Abundance in Moscow

Taking the air down one of central Moscow’s many beaten and snow-capped pedestrian streets has me thinking that there’s something about the Russian Capital that makes every single building feel like a monument. All the buildings flanking the streets are old and ostentatious; most of them built in a time when the Soviet Union was still flourishing, and the aspiration to be the World’s leading nation still permeated this country. The roads and the sidewalks of where so many millions have walked before me are often wider in a way you don’t come across anywhere else, and perhaps it’s the amount of space that makes you feel so little. As I pass by the Red Square, it’s impossible to not stop for just a short moment. Even if I’ve been here a few times before, this is one the places in the world that just embraces you and watching the gaudy domes of St Basil’s cathedral as the snow falls thick, and the wind whistles is a moment you want to have in your life. Even if it’s a very short one because the sharp wind makes the cold unbearable to handle.

Outside of Moscow’s Red Square humungous institutions of gray concrete blocks flank the largest thoroughfares, all looking like impregnable fortresses with occasional marble decor and inexplicable big Russian letters in gleaming gold. The Metro deserve’s its own chapter, because surrounding the turmoil that constitutes the public transport of Moscow is marble walls and crystal chandeliers. An unbelievable contrast. But despite the cultural wealth, the atmosphere in the Russian Capital is cold, and it has very little do with the weather. I’ve been here in Summer, and it’s not much different. People rush to get by in the streets like slow wandering would be frowned upon. And there’s something so interesting about how inherently impolite this country is. Saying please, thank you or even just being soft-spoken is yet to have it’s breakthrough here, but for some reason, that’s alright in its way. The thing is, back home if someone doesn’t hold the door for you or say thank you when you do something for them, you immediately think that’s rude behavior. Here, however, it’s so unexpected that you don’t even waste any energy contemplating why people act the way they do. Perhaps it’s the language barrier; Most of the old generation of Russian population don’t speak a word English, and even the ones who do are rarely even an inch inclined into compromising their language for your benefit.

I’ve never been much of museum enthusiast, but I can walk around for hours on end in old, derelict neighborhoods where history once took place and just marvel. Soviet architecture is strikingly captivating. Something is fascinating about beholding those great pieces of abundant architecture which all saw the light in a time when the Communist era had influenced Russia when instead of feeding its people the regime spent money on buildings to showcase their greatness. Contrasts hard to grasp, but so vivid when you’re standing right in front of them. And as horrid and dyed in blood the story behind these remnants of history are, it’s impossible not to marvel at the opulence. From the high society buildings with magnificent bay windows and protruding corner towers to the subclass million complexes on the outskirts of town whose purpose were to accommodate as many as possible in a time where the population grew at a pace out of control. It’s hard not to feel that this is more a historical museum than an actual living place, and it seems that in the concrete jungle of Moscow there’s never been any room for modesty. But then again, that’s never what they’ve been renowned for.

The world will only ever be dark, if you don’t open your eyes

I thought, who will ever be left to show respect when everyone else considers their perspective, to be the only one? Who will ever be left to speak calmly, when the world is deafened by people who shouts? Who will ever be left to listen, when stories are no longer stories but preach? Who will ever be left to fight for others in need, when they realize that the majority just fight for themselves? Who will ever be left to spread a little light, when the world has closed its eyes? Who will find the key to every closed mind?

These were some of the things going through my mind as I came back home from work one morning a few weeks ago, and I felt an emptiness I’m still not quite sure how to put down in words. It was the kind of hopeless vacuum where I dropped my bags inside my door, pulled all the curtains to shut out the rising sun, and sat down at the kitchen table and cried. Cried because the world was a horrid place, and at that moment everything seemed to pitch dark. Nothing personal and nothing work related, just darkness due to the world being what it is sometimes. And it made me think.

Now and then it hits me that there come times in all of our lives when we realize that we might not necessarily be on the wrong road, but we need to turn either left or right if we want to reach our destination. Just like inspiration can never be forced, I don’t want to believe this kind of enlightenment can be either. If we derive from what our GPS tells us, it will bark at us, and I’d like to believe life is designed somewhat similarly. I also believe that the World can and will only ever be changed by those allow themselves to feel it, and whom can make other’s feel, what that feels like. But it’s not everyone’s mission to do so, and it’s taken me a long time to understand how that’s perfectly fine.

For some reason, I’ve almost always been surrounded by people who’ve thought that success and career progression are synonymous. And when that’s all you ever hear, it’s inevitable not to make that worldview your own. Slowly but surely you narrow your mindset into thinking that what you perform is who you are, and the quality of your performances, it the quality of you. Leading to the truth that if you happen to perform well, it can a long time before you catch yourself in this toxic mentality. And the longer it takes, the harder you’ll fall the moment you stop performing, because what are you without your achievements? For a very long time, I used to do this. Mirror myself in my accomplishments, thinking that as long as they were good, I was good. Every pat on the shoulder oxygenated me with motivation, and oxygen was all I needed to stay alive. But, as life teaches us, being alive and isn’t necessarily synonymous with living a life either.

I don’t want to take anything away from being proud of your progression, because to some degree that’s what drives us forward. And I wouldn’t be where I am without having done what I’ve done, but in saying that it’s important to know whether or not you’re doing things for the right reason. Because I tended to think that respect was obtained through merits alone, and in hindsight, it’s hard not feel a bit dumb when I think about it.

Respect isn’t given or acquired by either submission or supremacy. Respect isn’t shown through the definition of ranking, but through courtesy and attentiveness. Especially the latter one matters because not everyone deserves politeness. But until someone’s made themselves unworthy of listening to, everyone deserves the unselfish respect that attention characterizes. We might not agree, and we might not endorse the opinions of whom we don’t share, but by paying attention we show the only respect we are obligated to. Regardless of who we are, what we do and what our mission is. And I’ve learned that the ones who deserves the most respect, are the people who listen in the absence of rush to speak. A kind of solemn confidence I wish I didn’t have to remind myself to maintain when things get rough sometimes. Respect is such a complex concept, and if there’s any insight the world has given me in return for visiting it, that’s probably it. Because understanding that the respect you have for someone doing a certain job, is not the same as the one you have for someone being a great person. Eating well and sleeping well are not the same. But it’s possible to have both if you want to. At the end of the day, what’s the most important? I know what’s the most important to me.