Poetry

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AMuse

written by: potvinb

The White Wisdom

It's seldom to meet a person who will open you, dissect you, and tell you who you are bluntly. It's extraordinary to meet a man of wisdom who's willing to share with you his acumens about men and life. It's truly rare. Yet I was auspicious enough to meet such a soul, an open man with astuteness now long forgotten by the common.

It was a chilly night. I was waiting for a fair at the international airport (as usual) puffing on a cigarette as if there was no tomorrow. I smoked out of ennui, out of annoyance with my current life and the times that had passed. I'm a Taxi Driver, and I only service the Perth International Airport. For those of you who do not know, Perth is the capital of Western Australia, and WA is obviously in Australia (Down Under).

I was halfway through smoking the cigarette, when passengers incepted to get out of the Airport, making their way through to the Taxi Rank. Frankly I was having a bad night and I wasn't expecting much out of this fair. A grey man pulling on a black suitcase approached my car. I flicked my cigarette to the ground and greeted him.

"How you doing?"
"I'm fine, thanks." Said the old man as I carried his luggage to the car.

And so started the drive of a lifetime.

The old man lived in Mandurah which is about two hours drive from the Airport. Usually I don't start the conversation with passengers. If they don't talk, then I won't say a single word. And many passengers make conversations by asking the usual questions. What's the weather been like? How much is Petrol? And soon they incept bombarding me with more personal questions such as Where do you come from? How long have you been in Australia? And so on and so forth.

It was a long drive. The highway was virtually empty, and nothing could be heard, save for the sound of the engine running. Silence, I enjoyed it. Yet at times it sensed so awkward. I was carrying a human in my car, there was another living and breathing human that was sitting next to me, yet I could not even say a word to him. He was an old man, perhaps in his 70s, yet he sat tall, and his back was straight. His eyes were bright blue; his grey hair was amalgamated with white streaks. Every now and then, I would glance at him momentarily and then turn my attention to the road ahead.

Finally, I broke the silence. Did you have a good holiday? I asked.

"Yes, I did. Thanks." Said the old man. His voice was soft, yet deep.
"I visited a few countries; however, I spent most of my time in Zambia." Said the old man.

"Zambia? Is it a good holiday destination?"

"Well, sort of. It's different, and I spent most of my time with my wife and kids."

"Wife?" I asked

"Yes, she's Zambian"

"Really? How odd! How did you meet?"

"It's a long story." Said the grey man with a gentle smile.

He paused for a few moments. He seemed so vacant, so absent minded, as if he were in a different realm.

I broke the silence once again. "Well? Don't stop now. I really would like to hear your story"

"Fine, I will recall my story for you. However, you have to promise me that you'll do the same if the journey allows"

"No problems, I promise. At any rate, we have at least ninety minutes of driving ahead of us. That should allow us enough time."

"Time. Time. Time" said the old man and paused for a few moments. He then resumed talking. "Time flashes. One day you are young; you are in your early 20s and the next day you realize that you are knocking at the door, you are heading towards 80. Time, it flies, it really does. It's been a long time since I sensed young. In fact it's been more than half a century." Said the old man with a long sigh.

"How does it feel like to be old?"

"Maybe you should have asked "What it feels like to lose your youth, to witness yourself becoming frail and fragile. It's not as bad as people tell it. Frankly, it feels good. You see, when you are young, you don't really care much about life, about the future or about others. All you care about is living the moment; all you know is how not to miss out on the moment! But as you get older, and as the world changes..."

He paused for a few moments, and resumed again. "No, the world doesn't really change, you incept changing; your perception of the world changes. Matters that seemed to matter so much to you before, don't matter anymore, they are no longer important. Aging is truly beautiful. As we age, we lose our beauty and strength, yet we gain knowledge and appreciation for life. And you incept accumulating experience, your mind, your thoughts, and your whole world changes. You become a different man, and before you know it, you are traveling to places beyond appreciation at the tender age of 50… Tell me now, how does it feel like to be young?"

"Young? I don't know really. Do I have to feel young just because I'm young?"

"That's strange! You are young; you ought to be full of energy and strength. You ought to live life and plan for the future"

"That's what everybody says. But I don't feel young anymore. I'm 22, yet I feel as if I've grown too old already. I feel as if I've aged in my youth"

"Really? How peculiar" said the man as he stared into my eyes.

"I see. You are hard to read! Your dark eyes are hard to decipher. Usually, it's easy to interpret light colored eyes. However, dark eyes are remarkable, for they can hide emotions. Nonetheless, I can see it; I can sense a deep sorrow in your eyes."

"What are you talking about?"

"You know what I'm talking about, don't you? I've seen it in you. I can tell many things about a man just by observing him for a short while."

"Really? Then tell me, what have you found out about me so far?"

"Well, let me see. You've been in Australia for about 9-10 years. You are wearing black leather shoes, nice ironed jeans, and a very clean blue t-shirt. You are also wearing brand cologne. You are not a full time Taxi driver. Ah, today's Sunday; no wonder! You do this job just on the weekends. You are a university student. Am I not correct?"

"Yes, almost! I arrived here about eight years ago. I'm a student and I drive this taxi on the weekends."

"You hate this job! Don't you?"

"More than anything else in the world. I truly do hate this job."

"May I ask why?"

"I think you know why"

"Yes, I can think of a few reasons. You hate it because everyone looks down on you. Most customers see you as just another dull Cab driver, passing judgment without any prior knowledge about you or what you do! It must be hard, yet I bet that you don't tell them the truth about yourself. You are different to many people that I've met before."

"I wonder what you mean by different. Different in a good way or a bad way?"

"Neither good nor bad. Being different is not being normal. Yet what is normal? How can one become normal; act normal and live normal? Yet, I can see the sadness in your eyes and on your left hand"

My left hand was on the steering wheel, and just as he mentioned it, it retracted back impulsively and I hide it from sight.

"I've already seen it. There were 14 cigarette marks. Two crosses, one pointing north and the other south. And the last mark is at the tails of the two crosses. How interesting"

"What are you talking about?" I knew what he was saying. I had made those marks a few weeks ago.

"They are not crosses. Ah, now it makes sense. They are two arrows pointing in opposite directions. And that last mark, that's you! Am I not right?"

"Sort of" I said to the old man. He was precise.

"The sadness in your eyes! I can see it on your left hand. Sometimes when the pain gets too much, too much that it hurts inside; and when there is no other avenue to alleviate the pain, one turns to other means. It's not an uncommon occurrence, although a few people actually reach that critical point, where they can no longer tolerate the pain, and choose to fight pain with pain. Fight fire with fire. Isn't that right?"

"Not completely! I was lost, and that's why I marked two arrows pointing in opposite directions. I'm the mark that seems to be stuck in between. I could neither progress nor could I go back. And yes, I was depressed. The pain does become unbearable at times, and that's when I chose to inflict physical pain on my own self, so I could forget about my other problems"

"Did you forget about your inner pain?"

"No"

"Are you proud of what you've done?"

"I'm both ashamed and proud"

"Why?"

"I'm ashamed because I failed to grasp my own emotions. And these marks will stay with me for the rest of my life. And, I'm proud because I didn't need anyone's help. I dealt with my own pain in my own stupid way"

"Did it work?"

"What do you think?"

"I doubt it ever did. Running away from reality is like denying your own existence! You ran away from the cause, and punished yourself for that! You tried to discipline yourself, but you failed. You actually scarred yourself permanently"

"That's true. But at that time, this seemed like the right thing to do. I was euphoric for a few moments, and then I fell hard. And that's when I realized what I had done. Sweet Insanity. That's what it was at the time."

"If you say so. But tell me, what drove you so insane?"

"I couldn't understand life anymore. At the time, I was ill, my father had been diagnosed with Cancer, and I seemed to have had lost all that I had worked so hard to get. This isn't the first time that that had happened to me. In the past this had happened to me a few times; where I built my life with sweat and hard work, and then all was gone in a flash. Life was somehow, for some unknown reason trying to destroy me and take away all that I had worked so hard to get. I couldn't understand why!"

"Are you complaining about the challenges that life had put in front of you?"

"Sort of. I have lived in three different countries, and all I can remember from my childhood is bad times. I have forgotten most of it, the good and the bad of my childhood. I truly have no memory of it. Yet, I knew and I know that I was and I am better off than millions, perhaps billions around the world. But, I still couldn't understand why this was happening to me all the time. I just couldn't fathom the reason"

"Really? There is a lot of confusion, a lot of contradictory and complementary issues that surround you. I can think of a few reasons. Perhaps Abraham Maslow's ‘A Theory of Human Motivation' can shine some light on your issues.

"A Theory of human motivation. The pyramid of human needs. The first need is Physiological, then safety, then Belonging, then comes Esteem and last but not least the acme of needs comes in: Self-actualization. Yes, I have read that somewhere not long ago"

"Wow, you are spot on. You are an interesting one. Yes, I think that since your childhood up to now, you have struggled to belong to a certain society. You said that you lived in three different countries. It doesn't surprise me the least bit, because you've never lived long enough in a single society to learn and to integrate with that society. Belongingness is just as essential as the Physiological and Safety needs. If you don't belong, then you can't live happily; when you are sad and mad, there isn't a place to go back to, to go and unload your emotions."

"You are a shrink. Are you not?"
"What difference would it make? I could be a shrink or a garbage collector for that matter! What do you study?"

"I'm studying Master of Pharmacy. But I studied psychology externally for a few semesters"

"You stopped because you started to apply the theory on yourself. Self-analysis. You started to analyze your own self and perhaps went too deep"

"Perhaps"

"Perhaps? Just as I thought. People like you look for reasons. You look for the smallest details and think about the nature of the world. And sometimes you can get so immersed with your own thoughts and your own world, that you actually forget that you are a part of the greater existence. Why couldn't you just accept things? Why couldn't you just close your eyes and accept reality for what it was, as it was. Because at the end of the day, thinking too much and too deep can have consequences greater than your comprehension"

"I had neither your age nor your wisdom. I'm 22, and sometimes I sense so lost, so out of place, so mentally challenged, that it's not funny anymore. I just don't know what to do!"

"What is it that you don't understand? Rather; what is it that you do want to understand?"

"I want to understand life, and how to live it! I don't think I know how to live life!"

"You speak about life as if there is a certain method to living Life. There are no rules, no methods, no one way to live life. If you somehow managed to ask six billion people the same question, you'll get six billion different answers on ways of living life. Living life is not something that you could be taught, it's not something that you could learn by reading books. To live life, you have to LIVE life, if you know what I mean. And at the end of the day you are writing your own story, you are the artist that's painting the picture. Let me put it in simpler words: We don't get the choice of being born or not being born; we are just born into life; some of us will be fortunate to have decent families, societies and lifestyles, and others are simply unlucky. We don't choose the scenario; we are just born into it. So what is the point of complaining and asking why? What is the point of asking questions to which we have no answers to? What is the point of asking: Why was I born? Why was I created? Why was I created as an English man? Or why was I created as a Black man? Why was I created Asian? Why and why and why? What is the point of asking these questions? I wonder! Because at the end of the day we are what we are and nothing can change that; nothing can change our skin color, our race, our …" he paused with a sigh.

"What we have to do is to first accept who we are. We have to accept that firstly we are human; and lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to exist. We have to accept who we really are and start to get to know ourselves, to explore our existence and be comfortable with who we are and how we look. Because at the end of the day, no matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, we will remain as we are. We will look the same, and be the same. But, what we do with that scenario, and how we live life is a choice that we have to make, and the choices that we make will ultimately define the outcome of our lives for better or worst. And at the end of the day, we all die. Whether we are wealthy or poor; powerful or weak; young or old; smart to dumb. It makes no difference at all; we all will die one way or another, today or tomorrow! So, how hard could it be to live life? How hard could it be to find the motivation and the resolve to live life, to study, to love, to have a family, to work, to travel, to help others, to accept the differences and long for peace? How hard could it be to accept and befriend ourselves?"

I had no answer. I was speechless.

"I don't know what you are suffering from; but I do know that whatever it is, that there is a way to fix it. There is always a way to mend things, to solve problems. My advice to you, young man, is that you need to stop thinking. What you really need to do is to just step back, and observe your life for a while. Try to see your own life as a whole from a different window. Put matters in perspective. And once you've done that, it's then when you come to realize that living life is not hard. That, it's not hard to change things, to dream and set goals. It's really not hard. And you have to remember that every second that passes by, that every moment represents the past, the present and the future. And you have to teach yourself and come to realize the importance of time and utilize the chances that you are given; because at the end of the day, you are only given a few chance and no more; just a few and that's all. So don't look at the world with those sad and depressed eyes; close your eyes and make a pledge to yourself; pledge to never look down on yourself, harm yourself and ultimately start to get to know yourself and love yourself for what you are, for after all you are just a human, and as humans we have many imperfections and we are bound to make mistakes. Smile and the world will smile back at you. And remember that Esteem is the fourth of the human needs, and it's very important, for if you do not have enough of it, then you can never reach your potentials."

Again I didn't speak. I was left paralyzed under the weight of his words. Bells started to ring in my head; I was perplexed; I could hear his voice, but I wasn't there with him, it was as if his words opened this unknown portal to a realm that I had never been to prior to this moment. I was spirited away into reality itself. I felt and sensed so free, so light, as if I was just freed from solitary imprisonment, it was as if the heavy chains had been broken and I could roam carelessly into reality.

"Are you Ok?" asked the old man with a warm smile on his lips.

"I'm fine."

"You seem so lost and confused!"

"On the contrary, I feel as if I've just found myself. As you said, living life can not be taught. But you just showed me the way, you just illuminated the path that was nonexistent; and for that I'm ever so grateful"

"Really? I did get carried away for a while; but I spoke from the heart and tried to pass to you my years of experience. And I'm so happy that I could help you out. You are a nice young man, and you listen to reason. You are willing to change. It's seldom to find young people who would actually listen to the words of the older generations. But at the end of the day, we will pass on our experiences to those who are willing to listen, and they too will benefit from it; and others who are filled with ego and arrogance, well, it's their loss."

The journey ended. We shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. And he asked me to visit him sometimes; because he was disappointed in the fact that time did not allow us to recall our stories for one another. He was truly eager to hear my life story, even though I was just 22. It's been six months since that night, and I can sometimes remember his advices; I sometimes recall his words and his old creased face in my mind, his warm smile and his genuine affection towards another human being. I have lived in three different countries, I have met many souls, yet I have never met a soul as open and as loving as the old man's. I never asked him his name, but I will never forget his face. And one day, when I feel ready, I will go to meet him. I will go and do as he desired. "We'll sit on the balcony, and watch the sunset with a warm cup of coffee in hand".

Comments:

Wed, Apr 2, 2008 at 9:31PM

I feel like I need a key to unlock this poems meaning. Until then I like it!

Wed, Apr 2, 2008 at 10:10PM

This poem is a commentary to "Bee Never". It as different levels of meaning and is a transliteration of a discourse held by
two friends experiencing the effects of their mysterious and unconditional Mind transmissions.

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