Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The word Nakba means calamity in Arabic, and today, of all days, many people will write many things about what they think of it, and whether it is something that we should remind ourselves of on a daily basis and not just commemorate. I don't want to commemorate a nakba, I want to commemorate all the good things it brought out in all of us. When the earthquake struck Japan last year, it caused untold carnage and destruction, and it uprooted many people's lives. But with calamity something deep within our selves also awakens, and we find in the human not just a base instinct for deception and self-interest but also of something else; something different. For with calamity it is not just despair and sadness that is born, but out of the very deepest well in the soul, heroism.

It is heroism which portrays a desperate and hopeless situation as a glorious battle. It is heroism which can turn a victim into a martyr, and transforms the impulse that might only have been manic depression, at best, if not suicide, into something magnificent, into art. Through this art, and this romantic impulse to protect some part of our psyche, our souls, from utter defeat in an indifferent universe, we see the human being overcoming difficulties in ways that were inconceivable before. The calm after the storm, and the person who lives to see the sun rise once again; that is what a nakba should be remembered for. And instead of lamenting the fate which brought it to our door, we would do well to remember the words of an English bard:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them

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