I Went Out and Saw…Ghosts

What makes people people?

Being privileged could sometimes be a matter of perspective. Some argue it’s always. Counting your blessings and curses and seeing that the good stuff outweighs the bad could make one feel privileged somehow. And yet do we really count our blessings or is it just advice we give to comfort people who are on the brink of tying their nooses?

Tying Nooses

More often than not, I find myself questioning everything, and the meaning behind anything at all. Are there aliens? What happens to you after you get sucked by a black hole? How big could an anus get? Is there a life after death or do I just get reincarnated into a microbe? Don’t you tell me I’m alone in using such questions for self-interrogation. Anyway, I asked the first question in this post because of one true experience.

Days ago, I braved myself to see the world. Yes, I actually went out of the house. And not only that, I went to the busiest portion of the city where the majority of the people you’d see are the dirt poor.

Financially.

I thought at first it’s only the lack of financial prosperity, but when I looked closer I saw that the saddest thing is not how shabbily they dress, not even how they work in a space where you can literally smell the scent of shit wafting constantly, not even when I never saw these people give out a genuine smile to another person, no. I’m okay with a non-smiling person most times–I do that a lot myself. It’s the way they look at nothing, the nothingness of space, with eyes that reflect exactly that.

Hollow Eyes and The Grim Reaper is really a watch repairman

I thought I was not seeing people but their ghosts.

Not that I actually know how real ghosts look like. I still don’t know whether I’m lucky or not for that but I know seeing one would spook me out. So, determined to prove I was not in the ghost plane, I poked the watch repairman.

I actually touched something solid! But then he turned to me with those eyes. Nothing changed; it’s as hollow as ever.

That day, poverty stared at me. And I looked back.

So…

What makes people people? I don’t know, but despair seems to be a part of it. At least if those creatures I saw are actually people. Heh, I know they are–despair had already been an acquaintance to me, too.

But what I saw was already an excess.

I never intended to count my blessings. Forcing myself to look at reality that day made me do it nonetheless. Money is already a part of humanity, but we shouldn’t let it get the best of us. I know I am more privileged than some of those people–that I could still eat three times and even have some spare time to blog–so it’s easier for me to say that. Maybe. But I won’t take it back.

If it’s any consolation, people who have lots of money never escape despair either. It’s part of not just humanity, but of life. The earth despaired when Michael Jackson died (it did!), mama turtle despaired when a heron ate her newly-hatched turtling (or she didn’t because she wasn’t even there).

What I’m saying is, it’s normal to feel despair. But we should not let it defeat us because as long as you’re still [technically] alive you’ve got a shot at changing things. Yes, even the whole miserable condition you are living now.

Even despair.

It just really pains me seeing people, even total strangers, look at the world with those empty eyes. Is life really such a dreary phenomenon for them? It’s all such a waste. We don’t have the certainty of another life except this one we currently have. You might believe in an all-powerful benefactor or not but you’ve got to admit that life is a gift–one that doesn’t last. So I don’t really see the point of living it like you’d rather be dead.

All of us–rich, poor, ugly, beautiful, black, white, yellow, red, straight, crooked–are vulnerable to despair. But it’s up to you to wallow in it. Or you could always choose to look at the lighter side and might actually be happy.

And then, it might only be my perspective…

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27 thoughts on “I Went Out and Saw…Ghosts

  1. “The grass is always greener on the other side” seems relevant to this. Even when we do see how much worse it can be we still convince ourselves it can be a lot better. I think it all matters where we start off. It’s like how people I know who were drug addicts are clean now they’re a success. What about people who never were drug addicts? We need to do so much more to get to that level of success. Life would be easier if there was one single goal we were all after and it wasn’t a shallow one. That way we’d be able to truly measure our own successes. Of course if this was the case then we’d have less reason to think we suck less when we don’t achieve this goal. Does this make sense? It’s like if life was some big competition which I guess it is already and blah blah either you get it by now or you never will.

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    1. If life was some big competition I’d be at the stands selling drugged hotdogs.

      I shudder at the idea of humanity having one single goal. If that’s the case, we would be all more brutal to each other than we are today to eliminate competition. I might already be lacking a limb. I don’t know why I’m thinking about a marathon while running this analogy up my head.

      Yes, that greener grass seems to be the motto of most people I see. In fact, I think we all think of it like all the time. Some just get too consumed with that thought that they don’t see what they already have. I hate it when I get so affected by things happening in the larger circle around me. Makes me want to enlist as a buddhist monk. They all look like they got the secret to inner peace. Maybe I should just shave off all my hair.

      Yep, it’s the hair that’s making humans unhappy. Look at all the filthy hair homeless people have.

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    1. If only despair could be washed off by some magic formula, M. It saddens me to see a lot of people so unhappy around me. Makes you feel that it’s a mortal sin to be happy around them. Like happiness equates to selfishness. But I don’t want to be unhappy. And I can’t make all of them happy, too, either. This hero mentality is a total pain in the ass. It’s hopeless because in the end, only an individual could save himself…

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      1. “Only an individual could save himself…” EXACTLY! It is not happiness that’s a mortal sin, dear one, it’s despair, despair kills! Happiness is the opposite of selfishness, for it is infectious, and why would anyone choose to spread the despair but instead of the happiness one? Make peace with being happy, with spreading happiness. Neither happiness nor despair are a condition, they are a choice. I have seen people in the most desperate of circumstances finding happiness, and those in the most advantageous of situations wallowing in despair. Just be you, offer what you have, and don’t despair when it is not accepted…xoxoM

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  2. Great post. It got me thinking. Despair is so cruel and harsh – I have a hard time wrapping my head around it when I see it in other people. It’s strange but the reality is we have to some how assimilate it into our thinking otherwise we’d feel wretched. So what do we say to ourselves that allows us to turn a blind eye and deaf ear?
    1. That’s all they’ve ever known so it’s not that bad
    2. There for the Grace of God go I (acknowledging)
    3. I’m going to get involved and do something about these conditions tomorrow (but tomorrow never comes.)
    4. I’m a wretched person because I see this and do nothing to help.
    5. You can’t save the world – just do the best you can
    6. Count your blessings – You thank God for the much needed perspective
    7. Somebody is probably on their case and helping them – there are lots of volunteers for this kind of thing
    Etc., Etc.

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    1. Thank you for giving this post another layer, Lisa. Sadly, I have been guilty of all these rationales. But then one day it just hits you, you know, the reality of all the despair surrounding you. And you question what part you play in all of it or is there no “part” and you are just an accident just like everything else.

      I don’t know. But I’ve decided to not wallow in despair and do more to help every single person I meet in any way I can, however little it may be. (I got this from Tim.) Sometimes even just a smile helps or the very simple act of buying a begging kid a bread when he asks you for food in a bakery. I experienced receiving the former and giving the latter. From this I could say the little things that we could do does count. Maybe this little things are the best way to combat this widespread despair? I really still don’t know. At least, it helps me believe this world is still beautiful after all and humanity is still inherently good.

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  3. I love this post. So much.
    (and that’s not just for simultaneously wondering about the meaning of life and anuses with a belieber reference) [sadly I wouldn’t be surprised if more people questioned a certain some of those than others]

    But
    “It’s the way they look at nothing, the nothingness of space, with eyes that reflect exactly that.”
    got me.

    Out of all that struck me about poverty while we were in Ghana, it was just that. Pah to the lack of luxury; I could just pretend that was a necessarily extended-camping trip due to a sudden onset of a post-apocalyptic world. But the lack of imagination and impetus and general spirit; God, it killed me. Hell, it honestly made me, an overzealous idealist, question far more the worth of us humans. Age adds more to that as I see the “blessed” are turning back to that in a sense just in a different means of jobs and families domineering their lives.

    Is it awful of me to think that some humans are more “human” and another larger majority run just a more complicated version of a robotic or animalistic lifestyle? And I emphasize the larger majority part. Sigh…I hate having the thought, but it’s there.

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    1. Thank you, I’m really glad that you liked this–it means so much coming especially from you because I know you have been exposed to what I’m talking about. A lot of the sights in third world countries would look like a post-apocalyptic world to someone coming from the first world, I hate the labels but as you said, it’s there.

      I share the same thoughts, too. I often label the large majority as cyborgs (but yes sometimes I think we’re just de-evolving into what we’re naturally inclined–animals–and I don’t know what’s worse) and it’s my constant dread to just wake up and realize I have been one of them all along. To just be content to survive and accept it as a general principle. Poverty could do that to you, that’s a truth I often see. But does it always follow that when you’re poor you should live like this? It’s sad. What happened to dreaming? Sometimes I believe that’s all that still make humans humans. It all leaves you that awful aftertaste–you know, that we are all just experiments, or worse, accidents, and this overwhelming thirst for meaning is futile.

      Luckily as of now, I still have enough stubbornness to refuse it. We still have that choice, don’t we?

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      1. It’s also “here” to in our glorious first-world. Things like movies, books, the internet, plays, music, and video games though help spurn us to a little more out of our existence I think. I’m immensely thankful for that because I’m inclined to believe those things may be what makes the difference (in the sense that I drew the lucky card).

        I guess I have a different thought on the de-evolving thing though. What gets to me more are the subtle moral implications of it. On one hand, yes, it’s a socioeconomic matter, but I’m not sure that’s the underlying cause; it’s just that the surrounding circumstances don’t offer much impetus otherwise. As society progresses, I think those imbalances between the first-world’s level of roboticness and the third-world’s will even out. So although demographics exposed me to it, they don’t worry me as much on this.

        But the morals… if some people in the world really are just functioning on such a higher and more productive level while a sum of others are just robotic consumers… well, it just kind of kicks egalitarian ideas in the gonads I think. Now I’ll never purport anything other than equal rights for all people, but I’m also a brute honesty type person. What if people really are fundamentally and drastically different in productivity, value, relevance, and goodness? What does that mean for our ethics, philosophy, world-views, responsibilities? God, now that’s an aftertaste I don’t like.

        That overwhelming thirst for meaning though…hah, I think that could be a whole other subject. If it really is just futile evolutionary drives, well good freaking damn, that sucks. I’ll rub some existential faerie dust on it all the same though cause I’m stubborn like you.

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  4. A thoughtful post.
    The business tycoon is happy because he just signed a million dollar deal. The guy next door is happy because he landed a well paying job. The worker at the factory is happy she got a wage hike, her kids can go to school now. The man on the street is happy.. he thinks he is lucky to be still alive.
    It’s a happy world..or is it?

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    1. A thoughtful comment.

      And is it a happy world? I think it all boils down to perspective again (since I’ll go crazy if I try to answer without resorting to that!). What if something out-of-this-world happens and suddenly it will literally be a happy world where everyone will have that feeling of happiness in spite of everything awful in their life or around them? Then people will stop desiring and working for some change. And that would just be horrible. Perhaps that is why despair plays an important role; it forces us to DO something (an impetus perhaps?).

      But people have different strengths, and most of us could only bear too much…and yet, why do I still believe this is a beautiful world?

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      1. I totally take your point, but I would rather like ‘desire’ rather than ‘despair’ to play that important role. 72% of people in India do not get to eat three times a day. There are people who survive on mud and stones(http://www.livemint.com/Politics/5buFwAZHc2iwDYtzco1Z8L/With-not-enough-food-children-learn-to-eat-mud.html), sleep on cement heaps. I don’t know, may be after a point you lose all hope and stop desiring.
        Perhaps that is where religion plays an important role, atleast in India. You know, all those promises of a better after-life!

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      2. 72% is quite huge. That says most of the people in India are below poverty level. And yet you also see the very, very rich. It’s these extremes that hurt our eyes, don’t they?

        Is India still classified as a third world? I see a lot of what you’re talking about here in the Philippines in an almost daily basis. Being exposed to these stuff long enough could make you go numb. I try hard not to, but I’m not sure if I succeed. Perhaps both of our POVs confirm that even though poverty isn’t the entire root, it’s one of the heaviest causes of despair in humanity? I have lots of good things to say about religion. I even approve of it if it makes people become better human beings. It’s the religious debates that I’m totally sick of.

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  5. Yes, it is this disparity of wealth that hurts. In the tribal belt of India, where some of the poorest of the world live, multinational companies have signed MOUs with the government. So the tribals who until now at least had the forests to call their own, would be robbed of it too. Why? Companies just found out the hills are rich in bauxite. They want to do some mining and make some more money. The rich here own everything. The mountains, the trees, the ponds, streams..it’s all theirs.
    Funny thing is that the establishment which is supposed to protect it’s people, recently declared that anyone who earns Rs. 32 a day is above the poverty line!! It’s a big joke because a simple breakfast at a cheap roadside restaurant costs you around Rs.15!
    The rich own the government too by the way 😉

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    1. Oh they do, my friend. They do.
      It’s detestable how people destroy nature for progress’ sake but it’s even more revolting how people trample on the rights and privileges of the least fortunate just to satisfy their own greed for material wealth. In 3 days it’s election again here in our country and I just want to puke at the hypocrisy of all the politicians. I’m doubting whether to vote or not because they seem to be all the same to me–money mongers with no real sense of service.
      And then the most frustrating part is, what could we do with all of this aside from despairing for the victims of this rampant greed? It’s at situations like this that I really want to say “Fuck humanity!” and just give up on us. But then, we are all we really have.

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      1. That John Lennon song!
        “Imagine all the people living life in peace
        You, you may say
        I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”

        But there are plenty who are not just dreaming but are fighting to improve this human condition, for a social order where at least the basic human needs are met not just on papers but in real life. It’s another thing that the current establishment has declared them ‘terrorists’. It claims that they are using violent methods and suggests them to instead go on hunger strikes. Imagine the hungry going on a hunger strike!

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      2. What? I may not know the whole context but that’s about the most idiotic suggestion the government could say. Were they doing it to guilt trip this group for their supposedly violent actions? Ironic at the least.

        Ah, social order. Tsk. Are you still using the caste system? I don’t know much about it, but I sure don’t like the bits I know. I find it completely unnecessary–making the rich richer and the poor as close to animals. I might be wrong, but that’s how it looks like to me.

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  6. Oh that is precisely what they are fighting against 🙂 The caste system. Not just that but also the tyranny the rich unleash on the poor. THAT is what they are fighting against. By educating, organizing and agitating.

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    1. I see. That is a very good cause indeed. If I’m a god, caste would be one of the things I would abolish (and the annoying need to sleep!). But since I’m not, I could only pray and wish for the force to be with them, whatever “it’s” name may be.

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