acts seemed like benign habits. Stranger, to me was your tendency to wear nothing but a vest and a short most of the time, even when it was quite cold, or your inability to throw out a newspaper you hadn’t read, even if it was days old. I had rituals too – I say had because everything seems to have gone haywire since you left, and who knows if I’ll resume my old ways?

Sometimes I’m filled with revulsion for the woman who let herself be duped, but still loves you for crazed, humiliating instants. I watch her with a steely resolve, determined not to capitulate to her emotions. I am ashamed of her weakness. I am frightened of her sadness, which is an endless, floppy thing.

But I was writing of habits… My own. Yes. Amongst other things, I used to weigh myself every morning, learn a new quotation each day, soak oats in water at night for the porridge at breakfast, use every tea bag twice… So many such ticks peg down the the tent of our daily lives. I thought your religion was a few such pegs, not the whole damn tent.

And yet I know how your God would appear, unexpectedly, in conversations, tagging the end of your sentences like a form of punctuation. The invocation you, tellingly, used most often was ‘God giving us life’ or ‘Inshallah’. God willing. It made me feel uneasy, especially when you used it in any talk about our future. Your commitment was always qualified by those two words: God willing. Except, as far as we were concerned, he wasn’t, wouldn’t ever be. And you knew that all along.

Your deceit was in silence. All the things you never said…Until the final hour.

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Have reasonable Views

Have reasonable Views of Yourself and of your Affairs especially in the beginning of life. Every one has a high opinion of himself, especially those who have least ground for it. Every one dreams of his good-luck and thinks himself a wonder. Hope gives rise to extravagant promises which experience does not fulfill. Such idle imaginations merely serve as a well-spring of annoyance when disillusion comes with the true reality. The wise man anticipates such errors: he may always hope for the best. but he always expects the worst, so as to receive what comes with equanimity. True, It is wise to aim high so as to hit your mark, but not so high that you miss your mission at the very beginning of life. This correction of the ideas is necessary, because before experience comes expectation is sure to soar too high. The best panacea against folly is prudence. If a man knows the true sphere of his activity and position, the can reconcile his ideals with reality.


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The Himura Chronicles: A Letter from Her to Him

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Certain moments come to stand out in memory like rocks rising treacherously from the sea. I am repeatedly tossed against these pernicious outcrops of the past. I lie broken, like a wrecked ship after the storm of deceit that you unleashed on me. One image, above all, continues to haunt me: you in the doorway, your face half-turned away as you gave me the most pathetic justification anyone can. Four words which claim the weight of aeons and offer the impression of finality. Four words which millions around the world use as benediction, consolation or excuse. Four odious, if not to say otiose, words, which ruined my life: It is God’s will.

Your revelation seemed to come out of nowhere. It had the suddenness of an accident: impact – pain – followed by the stunned sense of having survived. In the days that followed, I was shocked at how you just hit and ran. Now I know that you must have been mulling over the decision for months, preparing yourself, while I was given less than one hour to absorb it. And then you were gone.

You walked out of the door and out of my life, to a place you thought should be your home but didn’t want to live in. To a woman you wanted to marry simply because she had your child. A family you loved but avoided spending time with, knowing they would never understand you. Brothers and parents whose values were as different from yours as night from day. And a future over which you were content to let God’s will, instead of your own, preside. Who are you? Surely not the man I loved and knew all these years?

How could you leave me for her, knowing how much I hated her, how much you hated her? Could I not have borne you a child? Didn’t I deserve to be the one who gave you a family? Am I not the one who was meant to have your baby?

How could this have happened to us? Of course now it’s easy to find portents everywhere. One reverse glance and warnings flash at me like road signs picked out by a car’s headlights.

Your last four words continue to echo in my ears, a mantra of irrationality that I am going half mad trying to fathom. I can’t quite bring myself to write them down again. The way I can’t write your name, or any of the variations of it that I used as endearments. That’s why there’s no addressee at the top of this letter –  or accusation, or attempt to understand or – whatever it is.

I suspect there is nothing behind those four words except cowardice. Nevertheless, I can’t stop examining them, hoping their convoluted mystery might yield a glimmer of sense. Logic is its own justification. I’d accept logic, even if it confounded my heart.

Stop trying to work out what happened – my brother said – it will never be clear. Religion and logic don’t mix. Neither do love and logic. They’re like oil and water. However much you try shaking them about together, they separate eventually; the oil spreading over the water, the way faith does over reason, asphyxiating it.

I could only wonder how come I didn’t notice that slimy film of unreason before. Because I was in love and blind!! My brother insisted.

But my brother is wrong. I fell for you because I saw our differences. More than all our similarities they were what fascinated me: your quiet piety in the face of the careless abandon of the time, your concern for the moral direction our society was taking when everyone else our age was simply concerned about doing well and having a good time, Your calmness and optimism during the most troubling of times, the fact that I knew I could always count on you. Always. Your ‘Naxvegas’ accent which occasionaly transformed the most banal English words into moments of delicious scandal – like when you once asked for a ‘cock’ instead of a coke and got a gallant offer from the flattered waiter. How we laughed! I was so fucking impressed by the way you effortlessly socialised, managing to discuss or dance through the night while totally sober, and/or totally drunk – but damn it, this isn’t meant to be any kind of tribute, least of all a list of your virtues.

See how memory creeps up and tries to sugar the bitter truth. I long for a brain enema that could purge you from my thoughts. I half hope writing might be a kind of exorcism: unsticking the words from my mind and binding them to the page. Perhaps on paper my bewilderment will find some kind of coherence. And if not, there is always the possibility that you might, your dear God being willing, of course, read this one day and be ashamed.


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Avoid the Faults of your Nation. Or Tribe.

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Water shares the good or bad qualities of the strata through which it flows, and man those of the climate in which he is born. Some owe more than others to their native land, because there is a more favourable sky in the zenith. There is not a nation even among the most civilised that has not some fault peculiar to itself which other nations blame by way of boast or as a warning. ’Tis a triumph of cleverness to correct in oneself such national failings, or even to hide them: you get great credit for being unique among your fellows, and as it is less expected of you it is esteemed the more. There are also family failings as well as faults of position, of office or of age. If these all meet in one person and are not carefully guarded against, they make an intolerable monster.