A few years ago I cast off my apathy at long last and began to feel responsible for the fate of the human species. Not all humans, of course. Mainly Iranians. I was not thinking of them as distinct individuals, though. Iranians en masse! I was mostly concerned about the budding youth, the children in any of the many Ali-Abads of that vast land that is stretched from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf, from Khoy to Chah-Bahar, and from Khorram-Shahr all the way to Sarakhs and more --the country that I had spent all my childhood in.
For some inexplicable reason or perhaps because of some condition I was developing, the sights and scenes that I had seen, the sounds and voices that I had heard and the scents and smells that I had smelled all those years long gone had started to surface and haunt me. As if they were all saved in a hitherto locked chamber of my memory that somebody had inadvertently unlocked.
The jasmine tree that was hanging out from above the wall of a neighbor's house would just pop up in my mind when I was in class writing something on the board for my naughty students who innocently did not have the slightest idea where I had come from. A tree that I used to stop my bike under, reach up and fill my lungs with the heavenly fragrance of its little snow-like flowers when it was in full bloom.
I was all of a sudden concerned about the little kids in those remote villages of my country where the ever-present ever-pungent odor of the animals' manure mixes with the aroma of the burning wood. Children who, given the opportunity, would lead the future of a country that, for whatever irrational reason, I so much cared about.
But why on earth did I even care? I was not living there anymore! Or was I?
I don't know. There was no logical explanation that I could think of. Maybe I cared because I had been born and raised there; that I knew the people, their generosity, kindness, and readiness to make sacrifices for their friends, as well as their meanness, nosiness, and hypocritical ways. After all, I myself was one of them.
I had not been born in China, India, Luxembourg or Burkina Faso! By sheer accident, I was born in Iran to parents who were born there before me to parents who were born there before them. Truth be told, none of us had a say in where we would like to be born. Then living amongst them, I gradually learned and internalized their special ways of handling Life.
Let's not philosophize about whether I could have been born somewhere else to different parents, with blond hair and light-colored skins or flat noses and thick lips. After all, that person would probably not be me. Only I am I! Nevertheless, I more or less looked like the people I could see around me; at home, in school and on streets. Like them, I had one big Iranian nose, two dark eyes, still darker hair and a pair of bushy eyebrows.
To make a long story short, I felt responsible. But I had a very hazy idea of what I should or could do with that burden. The urge to change the world that gnaws at normal people in their late teens and early 20's was taking shape in me around the beginning of my fourth decade. God, I was so behind!
Regular people in their 30's are already too experienced, or disillusioned, to dream about improving anything beyond the confines of their personal life. Even accomplishing that much would call for a celebration. Buying a new car, getting a job promotion, or even getting to paint the house would fill them with a joy and happiness that they know very well they should treasure.
Then in their late 30's, when they are approaching the next age with a big zero in it, they would prepare, as any wise person would, for their midlife crisis. Now with the pace of my progress in life, only heaven knows when I will get there. In fact, my "midlife" crisis may hit me long after I am dead!
The urge started to die away before I took action. Which again worried me for a different reason. I mean I had not taken advantage of the golden opportunity that had finally knocked at my door. The urge was now giving way to guilt. There is always something to suck the joy out of your life! But what should I have done with this belated overwhelming sense of social responsibility anyway?
Well, I did nothing. Don't blame me! What could I have done? It's funny I did not even try to get rid of her. She had been sitting there for a long time, nagging at me constantly. But she did not make sense at all. What did she want from me? "Get off my back, already," I'd whisper cautiously. So we lived together an uncomfortable life. She would get on my nerves every now and then, spoiling the fun every single time I tried to enjoy my American moments.
The mental pictures continued to pop up on the wide screen. They were just out of control. My only reaction was to sulk. Lately, she does not even bother. I must have disappointed her. Could it be that she has given up on me? Or is it that I have come to my senses and given up on redirecting the course of the history of mankind? Or even making a difference...