Friday, February 11, 2011


As I write this entry, I have one eye on the television set where hundreds of thousands of Egyptians are wildly celebrating the departure (finally!) of now former President Hosni Mubarak... Yesterday, here at home, I suffered a day-long bout with vertigo, but that seemed trivial compared with the dizzying day in Cairo, which began with a moment of anticipatory joy and ended in the fury that followed the speech in which Mubarak defiantly refused what he had seemed to promise hours earlier.

Today's spectacle is utterly amazing, a historic moment which literally cracks open the region and brings with it a vast ocean of uncertainty. Hand it to those brave people who initiated this movement, and who stuck with it peacefully through eighteen days despite all disappointments, frustrations and provocations. Just when it seemed, late last night, that there was no other possible outcome, they rejected the violent option and responded with contained fury and, thankfully, still peaceful resolve.

As for Mubarak, I find it sad that the man's vanity and need for power should blind him to the opportunity to act in a way that could, even at the last moment, have preserved some vestige of dignity. Talk about clinging! How much easier he would have made it for himself had he been able to concede, even yesterday, "I hear what you say. It's time for me to step aside and leave the future of the country in your hands. I wish you well." Instead, for no other apparent reason than his own ego, he chose to make one last effort to cling to what had already obviously been lost. The Saudi king pleaded with Obama, so I heard, to avoid humiliating the Egyptian president. A futile plea; the man humiliated himself.

I have heard a lot of complaints, both from home and abroad, about the way in which Obama handled this crisis. There were those who seemed to think he should have ploughed right in with overt condemnation of Mubarak and support for those who opposed him. To do so, as I see it, would have been to disempower the demonstrators and inject America and its interests into a situation that needed--and eventually achieved--resolution by the Egyptian people themselves. His patience and restraint, in retrospect, along with measured words that made principles clear but did not make American demands, were exactly the right strategy. I wish that these qualities were more evident here at home, in addressing the enormous problems that we face.

Meantime, here at my house, I proved to be more prescient than I imagined when I wrote in my last entry that "'nothing' is what I should be doing more of." It happened that yesterday, while the people of Cairo spun from dizzying jubilation to dizzying fury, I was having my own battle with dizziness. And I actually did nothing.

It was not exactly by choice. I woke early and tumbled out of bed in good time for my daily sit; but afterwards, getting up, my head started to whirl uncontrollably. It's a not unfamiliar feeling; it happens fairly frequently, when I stand too quickly from a sitting or lying position, that I experience a few moments of vertigo. It might have something to do with age. We need to be a little more circumspect with how we treat our bodies.

The difference was that, yesterday, the sensation persisted. The room turned about me, reminding me of how I felt when I'd imbibed too generously, in younger days. My first instinct was to ignore it, on the assumption that if I paid no heed it would simply go away. It's what I try to do with all passing uncomfortable sensations of this kind, and most frequently it works. I pulled out my workout bench, thinking a little exercise might help. It didn't. After one brief attempt, the room began to gyrate alarmingly; I pretty much fell off the bench and lay there on the floor for a while, imagining the end was near...

Well, I did manage to get up, but the sensation persisted. The stairs were a challenge. I had been intending to get to work as usual, but did not feel up to it. All morning long, I sat around feeling sorry for myself. I did nothing. At first I had to work to resist that need to chastise myself for not having greater fortitude, not "getting over it" and getting down the the writing I had planned. I could not even bring myself to pick up a book, for God's sake! I went outside on the balcony and dozed for a while in the sunshine. I came back in and switched on the TV, to see what was going on in Egypt. In the afternoon, still not feeling right, I worked though the crossword from last Sunday's New York Times magazine.

By this time, it was clear to me that it would be a mistake to go out in the evening, as we had planned, to see Kodo at the Music Center--a performance I had been very much looking forward to. We saw this incredible troupe of Japanese drummers years ago and I had loved their energy, their precision, their passion. Fortunately, our daughter was able to take advantage of my ticket, so I stayed home and watched a recorded episode of MI-5 on television. And went to sleep early. And woke, this morning, thankful that my head was back to normal.


Richard said...

I'm glad to hear you're back to normal Peter!

I have seen both praise and criticism of how Obama handled things, but I feel he judged it just right. He supported the protests without stifling them. Some say he was too slow to act, but I say better to measure twice and cut once than to rush things and make a mess.

I think that the outcome will have a number of the dictators in that region very worried.

mandt said...

Vertigo is a terrible affliction Peter. I suffered from periodic bouts for years. My thoughts for healing are with you! peace, m

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks, both!