"Let me tell you a joke, Rora said. Mujo wakes up one day, after a long night of drinking, and asks himself what the meaning of life is. He goes to work, but realizes that is not what life is or should be. He decides to read some philosophy and for years studies everything from the old Greeks onward, but can't find the meaning of life. Maybe it's the family, he thinks, so he spends time with his wife, Fata, and the kids, but finds no meaning in that and so he leaves them. He thinks, Maybe helping others is the meaning of life, so he goes to medical school, graduates with flying colors, goes to Africa to cure malaria and transplants hearts, but cannot discover the meaning of life. He thinks, maybe it's the wealth, so he becomes a businessman, starts making money hand over fist, millions of dollars, buys everything there is to buy, but that is not what life is about. Then he turns to poverty and humility and such, so he gives everything away and begs on the streets, but still he cannot see what life is. He thinks maybe it is literature: he writes novel upon novel, but the more he writes the more obscure the meaning of life becomes. He turns to God, lives the life of a dervish, reads and contemplates the Holy Book of Islam - still, nothing. He studies Christianity, then Judaism, then Buddhism, then everything else - no meaning of life there. Finally, he hears about a guru living high up in the mountains somewhere in the East. The guru, they say, knows what the meaning of life is. So Mujo goes east, travels for years, walks roads, climbs the mountain, finds the stairs that lead up to the guru. He ascends the stairs, tens of thousands of them, nearly dies getting up there. At the top, there are millions of pilgrims, he has to wait for months to get to the guru. Eventually it is his turn, he goes to a place under a big tree, and there sits the naked guru, his legs crossed, his eyes closed, meditating, perfectly peaceful - he surely knows the meaning of life. Mujo says: I have dedicated my life to discovering the meaning of life and I have failed, so I have come to ask you humbly, O Master, to divulge the secret to me. The guru opens his eyes, looks at Mujo and calmly says, My friend, life is a river. Mujo stares at him for a long time, cannot believe what he heard. What's life again? Mujo asks. Life is a river, the guru says. Mujo nods and says, You turd of turds, you goddamn stupid piece of shit, you motherfucking cocksucking asshole. I have wasted my life and come all this way for you to tell me that life is a fucking river. A river? Are you kidding me? That is the stupidest, emptiest fucking thing I have ever heard. Is that what you spent your life figuring out? And the guru says, What? It is not a river? Are you saying it is not a river?" Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project: A Novel
Now that you've been softened up, how about an answer to the question: What are we going to do about Syria?
Well, as it happens, a certain greying guru-cum-war criminal, who's been there and done that, in Iraq actually, has The Answer:
"Tony Blair has given up trying to justify the invasion of Iraq. Speaking before the 10th anniversary of the invasion, the former British prime minister admitted yesterday that people were sometimes abusive towards him about the war but he still managed to walk down the street. 'Yes, it remains extremely divisive and very difficult,' he said. 'I have long since given up on trying to persuade people it was the right decision. What I have tried to persuade people of now is to understand how complex a decision it was, because I think if we don't understand that, we won't take the right decision about what I think will be a series of of these types of problems that will arise over the next few years.' He admitted that life in Iraq, where sectarian killings continue on a weekly basis, was not what he had hoped it would be following the downfall of Saddam Hussein. But he said the situation would have been much worse if the dictator had been allowed to stay, describing him as 20 times worse than Bashar al-Assad of Syria. 'The answer is not to say to people: 'I'm afraid we should have left Saddam in charge because otherwise these sectarians will come in and try and destabilise the country.' The answer is you get rid of the oppressive dictatorship and then you have a long, hard struggle to push these sectarian elements out, too,' Mr Blair told the BBC." (Iraq war defence wears out for Blair, Deborah Haynes, The Times/The Australian, 28/2/13)
However, his heirs and successors, are yet to avail themselves of The Master's priceless wisdom:
"The Obama administration, in co-ordination with some European allies, is for the first time considering supplying direct assistance to elements of the Free Syrian Army as they seek to ramp up pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down and end nearly two years of increasingly deadly violence. Officials in the US and Europe said yesterday the administration was nearing a decision on whether to provide non-lethal assistance to carefully vetted fighters* opposed to the Assad regime in addition to what it is already supplying to the political opposition." (US may boost aid to Syrian rebels, AP, AFP/The Australian, 28/2/13)
[*"Extremists intent on establishing an Islamist state in Syria have gained power within the rebel insurgency, while moderates have lost clout since moves by Washington late last year aimed at the opposite result, according to US officials and rebel fighters... Islamists say the Western concept of a secularist Syrian rebel is misguided. 'There is no such thing as a secularist fighting on the ground, ' said Abu Muhammad, a leader with an Islamist group. 'In the next phase, the Syrian people won't just welcome radicals. They'll welcome the devil himself if he'll help in the fight.'" (West warned it's dreaming, as jihadists take up Syrian insurgency, Nour Malas, The Wall Street Journal/The Australian, 1/3/13)]