Levantine Photograhy

Complex

In the holy and eternal city of Yerushalem, it is called the “Jerusalem Syndrome.” Pilgrims descending on the Old City’s walled gates—clad in white robes with long hair and long beards. Oft times riding in on donkey-back, ready to save, or die for, man. Salvation and redemption, if ever there was a mental affliction.

I wonder if there exists in Paris a “Hemingway Syndrome”? Scribes descending on the city, quills in hand—spending their days spinning verse, over glasses of red wine and cigars. Growing beards and dreaming of bull fights; their fingers yellowed from smoking unfiltered Gitanes cigarettes.

I also wonder if the La Mancha has the same quandary? The quixotic, clad in chain mail and metal helmets (perhaps a barber’s basin), riding headlong down the plains of Montiel. Tiliting at windmills on the back of their respective Rocinantes. Dulcinea would be so proud.

We all need our fantasies; all three represent far different yet enduring dreams:

A Messiah to make this fragile, fractured world whole. Salvation and redemption.

Life lived to its fullest, chasing the sun that also rises over a life of meaning. The bell that tolls for thee.

Honor, glory and chivalry. The quest of the knight errant to make the world just.

Prophet; Poet; Man of Valor.

Those enduring, endearing ideas: tikkun olam (repairing the world); living a life of fulfillment in this modern age; displaying the timeless traditions of honor.

I know, I harbor all three dreams. I probably sport a few more complexes as well. A Gandhian complex, for one. I once walked barefoot on the pilgrim’s route through the holy city of Govardhan. We Filhos de Gandhi (Sons of Gandhi), with dreams of truth and nonviolence as old as the hills.

Or that of a Buddha complex—the prince who cast off all his worldly possessions to live a life more simple, more free under his banyan. .

Perhaps all these complexes are mere flights of fancy. Dreams of itinerant dreamers.

But this I believe: such dreams still have relevance today. As we grapple with finding meaning in the modern world, some cling (perhaps some a little too tight) to such eternal thoughts. Thought that have spanned millennia, centuries and decades.

It would be Borges who perhaps could best conclude this— that would be another complex, who would ask why we fancy such thoughts? Perhaps because these ephemeral complexes and dreams are what offer us meaning? Perhaps because these ideas tie us to another age? Borges, among others, understood that it is the meanings we ascribe to such dreams are what make them so powerful and permanent in our collective psyche. I am sure Freud would have a whole different diagnosis.

I think I know why we fancy such complexes. In a world so chaotic and sometimes difficult, we hold onto the ideas that give us significance, value and purpose. We seek purpose to justify our days. Complex afflictions borne out of purpose are what give us meaning. Some find purpose through family, faith and cause. Some through work, some through material possession. Some of us are bound to ideas to give our lives meaning, and that is nothing short of complex.

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