Lessons from the stars…

It is incredible just how many stars are visible on a clear night in the ass end of nowhere.   Far from the pollution of city lights and all other aspects of human “civilization” the night sky offers a rare spectacle that I have come to appreciate many times throughout the course of my short, twisted, and cluster-fucked existence on this planet.  There is an inherent sense of peace present in a brief gaze into a clear night sky that transcends all manner of awesome, divisive, contentious, and oftentimes blood-soaked strategic coincidences that brought me to these places far from what human beings have deemed as urbanized “progress”.  The stars themselves hold many lessons which over time I have only begun to uncover through the course of many a quiet, lonely, and deeply introspective evening and some of these I hope to share in this random, half-thought-out post on another Afghan night.

First, the stars transcend time.  There is something inherently significant about seeing light that has taken the better part of several lifetimes to reach this planet.  As humans we are so often caught up in the catastrophes of the moment, the crises of the day, and the short-sighted and temporary issues of our “democratic” election cycles.  While the times we live in and the problems we face in the here and now are in no way insignificant we must not let them blind us to future we hope to build for our future generations, those who will one day gaze up at the light produced from far away during the course of our pathetically short lifetimes and collective memories.  It is through this lens that we can see the impermanence of the challenges surrounding our day to day existence and gaze into the future with a collective sense of hope and purpose for our work and the long-term sustainable solutions we must find to preserve the progress of our societies that our great-grandchildren will one day enjoy…

Second, the stars know no borders.  If nothing else can teach us lessons about the transience of our systems of global order a close look at the ever-changing lines we have drawn on our maps can certainly do the trick.   It is no coincidence that here, amid one of the most volatile “border regions” of our planet, the same night sky can be visible from the outer-regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Jammu and Kashmir, Pashtunistan, Iran, and China.  The incomplete and in many ways utterly unsustainable lines that have been drawn by our great-grandfathers may not all last until the end of our lifetimes and yet they will all still be blanketed by the same night sky hopefully bringing some type of brief moments of peace to the most destitute and conflict-ridden parts of our world.  As a young man, I cannot say what the maps my children and grandchildren will one-day study might consist of or if my young, half-idealistic, 24-year-old self would even recognize them should they be transported into this time.  Nations and governments come and go, identities change with the human struggles of the times, and societies reinvent themselves in some incredibly unpredictable ways.  And ultimately, some of the greatest lies ever told have been lines drawn on a map by whoever holds the “power” of the day…

Third, the stars remind us that true peace can be found anywhere is and is ultimately a product of the human heart rather than the conditions surrounding human existence.  It is not surprising, that even in the most affluent, developed, and civilized human societies of our time problems of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, and other psychological disorders are still ridiculously prevalent.  Peace and happiness are not a product of circumstance or whatever crazy coincidence our lives decide to throw at us a result of our own attitudes, resiliency, and personal maturity to deal with the challenges of our lives.  Even in a warzone, moments of peace are quite common and there is no shortage of profound examples of human ingenuity, community, and society-building that goes on beneath the media’s gaze.  It is just up to us to find this peace and spread it to our brothers and sisters through whatever means we have available.

And finally, the stars teach us to dream.  There are few children in our society who grow up without stories and hopes of “wishing up on a star” and though many of our childhood dreams and fantasies do not last long into the cold realities of adulthood, we must remember that our world has never been changed by people other than true dreamers, those willing to imagine the impossible and turn it to reality.  Sitting near the rooftop of the world and the crossroads of many ancient civilizations, I cannot help but dream of one day returning to this area in a time free of the violent conflicts that plague the region in our day.  I hope to one day gaze up at these same stars, free from the burden of being armed to the teeth for my own security to travel freely and openly throughout the “stans” and possibly even to jump from some of the most beautiful, virgin cliffs that my sport, full of faithful dreamers and pioneers, has yet to explore.  I hope to one day share this beautiful landscape with my children and grandchildren—should I live long enough and find the time in my turbulent existence to actually settle down and raise a proper family—and listen to their jokes about the “ancient” borders and strange conflicts of their father’s time while looking up to another night sky from another peaceful boundary of human civilization.

Afghanistan has long been called the “graveyard of empires” and the term is no unfitting given the numerous would-be empire builders who have traversed this rugged, untamed landscape to meet their ultimate fate.  Amid the twilight of the “American Empire” we must take the time to rethink our policies and the decision of our fathers and grandfathers over the last seventy years of empire building.  The creation of human society is not a zero sum game and the greatest threats to our children’s future come not from foreign “enemies” but from our own short-sighted policies and lack of clear-forward thinking.  Cooperation and community are the callings of our times and as the conflicts we see today hopefully fade into the past we can only hope that our shared sense of human unity will prevail.  Though these may be the most trying of times in human history, we cannot be afraid to “wish upon a star”.  Keep the faith boys and girls our work is for the next generation….cheers from the graveyard of Empires…

Peace be upon you,

Brian

6 Aug 2011, 0005 AST, Orgun-E, Paktika, Afghanistan.

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About briangdonnelly

I'm pretty much a random traveler and free thinker. Right now I live and work with the Army in North Carolina. I grew up in Missouri but am from the northeast US and have traveled a lot with the Army and life in general so I can't say I really have a "home" except where I chose to catch a few hours or rack each day. Overall, life is pretty awesome and I'm looking forward to changing the world. Hit me up if you care... Peace, Brian
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