Restless Heart

It’s the song, they said.
No, the sea. The luxury. The ship.
It’s the sex, they whispered.
Leo, said Aziza sheepishly. It’s all about Leo.
“Everybody wants Jack,” Laila said to Mariam. “That’s what it is.
Everybody wants Jack to rescue them from disaster. But there is no
Jack. Jack is not coming back. Jack is dead.” (270)

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Allow me to begin by proclaiming a simple truth:
Our world is fueled by desire.

This desire can take the form of many things, many thoughts, many ideas – it can be the desire for an eternal summer. The desire for a life without death. The desire for someone to hold us just to never let go, pressed gently against the warmth of a love ready to face the cruelty of an imminent winter. It can even be the desire for a saviour – salvation clad in the form of Prince Charming, eager to rescue the pretty damsel-in-distress and whisk her away to his castle where they would live happily ever after.

If only our world worked that way.

Even reality has caught up to the pages of our books, a fact made especially evident in Khaled Hosseini’s novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, set in the tumultuous time of late twentieth-century Kabul, Afghanistan. In its broken pages, its characters are continually bombarded by the worst of life’s many trials – a war against a ruthless foreign power, the loss of close friends and family, a drought wringing life itself from a city once fed by a bountiful river, and a new terrorist government tearing a still-healing nation apart. The quote above takes place during the summer of 2000, dubbed as the summer “Titanic fever gripped Kabul”. In it, Laila, along with all of Kabul, attempts to provide justification for why she believes the Titanic has placed them under such a spell. In regards to what it means in Hosseini’s whole novel, however, the quote provides an even deeper insight – Kabul is growing desperate. Under all the pretense and excuses put forth by its citizens, is the desire for safety and security, one present within every human heart longing for refuge from a world fraught with chaos.

Evidently, the lives of Hosseini’s characters are far from happy, but even this does not quench the intensity of their desire, nor should it. If anything, it only served to strengthen their human longings, a form of which was made manifest in the character of Jack Dawson – from the 1997 film Titanic – who was a poor country boy working as an artist in the streets, gambling money and stowing away on ships just to get by. However, it was his role in liberating Rose DeWitt Bukater, an upper-class girl from Philadelphia, that won him the image as Kabul’s potential saviour. Enslaved by a life of frivolous social parties and pointless etiquette, Rose finds the spirit to follow her dream to explore the world, a dream that is forced to begin on the strength of a promise, whispered by a dying breath in the waters of the frigid North Atlantic. Regardless, Rose finds the will to pursue her own path in life – one made possible by Jack’s saving sacrifice.

Despite their most fervent hopes, however, Kabul’s citizens never get the salvation they desire. Their beloved city is set ablaze by the brilliance of a thousand balls of fire, not of suns, but of a thousand bombs and bullets. Thus, their dreams of a free Kabul are never fulfilled, remaining as dreams left to be dreamed, only to join the ranks of other desires left unsatisfied:

Nana’s desire for acceptance, deprived in the wake of a sin long-committed.
Jalil’s desire to be with his daughter, unrestrained by the expectations of society.
Laila’s desire for Tariq’s touch again, its forbidden fruit disguised in a loveless marriage.
Mariam’s desire to love and to be loved, hidden in the lonely face of a harami.
Their desire for the Kabul of a thousand splendid suns.

Following in the footsteps of Hosseini’s writing, then, I wanted to explore the theme of desire, albeit through the lens of my own upbringing. Aside from a childhood love (or obsession, I should say) for the Titanic and the tragedy surrounding it, I grew up in a home full of faith. As the child of devout Christian parents – Roman Catholic, to be exact – I chose to incorporate elements from a desire I knew best, namely, the desire for true happiness and eternal pleasure in a being some say is the root of all earthly happiness and pleasure. Thus, I chose to incorporate God, a god who is Love itself. In addition, I chose to interweave Biblical imagery in the poem, as well as a Latin prayer written by the early Christian bishop and philosopher, St. Augustine of Hippo:

It’s His voice, they said.
Music of timbrel and lyre.
Breath like apples.
Lips dripping of nectar.
Enchanting. Alluring. Bewitching.
et duxi spiritum et anhelo tibi
No, His mercy. His beauty. His perfection.
Fragrance of perfume.
Kisses of his mouth.
Spiced wine.
Surrounding. Consuming. Intoxicating.
It’s His love, they whispered.
Well of living waters.
Pomegranates in bloom.
Flashes of fire.
Lasting. Enduring. Undying. Forever.
et esurio et sitio
Everybody wants Him. That’s what it is.
The poor.
The hungry.
The stupid.
The foolish.
Tetigisti me
Everybody wants Him to rescue them from disaster.
et exami in pacem tuam


But there is no God. God is not coming back. God is dead.


I decided to write this piece from the perspective of one struggling in his faith, one who, despite what he has learnt, finds it difficult to embrace the idea of an unseen love, regardless of how desperately he wishes to believe. I did this to emphasize the idea of unsatisfied desire, a concept best explored through the one from whom all desires spring. According to traditional Catholic theology, God is the root of all human desire. In fact, St. Augustine (the author of the Latin verses within the poem), had this to say about desire:

“You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless, until they rest in You.”

St. Augustine, as history tells us, knew better than almost everybody. As a convert from a hedonistic lifestyle, he found himself familiar with the intoxicating pleasures of sex and other “youthful passions”, as well as with the pain in realizing that its happiness was finite, its bliss swift and fleeting. He realized that his passions could only be tamed and his longings satiated by the One for whom his heart was created – He realized his thirst for God.

In my poem, I wanted to express this longing; by choosing to use fragments of Biblical verses, rather than complete sentences, I attempted to paint a picture of an almost wild, chaotic, and untameable hunger for everlasting gratification. Just as in Khaled Hosseini’s novel, though, the individual in the poem fails to grasp the fulfillment of his desire, and it is in this way I chose to emulate Hosseini’s work. In it, I hope to have captured the pain, anguish, and the aching loneliness of a heart stricken with love unrequited. What happens after the poem, however, I shall leave up to you, my readers, to decide. After all, even Kabul today is witnessing, once more, the majesty and splendour of its famed thousand suns.

“You breathed Your fragrance upon me,
I drew in breath, and now I pant for You.
I tasted You,
and now I hunger and thirst for You.
You touched me,
and I burn for your peace.”

St. Augustine of Hippo (c.354 – 430)

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6 thoughts on “Restless Heart

  1. Dear Jieo,

    I love how you began this post by stating desires which I believe to be universal. No matter who you are or where you are from, everyone has experienced desire for life without death, true love, and a saviour, therefore by stating this, you are effectively involving your readers by invoking pathos. This set up helped me to continue and relate my own life to that of the citizens of Kabul, when you dived into their desperation for getting away from their reality by idolizing the characters of Titanic. When I read the book, I was able to understand why Kabul loved the Titanic movie, but I did not connect with it. Your blog helped me to do just that: connect.

    While I instantly agreed with you about how desire is prevalent in A Thousand Splendid Suns, if one did not, you made sure to explore your reasoning. You explained how the character of Jack represented many desires for citizens, and listed the desires which affect the main characters. It was all very well articulated, and had my mind absorbing information which I am incredibly thankful for! I have received a deeper insight by reading your work, Jieo!

    I also sincerely loved your emulation… I honestly cannot put it into words that will justify your work – so I will offer that it is truly magnificent. By reading what inspired your emulation and the elements in which you incorporated, it further proved how exquisite your work is.

    I was not able to think of anything to offer in terms of improvement until now, and even so, it is still not a fault on your part but more of my preference. I would have liked to see a little more in depth connection of this quote to your life. Of course, you did touch on your family and religion, but perhaps you could delve further into that or how you connect to your own emulation. I believe (and may be wrong) I see hints of your connection in your explanation of your poem, but it is not explicated for me to truly know. This did not take away from your blog, however. I only had this thought after reading your blog two times! :O

    Congratulations on your first AP blog for our grade 12 year, you are hitting it off strong! I’m so glad you have shared your insight with us, and that I had the pleasure of reading and commenting. I look forward to more of your work!


    1. Dear Elissa,

      Thank you for taking the time to read this; it really means a lot to me! I’m also glad to hear that it provided you with some insight, as well as a deeper connection to the novel; helping each other understand the world we live in, even if only just a little, is really why I love the AP class so much!

      I agree with you in that the connection of the quote to my life isn’t as in-depth; perhaps the connection finds its base most in my childhood interest in the Titanic (including the movie, which remains one of my favourites to this day), as well as in the fact that I, like many people, am in love with the idea of a saviour that can save us from ourselves. Personally, of course, this manifests itself in my faith. I hope that this, though not exactly thorough, might shed a little more light on the situation!

      Once again, thanks so much for reading this! I truly appreciate it!

      Ever yours,

  2. Dearest Jieo,
    Amazing work! As I was reading your post, I was in absolute awe of how you manage to write with such eloquence and fluency, I felt as though I was being carried through your words line by line. Amazing! Your transitions from say to mean and finally matter were seamless and perfect. In your emulation, I loved how you used parallel structures in the lines: “The poor. The hungry. The stupid. The foolish,” and how you used an alliteration in the lines: “Distress. Despair. Death. Damnation.” I felt as if both literary devices enhanced your writing beautifully by emphasizing the words used within the lines.
    Honestly, I couldn’t find one thing in this post that I wanted to be modified. I reread your post a couple times trying to find something to point out, and, yet, I came up with the conclusion that I would not be able to find anything.
    You are an amazing writer, I can’t wait to see more from you in the future!
    Natalie 🙂

    1. Dear Natalie,

      Thank you for your kind words; they mean so much to me! Throughout the year, your encouragement was what enabled me to continue writing pieces like this, and for that, I’m very grateful!

      Having you as part of my family group this year was such a pleasure! I can’t wait to see more of YOUR work!

      Ever yours,

  3. Dearest Jieo,

    You simply amaze me! Walking into AP class, I was terrified, unsure, and nervous; however, it strengthens me in knowing that there are people like you who will continue to inspire and aid me along this journey of AP LA. I have known you for quite some years, yet I have never been privileged to experience the depth of your knowledge which you exquisitely demonstrated in your presentation (I can’t even imagine what else you have to say!!). In everything you do, you are truly excellent and admirable, but I do want you to know: your humility surpasses all measures of your brilliance; always so humble and quiet for all praises you receive.

    As for your blog, the desire and longing evident in the characters of A Thousand Splendid Suns, was beautifully connected to the desire you had to experience true happiness and eternal pleasures that is only attainable through God, who Himself display’s Agape Love. As a women of faith, I completely understand the experience of having this deep longing concealed within the heart, always searching earnestly to fill the void with the abounded love of Christ. I had never thought of likening Kabul’s desire as one for a saviour to redeem them from distress; however, after you presentation, it makes wonderful sense!! Your beginning statement, “Our world is fueled by desire,” was incredibly powerful and it immediately got me thinking. Naturally, my brain disagreed with the statement for I could not fathom a sufficient reasoning that supported such a bold assertion. Often times, I had associated desire as an aggressive feeling, one that can only be burdened by the strong-willed. However, your insight undoubtfully proved that I am, once again, wrong =) ! Desire can be as simple as the sparks that fly amid the starless sky or the flames that captures the wild.
    I especially loved how you interweaved the characters of Titanic to highlight your reasonings. Although I have never watched the movie, you have thoroughly explained the connections that are well evident in the character, Jack, and his lover, Rose. The line, ” Rose finds the spirit to follow her dream…, a dream that is forced to begin on the strength of a promise, whispered by a dying breath in the waters of the frigid North Atlantic,” was incredible and beautiful and amazing and .. I have no words (I only reread it 10 times :)!!! The fragility of that heartbreaking moment is perfectly captured and serves well to reinforce the idea of tender, soft desire (going back to my initial thoughts of desire).
    Above all, your emulation was, without doubt, the masterpiece. I loved that it was simple, yet powerful enough to capture the essence of raw desire. In many ways it reminded me of the book of Songs of Solomon. Although it is interpreted to describe the covenantal love of Christ for His church, the passionate and intimate moments of the book has evidently translated unto your poem.

    Your writing is amazing as it is; therefore, there is nothing I can suggest that would make it better. Nonetheless, I get marked on this, so, quite truthfully, I have no option but to say something =)! When you read the last line of your poem in class, I admit, I was shocked. I have met very few of our age, that share such similar passion for our religion, so I did not understand the reason behind that last line. However, once you talked about St. Augustine, everything connected and made sense. Yet, I am still curious to know: what further personal connections do you have with you emulation. Speaking from experience, there were moments when I had “fallen out of desire,” – so to say, with religion. Has that every happened to you? Is there a particular memory that evokes similar feelings of lost desire, as presented in the poem?

    All in all, amazing work Jieo. You are a true inspiration and have I mentioned that I am INCREDIABLY GRATEFUL that your in my table group?!!
    And yes – Here’s to growing in faith together!! 🙂


    1. Dear Hefseeba,

      First of all, I would like to say that it was my privilege to have you in my table group this year! Your faith, your humility, and your insights have helped me get through AP class this year! I am indebted to you!

      I’m glad to hear that this piece provided you with some insight in regards to desire; the word has such a negative connotation, but I think desires can be as simple or as innocent as the longing for God – for Love Himself. I find it also interesting that the poem reminded you of the Song of Solomon. Much of the figurative language and imagery in the poem is actually inspired by it!

      As to your question on any further personal connections, nothing too drastic comes to mind at the moment. However, there were times when I found myself questioning the idea as to why God would place certain desires within me, only to deny its fulfillment. I have since discovered that it is simply because God wishes for us to know that only He can fill what is empty in us, only He can provide everlasting satiation, only He can mend and complete our broken hearts. If there is one example I can cite, though, it might be that I was discouraged from pursuing my childhood dream of becoming a priest at five-years old when I found out that they couldn’t get married or have kids! Five-year old me was devastated! However, I have a strange feeling my heart is telling me to pursue that path once again…

      Thank you, Hefseeba, once again for taking the time to read my work! You have certainly helped me grow in faith, and I feel honoured having learnt a lot from you!

      Ever yours,

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