Columns, Opinion

MAHDI: On survival

Out of all the experiences I’ve had in my life, being introduced to Sylvester Stallone was not one I anticipated. Rocky has been transformed into a musical in Broadway, and Friday night was the first time the production graced the stage. While the nature of competitive sport has changed with advancements in training, body language analysis and technique, much of the story of Rocky Balboa’s ascent into his big chance is not unfamiliar to our generation. It is, after all, a story of survival, and for the foreseeable future the pursuit of survival will be paramount to almost all of us.

When reflecting upon this idea of survival at all costs, two real-world cases come to mind. The first is the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which inexplicably vanished a few days ago. Conspiracy theories have run rampant over the last several days, as people search for answers as to where the passengers could be. Some offer the explanation that the flight is lost at sea, while others believe it could have landed at a remote location with all on board alive and well. Perhaps the most outlandish theory presented to me was from a friend who decided that the flight could have been sucked into a time vacuum, which might spit the flight out years into the future.

Regardless of what you believe, according to CNN, the current evidence points to an unanticipated turn (literally) by one of the pilots to take the flight off of its course. As the investigation brings in more and more countries into the fray, only time will tell whether the truth will come out, but for the families of those on board, survival is the only hope they can cling to at this time.

The second is a story of the survival of interests and sovereignty. Just before the case of the disappearing plane captured the world’s attention, there was the case of Crimea. As the referendum is underway for its inhabitants to decide whether their allegiances lie with Russia or Ukraine, the United States has already expressed its disregard for the process, predicting that the pro-Russian population will vote in favor of joining Russia. According to CNN, some polling stations are guarded by alleged Russian soldiers, with music from their home country greeting those who are casting their votes in the punishing weather. Accusations over votes being cast twice, insufficient verification of identities and boycotts of the referendum from minority Turkish and Ukrainian groups ensure that this democratic process is not a straightforward one. The United States and the European Union would naturally want to display acts of their political might in the face of this change, but resource dependency on Russia in Europe, as well as the expense of shoring up Ukraine with billions of dollars in aid puts both parties in compromising positions. Even with all these factors at play, these issues just scratch the surface of ethnic, economic, political and social tensions that plague the situation at present.

The tricky reality about survival is, like so many other measures of success that we have, it is hard to evaluate its outcome. You can physically survive a war, but how do you assess the wounds in your heart and mind? You can be in a position of political power and come out of a tense diplomatic conflict with your agenda intact, but if voters see it differently, whose definition of survival is more important? All of a sudden the musical rendition of Rocky, the story of a boxer making it big, is all the more appealing in its simplicity amidst the chaos we find around us.

Yet, in the Rocky movies, his triumphs and failures in the ring were not the entire story. His journey falling in love and having someone to support him also took precedence. Sadly, one of the most iconic images of romance, the sailor kissing a nurse in the heart of Times Square after World War II, lost its protagonist. Navy veteran Glenn McDuffie passed away at the age of 86, and he only claimed his rightful title as the famous sailor for a few years. According to USA Today, he explained that once he heard the Japanese had surrendered, he embraced a woman in the heart of New York City.

To survive you often have to endure. You endure uncertainty, you endure change and you endure conflict. You sometimes have to accept life as it comes to you. McDuffie’s life may have ended, but his story endures. Wherever Flight 370 may be, the world prays that those on that plane can endure. Whatever the outcome in Crimea, a solution can endure. While it is unfortunate that we are sometimes faced with such harsh circumstances, it is through navigating them we begin to know our true strength.


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