Humbling Experiences

Torch by ~nibbia

Torch by ~nibbia

Last Sunday was a խաշ event at a friend’s house. This meal is not an ordinary meal but the one at his house was even more special. It was his son’s birthday but that’s not the only reason it was special. My high school friend graduated from MIT and left the Boston area for many years before coming back here a couple of years ago. The meal was also special because I left feeling very happy to see them in their nice home, established, with many local friends. Two or three weeks ago I had a similar feeling of satisfaction and deep gratitude to God for my brother’s success in establishing his family in this foreign land.

Last week I was also touched by a couple experiences at my friend’s place. Our friend who is a Bentley professor thought that given my experience and background, I should apply to Harvard or MIT to study for a PhD (she was probably being nice but it was touching). I believe I will enjoy teaching at a university as a way of growing and giving back but that’s a long journey. The first step was a conversation with her for which I was very thankful. It’s now up to me to try which I will do after teaching a course or two as adjunct faculty (assuming someone thinks I deserve such an opportunity). The second touching experience was an offer to join his company from another friend who has been making a living from his software business (shameless plug for a good personal finance software). He seemed quite serious and although I was extremely touched that he thought it was worth a try, unfortunately I had to decline.

Today something unexpected happened at church. In order to run the annual assembly where the parish needed to elect four new members to the parish council, eight candidates were needed. When asked last week, I agreed certainly willing to invest and give back to the church and our small but vibrant Armenian community. I did not expect that people would actually elect me. Now I am truly humbled by the experience and already feeling the weight of the responsibility to help carry forward the torch passed on by generations of upstanding Armenians to preserve our faith, our culture and all the good which makes us Armenians. I hope in hindsight they will be happy to have elected me and plan to earn that through giving of myself, growing personally in the process.

As if that was not enough, I stumbled upon this video where the son of our priest is conducting his high school choir. The song’s title is “Holy, Holy”.

Confusion or Normal

confusion by ~dekert

confusion by ~dekert

I just noticed that it has been over a year since my last post. The past year has certainly not been uneventful. Quite the opposite… Family is doing well; work is going fine; life is beautiful. On the surface everything is exactly as hoped and wished. I am thankful for that.

Below the surface strange tectonic shifts seem to be causing some confusion, fuzziness, and dizziness. I have not written because of the strange but complete realization that there is nothing(?) new under the sun. Even the unique experiences of the past year seem common and unworthy of mentioning in this blog with the word legacy in its title. The world seems irrational, the markets all over the place… Confusion for me is an unusual feeling and hopefully only a temporary visitor. I am still the same person, organized, with razor-sharp focus on achieving goals long and short term, ready and able to work very hard to get there. Or am I? Has something changed causing me to doubt that those goals and achievements matter? The drop of water in the Pacific or the tiny plankton in the Atlantic probably matters far more. But then again, maybe we all have our exact place in the great machinery of the universe existing to lift a lever or say a word at exactly the right time for some other lever to be lifted or pushed according to some predetermined path completely beyond our comprehension. Does the tiny spec of sand ask questions when the great winds take it from place to place in the desert? Does it even matter where exactly we are in this vast desert?

Then I wake myself up with the thought that even these thoughts don’t matter. Let’s just get back to work, back to living, back to raising kids and back on with our lives. Today was a great day, tomorrow will be another.

This video of one of the greatest poets of all time Paruyr Sevak says everything that must be said. What else can I write to add to what he has already said.

What else does one add to the countless books already written and (in this digital age) pages written every day. There is perhaps the unique experience shared with a special one or with those we hold dear and close to our hearts. But then what does one write about those experiences. A look here, a smile there, a funny word – turn that into a post – a post of legacy.

His New Bicycle

Bike: with note by ~plasket

Bike: with note by ~plasket

My son rides his bicycle to school on nice days. He got it as a present from his grandparents. One Friday a few weeks ago he had to leave the bike at school overnight. When we went to get it on Saturday, the bicycle was gone. I stood there thinking who would steal a kid’s bike from an elementary school bike rack… but then thought this was a good lesson for all of us to take care of our belongings.

My wife diligently followed up with reports to the school and the town police in case someone spotted the bike. She also posted a description with a number to call in a few areas nearby the school. A couple weeks later, Mr. G., the crossing guard, told her that some forces were at work regarding the bicycle and that he had a good feeling that something good would happen. She thought he meant that someone had an idea where the bike was left.

Another week went by and we received the following e-mail:

“Dear …,

Please bring your son’s bike helmet to school this afternoon.

There is a surprise for him at the bike rack.

The combination is …

His friends at school.”

Mr. G. and we don’t have a clue who else had bought my son a new bicycle. Expecting absolutely nothing in return, they had taught him, us and all his little buddies at school one of the most powerful lessons in life. My wife and I were completely speechless.

While we could have probably bought him a new bicycle, there is no way we could have given him such a powerful memory to cherish for a lifetime. The blessing of giving and the blessing of a community that cares are the building blocks of this great country. For days I have been remembering those who gave me what I could have never earned myself at the time when I needed their help the most. Just as I will never forget what they did for me, I hope my son will never forget that his new bicycle came from the goodness of our neighbors’ hearts.

Ararat - shot from plane by ~vardart78

Ես իմ անուշ Հայաստանի

By Եղիշե Չարենց:

Ես իմ անուշ Հայաստանի արևահամ բարն եմ սիրում,
Մեր հին սազի ողբանվագ, լացակումած լարն եմ սիրում,
Արնանման ծաղիկների ու վարդերի բույրը վառման,
Ու Նայիրյան աղջիկների հեզաճկուն պա՛րն եմ սիրում։

Սիրում եմ մեր երկինքը մուգ, ջրերը ջինջ, լիճը լուսե,
Արևն ամռան ու ձմեռվա վիշապաձայն բուքը վսեմ,
Մթում կորած խրճիթների անհյուրընկալ պատերը սև
Ու հնամյա քաղաքների հազարամյա քա՛րն եմ սիրում։

Ուր է՛լ լինեմ – չե՛մ մոռանա ես ողբաձայն երգերը մեր,
Չե՜մ մոռանա աղոթք դարձած երկաթագիր գրքերը մեր,
Ինչքան էլ սո՜ւր սիրտս խոցեն արյունաքամ վերքերը մեր -
Էլի՛ ես որբ ու արնավառ իմ Հայաստան – յա՛րն եմ սիրում։

Իմ կարոտած սրտի համար ո՛չ մի ուրիշ հեքիաթ չկա․
Նարեկացու, Քուչակի պես լուսապսակ ճակատ չկա․
Աշխա՛րհ անցի՛ր, Արարատի նման ճերմակ գագաթ չկա․
Ինչպես անհաս փառքի ճամբա՝ ես իմ Մասիս սա՛րն եմ սիրում։

Ararat - shot from plane by ~vardart78

Ararat – shot from plane by ~vardart78

My beautiful wife had made arrangements for an amazing evening at an absolutely fantastic event organized by the Aramas Art Alliance and the Armenian Society of Boston. A group of young musicians from the Sayat Nova School of Music in Armenia and the Sayat Nova Dance Company of Boston performed this and many other songs, music and dances.

Here’s a classical version of the poem as a song. Here’s another more modernized version.

On the last six lines, I had to work hard to conceal the tears coming to my eyes. I listen to many kinds of international songs and music but only Armenian songs and poems have that certain power over my emotions.

Five years after coming to America, my childhood friend from California sent me a CD of Armenian songs. After listening to the first couple songs, I got that proverbial pit of կարոտ in my stomach. I called my parents and cried for 30 minutes at $1 per minute.

The kids that performed tonight deserved more than the standing ovation that they received. Theirs is our future as a people!

The English Debate

Debate by ~REGGDIS

Debate by ~REGGDIS

Last week I was in the UK for work, first time in that country. Work went perfectly but from the moment I stepped into that country, I was flooded with strange thoughts and new impressions.

“Why have you come here?” asked the passport checkpoint official.

“For work.”

“What is the nature of your work?” he continued in a very polite tone. A few more questions…

“Where will you go after your 5 days stay?” he asked.

“Home… back to the USA,” I responded.

“Welcome to the UK.”

For the rest of the trip to the hotel, I was thinking about my last sentence “home… back to the USA.” A stranger in a strange country in a strange world, I was going to go home… that mystical place that has a special meaning for every Armenian.

Everyone extremely polite. Everything running perfectly on time. Discussion of austerity measures and restraint in government spending. What was it about these people that allowed them to conquer the world? Why am I writing in their language?

Vatican. Concentrate so much wealth in 100 acres. Wealth of the highest caliber. Statue of a king, viscount, or another lord or a street named after one. Systems everywhere, lots of systems. Driving on the wrong side of the road. Fish and chips… great fish and chips.

One morning, jet lagged I sat there working and listening to a debate on TV on how they could cut government spending. What a healthy debate! In the US, we are growing governments.

On the way back, I read Walden almost the entire time.

“Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written. It is not enough even to be able to speak the language of that nation by which they are written, for there is a memorable interval between the spoken and the written language, the language heard and the language read. The one is commonly transitory, a sound, a tongue, a dialect merely, almost brutish, and we learn it unconsciously, like the brutes, of our mothers. The other is the maturity and experience of that; if that is our mother tongue, this is our father tongue, a reserved and select expression, too significant to be heard by the ear, which we must be born again in order to speak.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

How much I have to grow up to perceive the world at this level, let alone be able to write anything that “must be read as deliberately and reservedly…” How much we Armenians must endure to begin understanding how the world works. The books have been written in English. The maps have been written in English. For us they have also been written in Russian, in Turkish, and in every other language, old and new. We need to stop being the only ones reading our own books and drowning in our own tears. Maybe we need to be born again. Maybe we need to learn their father tongue. How else can we expect to have any influence when we are not even in the room, let alone sitting at the table where our fate is determined. Are we the spoken word, “transitory” in the timeline of the human civilization?

Two songs come to mind. The first is a revolutionary song – a lullaby, a beautiful contradiction still beyond my understanding. The second is the song called Cilicia.

Sunday after I was back, I went to church where I found new liturgy books. They’re in two languages, English and Hinglish. Hinglish is a strange language. It’s the Classical Armenian written with English letters. An Armenian born and raised outside Armenia is fortunate if he or she speaks some dialect of the language (somewhere I read that about 1500 words were needed). That Armenian is a minority if he or she can read and write in Armenian. There are probably a handful who have studied and understand the Classical Armenian. For whom is the weekly Divine Liturgy service? Is Hinglish the best we can do? Does it even please God when we worship him without understanding what we say.

How about we improve the Divine Liturgy, write it in the best of our father tongue, in nice big beautiful Armenian letters and hope that it’s read and sung as “deliberately and reservedly” as it’s written. This may also please the Creator. I’ll stop dreaming. For now, let’s have  a healthy debate about this and perhaps we will understand why I write in English.