This talk at VeersStichting, Leiden, is my most personal. I spoke about identity and how that relates to both radicalization and to the refugee crisis in Europe, as well as my own experience.
Last night I abruptly tweeted “Oh, shit” followed by “I think I need to go to the hospital”, followed by silence. Given my history with asthma, many twitter friends feared the worst. When it comes to taking care of myself, I admit I’m a big fat idiot.
I’m OK, everyone. It was some freaky shit. Here’s what happened.
I’ve had a nasty, stubborn viral infection for a couple weeks now. That’s irritating by itself, but combined with the potential for slipping into something that may precipitate an asthma attack is… not something I look forward to. Especially after almost dying in one a couple months ago.
So I’ve been particular apprehensive about anything that may cause an asthma attack. I had started doing certain breathing exercises that are actually quite helpful when I feel that first chest tightness that may just be the harbinger of an attack.
Now back to yesterday.
I felt kinda sucky all day with this cough & fever, and when I went home I was afraid of having an attack, especially that my wife is away and I’m alone at home, so I was sitting at my desk doing one of these breathing exercises, when I, um, coughed. Very hard.
I coughed so hard, in fact, that I felt something in my back, between my shoulders, pop out and then back into place. Followed by a sick dull ache between the shoulders, a sick tingly feeling in the fingers, and dizziness. Lots of dizziness.
Really, really, freaky feeling.
For a moment I thought, I need to see a doctor. But I also knew there’s no way I’m driving. In fact, it took me a good ten minutes to feel I can walk without risking, you know, falling like a klutz and hitting my head somewhere.
It seems, now, that the combination of a weird-ass body position and violent cough almost gave me a slip disk. I feel OK now, other than that dull ache between the shoulders. The whole thing was more crazy scary than painful.
I keep getting different advice about all of this. Some people say I should change houses (or countries). Others, especially my taekwon-do buddies, urge me to restart exercising. Which I’m not opposed to, in principle.
It’s just that, since the Arab Spring began, it’s pretty much taken over my life. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I think more about it than about food, drink and shelter. My wife has accepted my obsession, but most others around me do not understand it.
I think I have something to offer, something big and defining.
So let me get back to it. Thanks for your concern.
NOTE: I recently shared a quotation I remember from my childhood on twitter: “It is the weak who are cruel; only the strong can be truly gentle.” After being grossly misunderstood, I went back to my notebooks and dug up the interpretation. I hope it clears it up, but I’m not holding my breath, and I don’t really care either. It’s just a nice tidbit of wisdom to share, so here goes.
“True strength and weakness isn’t about ability to hurt others, but ability to heal others. It’s not about the ability to lift weights, but to lift spirits. It’s not about ability to control others, but to inspire others.
“And once you understand that, once you internalize this lesson, you will never look upon strength and weakness, cruelty and gentleness, the same way again.
“If someone is cruel, it is only because they are emotionally, spiritually, and morally weak. It is the weak who are cruel. Whoever tries to control others, possess them, arm-bend them to do his bidding, is only betraying his moral weakness. He is cruel because he is weak.
“And similarly, if someone is gentle, it is because they are morally strong. It is the strong who are truly gentle. Whoever can inspire others to greatness shows immense strength. He is gentle because he is strong.
“And hence we say, it is the weak who are cruel. Only the strong can be truly gentle.”