Saturday, December 22, 2007

I am.

In this age of frantic connectivity, we live in a small world, yet fragmented nonetheless. In the technological sense, we are networked up to our eyeballs, yet within ourselves we often trudge on in isolation…dealing with our little hurts, challenges and concerns. We share things but only in part—wishing to keep a share of our innermost thoughts hidden away, for privacy cannot be completely relinquished, even with our loved ones.

Why so philosophical, you may ask? As some of you know, I am presently spending the holidays visiting with my family in Europe (the Mediterranean island of Malta, to be precise). My regular blogs have somewhat taken the back seat but I wanted to assure everyone that I’m still very much alive :-D. Last week, in fact, I had a birthday. Yet another day to remind me of the fast passage of time and perhaps for this reason, I wanted to spend my morning touring the Hypogeum - an underground architectural wonder—a necropolis—sculpted by a lost civilization into the limestone rock some four and a half millennia ago. I needed proof that identity can survive the ravages of time, that in some ways, when we create, we can live on through our work.

The place is a burial site, an area where the prehistoric people could lay to rest their dead and honor them. The Sleeping Lady (pictured to the right as lying in a sort of emulation of peaceful death or trance) was placed as a central figure amongst the slew of decomposing bodies. The latter would be all thrown in one mountainous heap, yet still wearing or holding their individual treasures as if their family wanted to retain their identity even in death. I could clearly imagine a burial ceremony taking place as I walked down the stone steps to the lower levels of the site and stood looking at one of the most impressive rooms: the Holy of Holies (picture above). The circular patterns painted in the now faded red ochre on the walls of some chambers seem to be an ode to the continuity of life and the vivid life blood that courses through our veins.

The civilization that built this magnificent sanctuary is no more. They disappeared into the night, never to be heard or seen again on our islands. Nobody knows what happened to these people. From what I learned, however, they were a community of peaceful farmers who revered nature and respected it. They were close and worked together to create the Hypogeum, their life goal which took several generations to complete. In a sense, these people were “networked”, living as one, thinking as one. They knew their limitations and respected the environment they lived in. Like many of us, they believed that death would bring on some sort of journey into a utopian afterlife.

I like to think of this civilization as a people who sought their identity and found their dream place on this little island, at least for a time. They had no computers, no technology. They built their magnificent temples and sanctuaries using stone and antler, bull and goat horns. In this sense, they were as one, striving for a common goal. They did not need the Internet to feel grounded, connected.

Today, the Internet is considered—and is—a wonderful thing. But has it truly “linked” us? I do not mean in the business or superficial sense, but in the true, individual relationship sense. Also—has it helped us remain grounded in who we are (the “id”, not the “ego”) or has our sense of self become scattered and as disjointed as the world around us?

As I stood in the semi-darkness of the muted artificial lighting, I thought about me—the “I”, the “id”. I thought about what I was and who I have become. I thought about what I wanted to accomplish and who I wanted to be. I realized that I am many things, a complicated, shifting puzzle constructed from the experience of 37 years. The pieces of this puzzle keep increasing and the shapes are continuously evolving. Yet I remain me—myself, swimming in this murky ocean along with everyone else. I could get lost in this great big world, yet I have always insisted on remaining firmly grounded to my roots. My love of my native country has not wavered over the years I’ve been away, but I have in my heart a place for many loves—my husband, my family, my childhood home, my chosen home. Professionally and in many other ways, I strayed for a time, in search of an identity outside of myself, trying the “other” thing, fooling myself that what was given to me to build and cherish was not sufficient. I did not “honor” myself, as the old civilization I wrote about here did.

I now know better. As a child, I dreamt of being a writer, I grew up wanting to be a writer…when I became a lawyer I wondered what it would feel like to be a writer. Now I am truly and simply, a writer. I have a voice, and I have an identity, both as an artist and person. My loves and my “id” transcend time and geography. I treasure the “id” of awareness, of individuality—the part of me that tells me that I matter in my own microcosm and that I have a place in the macrocosm surrounding it. I am not more important. I, like you, am simply important.

Yet life is fleeting and many may feel it’s quite worthless. There are moments when doubt hits me. So I make it a point to remind myself, when I ever am in the doldrums: I am of Malta. I am of America. But most importantly, I am.

~ Angela Guillaume ~
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