November 25, 2007

It's An Art To Live With Pain

It’s been a rough week here at Intrepid Flame. It started with an infestation of tasteless and inappropriate comments form, none other than, a former student of mine. I am not sure what prompted him to become so angry with me and abuse me with such a tongue lashing, but it just goes to show that you can pour your heart and soul into trying to reach kids and teach them, but at the end of the day they may tell you to go and fuck yourself. This is a great lesson in humility. Here I am thinking that I am making an authentic connection with these kids. I understand them, I tell myself. I am honest with them. I am open with them, and all the while they think I am just another schmuck like I thought all of my teachers were.

As I write these words, I can see that student or at least the one I think it was who left the comments, nodding his head and smiling, agreeing with me. This demotion from inspirational teacher to jackass is not an easy pill to swallow, but a crucial one nonetheless I suppose. I deleted the comments and have since added a comment moderation feature, something I wad loathe do, because I hate censorship of all kind, but I didn’t feel the kid was actually reading what I was writing; he was simply lashing out at me. I contemplated just ignoring the whole fiasco, but I have a few things to say to you if you are reading:

I remember the rage. The fear. The insecurity that forces us to push hard against anything in our way. I remember feeling it when I was in the third grade when my life changed forever. Ever since, I have been looking for opportunities to let my guard down, but for a long time none were forth coming. This insular and limited sense of self caused me to feel much pain. I was lost for much of my life. Lost in anger. Lost with drugs and alcohol. Lost alone. Somewhere out in the emptiness, however, I realized that I need not push so hard. I need not fight constantly. I can simply relax and be.

When I first read your comments, you who I thought I had gone out of my way to try and connect to because I could see you were entering the lonely world of rage, I was hurt and livid. My initial response was one of seething revenge, but the days have passed and I am realizing that I am still the teacher, the adult, I have been through this while you, a young man, most likely alone are still facing your demons. So whoever you are, if you are reading this, I say keep throwing your punches till your arms grow weary, I will be here to take your blows. I will not allow you to publicly humiliate me, so I will leave the comments moderated, but if you need someone to abuse, I am here, better me than yourself. Unfortunately I cannot show you the way, you must find your own path, but I can tell you this: The sooner you rid yourself of your anger, the easier everything becomes. I am not sure what I have done to you to cause you so much distress, but I apologize for whatever it was. I did nothing more than try to teach you how to face the world. I guess my problem was that I myself am still trying to figure that out.

I hope for my sake that your words were simple thoughtless adolescent foolishness and nothing more. If your intentions were to hurt me: You succeeded. I hope that you can now move on. There is not much more I can say.

The second issue I am facing at this Intrepid Flame is a conversation I had with someone close to me, about the nature of blogging, and I suppose writing and self-expression as a whole. She is worried that I am exposing myself too much out here in cyberland. The conversation we shared was long and wasnprompted by the very comments I mentioned above, but the gist of it was: should there be a filter on self-expression especially in the form of blogging? How much is too much information? How much is too personal? I think she is worried that I may bring on the wrath of undesirables, or the State Department, or the Qatari emir. I do not flatter myself that any more that the twenty people I harass on a regular basis to read these words, even know that I exist, but let us say that she is right and big brother is watching, how much honesty and self-revelation is too much?

Here is what I have to say:

I trust the world. I believe in good faith. I believe that if you act with good intentions and convictions that good things will come your way. I believe in openness and honesty, full disclosure- the more we hide from the world the more we are hiding from ourselves. I understand that we are all works in progress and that I often say things that perhaps I shouldn’t. I think that the words on this blog are adding up to be my life. I think that anyone I feel is worthy to judge me needs to read them all before making judgment. I say this because the person with whom I spoke is worried about me. She thought the irate student comments may have been some angry Qatari in response to my views on his country.

I guess the question is how valid our my opinions? How much freedom do I really have to express them? Are there things that we should fear to write about? Are these not the things we should be writing about? Isn’t challenging oppression and fear the only road to totally freedom? Again, I am not here to flatter myself into thinking that I am changing the world in anyway, apparently I am just a punching bag for teen angst, but isn’t that the role of writing, of art, of freedom, of the human spirit to stand up despite all fear and say that I trust the world. I believe in goodness, however nebulous that concept may be?

I will not, I cannot hide my thoughts about the world. They are all I have. After all what else do we really have but our positions on the realties that surround us? Is it dangerous to say that there is slavery here in Qatar, when I see it everyday? Isn’t it my duty if nothing else than to at least mention it? What can be more insignificant that wiring about major moral problems? If it is hazardous to point out skeletons in nations’ closests, where is this danger coming from? Is it wrong to say that I feel unwelcome in this country, am I offending anyone? Should I stop? There seem to be more questions than answers, but it is late so I will wrap this up. I will leave them for you…If you are out there and reading, what do you think?

I will, however, admit that she was right. I did write some of the lines from the previous post with haste and emotion. I had some pent up frustrations with my inability to adapt to a culture I am having a hard time understanding and appreciating. Some of what I said could irritate and offend some readers, and for that I apologize, but I hope that the few lines can be seen as small part of the larger whole that is this blog, that is me, that is my journey, that is the world. I am honest with my observations so as to nip them in the bud. If left to fester and unspoken these frustrations become racism, anger, conflict, war. I am simply tying to understand them as they come my way. I hope that all my views can be viewed objectively and as a whole.

I know that my words sometimes may be bold and aggressive, but at their core they are simply trying to understand the way to peace. The path to peace is a bumpy one, but it is one that I will walk without fear, because nothing I say, I hope is ever meant to cause pain, on the contrary I use these words to heal the pain I see inside and all around me.

This was a long post, but one a long time coming. I hope everyone out there who is reading this, especially the guy at the State Department or any other government organization monitoring the thoughts of a man trying to find himself, remembers what I have said here. But in reality, I have been working my ass of to try and build a readership and no matter what I do, I still feel like an invisible speck out here in the universe. Once again I think Pearl Jam nails it:

Is this just another day,... this god forgotten place?
First comes love and then comes pain. Let the games begin,...
Questions rise and answers fall,... insurmountable.

Love boat captain
Take the reigns and steer us towards the clear,... here.
It's already been sung, but it can't be said enough.
All you need is love

Is this just another phase of earthquakes making waves?
Trying to shake the cancer off us stupid human beings,...
Once you hold the hand of love,.. it's all surmountable.

Hold me, and make it the truth,...
That when all is lost there'll be you,...
Cause to the universe I don't mean a thing
And there's just one word I still believe
And it's love

It's an art to live with pain,... mix the light into grey,..
Lost 9 friends we'll never know,.. 2 years ago today
And if our lives became too long, would it add to our regret?

And the young, they can lose hope cause they can't see beyond today,...
The wisdom that the old can't give away.
Hey,... constant recoil...
Sometimes life don't leave you alone.

Hold me, and make it the truth,...
That when all is lost there will be you.
Cause to the universe I don't mean a thing
And there's just one word that I still believe and it's
Love,... love. love. love. love.

Love boat captain
Take the reigns,.. steer us towards the clear.
I know it's already been sung,... can't be said enough.
Love is all you need,.. all you need is love,..
Love,.. love,...


  1. I think you are too hard on yourself. Funny how adults have more of an idealized sense of youth, than they do themselves. Don't forget how cruel they are to the fat, slow, awkward etc. of their peers.

    I post next to nothing about mu personal life. Public introspection is a fear of mine.


  2. one of the rudest awakenings in my idealistic younger world was working with adolescents. they can slice you and dice you in seconds and then have your heart bandaged up and deem you worthy of trust again. you never know who you touch or how- that's the nature of the beast. i know that you know that. being blindsided isn't usually handled with aplomb and grace :) which is why the do it. as for the world, i trust no one but if you don't share and teach and reach out to others- hasn't big brother already won? sharing of ourselves to others has connected the world in ways we have only begun to grasp. do i think you should give you home address and daily schedule out over the internet? no- but some folks do. many folks use their real names and others not. the bottom line is- trust. and faith. in american democracy (fingers crossed on that one) and in each other as decent people. as fellow citizens of the world. if we don't stand for something- what's the point?

  3. I'm sorry9:26 PM

    Mr. R,

    Whatever I told u wasn't meant in that way. I really over-reacted. Yes now I'm feeling the rage in you. After I read that, there was a shatter of tear in my eye because not only I was fooling with you but also that former student of yours. I am not Myles Teo and he wasn't commenting you at all. I will not tell you who I am or who my fellow peers who have been commenting on this great blog where I've been checking since you thought me. You've made me learn things I would never have imagined. You are simply amazing.

    I am sorry for my horrific behavior on your personal life not that I even meant it. I am sorry. I don't know how to apologize imagining myself in your shoes. I really know how you feel and I have been through it all with sarcasm and racism even though it's different. I hope you understand me. I will also apologize behalf the other people who have posted all those horrible comments.


  4. Student9:27 PM

    this post really made me poignant,,
    we are really sorry for doing this stupid dumb action.. we didn't really meant it and i hope you understand. we feel really bad now.. we are really sorry that we hurted your heart and made your days miserable.. we are really sorry and we meant it.. after i read this post,, it kinda made me cry with real tears of thinking how i was rude and mean against you. i think i was being really immature with this and i hope i learn a lesson from this. you were acutally one of the best teachers ive ever had in my life that i learned so much thing from you and i still learn from you with those writings and thanks for such a great teaching. we hope we stil keep in contacts on learnersblog that we used and you should post some posts that tells us how u live in doha and stuff. when i think of what we learned from you, we acutally learned alot of things more than any other teachers taught us.. thanks! i really hope you understand our faults! we're really really sorry!
    btw all the writings you have posted are really awesome!
    Bye, i hope you forgive us Mr. R. thanks.

  5. As I wrote to you earlier: …but isn't that the role of writing, of art, of freedom, of the human spirit to stand up despite all fear and say that I trust the world. I believe in goodness, however nebulous that concept may be? sparked a stream of thoughts in me. I started writing and the words I've been looking for finnaly found their way into my mind and on paper.

    Keep on spilling, i will be reading and with me many other people, I'm sure.

  6. hey BZ -

    I was just feeling down myself, because I had to deal with some abusive and unruly high schoolers last period and I lost my cool, but now I see that you've had something even more irritating to deal with.

    Don't take it personally - I'm sure the kids were just excited by the possibility of bullying a teacher, any teacher, and your online presence happened to be there...

  7. Anonymous11:39 AM

    I really like this post. I admit I haven't been reading many blogs lately. Work just craked up a huge notch. Anyhow, I like what you have to say. It's something that we all struggled with. We want to make a difference with the words we put out there - but how much is too much? Are we exposing ourselves too much? The answer is different for all of us. I'm trying to come out of my shell but finding it difficult.

    You have a great blog and I really like your writing. It's open and honest and the path your on is helping others.