Monthly Archives: December 2007

Choices

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.
We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakable.

In this world
Hate never yet dispelled hate.
Only love dispels hate.
This is the law,
Ancient and inexhaustible.
You too shall pass away.
Knowing this, how can you quarrel?
How easily the wind overturns a frail tree.
Seek happiness in the senses,
Indulge in food and sleep,
And you too will be uprooted.

Mistaking the false for the true,
And the true for the false,
You overlook the heart
And fill yourself with desire.
See the false as false,
The true as true.
Look into your heart.
Follow your nature.

Excerpted From Choices
The Dhammapada
Translated by Thomas Byrom

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Surrounded By Nerds

I work as a technical writer for a start-up software company based in Irvine, California. It opened its satellite division in Armenia in July 2005, and I was one of the starting employees at the office here. We’ve grown from a group of five to just over 20 in that time span. Needless to say, the nerd factor has increased significantly. Not only are most of these guys geeks, many are sort of wise guys as well, usually crass talking and acting in a not-so professional manner. It’s not unusual for people to shout from one end of the spacious office to the other in some sort of obtuse display to signify importance. Speaking softly is an odd occurrence. And the mobile phone tones sounding at full blast are a fantastic annoyance. Nevertheless, I try to adapt to my surroundings as best as I can, which for the most part entails listening to my limited mp3 music catalogue via iTunes when the cackling becomes cacophonous. If it weren’t for the VP of Operations here, with whom I can talk just about anything from the damning intricacies of his large-format photography to amateur wine making (I am providing him with empty bottles left behind from my nights of wine binging), office life would be absolutely mind-numbingly dull. Although a spot of tea always helps brighten the day. Tings….

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Disconnected

The man sat in the dark alone. He smoked while thinking, occasionally out loud to no one’s attention. At times he walked about in his apartment, switching on a light in another room as he entered in search of the explanation. His thoughts were often muddled, yet there was a central core to them, a theme that was not easily dismissed.

“I am doing everything I can to be a good person, to be a good human being,” he repeated at least once daily. “But it’s still not enough.”

He occasionally recalled past events in his life which he regretted, when he behaved badly and spoke inappropriately to others. There were times when he shouted at people he loved, and in retrospect he felt that his abusive words were uncalled for. Some relationships became irreconcilable due to mutual misunderstandings, and the realizations still hurt him although several years had passed.

The good person was a being that was inaccessible to him, a foreign persona that no one else could conceive but himself although the conception was unreachable, because he could not comprehend it. He did not understand what exactly would declare himself a good person in the eyes of others or by his own heart. His faults, not to mention past follies, clouded his judgment. There were too many incidents that occurred which he now found absurd, and the very fact that they came about in the first place persuaded him to believe that the concept of good may not be attainable. Yet he wrestled with these thoughts that plagued him at odd, random moments each day.

He married for love, but it would be revealed that it was one-sided. The woman to whom he would dedicate himself was obliged to marry by the gentle coaxing of her parents, who fancied him as a husband for their girl. She was told that he was a righteous man, with a steady job and ambitions to start a family. But their girl was restless and entered the union with reluctance. Although on the surface she showed her undying love, repeating her words of conviction to him often, she secretly resented him and all that he intended. Her independence was being sacrificed, something she could not tolerate for any one or any thing. There were no children conceived for this reason as she made him take preventive precautions, proof of her inadmissible desire to form and foster the family. She loved him enough to live with him, but not enough to commit herself, so she left him alone.

“I am doing everything I can to be a good person, to be a good human being.” After some time he no longer knew what he was talking about when reciting this phrase, what he intended to accomplish. What did it mean to be a human being, he mused. Were not all people in society human beings? What did it mean to be a good one? The concepts of good or bad are subjective, he believed, ideals dictated by morality in accordance with the laws of religious practice and doctrine. Yet he did not feel affinity to any one religion, thus there was a detachment. “I am trying my best to be good…” But where was the faith, he wondered.

He worked as an office administrator for a start-up software company, a comfortable, well-paying job. The employees liked him and he them. Virtually no conflict existed in the office, save for a couple of disappointed workers who wanted extended vacation days but were refused by him. Company outings were organized; they celebrated their firm’s success with toasts and feasts. There were no indications that he was not liked by any one of them. Yet he felt out of sorts amongst them, a disconnect.

His friends were dedicated. They conveyed several times their appreciation for him, their admiration for his kindness, his warmth and wit. He sought their companionship often after his marriage was destroyed. They never refused him, always pleased to assuage his solitude. But he was not convinced that he had anything to show for the compliments he was paid. He was not confident that he was good because the negative points of his past plagued him. The memories of various blunders haunted his soul, they taunted his conscience. He regretted being far away now from those he had slighted some years ago-he wanted to reach out to them, to find reconciliation, but he could not. He felt that they would not accept his overtures even if he tried.

Loneliness had followed him his entire life. He dragged his loneliness behind him by a tie forged with guilt, shame, and longing. Romanticism was his downfall; he dreamed of ideals, of lofty professional successes, grandiose expectations, and of nurturing offspring with a faithful, devoted wife to guide him. The romantic obsessions of life would cruelly scathe his inner essential being, unexposed to common sight.

While his marriage was crumbling and the inevitable conclusion was forecast he did all he could to convince his wife to stay, but she persisted to pursue her own life-dreamt career. She left him with no remorse; a man who had shown unwavering love for her but was a protruding obstacle along her path that had to be exploded for allowing safe passage. He was a threat to her survival as a free soul fated to wander, and he was killing that will in her mind. He wept bitterly the day she left him, but several days later managed to collect his faculties and persist forward. Some time passed. There was no recoil; she was part of his past and would remain cast into his memories dangling on the chain of inconsequential grainy obscurity.

“I am doing all I can to be a good human being…” but there was nothing more left for him to accomplish than he already had. He had not committed murder, never inflicted severe physical or traumatizing psychological pain onto others. There was not anyone he believed in his life who scorned him, who secretly wished for his downfall in health or fortune. There were only the past interpersonal mistakes, the actions that caused him his anguish which could not be revealed to any other fellow soul. They were collectively his secret torment. But he yearned for freedom.

Copyright © Christian Garbis, 2007

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They Taught Me Not To Cry

Life is not hard to manage

when you have nothing to lose.

–Ernest Hemingway

… They taught me not to cry.

It was late night. We were sitting in the kitchen, smoking and he was telling me about his life. Then the boy stood up nervously, went to other room and came back. He had some papers in his hand.

– Take it!

– Do you want me to read this?

– I gave it to you…

Honestly, it was a dull question. Why did I ask? Why did I pretend I did not understand that he wanted me to read it and know everything?

Certificate of death…

– She was in a psychiatric hospital. You know, all these pills… she would not be able to survive after…

– What about your father? You must have relatives?

– I never tire anyone. If he’d like he would find me.

At this moment I felt all his solitude: he was all alone in the world.

He had never known his father. The boy was seeing his mother only when she was coming back from a psychiatric hospital for a day or two.

– She loved me a lot but she always was mad.

The boy adored her.

He also had an uncle: his mother’s brother.

– Once he told me that we would go to his friend’s home. I was six years old. It was a big house… He asked me to play with children in the other room while he was talking to his friend. I never saw him again. This building was an orphanage where I spent four years. They taught me not to cry. They were beating me and repeating that I should not cry. I never cry…

I remembered another day when he asked me.

– Why do you smoke?

– I smoke because sometimes I feel bored with people. Smoking isolated me from them.

– Why don’t you just leave…?

It was always hard for me to leave.

For the soul, seeking for love, to leave was life: interrupted relations, killed desires and solitude. His wolf’s eyes were looking into your soul and asked: why are you scared?

Do not be afraid, all is just a moment…

Anush
December 2007

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The Master Surrenders His Beliefs

 

The master surrenders his beliefs.

He sees beyond the end and the beginning.

He cuts all ties.

He gives up all desires.

He resists all temptations.

And he rises.

And wherever he lives,

In the city or the country,

In the valley or in the hills,

There is great joy.

Even in the empty forest

He finds joy

Because he wants nothing.

 

Excerpt from The Master

The Dhammapada

Thomas Byrom, translation

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Tell Me My Story

 

 

Don’t give up
Because you have friends
And believe
There will be place
Where we’ll be loved
I am digging in the dirt
To find the place
Where I’ve loved

     – Tell me my story…

     She is twenty years old now. It is already seventeen years that she lives in the children’s home. For me she is a girl who has never had a childhood.

     – Your mother and father have met at a psychiatric hospital. They probably didn’t realize what they were doing or maybe they wanted you in their life passionately; although the doctors have forbidden her to give birth to a child. Craziness and desire of a man and a woman gave birth to you. I do not know anything about your father, except that he was Jewish. Your mother was an artist and she has committed a suicide after you appeared to the world which became too cruel for you. Three years you were living in a dark room which had never seen a sun…

     Is this the story which I should tell her even if it is true? Is this what a young “crazy” girl should know about life and past of her parents?

     All children in the world dream about one thing: caring and loving family.

     Someone says: “The best a father can do for his children is to love their mother”.

     The fairy-tale which will help her to live, believe, love and trust people will be a little different…

     – Tell me my story…

     – All children are born because once a man and a woman meet and love. You came to this world because your parents loved each other and wanted you to be born… Just remember always: you are a creature of your parents’ love and desire….

Anush
December 2007

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My Favorite Wines

Most recently I have been rediscovering wine drinking, mainly because a friend of mine who is a composer and an avid appreciator of the stuff was staying with me for three weeks while in town visiting from his home of Boston. That and because I am getting bored with beer. By all means I do not claim to be a wine connoisseur, I am just an amateur appreciator with a meticulous passion for good tasting fermented grape beverages that don’t leave cranium piercing headaches in their wake. I found two great dry red wines that I have been purchasing in large quantities, and because of my newfound love I am finding that supplies are diminishing as shelves are not being restocked with them for whatever absurd reasons store owners have. But I figured I would share my delight here by writing a few words about each of them.

Côtes Du Rhône, 2004, Henri de Floret, 1850-2750 dram ($6-9). This reasonably priced quality-control certified French dry wine has a smooth finish with hints of black pepper, caper, and pure cocoa. It is a great accompaniment to a fatty, low-salt Lori cheese or a Danish Blue. Definitely a satisfying choice.

Areni Country, 1998, Kimley, 1500-1600 dram ($5-5.25). Of the dozens of Areni that can be found on store shelves in Armenia, not to mention above-average homemade concoctions sold by the roadside contained in plastic soda bottles in and around Areni, this robust wine clearly stands apart from the rest. It has a fruity bouquet with subtle hints of black cherry and a very slight cantaloupe finish. You can drink it standalone as well as alongside authentic dishes like those containing lentils or strained yoghurt as I have discovered. A few Armenian dry wines walk a fine line along the vinegar side of the fence, but the 1998 Areni Country defines the makings of a proper fine-quality vintage. An excellent wine.

Select supermarkets or high-end grocery stores will most likely have either one of these wines in stock. Unfortunately I cannot reveal exactly where they can be purchased since I am quietly panicking about not being able to find them for very much longer. In any case, happy hunting.

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