New Year’s Eve is a time of relaxation for many individuals. Nurses work through the holidays. Emergencies and human suffering do not recognise seasons of national celebration. I worked 13 hours on December 30. It was followed by a 24-hour call for the PACU (Post Anesthesia Care Unit). My workday began at eight am. Seventeen hours later, I bundled up and trudged out into the bitter cold to head home. Nursing is not a glamorous job but the emotional rewards are immense.
Shortly before midnight three of us were lying around in the doctor’s lounge like lazy insurgents. We were awaiting our final case. The area has nice couches, a coffee machine and a refrigerator full of goodies but by this time of the night one nurse was reduced to eating a lowly banana with a brown peel. The food supply had been wiped out. One of our gastroenterologists walked in and said, “We have a food bolus in the emergency department.” We thought he was joking. Of course not! We see an increase in foreign body removals during holidays that involve drinking. The nurse tossed her banana in the trash and called in a second anesthesiologist. Our lives have the feel of a reality television show. I am always disappointed when I cannot locate the hidden cameras.
It took two days for me to feel human again after a long workweek. So, last night, my husband and I watched an old movie for fun. Equilibrium is the story of a dystopian society. The citizens take mandatory daily medication to repress emotional response. This is meant to craft a peaceful populace that is manageable, manipulated for the needs of the state. Naturally, those who prefer the chaos of human liberty and free moral agency live within a vibrant underground of culture and thought. The living spaces have vibrant colour, art, music and all things that denote healthy culture.
The protaganist is a man named John Preston. Interestingly enough, the men who enforce the will of a man known as “Father” have the title of “cleric”. John is the highest-ranking cleric in the organisational structure of the “Father”. He does not shed a tear when his own wife is incinerated for the crime of emotional release. The pharmaceutical delivered by “Father” has reduced him to a pliable and deadly puppet of the state. John meets his match when he arrests a beautiful woman named Mary. He has ceased taking his own daily dose of medicine and is beginning to feel raw emotion for the first time. During the interrogation, Mary lunges across the table. The cleric pins her down on her back. Inches from her face, John questions her regarding what it means to be alive. The high-ranking cleric faces a reality he has never known. He must make a choice: he can remain tethered to his ideology or he can exercise free will. Safety or risk? These are his options. He chooses risk.
When viewing a movie I always look for themes, sub-themes and aspects of the plot that both speak to issues of culture and address the time-space continuum. The aforementioned scene in Equilibrium stands out with eternal transcultural value. I extend a portion of the dialogue to you as a gift to be unwrapped throughout this new year.
John Preston: “What is the point of your existence?”
Mary: “To feel. ‘Cause you’ve never done it you can never know it. But it’s as vital as breath. And without it, without love, without anger, without sorrow, breath is just a clock, ticking.”
Wish for 2015: a life of rich emotional release
My wish is that each of you will experience a year of rich emotional release. Whether it is love, anger or sorrow, let each feeling bring you to a greater understanding of this greatest gift of God: human liberty.
Love: may your love for others increase. Do not be afraid to extend your love to others. Love can be shown with a simple smile. Learn to smile easily in the presence of others. It signals your acceptance of them. Smile at your fellow Muslims. Smile at your Christian neighbours. Smile at the beggar, the outcast and small children. Hug your wife. Hug your children. I know a man who was never hugged by his own father. He admitted to having rarely hugged his own son. Sharing my own thoughts of having such a loving father helped him immensely. Love was never demonstrated to him. He was not a bad father himself. It is just that his own father had not served as a role model in this regard. So smile at others. Hug your family and hold them tight this coming year.
Anger: be slow to anger, just like God! And when there is the need for anger let it be in moderation. Release your anger quickly and then forgive because forgiveness is the only real cure for anger. Are you angry 24/7? Who do you need to forgive? Do it, not because the individual deserves it. Do it because you need to be free from the prison of your own making. Do you need to forgive yourself? Do it!
Sorrow: over the course of the following 12 months sorrow will befall you. I opened my ears to hear what people were saying when walking in the shopping mall a few days ago. It was amazing to overhear individuals state, “I just came through a very stressful time...” “This last month has been very hard...” These were the conversations I heard while my nation was engulfed in a season of rejoicing. So, yes, we all experience sorrow but just remember that it is a season in time; God never means for it to be a forever-kind-of-thing. We walk (or crawl) through our sorrows and by the grace of God we come out to discover new joys. May the peace of God overshadow your life in 2015.
The writer is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Arsenal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org