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OP-ED: The castle in the clouds

  • Published at 08:10 pm November 21st, 2020
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Freedom and dreams come at a cost

When I was little, the only thing I wanted to do was grow up. The promotion regarding Tazos and Frisbees was going on with Meridien, and I wanted to grow up so that I could buy an infinite number of chips with my own money and increase my chances of winning. 

As I grew older and entered high school, I got a little taste of the freedom that comes with adulthood, but it wasn’t enough. I could stay out till six, but I had to be back by seven. So, I wanted to get into university, so that I could access the full arsenal of self-actualization offered by the mystical world of proxies and lecture halls. 

And when I got into university, all I wanted to do was change my major to the sciences and invent a time machine, so that I could get back to a time when I didn’t appreciate enough. 

Here lies my dilemma, I wanted this for all of my life, and when I eventually got it, I loathed it like I have never loathed anything in my entire life. 

This is something I’ve seen being true for dreams as well. I am fortunate that I am finally on a path to hopefully achieving the dream I have clung to ever since my childhood, and don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the entire world. But during those long weeks and long weekends when I have to sacrifice both my sleep and sanity for something that might not even happen, dreams feel more like a burden than a curse. 

It’s like suddenly finding that the piece of driftwood that has helped you survive is also dragging you down to the depths of the icy waters, only slowly and subtly. But why does that happen? Well, like all things in this world, things like freedom and dreams do come at a cost. Then there’s the gap between expectations and reality that isn’t entirely removable under any and all economic systems. 

For example, as I grew up, the burden grew on me more I want to be a story-teller, and I have to do something about it sooner or later. Sure, under capitalism, this burden was only exacerbated by the fact that I can’t expect my family to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to send me to NYU and Michener, and I have to figure something out before my time runs out. While conditions would be better under a more equitable form of economic system, there would still be the inherent gap between existence and reality, and I would still be afflicted with other factors such as the sands of time chipping away at my soul.

Still, this wouldn’t be a “A Day in The Life” column without my criticism of the c-word, right? Truth is, under a more equitable form of economic distribution, things would be better. In my last column, I argued how one’s birth class determines the course of their life. For example, the son of a notable football player hailing from one of the original imperialistic superpowers published a book of his photography in his late teens. The book isn’t very good, mind you, and it has been and is being panned by critics. 

But since he didn’t have to worry about basic sustenance, he could dedicate himself entirely to his book, and since he already had a stacked deck, he could play the best hand without much of an effort. 

Even take me for example. I might not have the money for Michener, but I still come from an upper middle-class family. The only reason I can risk it all for a career in arts is because I have been dealt somewhat of a good hand. But if I were born in a working-class family where meeting even the day to day needs is a challenge, I wouldn’t have this privilege. So, under the c-word, life is basically a game of cards. No matter how good you are, there is very little you can do when you have been dealt a bad hand.

Still, even if reforms were made to the current system, the gap between expectations and reality would still be there. Dreams will be a burden before you reach your peak, university -- for the most part -- would be horrible, and buying an infinite packet of chips will never feel good. Then why did I write all this?

I got the idea for this article during the beginning of the week, when I had to stop beside the road as the tire got punctured. Evening was approaching, and the sky took on that clear golden hue that it often does. This happened in Agargaon, where monstrous structures were yet to dominate the skies and the psyche. Just then, I felt a strange sense of nostalgia, and the clouds looked like those faraway castles that I used to behold from my childhood rooftop. 

But the feeling fell short, and those days were just enough out of my reach that I could feel them, but I could never get back to them. “Hiraeth” is a Welsh word for homesickness or nostalgia, an earnest longing or desire, or a sense of regret. The feeling of longing for a home that never was. The sad thing about this is, that home of mine was real, but it was real once, and only once.

So yeah, the world isn’t perfect, and no amount of wishing is going to bring back those years. But one can still wish. There is a concept of physics that is popular in some of the better romances where the protagonists discuss how there are different variations of our worlds, and in some world, they might have ended up together. They look at each other longingly, under the silver of the ethereal moon, and say that is the world they wish to be in. 

Well, even if the multiverse theory is true, it wouldn’t be so radically different that the whole principles of reality are turned upside down. But if there is a world like that, if there is a world of eternal twilight, that’s where my heart wishes to be in. That’s where all of our hearts wish to be in.

Nafis Shahriar is a student of business and a freelance writer.

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