Now a memory, soon a ghost…

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Sorry, I am not in my usual spot. You’ll have to be poet-less, for a while.

But then again; I am too.

Just warning of a temporary, and indefinite, absence. I hope you folks are well.

Salaam, love, and I’ll leave you with an extract which I hold very dear, perhaps, you’ll feel the same;

”What are sacrifices to an idealist? Just another kind of romance.”

 

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Substitute to thought; a culture of quotes; trees or the forest…

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Here’s an extract from an article written by Teju Cole;

“In 1913, a compilation of Gustave Flaubert’s satirical definitions was posthumously published as “Le Dictionnaire des Idées Reçues” (“The Dictionary of Received Ideas”). Flaubert hated cliché, a hatred that expressed itself not only in the pristine prose of “Madame Bovary” but also in his letters and notes on the thoughtless platitudes of the day. “The Dictionary of Received Ideas” is a complaint against automatic thinking. What galls Flaubert most is the inevitability, given an action, of a certain standard reaction. We could learn from his impatience: there are too many standard formulations in our language. They stand in place of thought, but we proclaim them each time—due to laziness, prejudice, or hypocrisy—as though they were fresh insight.

Flaubert’s “Dictionary” inspired me to try something similar, over the course of a few hours, on Twitter. I think, also, there was the influence of Ambrose Bierce and his cynical “Devil’s Dictionary,” Samuel Johnson’s mostly serious but occasionally coruscating “Dictionary of the English Language,” and Gelett Burgess’s now-forgotten send-up of platitudes, “Are You a Bromide?” What the entries in these books have in common, in addition to compression and wit, is an intolerance of stupidity. As I wrote my modern cognates, I was struck at how close some of them came to the uninterrogated platitudes in my own head. Stupidity stalks us all.

AFRICA. A country. Poor but happy. Rising.

AUSTRALIANS. Extremely fit. Immune to pain. If you meet one, say “Foster’s.” The whole country is nothing but beaches.

BLUE. The color of purity. Countless mysterious ads are devoted to pads and liners that absorb blue liquid.

BUDDHISM. The way of peace.

CARAMEL. Term used to describe black women’s skin. No other meaning known.

CHILDREN. The only justification for policy. Always say “our children.” The childless have no interest in improving society.

CHOCOLATE. Term used to describe black women’s skin. No other meaning known.

CHRISTIANITY. Peace on earth.

COFFEE. Declare that it is intolerable at Starbucks. Buy it at Starbucks.

COMMUNITY. Preceded by “black.” White people, lacking community, must make do with property.

CRIME. Illegal activities involving smaller amounts of money.

DIVERSITY. Obviously desirable, within limits. Mention your service in the Peace Corps.

EGGS. Always say “you can’t make omelets without breaking eggs” whenever the subject of war comes up.

EVOLUTION. Only a theory.

FEMINISTS. Wonderful, in theory.

GERMANS. When watching football, “never rule out the Germans.”

HARVARD. Source of studies quoted on BBC. Never say “I went to Harvard.” Say “I schooled in the Boston area.”

HAUTE COUTURE. Always declare that it is made by gay men for boyish girls. Wait hours to see fashion exhibits at the Met.

HILARIOUS. Never simply say “funny.”

HIP HOP. Old-school hip hop, i.e., whatever was popular when you were nineteen, is great. Everything since then is intolerable.

HIPSTER. One who has an irrational hatred of hipsters.

ILIAD. Declare a preference for the Odyssey.

INDIA. Work your tolerance of or aversion to spicy food into the conversation as quickly as possible. “A land of contrasts.”

INTERNET. A waste of time. Have a long online argument with anyone who disagrees.

JAZZ. America’s classical music. The last album was released in 1965.

LITERALLY. Swear you’d rather die than use “literally” as an intensifier.

MEN. Always say “all the good ones are gay or taken” within earshot of the straight single ones.

MIGRANT. Mexican immigrant..

NEWSPAPERS. Bemoan their gradual disappearance. Don’t actually buy any.

NIETZSCHE. Say “Nietzsche says God is dead,” but if someone says that first, say “God says Nietzsche is dead.”

ODYSSEY. Declare a preference for the Iliad.

POET. Always preceded by “published.” Function unknown.

PUNS. Always say “no pun intended” to draw attention to the intended pun.

RACISM. Obsolete term. Meaning unknown.

REGGAE. Sadly, just one album exists in the genre.

RUSHDIE. Have a strong opinion on “The Satanic Verses.” Under no circumstances actually read “The Satanic Verses.”.

SMART. Any essay that confirms your prejudices.

SUNSET. Beautiful. Like a painting. Post on Instagram and hashtag “no filter.”

TELEVISION. Much improved. Better than novels. If someone says “The Wire,” say “The Sopranos,” or vice versa.

TOUR DE FORCE. A film longer than two and a half hours and not in English.

VALUES. “We must do whatever it takes to preserve our values.” Said as a prelude to destroying them.

VIRGINITY. An obsession in Iran and in the olive-oil industry. It can be lost, like a wallet. ”

I’m a fan of this article. It has obvious comedic value but also addresses the increasingly prominent issues around rhetoric. A ‘dictionary of received ideas’ is a brilliant way to portray how independent thought and informed speculation is encumbered by standard-form reactions, often saliently. The unchallenged use of platitudes and the resulting  impact on our mental faculties is addressed further by Teju Cole, more specifically in the form of a common viral obsession; inspirational quotes:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that analysis, no matter how torturous, will be reduced to its most “inspirational” quote. Thinking about unquotability, irreducibility, downworthiness and about how the consolation of the quotation can short-circuit justice. But none of us can resist the lure of these stupid aphorisms. Writing them, sharing them. Sugary calories in 140-character servings. America itself becomes a quote-only zone. The politician’s “misspeak.” The president’s fine sentence in a speech. While the drones drone on. The mistake is to separate inspirational quotes mania from the ideological conditions that confine people in sentimentality culture. Sentimentality culture is inspirational quotes, solutionism, white saviorism, un-intersectional feminism and, yes, the Global War on Terror.”

He goes on to qualify his critique quite brilliantly:

“But (I warn myself): so much social critique comes down to “my consolations are superior to yours.” Why begrudge people their pleasures? ”

Can’t argue with that. There are more worrying vices than the occasional dip in the paddle-pool of bite-sized-borrowed-wisdom. Nonetheless, here’s another excerpt from a book I am currently reading by Guy Lyon Playfair which compliments the argument put forth by Cole;

“Most serious of all is our built-in bias away from the general and towards the specific. By focusing the tree at the expense of the forest it promotes superficiality at the expense of depth.”

These three extracts rest on the same pivot. Standard form reactions based on built-in semantical triggers cause a lack of cognitive independence and unintended conformism to quarter-arsed attempts at comprehension. This often fuels our propensity to find solace in ‘inspiri-quotes’ that warrant pseudo-analysis and little commitment (guilty as charged- this blog actually has a quotes section, dammit!), which congregates into a superfluous understanding of subjects such as religion, love and success, amongst others. It causes us to to overlook the basics in almost every aspect of life.

This was just a reminder for all of us. I won’t get into further specifics; you may draw your own conclusions. I feel there is a sense of truth in these extracts for all of us. In our obsession with the heavens, let’s not overlook the earth as our means of attainment (quote?).

A Dawn Misplaced…

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A Dawn Misplaced

His journey won’t begin without you;

The saddle won’t sit the same,

A wingless flight, an ascent in vain,

You both grew at a distance,

But the winds of God, bent your branches the same,

The ocean of your eyes, he hasn’t yet swam.

Only a seashell to hear the sounds of your sea,

Only autumn leaves, to see your summer in,

‘I believe your promises’, engraved within,

Latent desires, alive with a spring,

Now he feels, at arms’ length to your shore,

Praying your waves, don’t evade him more,

In the night, he spoke,

To his Lord, with hope;

‘Of this kindling let my heart not be bereft,

Of what use is a candle that unlit is left?’

Ambition..

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Ambition

Three men met at a tavern table. One was a weaver, another a carpenter and the third a ploughman.
Said the weaver, “I sold a fine linen shroud today for two pieces of gold. Let us have all the wine we want.”
“And I,” said the carpenter, “I sold my best coffin. We will have a great roast with the wine.”
“I only dug a grave,” said the ploughman, “but my patron paid me double. Let us have honey cakes too.”
And all that evening the tavern was busy, for they called often for wine and meat and cakes. And they were merry.
And the host rubbed his hands and smiled at his wife; for his guests were spending freely.
When they left the moon was high, and they walked along the road singing and shouting together.
The host and his wife stood in the tavern door and looked after them.
“Ah!” said the wife, “these gentlemen! So freehanded and so gay! If only they could bring us such luck every day! Then our son need not be a tavern-keeper and work so hard. We could educate him, and he could become a priest. 

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C.S. Lewis…

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A few of my favourite excerpts from C.S. Lewis’ work;

“What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

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“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is Hell.”

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“When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.”

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“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

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“I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner. …I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life — namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.”

 

The Mountain & Me…

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_______________________________

The Mountain & Me*

As I lie in this desolate valley, staring up at the mountain before me,

The stars adorning the sky, above this giant’s peak,

I find comfort in my struggle to emulate this sight before me,

I spend my days wondering how best to attempt this ascent,

To the watch tower of the world,

Admiring and desiring to match its excellence,

As the sun sets on my days,

I painfully reckon,

The haunting realisation that I should have desired to seek no more than to be at the foot of this mountain,

My arrogance and obsession with the grandiose consumed my mind and sight,

It blinded me from the pebbles this gracious mountain offered me through all my years,

These pebbles taught me more than the mountain ever did,

I now scale this hill with little infatuation for its majesty,

For I realise that most of my days will be spent on its lowly slopes,

I have lost friends, foes and even a true love on my journey to the summit,

Yet at the tip of this mountain I’ve come to discover the treasure which evades all but its conquerors;

the ascent defined me more than the peak ever will.

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*Please note- I did not write this piece in its entirety. Part of this text was sent to me by a friend. I appeciated the style of writing, and the underlying message. Resultantly, some additions were made in creating the final post above. Hope you enjoy it. Peace, salaam, and take care.

Impulse Acquitted…

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I find it impossible to carry out certain tasks half-heartedly. Of course, there are some notable exceptions (e.g. writing up a 30 page report to my boss at 2am concerning the impact of a new foreign exchange system being deployed by our client). However, issues surrounding emotional input or commitment either consume me in whole, or exclude me in totality. There is no middle way, unfortunately. This is problematic for various reasons. Fellow sufferers of this condition, which I’ve handily dubbed obsessive-committal-syndrome, may care to empathise. Thick skin and a tinge of indifference can often act as a measure of security. Yet there are times when such cavalier dispositions are swiftly banished by deflating emotional-barriers. The outcome is a continuous mental preoccupation which is highly consuming, amongst other things.

I wrote the passage below in my attempt at describing sentimental impulses which we often seek to arrest. Or ultimately, fail to. Obviously, the description below is idealistic (I’m a dreamer). I can acknowledge this much. Although, in my defence, the last paragraph does add a measure of realism. I hope you enjoy the short read.

For another week, peace, salaam and take care- my dudes, dudettes, and everything in-between.

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Impulse Acquitted

The scent of sentiment will eventually seep through. The dams you construct will spill over. The floods of feeling will engulf your townships. Floods of devotion. Of intensity. Passion. A day will come when you’ll let someone walk across the floor where brittle creeks you once hid.

You will assail this breach. You will be joined at the wrist with the perpetrator- guiding them through the prisms of your glass which life shattered into countless pieces and dispersed across the horizon. But every so often, both of you will roll the fragments together, not to rekindle your reflection, but to recreate clusters of union which out-shadow the past and sanctify your wholeness.

The streams that once breached with aplomb will flow uncurbed into channels of serenity. They will complete the being of a man who seeks less than the heavens promise. One who has been compelled to live through a time-interval between the consciousness of you, and the fulfilment of us.

Yet, do these words really describe our universe? Isn’t language just a silver-tongued lie? Are words not the impure and unavailing ancestors of our actions? Does happiness not look pretty squalid in comparison to the romance of misery and sacrifice? And have you ever considered that the idea of certainty might not live up to expectations?

These are life’s mysteries we can uncover together. The answers may bruise us, but let’s learn to laugh at our injuries, not madden under them.

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My Friend…

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My Friend

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” If you but knew, my destitute friend, that the poverty that sentences you to wretchedness is precisely what inspires you with a knowledge of justice and allows you to perceive the essence of life, then you would be content with the destiny ordained by God. I said ‘knowledge of justice’ because the attention of the wealthy is diverted by their treasures from this knowledge. And I said, ‘the essence of life’ because the powerful are distracted therefrom by their pursuit of glory. Rejoice, then, in justice because you are its tongue, and in life, because you are its book. Be glad, for you are the source of virtue on those who take your hand.

If you but comprehended, my forlorn comrade, that the burdens that have defeated you are the same power that illumines your heart and elevates your soul from the plane of ridicule to the station of esteem, then you would be content therewith as your inheritance and would accept its effects as your mentor. You would know that life is a chain with links, some intertwined with others, and that grief is a golden link that divides acquiescence in the outcomes of the present from the enjoyment of the delights of the future, just as morning divides sleep from the waking.

My friend, poverty manifests the nobility of the soul, and opulence brings out its blameworthy tendencies. Sadness lends delicacy to the emotions, whereas joy sullies them. For human beings still employ riches and joy as means to excess, just as they commit evil in the name of the Book that forbids it, and do in the name of humanity what humanity disavows.

Were poverty to be wiped and sorrow to vanish, the soul would become a blank scroll save for the characters that signify egotism and a love of aggrandizement and words that connote earthly appetites. For I looked, and found divinity, the spiritual essence in the human beings that cannot be bought with lucre nor augmented by the pleasures of libertines. I contemplated and saw the affluent forsaking their divinity and safeguarding their wealth, and the slaves of the age abandoning their divine selves to follow their pleasures.

The hour that you spend, you the destitute, with your wife and little ones after you come from the fields is a symbol of the human family of the future, a token of the happiness of coming generations. The life that the rich pass among their assets is a contemptible life that recalls the burrowing of the worms in graves; it is a symbol of fear.

The tears that you spill, you the sorrowful, are sweeter than the laughter of snobs and the guffaws of scoffers. Those tears cleanse the heart from the filth of rancour and teach the one who sheds them how the broken-hearted shares his feelings; they are the tears of the Nazarene.

The power that you sowed, you the poor, which the rich and powerful have exploited, will return to you. For the law of nature is that things return to their source. The tribulation you have endured, you the grief-stricken, will be transformed into bliss by the edict of heaven.

Coming generations will learn equality from poverty, and love from woes.”

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Between Reality and Fantasy

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” Life has borne us from place to place, and the fates convey us from one spot to another, but we see only the obstacles that stand in our way and hear only the voice that terrifies us.

Beauty manifests itself to us on the throne of its splendour, and we draw near to it; in the name of yearning we defile its hem and pull of its diadem of purity. Love passes by us cloaked in a robe of kindness, but we fear it and conceal ourselves in the grottoes of darkness; or we follow it and commit outrages in its name. The wise among us construe it as a heavy yoke, but it is more delicate than the breaths of flowers and more subtle than the breeze of Lebanon. Wisdom stands at the turn in the road and calls upon us publicly, but we consider it false and despise its adherents. Liberty summons us to its table, that we might savour its wine and fare; so we go and make gluttons of ourselves, transforming that table into a stage of vulgarity and a scene of self-abasement. Nature extends to us the hand of loyalty, asking from us that we delight in its comeliness; but we fear its quietude and take refuge in the city, where we crowd in upon another like a flock of sheep that spies a hungry wolf. Truth visits us, led by a smile of a child or the kiss of a beloved, but we slam the door of our emotions, excluding it and abandoning it like a vile criminal. The human heart appeals to us for help and the soul calls out to us, but we are more deaf than a stone, unable to comprehend or understand. And when anyone listens to the cry of his heart and the call to his soul, we say, ‘That one is possessed,’ and we wash our hands of him.

Thus pass the nights, while we remain heedless. The days greet us, but we are frightened of both days and nights. We draw near to the earth, gods join our company; we pass by the bread of life, and the famine feasts on our faculties. How beloved life is to us, and how remote we are from life. ”

Majnun and the King…

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“ The King of Arabia heard of the story of Majnun’s love for Laila and called him to his court. “What have you seen in her that makes you so distracted that you always cut your hand when you peel an orange?” “Many have asked that, but if only you could see her…” The King searched and brought Laila forward; She was thin and dark, less appealing than the least of his harem girls. “Ah,” said Majnun, “you must see her through the wicket of my eyes. There is a great difference between holding a little salt in your hand,

…and putting it on a wound.

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Undeniably, there are different ways in which the passage above can be perceived. The lens through which we analyse, assess, and acknowledge- is often constructed through whims more arbitrary then we care to admit.

Even the likes of Freud, who rejects the idea of free will, and postures that human behaviour is predetermined by unconscious motives that are shaped by biological triggers and early childhood experiences- does not renounce the uniqueness or ideography of human perception.

With that in mind, perhaps it’s the unrelenting romancer in me who understands the passage above as so;

In accomplishing empathy with another’s emotions (which in this scenario seem to be synonymous to a wound), we must not only possess or fall witness to the cut itself, but also comprehend its depth. And how better to test the sting of a wound, then to sprinkle over it some salt? And if you possess not the wound, but only the salt- you’re numb to the thorns of Majnun’s love.

Just as if you’ve lived, but only thus breathed- you’ve not really lived at all. And if you’ve loved, but not suffered the hours of separation- perhaps you’ve not yet loved at all. And if you’ve built sandcastles, but not witnessed the inevitable waves of destruction- perhaps, you’ve not yet acquainted with the sea. In vein similar to the king, if one bares little but the salt, the depth of a wound will land stale on his heart, which is a dogma oft repeated by those carrying wounds of hope, love and divine transcendence to others who stare at us puzzlingly…whilst clutching some salt in their hand.

Or perhaps, as my old (perverted) friend Freud might suggest, it’s simply a genetic and cultural disposition of being South-Asian, where love for sodium-laden food is rife, which makes me fond of all this salt related talk.

Who knows…

Salaam, love, keep safe, and keep smiling.

A Virgin of Will…

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A Virgin of Will

What was whispered to the rose, causing its blossom?

Only its withered petals will know.

What contained the musk, on Joseph’s shirt?

Only the eyes of Jacob will know.

What was said to the heart, causing its beat?

Only its final breath will know.

What was prayed for at dawn, to find redemption at noon?

Only the supplicating mute will know.

What sees the moth, in the scolding flames?

Only its charred wings will know.

What was fed to the mule, to cause its gallop?

Only Halima’s breast will know.

What possesses these slaves, who polish their shackles?

Only the smiling Key-bearer will know.

O, lover of Light…

Seek not these fleeing answers.

Questions and answers are but milk-sisters,

Each bathes in the other’s dirty water,

Let not knowing be your baptism.

Walk to edge of Love,

Find God to be its circumference.

Take a leap off this cliff- defy all reason,

And as you fall, down this ascend,

To the demise of your mind,

You’ll realise,

You were writing with wings.

Short stories…

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Salaam, and greetings. Those of you who have (or will) visit the blog today in eager anticipation of my imminent return have provided the clearest indication that, you, basically, love me. If you ask me, it’s a pretty apt acid test; pencilling in the date of my return which was announced over a month ago, and marking my homecoming by eagerly checking the blog at the day’s commencement. It’s fine. Denial is the first hurdle.

The rest of you casually checking-in over the course of the following week are just wayfarers. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing. But whatever. I hate you. You make me feel like an unloved and neglected child. Woe unto you! Amongst other things.

The traditionally irrelevant introduction aside; let’s move onto matters more serious. If you can call them that. You probably can’t, because they’re not really, ‘serious’. You get what I mean though. Whatever.

My intention is to add another section to the blog which will (hopefully) tickle your interests. Most people who regularly read blogs possess the tendency to enjoy reading in general. I am certain many of you have favourite authors, books, and so on. With this in mind, I considered it a good idea to include a section devoted to short stories, ancient adages, and well-known parables.

Due to most of us possessing a 2-minute attention span on the internet (I blame Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook), the stories to be included will be relatively short. I contemplated including longer texts, but very much doubt that will work. And here is the most important part; none of the writing included within this particular section is mine. All of the borrowed material will be included with quotation marks. However, I will fall short of disclosing the source, as that is something I generally avoid doing, for reasons beyond many.

So without further verbal-hubbub, here’s a link to the new section below. Insha’Allah you guys enjoy some of these as much as myself.

https://sundaymorningrambles.wordpress.com/short-stories-new/

Thanks for reading, and for another week; take care. I’ll end with the following quote below.

Accrue as much time required to reading and commenting on blogs where the author includes a section on short stories – for this will enrich your soul and do lots of other good stuff. Yeah.

– Some Clever and Philosophical Guy.

The universe of ‘you’…

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You sleep. You wake up. Suddenly everything is different. Or at least something is. The loss of something you cherished has left an imprint on your cognitive skin. Or maybe it’s the presence of something that bothers you. Who knows. Different people. Different lives. Different scenarios.

Although there is a constant.

There always is.

It’s the waves. The ups, and the downs. The presence, or the absence.

The cyclicality of life always baffles me. What baffles me more is our ignorance of this reality. If one standardises, we can (roughly) determine life to be half joy, half despondence. Good most of the time, bad sometimes, right? So, doesn’t it seem illogical, that we only choose to deal with half? To acknowledge and learn to deal with only the positives? To live in half? To breathe half a life?

To deal with this cyclicality, we should be honest with ourselves. Painfully so. And in order to reach this place of sincerity, I often turn inwards. But our times are so externalised, it’s impossible. Or, it nearly is. Society progressively resembles a mass gathering of eggshells, which every so often, knock into each other as a means of interaction. And this is true of Muslims, just as much as those we label unbelievers. We exist in an age where even the most intangible of phenomena, such as spirituality, is being materialised. Spirituality is the yolk, if not the metaphysical epicentre, of faith. Yet something so deeply salient and unapparent is plastered across Facebook, Twitter and other social networking applications. Often not for calculated benefit, but for tangible imagery. To make faith something you can see. Or touch. Or read. My aim is not to deter the sharing of knowledge, where deemed reasonable. But rather that people define religiosity as an externalised phenomenon. Rather that, if you have a beard, upload Surah’s of the Quran on Instagram, and excessively use religious platitudes in conjunction with banal Arabic terms which lazily evoke God’s Will; you’re religious. A lack of hijab or outward display of faith, and you’re spiritually stumbling. And it’s this externalisation of something that is deeply transient which causes an internal collapse. Undoubtedly, the physical manifestation of religious requirements is not wrong (i.e. the hijab or a beard). But the climaxing of faith at the advocating of such tenets, along with a few rushed prayers, accentuates the direness of our predicament.

It begs the question, when have you faced your internal universe? I’m not alluding to the plethora of meaningless talk inside your mind. My reference is to the plantation in your mind where no language exists. A place of real harvest. Real truth. When do you turn away from the external, and face this painfully honest place. To see yourself, and the universe of the ‘you’, as it is. And, most importantly, to ask yourself the really difficult questions. Questions that might impact how you wake up the next morning. How you behave. What your priorities are.

Think about the following exercise. Close your eyes (if you’re a willing participant), and name three things that are most important to you. Done? Now read on. Certainly, there will be some outliers, but here is a standardised list to which most of us will be subject to.

  1. God (i.e. faith)
  2. Parents (i.e. family)
  3. Passion (i.e. friends, career or academia)

The vast majority of us will regurgitate the set of priorities above. Strikingly, if you take a step back, and are painfully unbiased, how much of your time are you actually accruing to this order? The typical answer will dance around the following tune; ‘I have a degree to finish’, ‘I have college’, ‘my job takes most of my time’, or ‘indirectly I am adhering to these priorities’. Rest assured, I know of these excuses. Mostly, because I’ve used them, and still do. The real nail in this coffin of self-reassurance is that these excuses are indefinite. This is what I’ve learnt personally. We have a set of priorities, and our practical lives sway from these rather profusely. We counter this contradiction by saying, “well, currently I am occupied in xyz, after this I’ll do what I can’’. Here’s a telegram, this is a never ending cycle. I thought after I ace my education and degree, I can really breathe life into the list above. Subsequently, with only the Grace of God, I managed to get the best job I could find in my field. And, lo and behold, my current appropriation of time is even less truthful to this hierarchy. When I settle down in the near future, this contradiction will be exasperated.

My suggested panacea to such a conflict isn’t to live a life confined to a prayer mat, whilst camped outside of your parents’ bedroom. Not at all. Rather, by asking such difficult questions, and looking within ourselves, we often open a road of self-awareness and truth. And by being honest, we commence an internal market of sincerity. In such a place, the only trade is action. A response. Since the reality above has been portrayed to me, nothing has drastically changed. Except the recognition of this truth, ofcourse, and my consistent propensity and willingness to rebalance the scale. The outcome has been purely beneficial. A truthful assessment of my real priorities has motivated me to rescale my time, where I can. It has often done wonders. I have the same job, the same timetable, but now remain more aware of the subtleties, and often act upon them where possible. And most importantly, I am more acclimatised with being truthful to myself. To resist myself with the same strength I resist others, to deal with my mental arrogance, and finally, to tackle the crucible of self-mastery. Our most important battle.

My advice, if you call it so, is not a breeding ground of personal opinion or outlook. If you read into the work of great Islamic thinkers, from the current (bronze) age to the (golden) past, the consistency in narrative is resonant, and also very reassuring. If you really focus on the nuances, the subtleties, there is compelling harmony in the principle message. From Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, to Al-Ghazali and Ibn Arabi. There is consistent talk of priorities, of truth, of solace in solitude, of focusing on the basics of faith, and most importantly, the culmination of such ideals into a realm of spiritual stability.

Every so often, take a step back, be honest with yourself, and converse deeply. Rest assured, He will be listening intently. This honesty will take you places. It will help you deal with the ups and the downs. It will force you to rebalance the scales as much as possible, and often, it will draw a smile on the faces you cherish the most. You’ll keep moving forward. And rather than trying to live in each moment, you will learn to make each moment live.

Your life, your heart, or even your eyes, can turn towards a different reality at blistering speed. Undue and unexpected elation, or unwanted distress, are self-inviting creatures. They don’t knock much. God taught them little manners. Wisdom will forever live in always keeping your house tidy.

I hope I didn’t ramble for too long or cause offence in my writing. Please keep in mind, the shortcomings I highlight are always my own.

I will end this post with a beautiful quote I came across recently;

“This place where you are right now,

God circled on a map for you.”

It’s beautiful because it equates life to a map. All of us know where we are going- this ‘final destination’. Defining the harvest we seem to be good at. But the first thing you do when you come across a map, is to locate the red dot. The “you are here” sign. That’s the tricky part.

It begs the question, right now, if you unfold the map, where do you find yourself?

Be honest.

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I will leave it here. Just to note; I am taking a virtual-detox, and won’t be writing anything for the next 4-6 weeks. The next post will probably be on November the 17th (not that any of you care!). Until then, Salaam, peace, love, and always remember; live as if every breath is borrowed.

Auguries of Loss…

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What am I, but a handful of yesterdays.

This loss, and that gain; think of them as daybreak.

They’ll come around again.

All these false dawns, only our final sunrise will expose.

These inimitable winds, they’ll soon sweep you.

We spend life running; different paces.

To get to the same destination.

Have you ever thought about that?

We’re that sea oft moving, sometimes staying still..

..your shores complete you.

Maybe you are what you seek.

Maybe it’s within you.

We stare out of these windows, perhaps we peak in from the outside?

We think our loved ones perish; perhaps we are of the dead.

We drown in this drop; perhaps they come alive in the ocean.

These losses, they’ll come around again.

Every goodbye is a broken melody.

Perhaps the symphony we haven’t yet heard.

This world breathes in the death of sound.

We hear so much- yet never listen.

Sleep in the lap of experience, and surrender your dreams to imperfection.

You’re a tear running down the world’s face.

Happiness may sprout, when you’re wiped away.

Heaven sees no sunsets.

All that you lose, goes to a place of greater love.

And if it’s that, which you cannot replace,

What it gave you; you must become.

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Hope…

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”Hope never to believe it is your duty or right to harm another simply because you mistakenly believe they are not you.
 
Hope to understand suffering as the hard assignment even in school you wished to avoid.
 
…But could not.
 
Hope to be imperfect in all the ways that keep you growing.
 
Hope never to see another not even a blade of grass that is beyond your joy.
 
Hope not to be a snob the very day Love shows up in love’s work clothes.
 
Hope to see your own skin in the wood grains of your house.
 
Hope to talk to trees & at last tell them everything you’ve always thought.
 
Hope at the end to enter the Unknown knowing yourself. Forgetting yourself also.
 
Hope to be consumed to disappear into your own Love.
 
Hope to know where you are –Paradise–if nobody else does.
 
Hope that every failure is an arrow pointing toward enlightenment.
 
Hope to sin only….
 
in the service of waking up.
 
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A flower in the seed…

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Good health is a flickering thing. Spiritual statisticians would claim it a phenomena which is negatively correlated with the idea of gratitude. When one increases, the other sharply decreases. On the surface at least, the logic seems watertight. In good health, we are cognitively predisposed to overlook the most trivial of biological blessings. Deduct the most insignificant of physical convenience, or even the threat of withdrawal, and we suddenly find ourselves unhinged without constant gratitude.

For instance, when is the last time you were appreciative of breathing without significant difficulty? If you’re a distinctly average person, like myself, such inartificial reflection will rarely permeate your thoughts without an external trigger. That said, in this year alone, nearly four million people will suffer from severe breathing difficulties. This condition will often impact their lives in extreme ways. Let us take it a step further. Think about your family members. Stories of death, injury, or the development of a terminal condition, are all around us. Yet, sincere reflection on our exemption from such calamities rarely predicates our thoughts, at least on a consistent basis. And if it does, such moments more aptly represent scattered practice, as opposed to a uniform approach.

Is forgetfulness of that which we possess an innate human propensity? In personal analysis, or at least on initial impressions, this particular assumption can be deemed reasonable. Even those of us who claim to be persistently grateful for good health, and the immeasurable blessings that are attached, might be guilty of subconscious dishonesty. We are predisposed to yearn presence in absence, and overlook absence in presence.

Pain and loss dominate the design of our constitution. Our reality. And a highly advanced civilisation, which is addicted to preoccupation and entertainment, excels in divorcing us from this recognition. A recognition of our time-bound nature. An understanding which highlights that we, our family, and friends; will perish. External endeavours, whether they are social, economic or ideological, further compound this divorce. And through the instruments of life, God shows His inconceivable mastery at reminding us of this constitution. That our existence, and that of our loved ones, lives in a falling raindrop, the surface it seeks will remain a mystery. Until the point of impact, of course.

This post is not a condescending reminder. Or even meaningless rhetoric. By all means, I am fully aware of this not being the first time someone is advocating the act of calculated gratitude. Conversely, my intention is to communicate the infallibility of comprehending the temporal constitution we exist within. The material around us has a designated expiry date. The vegetation in our garden. The stars painted across the sky. The warm and affectionate gaze of our mothers. These things will fade. And we, as individuals, or as components of a whole, will eternally be defined by our comprehension of this reality, and consequently, our capacity to deal with it on a practical basis. A practical basis which takes root in our day-to-day life. Nothing is more humbling than the comprehension of our finiteness. When caught in life’s stormy streams, having to paddle vigorously against the current becomes an effortless task if you conceive the sea where every river meets. Seeking indifference to worldly matters allows your heart to be liberated from the vicissitudes of this world. And nothing is more cyclical than our existence. Not seeking undue elation in every success, and seething distress in every loss, is the formula for contentment.

Therefore, if you fear a loss, close your eyes and inhale faith. If you seek success, open your eyes and exhale belief. In trouble, pain and sorrow, or happiness, joy and elation- seek His countenance, and embody His decree. And submit. Submit to the ordinance which got you this far. My purpose isn’t to engage others in constant negativity. Rather to strap your camel, and then enjoy the ride. To know that a flower already lives in the seed, even if your crop didn’t flourish. At each and every separation; to not drown in tears, but rather remember the moments which breathed a smile. When the road gets rough, to always remind yourself of the map.

At every turning point, every pit-stop of pain and disappointment, we are pregnant with the possibility of gaining more from God. He waits for us to unfold our hands, and take this secret medicine. Some of us do, others wail in remorse, keeping their hands tied firmly tied behind their back.

If you believe the words above to be overtly idealistic, then feel free to ignore them. Although do not overlook a simple reality; the people who changed the course of history, or even our lives, learned to smile through sorrow and be contagious in their ability to do so. They certainly will not be infallible; nonetheless such individuals understand the essence behind every cut and graze. They will comprehend every loss and every grievance, yet apply unrelenting context. You can spend your life observing such individuals, talking about them, or even scolding them. Or, alternatively, you can become this person. As always, the choice rests with us. Until we truly awaken.

To close this week’s post, I have included an amalgamation of a few poems which befit the topic above. None of the work is mine, my input ceased at the conjoining of separate ideas. For another week, peace, salaam, and God bless you all.

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The ear in the centre of the chest speaks;

“Hear!”

“Hear what I have to say!”

“Who gets up early and adorns the dark, and suddenly discovers the moment light begins?”

“Who comes to a spring thirsty, and finds the moon reflected in it?”

“Is it not an oyster that opened his mouth, to swallow one drop…

Now there’s a pearl.”

Do you not understand? Did the prophets not dance with anklets of fire?

“Hear!”

“The stream knows it can’t stay on the mountain forever.”

“Leave and don’t look away from the sun as you go, in whose light

you’re sometimes crescent, sometimes full. “

Will you keep shining…

______________________

Love a Guy who Loves God.

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Salaam, shalom, and peace, everyone. It is about time I spread some drivel across your Laptop and Smartphone screens. I hope, with the Will of God, that time has been treating you well.

This week, as I scrolled through my Time Line on Twitter, I stumbled across a rather awesome blog post. Essentially, the article was a play on the expression, ‘Love a Girl who Loves God’. Now, I have no association with the person who wrote it, going by narrative alone, I can conjecture for her to be from the States or Canada. But that’s irrelevant, as her words, and the sincerity and sentiment behind them, really made for enjoyable reading. This post was personal, yet generic, and draws in, as much as it excludes. It lingers around sentiments of heartfelt rhetoric, but also the reassuringly real. Without further distraction, I’ll include a link to her post here;

http://vivalakhabatha.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/love-a-girl-who-loves-god/

I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Because I enjoyed it enough for me to create a personal version of her expression. The idea is exactly the same, and even the structure is consistent, but the perspective is that of a man, and the content is different for obvious reasons. I hope I can do some justice to her originality, and her sincerity. As much as I am not a fan of all things cheesy, I found this to be beyond pompous, self-worshipping ideals of love or relation. But please, prior to reading, I strongly suggest for you to read her article first. It’s very concise and can be finished quickly. Anyway, here goes.

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Love a guy who loves God. Love a guy who seeks Him in pleasure, and finds Him in pain. A guy who understands Him in love, and sees only humanity in hate. The boy who grew up thanking God for his muscles, but cried after his first fight. With his sister. Love a guy who wants for others, what he wants for himself. A guy who found God in his mother’s smile, and in his sister’s laughter. Love a guy who worries about his prostration, not the posture of others. A guy who let his Lord’s laughter, drown out the melancholy of scripture. Love a guy who has faith in God’s mercy. His compassion. His love for His own creation. Love a guy who claims he’s too cool to do the dishes, but helps his mum with the kitchen every night. A boy who dreamt of putting the devil in a headlock, but couldn’t sleep with the lights off.

Look for a guy who loves God. You will find him wandering. Not aimlessly. But with purpose and intent. He won’t be saving the world, he will be saving himself. He won’t be carrying others; he’ll be saddling his family. He will be gathering the pebbles, not telling tales of the mountain. Offer not your ears, rather gather some pebbles too. Seek not his, but find some of your own. He knows the manner in which he serves those closest to him; defines him. Pay heed, for you also might be his immediate one day. But don’t beleaguer his preoccupation, or his lack of time to give away. If you laugh through the rain, he’ll notice you. And don’t worry.

He will introduce himself.

He will tell you what he thinks of you. What he thinks of himself. He’ll be awkward, and cold, pretending to be more masculine than he is. He won’t ask of religion, he’ll seek it within you. He won’t hold back. He will observe more of your speech than you think. He will scrape past the surface, to see what ideologies define you. He will say they confine you. Call him hard-headed. A fundamentalist. Patriarch. Backward. Ask him about astronomy. You’ll be surprised how much he knows about the stars. Ask him, if in the darkest hour of the night, when the breath of humanity has betrayed him, when silence his ears have married, and the earth his brow has kissed; he feels doubt. Ask him what saddles his shoulders as he kneels. And you’ll hear a break in his voice. Pretend that you didn’t.

It’s easy to love a guy who loves God. You can please him, by pleasing his own. He’s not impressed by what you perceive. He is simpler than you think. He will be wildly impressed when you cook up a storm. Even if you forgot the salt. He’ll love you for your dreams. As long as they include him. You’ll please him through priorities. Through more of ‘us’, and less of ‘I’. You will please him by hiding his blemishes, and always seeking from the sky. Through overlooking in others, what you overlook in yourself. By pointing fingers, only when you’re polishing a mirror. Sometimes, he’ll throw you in the deep end. He will tell you shallow water doesn’t breed sturdy swimmers. Keep swimming. He will find solace in your scars. He’ll say they define you long after beauty has faded.

You’re his divine ascent. Or a clamber in vain.

Let him down. He’ll remain tight-lipped. He will let silence tend to the wound your words inflict. He will pray for you. He’ll be patient. Like you are with him. He will ride your waves, just as he enjoys your stillness. And the silent moments you share, which speak a thousand words, will crystallise the undeniable truth; you are two threads, weaving a single piece of fabric.

The place you find a guy that loves God, stay there. That place is emancipation. That place preserves God. He won’t let go of this place. It’s his liberation. It’s where he found his nature. He will shake at the thought of this separation. Remind him, that to time, this place is no captive. He will question his purpose, if he knows he brought you pain. Tell him it was a slip-up. Lie and say you’ve forgotten already. Remind him, we all make mistakes.

He will marry you after a struggle. There’s much suffering before gain. And he will wait. He will wait as long as destiny calls. And if the means to hurdle the wait, are defined by moments of silence, he will marry the strings of solitude.

When the moment comes, there will be elation like no other. A moment you won’t forget. He will forever attempt to recreate that glimpse. You will never tell him to give up, although you know it all the same. You will marry him in a house of purity. You will live to learn how he loves God. Sometimes you will envy this kinship. Sometimes you will argue about being second. Sometimes you will find solace in it the same. You will tear up when you see him and your son prostrate. You will hear him tell your son that God is the absence of hate. That God is the joy in pain. He will tell your son that God lives in the beggar’s empty hand, and how we should never look away.

Time will pass, words will wither, and actions will stay. The house will echo, the walls will tell a story, with only you two left to listen. You’ll make fun of each other’s wrinkles, and sing songs of yesterday.

Love a guy who loves God. Love him for you both seek the same. But before all that, there’s a road of strain. A seething sigh, much trouble and pain. But persevere, and have faith in God.

Why all this anguish, you whisper to him.

Water only fills an empty cup, he thinks.

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Ready to Depart

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Ready to Depart

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”The autumn leaf is poised to fall;
The rider’s foot is in the stirrup,
Mounted and ready to depart.
Soon I must also leave this world.
However many buildings I construct,
None can protect me from the demolition
I deserve.

Though born from the water of life,
Now I merely skim the surface as a bubble.
I am unable to bow my head in prayer,
Drowned as I am, in an ocean of sin.

When I consider what I’ve done,
I know I deserve each and every trouble.
Blacken my face with soot and
Parade me on a donkey.
I must admit
The truth before I go.”

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Abdur Rahmān Bābā (1653–1711)

 

Tears of gold…

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There’s suffering behind every set of lips.

Yet what is it to suffer, if our cries sing His melody,

And what is it to suffer, if scars thicken our skin.

There’s a tear behind every set of eyes.

Yet what is a tear, if it quenches the thirst of a wilting flower,

And what is a tear, if it forces our gaze on the earth whence we came.

There’s love in every believer’s heart.

Yet what is love, which whispers ‘me, myself and I’,

And what is love, seeping through liquid life.

Indeed, what are suffering, pain and love at all,

Without wisdom in the recipient to understand their worth.

He says, ‘Are lips not little but words,

A heart but a vessel of blood,

And our eyes nought but vision?’

Maybe so.

But a thousand pilgrimages later I’ve learnt,

It’s through our lips, we decorate life,

It’s in this tiny heart; we hold the grandeur of God,

And through our diminutive eyes, we behold the entire world.

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Vignettes of Wisdom

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Vignette I – Success

”To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch of a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.”

Vignette II – The Unseen

”We think having faith means being convinced God exists in the same way we are convinced a chair exists. People who cannot be completely convinced of God’s existence think faith is impossible for them. Not so. People who doubt can have great faith because faith is something you do, not something you think. In fact, the greater your doubt the more heroic your faith.”

Vignette III – Our Capacity

”Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than minority of them – never become conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?”

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..the laughter in our tears..

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Salaam, and peace. The following is an amalgamation of two poems by Mawlana Rumi. I’ve made slight amendments in enjoining two separate texts, and also to make certain messages more ubiquitous (and easier to absorb).

Nonetheless, the purity and beauty of his message is ever-present, and the amendments are minuscule in nature. The credit of ability is not diluted, nor sought to be diverged. I am aware of Malwana Rumi holding a significantly greater status than ‘poet and Sufi Mystic’ for certain individuals. With this in mind, I would like to apologise in advance if potential offence is taken due to the variation in wording. Any complaints, and I am more than willing to edit the post.

Apart from that, please, enjoy and gain, God willing, as much as possible.

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We expound our grief, staring at scars we so detest.

The cuts that so bleed.

Yet, a builder looks for the rotten hole where the roof caved in.

A water-carrier picks the empty pot.

A carpenter stops at the house with no door.

Workers rush toward some hint of emptiness, which they then start to fill.

Their hope, though, is for emptiness, so don’t think you must avoid it.

It contains what you need!

Dear soul, if you were not friends with the vast nothing inside, why would you always be casting you net into it, and waiting so patiently?

What the material world values does not shine the same in the truth of the soul.

You have been interested in your shadow.

Look instead directly at the sun.

What can we know by just watching the time-and-space shapes of each other?

Merely a temporal illusion, cascading the noise which drowns the flute,

Someone half awake in the night sees imaginary dangers;

the morning star rises; the horizon grows defined;

dark shadows suddenly become friends in a moving caravan.

Night birds may think daybreak a kind of darkness, because that’s all they know.

It’s a fortunate bird who’s not intrigued with evening, who flies in the sun we call ‘too bright’.

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Read it a few times, there’s much to mull over. Apart from that, until next week, Salaam, peace, and always, be safe.

Reflections in a glass-house..

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Salaam, peace and Shalom virtual BFFs. The sun is shining through the slanted blinds of my window, and I am sipping from my ever-so-perfect cup of coffee. Ah. Bliss. Life does feel infallibly warm and fuzzy at the moment. Until my gaze lands on an item in my room with the words ‘Madrid’ stamped across it. At this point I realise that it’s much sunnier in Madrid, people are in all likelihood much happier there, and that my life is a vicious cycle of distress and sorrow which will end in deep-rooted disappointment, and inevitable death. Screw Madrid. With all their sun, tasty fish and beaches. Eurgh. Hate sand. So… grainy.

Happy thoughts aside (o’ how I rain cheer and joy upon my readers eh), one thing I perpetually come across, probably even engage in, and am fascinated by, is the act of transposing judgments and assumption on those around us. It’s an act openly defiled by most of us, mainly on the premise of individual shortcomings nullifying the right one has to focus on those of others, and also because judging or ‘pointing fingers’ rarely leads to a positive outcome. Important to note, this post will not address the act of assuming upon and judging the behaviour of others from a simplistic ‘right and wrong’ perspective, which we often recognise at any rate, but rather from a deeper view that questions the basis through which we rationalise such behaviour, and some unspoken, but relevant actualities.

Interestingly, we judge others very openly in social media, the work place, within the family, and anywhere else, for that matter. Even more surprisingly, those who claim to detest or avoid any involvement, often remain unaware of its permeation into their actions, speech or intentions. It’s a slender line to tread on. We often need to judge or pass assumptions in order to understand one another. At the same time, err on the wrong side of caution, and we’re guilty of transposing the weaknesses of personal faculty onto others.

But then again, do we not have a right to judge and assume on the structure and nature of our surroundings, especially if our external environment, people or otherwise, can morph our being? There are visibly, and cognitively, few permanent elements in the constitution of our lives. Therefore in having to deal with a continuous plethora of change and dynamism, in people or our general surroundings, would it be foolish to suggest that some element of internal judgement or assumptions are key in successfully mediating external challenges? The answer might rest on our perception of the world, our life, and the kind of conduct that befits the places we occupy.

In contrast, the Qur’an simplistically, and even forcefully, emphasizes the individuality and uniqueness of man. I am sure other holy scripture rehearse in similar vein, although don’t feel compelled to rely on my assumption alone. With this reality in mind, one which sanctifies the individuality of man, with almost cerebral glorification, it becomes increasingly difficult to moralise an attitude which vilifies an individual through the transposition of judgements and assumptions, especially if we rarely possess scant exposure to said individual’s intentions or sincerity.

Intentions or sincerity. These two phenomena add a very distinct dimension to the discussion. Can we ever, with certainty, claim to know the intentions and sincerity of another individual? Extremely difficult; intention and sincerity are higher-consciousness thoughts. Very difficult to pinpoint, define, and rationally or evidentially prove. What we can define, or judge upon, are the results of intentions. Actions and outcomes. Personality traits. Characteristics. Habits. Things as such. What’s even more fascinating, is that habitual traits and characteristics, are often defined by choice. The motley of choices our life bestows often predicates the manner, and type of personality we embody. And this is where the discussion about passing judgement becomes very interesting. If humans are invariably defined by choice, which we can meekly gather from the previous few paragraphs, then at what point, if ever, does ‘judging’ become justified?

Think about the following. We all make mistakes, and often fail in the choices fate provides. I doubt the existence of many readers who claim to never have made mistakes, or acted upon wrong choices. In this sense, what makes you different than a murderer, or a political tyrant living on the other side of the planet? Can you, based upon having a completely different structure of choices and tests, sincerely claim the moral high-ground? Their choices revolve around taking the lives of others, or exercising political corruption; where they often fail in exertion. Our choices revolve around hurting the feeling of others, bringing good to our family, being honest, straying from haram; do we claim to have never failed in any of these tests? Profound, if you comprehend what is being implied. It seems, the only variant between us and those we dehumanise due to brutality and immorality, is the environment in which they exercise incorrect choices, that’s all. We are all susceptible to failure at life, some failures simply seem to be less socially and morally acceptable than others. Can we sincerely take credit for not having murdered someone yet, or regard ‘lack of political corruption’ as a reflection of meritorious character? Of course not, it would be absurd. Facts and research would suggest we all have suppressed urges, which remain repressed not due to piety, willpower or a sense of humanity, rather because of the social and psychological barriers which our environment has cocooned us with.

To elucidate this point; I have personally read about a study which might be of interest. The related research involved studying the most common characteristics of top business-executives and corporate leaders. These equated to traits such as confidence, intelligence, being highly manipulative and outspoken, amongst others. The most striking results related to the correlation of these traits with those of convicted criminals. The study found vast amounts of behavioural similarities between successful business-execs and convicted killers. It seems, as the previous suggestion goes, that one set of qualities in a given environment lead to very different results if applied elsewhere. In a rather revealing sense, the study carried out by Fritzon and Board, simply described the executives as “successful psychopaths”.

This brings us neatly to the answer of the initial conundrum in regards to passing judgement. If through humble realisation we recognise that it’s only fate, and the constitution of the life we are born into, which has cocooned us from committing some of the most horrific transgressions known to man; two subsequent lessons can be learnt. Firstly, it is not through your nobility or sense of soul that you possess a greater taste for morality than others. This credit rests solely with your Creator, who blessed you with birth in an environment where the road to his pleasure remains significantly less crooked. Secondly, if we lack the right to pass (excessive) judgement on even the most repulsive of people, where does this reality equilibrate with the notion of passing similar judgments in respect to those we simple dislike, disagree or live distinctly different to? Fact is, it doesn’t equilibrate. The right is simply lacking, and non-existent. Views that have to be passed with great caution in cases of extremity are simply nullified in cases of mild moderation. Let’s keep them to ourselves, in a dark corner of our mind, similarly sectioned to those desires which we consciously rebuke and consistently oppose.

If we lack the right to excessively judge the worst of us, then, if anything, we should crusade against the right to judge those adhering to different social, political or religious manifestations than our own.

To end this post, I’ll leave you with the following;

He, whose own being lacks goodness, feeds the hunger of his deprived soul with the faults of others.

Thanks for reading, fully aware that this was a long post. Although it required an analysis from a deeper perspective, in order to fully question our disposition. These are simply lessons I am being taught, which I am passing onto you. With the Grace and Will of God, may we all benefit.

Salaam, peace, and have a great week.

Forever in her shadow…

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Greetings, peace, shalom, salaam, my wanderers of the web. As I begin to write this week’s blog, I’d like to claim caffeine as the biggest evil in the world, at least out of the category of legalized substances produced for mass-distribution. It should be subject to the most stringent type of drug licensing requirements any overtly bureaucratic Western organisation can set. Why, you ask?

Having drastically limited my caffeine consumption over the past few days, primarily due to a lack of sleep deprivation and so on (which was the primary reason for over-consumption in previous weeks), I am officially getting dragged through migraine hell. The pain has reached a stage where I (reasonably) suspect someone to have laced my jar of Nescafe with heroin, and am now going through the withdrawal symptoms. It’s either that, or an invincible Woody the Woodpecker has been accompanying me for the past few days, pecking into my cranium with his pointy beak, excavating for some actual brain. I need to visit a clinic for this, as soon as, or at least talk to Frank. They should give out pamphlets warning us about coffee. Forget Class A substances, that stuff is for the weak and unadventurous. They need to join me on the dark side.

Anyhoo. Typically irrelevant introduction out of the way, something I wanted to consider, albeit belatedly, is an event which came and went, but left un-discussed. Mother’s day. Especially relevant for Muslims, I guess. Primarily because it has implications on our lives beyond those capsulized into a single day. Not to beat a dead horse, as my habit of scrutinizing Hallmark Holidays might suggest, but this is a rather crucial topic.

Over the years, you read, hear, and watch videos of various Shuyookh, Muftis and Ustads. From the point at which you initially begin to practice your faith, to the stage where it becomes the focal point of your life; as it should. The fascinating thing about the knowledge and wisdom I’ve absorbed during this time, partially revolves around the consistency of a particular message. Various Shuyookh and speakers have different styles and also different areas of focus, understandably so. Some focus on the social degradation of our communities, some on spiritual emancipation, and others on the importance of Dawah. Nevertheless, one specific message echoed consistently in every hall and mosque they decorated with words of insight and wisdom. Every time. Without fail. Unanimous importance accredited. And this was nothing other than the importance of our mothers. Every single one of them drove this message home, often to the point of exhaustion.

Yet it remains compelling, that the vast majority of Muslims and Muslimahs, practicing and non-practicing, fail to accredit this message with the importance it deserves. In all our attempts to struggle for the sake of Allah, we remain wholly incapable of fulfilling this fundamental tenant of Islam.

We have sisters fighting for the sake of women’s rights, and brothers seeking to emancipate the Ummah (me included, I am guilty before all else). Yet the only person which Allah swt has granted more rights over us than any other, stumbles around at home, catching a whiff of our shadow, here and there, in all its preoccupation. It’s fascinating to imagine the extent to which we have fooled ourselves. We really have. We strive, sacrifice, and claim, to be in pursuit of paradise. Carry out actions, dawah and social activism soaked in flamboyance, yet completely ignore that our efforts are owned, by right, in a hierarchical structure. And at the tip of that structure, sits your mother. This is a fact of Islam. Black and white. Shia or Sunni, Salafi or Sufi, completely consistent throughout.

Yet most of us ignore this hierarchy. We struggle for the world before we struggle for ourselves. We want to save the Ummah. We want to save Palestine. We want to save Syria. And we definitely should do. But please, all of you reading this, remember the following if you want to remember anything at all; worship your Lord the way He wants to be worshipped. Do not branch-off and create a mosaic structure of practise which fits your comforts. Allah swt has put the rights of your mother before that of the Ummah. Live by these priorities. Live by these realities. We will be held accountable. You don’t pray Tahajjud before getting the five fard prayers out of the way first. Similarly, you don’t attend rallies and spend hours raising awareness for the Ummah, if your mother sits in disdain or discomfort, or unsatisfied. Even slightly.

The point isn’t to disregard the plea of our Ummah, or the importance of intellectual strife; by all means, it is vital, but just to substantiate the critical (yet ignored) priorities which are in place. With the weight of responsibility upon our shoulders, can we even begin to comprehend the expectations Allah swt has decreed? That the ultimate reason a Muslim lives, to attain paradise, lies beneath the lowest and ruddiest part of your mother’s anatomy? Have we truly comprehended that message?

A point specifically for sisters; a man who does not look for Jannah below his mother’s feet, will rarely seek sincere love in his wife’s heart. Choose wisely. Most men who cannot unconditionally love, and devote their efforts to the happiness of an individual who bore them physically and emotionally for decades, will scarcely ever pertain to achieve similar for a woman they are casually introduced to at a marriage-friendly age.

Hazrat Umar (RA) was famously asked by a man who carried (yes, physically carried) his mother during Hajj, whether he bore sufficient recompense for all her sacrifice. Naturally, Hazrat Umar (RA) replied, ‘you haven’t repaid her a single contraction’. SubhanAllah. Not even one contraction. For all of you who have done Hajj, I am sure the mere task of carrying yourself in the now air-conditioned halls and streets of Mecca, was physically strenuous enough. But 600 (DC) Arabia, in the scorching heat, to carry another person on your back; unimaginable. Yet that profound effort didn’t equal a single contraction. Not a single one.

The perplexing issue here is, have we ever come close to carrying our mothers on our back?

I, personally, do not find these stories to be in a category of lessons we can much longer comprehend. It might be the reason why a lot of us seek inspiration and spiritual consumption from sources other than the Quran and Hadith. We struggle to contextualize the related facts and expectations. How do we conceive that the Nabbi (saw) declared our mothers to possess rights (over children) three times greater than those of our fathers? Simple fact, but again, profound implications.

Facts like the above truly mythicize Western notions regarding a lack of rights appropriated to Muslim women. Undeniably, female-rights are almost absent in most Muslim countries. Although the extent to which this is caused by tribal laws, feudal judicial systems and a complete lack of economic and educational development – is grossly downplayed. Inexplicably, one might be tempted to opinion that the current reincarnation of distasteful coverage appropriated to the role of women in Islam, might be fueled by underlying inhibitions of the truth. That being; the status of women in Islam is propelled to a level which societal fallacies won’t be able to reach. Thus the current narrative might be more ardently related to societal dispelling of an ideology which might be “too out of sight and reach”. Why promise her the stars, when you can hand her the flowers scattered around your feet, right?

A further assessment of the rights of Muslim women in financial inheritance, and even more so in matrimony, accentuate this reality further. Although that’s another blog post all-together.

Most of you probably needed scant reminding of the above, although I hope the post served some positive purpose. There is an underlying sense of comfort which might be threatened if we assess the implications of our priorities. How are we seeking to pleasure Allah (swt), and what priorities are we constructing in doing so? Are we worshiping Allah (swt) in the manner which He has ordained, or in a way which we find convenient? Or dare I say, fashionable? These issues are ‘closer to home’ than we think.

 I am certain if we knew the importance of every smile on our mothers face, we would lay claim to a million tears in its invocation. May we never regret the extent to which we struggled for our parents, insha’Allah. They are the yellow brick road all the way to Jannah. Let’s not complicate matters and lose track of this fact.

 I would like to close the post with a quote, but not one from a soothsayer or philosopher. Rather, this is a quote from someone I know, who lost his mother whilst in his twenties. Upon hearing it, I was significantly shaken, and had no option but to sit and reflect. Needless to say, it is a remark I will never forget. As we talked about the untimely death of his mother, and him dealing with it whilst having an amazing career, being on the path of Allah, and having gained significant respect from his peers and elders, a brief pause ensued, after which he said the following;

‘You know…,I would give up the world just to see her smile at me one last time.’

Subhan’Allah.

A poem, and the faculty of the self…

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Hola, peace, hello, Shalom, and Salaam, beautiful people/person – delete as appropriate. You know, if the shoes fits an’ all. You decide. Just be honest. This post will commence with a short poem which was personally written over the course of last week. Don’t worry its nothing ‘romantic’. Being a practicing unmarried Muslim means my expression of romanticism, within the confinements of the halal, is limited to, ”Sister, where is your Wali?”. Yeah, I know, Romeo got nothin’ on me. Anyway, here it goes;

_____________________________

A hollow land of decay, stumbling in strain,

Every step he lays forth – sinking in vain,

Worst are the whispers; echo and collide,

Voices diluting the pure which remains,

Scattering his thoughts- a conquerable divide,

Screams searing through his skin,

Exposing the void inside,

Chimeric perceptions flow therein,

Flawed fallacies ardently belied,

Soon he submits to withhold,

The voices afflict ruin, beyond that foretold,

Wounds transcend the vagaries, of place and time,

As the clocks of his faculty, began to whirr and chime,

How he misses the silence;

yet he dismisses in haste,

The voices expel a rhythm, his lips seem to grace,

Perhaps the inconceivable be true…

To his own the voices accrue.

_____________________________

As the adage goes, the only way to rid a work of art, expression or creativity from its intended impact and beauty, is by conducting a thorough ‘academic’ dissection. Obviously, this is what I will be doing to the above poem. Although not to suggest I regard it as a ‘work of art’, or anything close. Just merely drawing a rather simplistic, and maybe inept, comparison.  I am positive most of my readers have the ability to communicate better in writing than myself; judging by your tweets, status updates and blog posts. Anyway, here goes.

We often misapprehend, or simply ignore, that the faculty of our perception lies in our being. We tend to have dichotomous forces pulling us towards varying directions. The above poem seeks to accentuate that the source of separation may rest within us. The extent to which we see ‘lighter’ and ‘darker’ forces (or ‘voices’) externally, might be dictated by an internal light-switch. Images of the external help us visualise the material world, whilst ‘judgment’ categorizes and defines them, often into a chimeric perception.  The peak of the challenges we face, might be more of an internally contained phenomena than we would propagate. The control over these voices, and the source from which they originate, lies awake in our conscience. The cognitive harm they can inflict should not be underestimated, especially given the damage may be permanent, whereas our ability to react, remains temporary.

Indeed, ‘the dichotomy of night and day, might reside within us’.  It’s definitely thought for food. I will refrain from over-elaborating this point, as it requires personal reflection more than anything else. Mostly dependent on whether you have ‘time’ or the desire for such assessment. I will close this post with my favourite quote of all time. Bear in mind, I don’t regard religious texts as ‘quotes’ – before we jump to conclusions. The following excerpt left me absolutely confused at the first time of reading. I had no clue what it meant. Nil. Was a mix of gibberish. It is only at a later date, when coming across it again, I made an attempt to comprehend its message. And once I did, I was blown away. The best quotes, books or articles of expression are those that one must analyse, in order to understand. The most rewarding treasure is one which requires exploration. I probably have hundreds of quotes, self-written and borrowed, hidden away in virtual documents. Although, this trumps all by considerable measure;

”Yesterday’s ordinary drop of lukewarm aqua, transforming in the light, into a model of haughtiness and vanity, just to find out how dependent and repentant he is in the dark, without realizing that the dichotomy of day and night reside within him.”

I sincerely hope you appreciate it as much as I do. I think it tells us more about ourselves than we might be aware of. If you don’t ‘get it’ (as I didn’t initially), re-read it, even resort to the dictionary if it includes unfamiliar terms, you will find its definitely worth it in the end.

Peace, love, and for another week, thanks for reading. Salaam, and with the Will of God – take care.

Falling through love..

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Peace all,

As we all know, house-guests and visitors come and go, what remains is the dusty furniture, creaking floor, and of course, us. Greying away in our brittle abode, stumbling back and forth on a rocking chair, staring lifelessly at the fire-place (no, I am not depressed!). We also had a guest on this blog last week who, rather unconventionally, left us something behind. A post which raises interesting philosophical and physiological questions. But if his post was to match the house described above, it would resemble something of a half-built sofa. Providing a much needed resting place, before leading to an embarrassing fall if comforted on unsparingly. It was a post which enticed as much as it provoked. Providing a spot for reflection, before pulling the carpet from under our feet and leaving us dazed. GuestRambler would not be shocked to hear, that me, along with my readers, would like to see him finish what he started. Like half a beautiful painting, only the original artist can adequately apply the finishing strokes. GuestRambler – we keep you to your word.

Moving on, what interesting events and occurrences unfolded this week? One pressing ‘occasion’ does come to mind. Good ol’ Valentine’s Day. Every year, on the 14th of the 2nd, the final tattered remains of our values and analogies regarding love are dealt another severe blow, which coupled with post-modern divorce and co-habitation rates, blast our little remaining credibility on this matter into a vacuum of nothingness.

In my personal, and humble opinion (which I admit to be rife with immaturity and inexperience on the subject matter), the very notion of Valentine’s Day is an apt representation of our philosophy regarding love. The very idea of compartmentalizing the notion of love or responsibility is indicative of our shortcomings. The view that one can compress accountability into bite-sized chunks is fraught with skewed representations that our environment drills into us. Magazines, movies and the internet have perfected the idea of romance into a marketable product and stamped it with the ‘Tesco Value’ brand. It now waits for us in the aisles of expensive wedding brochures and ‘dream get-aways’.

One must wonder whether such pressure has done anything but decree ‘true love’ to be unobtainable. The glossy magazines have painted over the rough edges of marriage and relationships, which we as a society are increasingly incapable of dealing with. This might possibly be fuelling our dependency on ideas such as Valentine’s Day, which seek to capsulize expectations which are increasingly unrealistic.

Let’s not kid ourselves – there is a problem. Currently, 34% of marriages in the UK are ending in divorce. That is one in every three couples, i.e. for every three people within your social circle – there will be one divorce. Will you be one of them? Certainly, none of us are magically immunized. Scary thought. To further accentuate, 49% of these divorcees have at least one child. Indeed, we are not discussing an issue which effects in isolation. The epicentre of this problem might be at home, but the aftershocks are resonated across the different facets of society. The good thing about facts is that they (usually) leave less to be argued. With figures like those quoted above – it’s obvious there is a problem. What is the solution? I could not tell you a general one. What I can ascertain, is that it won’t resemble anything close to the modern laws of affinity which currently predicate our thoughts.

Personally, I think we seem to be in love with an ideology, out of which we expect an individual to sprout. Should it not be the other way around? Should our ‘better-half’ not solidify and help blossom our definition of love? Is the journey not in greater importance than the destination? Should an individual fit the lines of a predetermined blueprint – or instead help us design a distinct structure of living which encapsulates a place where twin desires, wants, hopes and dreams meet, rather than collide? I know my choice.

Do acts of romance or love need to be done in isolation? Should they be? Undoubtedly, such deeds exist not in solitude within healthy marital relationships, but rather in a mosaic set of challenging circumstances, which equilibrate to fit the notion of love. It is a much deeper bond, not based upon love for the self or the desire for a zenith experience, similar to that portrayed by Hollywood, but rather supplemented by the willingness to sacrifice, compromise and ultimately love for another.

Let’s keep our feet on the ground and build a criterion of expectations which are not only manageable, but also healthy and attainable. Let’s not construct Utopian ideologies of love which 90 minute movies, 30 second ads and 100 word articles have suddenly made plausible. Such lapses of perfection are only obtainable once every year (Valentine’s Day?). The higher the peak from which you aimlessly seek to fly, the greater the hurt upon your inevitable fall.

This article is not to taint or downplay the concept of love; rather, I find it to be the most important ingredient for a purposeful life. From our unrelenting love for God, to that love which breathes life into our ability to sacrifice, compromise and romance – it is vital. Although to fully utilise the potential of love, we must source it from the right place, and nourish it with the right expectations, lest it turn into a flickering flame, blown out by the winds of speculation and alchemic desires.

Until then, I certainly won’t be falling for Cupid’s arrows, which are laced with nothing but sprinkles of glamour, dopamine and some cheap caster sugar.

Apologies for the long post – hope you guys soldiered through to the end. I’ll leave you with the following:

Treat love not like alchemy – for you don’t fantasise about the real. Let it foster in a frictionless place within your mind, where the want is dissolved, and the will blossoms. Seek not to undermine this place, for a tiny heart can hold the grandeur of God, and through our diminutive eyes, we behold the entire world.

– ZK

Peace, ‘love’, and with the Will of God – have a great week.

The lion, the snake, and the mice.

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“A man stumbles through the depths of a jungle. As he tries to find his way through the sea of shrubbery, he awakens a lion which lay nearby. As the lion awakens in a sleepy rage, he sets upon the man without delay.  The man, fearing for his life, runs as fast as his legs can carry him, hurdling the tree trunks and leaves that lay ahead. As the man cuts through the jungle at blistering speed, he notices a well in front of him and jumps inside, hoping to escape the lion.

As he falls through the darkness of the well, he grabs onto a loose rope which nearly evades him.  The rope provides him with a moment of relief, as he wipes the sweat from his brow. Although, to the man’s horror, there slithered a venomous snake at the foot of the well, waiting patiently for him to fall.  With every hiss of the serpent’s tongue, the man tightens his clutch around the rope.

The man then looks up and suddenly sees two mice, both gnawing away at the rope. One of the mice is black, the other white, both slowly chewing away the barren threads. As the man’s heart pounds faster and faster, he is reminded of the lion above, who lets out an impatient growl.

The man’s muscles tighten, his head feels heavy, while his sweat turns cold in angst, as the snake’s hissing and the lion’s grumbling, drown out his thoughts. Suddenly, the man notices a honeycomb in front him. The honeycomb, in arms reach, was dripping in delicious, golden honey. He slowly raises his hand towards the honey comb, and sticks his finger into the soft surface, oozing in juice. The man then brings the finger back towards his mouth and delights in the moment, with the burst of delicious syrup in his mouth. As he savours the taste of the fresh and floral sweetness, the man, for a moment, forgets about the lion, the snake, and the two mice chewing at the rope.”

Before writing-off the above parable, and its intended wisdom, contemplate the following; imagine the lion to be death, always looming above us; think of the snake as the grave, which we all will inevitably face; consider the black and white mouse to be night and day, slowly nibbling away at our lives, in this case the rope. Day by day, the rope thins, and so does our clutch upon it, never knowing exactly when it will give way. And finally, and most importantly, try to comprehend the honey as this world, which through its momentary delight, makes us forget the reality that should indeed define us.

The sense behind the struggle…

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The remnants of an old conversation come to mind when addressing the importance of “struggling”.  The conversation, which took place between friends, was mostly based around a famous quote which defined spiritual and progressive emancipation as a consequence of human struggle. And as the abstrusity of life’s experiences now crystallise, and the lessons behind them demystify, the wisdom of this quote heavily resonates in my conscience.

Having parents who emigrated to Europe, with exposure to countless others of similar descent, I have a sense of appreciation for the struggle and hardships faced by the generations which had to physically transcend the laws of geographic disabilities, in search for better opportunities. Not to say that emigrants are the only group fit for such appreciation; the working class across the Western world (and beyond) deserve respect for acting as the whale which carries the world on its back. And history is further littered with examples of extraordinary individuals who withstood countless struggles in order to lay down a legacy for later generations. Not only are such individuals now in scarce supply, but also seem to have been painted over by the brush of history’s selective strokes.  I won’t include an exhaustive list here, but ask a modern feminist, for instance, who Louise Michel is and you may get fewer acknowledgements than the individual in discussion deserves. Indeed, today’s Nobel laureates would be yesterday’s village-folk.

If you were to get a short-list of some of the most influential people to have graced the surface of this world, you would, among otherwise spasmodic traits and qualities, find one pressing commonality. You would discover a single attribute which runs through the lives of said individuals, almost like a disease which continuously pulsated their efforts, providing life to their potential. That quality would be one which allows them to embrace the notion of ‘struggle’. Cast the net of your conscience far and wide, from Darwin to Darius the Great, Malcolm X to Mahatma Gandhi, Plato to Picasso and from Jesus to John Watt, they all had one common challenge, they had to struggle – and do so viciously, whilst make progression a by-product of this reality. In between them, they had to face every type of adversity, every type of resistance, from the medical to the marital – yet chose to embrace the struggle in order to progress. I invite you to do your own research, don’t rely on mine, read up about the 100 most influential and successful people since the dawn of history, and be not surprised when you find the above to be true.

It is the ability to run from that which is comfortable, to embrace setbacks, and to understand their value as the catalyst for achievement, which defines those mentioned above. It involves sourcing the light within ourselves, rather than aimlessly chasing the shadows on the wall, which do nothing but occupy the peripheral. Self-victimisation is something which we all are guilty of. From cursing our luck when stuck in traffic, to slandering our fate when life takes us to an unwanted path, or even ruing a lost love. Complaining, or self-pity, is as natural to us as wailing is to a new-born. In this state of pseudo self-analysis, we haphazardly miss the opportunity for growth, the opportunity to build our character and let our wounds become the place where light enters us. While we drown in our own tears when at the bottom of the well, the individuals named above would look for rope.

If we embraced every test, whether small or large, from helping others after a long day at work, to even spearheading charitable movements, we would find the outcome to make us stronger, and more ready to tackle future challenges, which we otherwise might have failed. Undoubtedly, passing a test today saves us from a failure tomorrow. Indeed, we are all engineered to seek comforts, all of us living a life which kings of the past might envy, but seeing the sense behind continuously testing ourselves, is a realisation which will be spared for a precious few. And the same individuals who are precious and few, will achieve all those things sought by the common and many.

With that, I bid you farewell, and leave you with the following poem;

”The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. 

Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? 

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?”

KG

Now a memory, soon a ghost…

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Sorry, I am not in my usual spot. You’ll have to be poet-less, for a while.

But then again; I am too.

Just warning of a temporary, and indefinite, absence. I hope you folks are well.

Salaam, love, and I’ll leave you with an extract which I hold very dear, perhaps, you’ll feel the same;

”What are sacrifices to an idealist? Just another kind of romance.”

 

Substitute to thought; a culture of quotes; trees or the forest…

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Here’s an extract from an article written by Teju Cole;

“In 1913, a compilation of Gustave Flaubert’s satirical definitions was posthumously published as “Le Dictionnaire des Idées Reçues” (“The Dictionary of Received Ideas”). Flaubert hated cliché, a hatred that expressed itself not only in the pristine prose of “Madame Bovary” but also in his letters and notes on the thoughtless platitudes of the day. “The Dictionary of Received Ideas” is a complaint against automatic thinking. What galls Flaubert most is the inevitability, given an action, of a certain standard reaction. We could learn from his impatience: there are too many standard formulations in our language. They stand in place of thought, but we proclaim them each time—due to laziness, prejudice, or hypocrisy—as though they were fresh insight.

Flaubert’s “Dictionary” inspired me to try something similar, over the course of a few hours, on Twitter. I think, also, there was the influence of Ambrose Bierce and his cynical “Devil’s Dictionary,” Samuel Johnson’s mostly serious but occasionally coruscating “Dictionary of the English Language,” and Gelett Burgess’s now-forgotten send-up of platitudes, “Are You a Bromide?” What the entries in these books have in common, in addition to compression and wit, is an intolerance of stupidity. As I wrote my modern cognates, I was struck at how close some of them came to the uninterrogated platitudes in my own head. Stupidity stalks us all.

AFRICA. A country. Poor but happy. Rising.

AUSTRALIANS. Extremely fit. Immune to pain. If you meet one, say “Foster’s.” The whole country is nothing but beaches.

BLUE. The color of purity. Countless mysterious ads are devoted to pads and liners that absorb blue liquid.

BUDDHISM. The way of peace.

CARAMEL. Term used to describe black women’s skin. No other meaning known.

CHILDREN. The only justification for policy. Always say “our children.” The childless have no interest in improving society.

CHOCOLATE. Term used to describe black women’s skin. No other meaning known.

CHRISTIANITY. Peace on earth.

COFFEE. Declare that it is intolerable at Starbucks. Buy it at Starbucks.

COMMUNITY. Preceded by “black.” White people, lacking community, must make do with property.

CRIME. Illegal activities involving smaller amounts of money.

DIVERSITY. Obviously desirable, within limits. Mention your service in the Peace Corps.

EGGS. Always say “you can’t make omelets without breaking eggs” whenever the subject of war comes up.

EVOLUTION. Only a theory.

FEMINISTS. Wonderful, in theory.

GERMANS. When watching football, “never rule out the Germans.”

HARVARD. Source of studies quoted on BBC. Never say “I went to Harvard.” Say “I schooled in the Boston area.”

HAUTE COUTURE. Always declare that it is made by gay men for boyish girls. Wait hours to see fashion exhibits at the Met.

HILARIOUS. Never simply say “funny.”

HIP HOP. Old-school hip hop, i.e., whatever was popular when you were nineteen, is great. Everything since then is intolerable.

HIPSTER. One who has an irrational hatred of hipsters.

ILIAD. Declare a preference for the Odyssey.

INDIA. Work your tolerance of or aversion to spicy food into the conversation as quickly as possible. “A land of contrasts.”

INTERNET. A waste of time. Have a long online argument with anyone who disagrees.

JAZZ. America’s classical music. The last album was released in 1965.

LITERALLY. Swear you’d rather die than use “literally” as an intensifier.

MEN. Always say “all the good ones are gay or taken” within earshot of the straight single ones.

MIGRANT. Mexican immigrant..

NEWSPAPERS. Bemoan their gradual disappearance. Don’t actually buy any.

NIETZSCHE. Say “Nietzsche says God is dead,” but if someone says that first, say “God says Nietzsche is dead.”

ODYSSEY. Declare a preference for the Iliad.

POET. Always preceded by “published.” Function unknown.

PUNS. Always say “no pun intended” to draw attention to the intended pun.

RACISM. Obsolete term. Meaning unknown.

REGGAE. Sadly, just one album exists in the genre.

RUSHDIE. Have a strong opinion on “The Satanic Verses.” Under no circumstances actually read “The Satanic Verses.”.

SMART. Any essay that confirms your prejudices.

SUNSET. Beautiful. Like a painting. Post on Instagram and hashtag “no filter.”

TELEVISION. Much improved. Better than novels. If someone says “The Wire,” say “The Sopranos,” or vice versa.

TOUR DE FORCE. A film longer than two and a half hours and not in English.

VALUES. “We must do whatever it takes to preserve our values.” Said as a prelude to destroying them.

VIRGINITY. An obsession in Iran and in the olive-oil industry. It can be lost, like a wallet. ”

I’m a fan of this article. It has obvious comedic value but also addresses the increasingly prominent issues around rhetoric. A ‘dictionary of received ideas’ is a brilliant way to portray how independent thought and informed speculation is encumbered by standard-form reactions, often saliently. The unchallenged use of platitudes and the resulting  impact on our mental faculties is addressed further by Teju Cole, more specifically in the form of a common viral obsession; inspirational quotes:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that analysis, no matter how torturous, will be reduced to its most “inspirational” quote. Thinking about unquotability, irreducibility, downworthiness and about how the consolation of the quotation can short-circuit justice. But none of us can resist the lure of these stupid aphorisms. Writing them, sharing them. Sugary calories in 140-character servings. America itself becomes a quote-only zone. The politician’s “misspeak.” The president’s fine sentence in a speech. While the drones drone on. The mistake is to separate inspirational quotes mania from the ideological conditions that confine people in sentimentality culture. Sentimentality culture is inspirational quotes, solutionism, white saviorism, un-intersectional feminism and, yes, the Global War on Terror.”

He goes on to qualify his critique quite brilliantly:

“But (I warn myself): so much social critique comes down to “my consolations are superior to yours.” Why begrudge people their pleasures? ”

Can’t argue with that. There are more worrying vices than the occasional dip in the paddle-pool of bite-sized-borrowed-wisdom. Nonetheless, here’s another excerpt from a book I am currently reading by Guy Lyon Playfair which compliments the argument put forth by Cole;

“Most serious of all is our built-in bias away from the general and towards the specific. By focusing the tree at the expense of the forest it promotes superficiality at the expense of depth.”

These three extracts rest on the same pivot. Standard form reactions based on built-in semantical triggers cause a lack of cognitive independence and unintended conformism to quarter-arsed attempts at comprehension. This often fuels our propensity to find solace in ‘inspiri-quotes’ that warrant pseudo-analysis and little commitment (guilty as charged- this blog actually has a quotes section, dammit!), which congregates into a superfluous understanding of subjects such as religion, love and success, amongst others. It causes us to to overlook the basics in almost every aspect of life.

This was just a reminder for all of us. I won’t get into further specifics; you may draw your own conclusions. I feel there is a sense of truth in these extracts for all of us. In our obsession with the heavens, let’s not overlook the earth as our means of attainment (quote?).

A Dawn Misplaced…

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A Dawn Misplaced

His journey won’t begin without you;

The saddle won’t sit the same,

A wingless flight, an ascent in vain,

You both grew at a distance,

But the winds of God, bent your branches the same,

The ocean of your eyes, he hasn’t yet swam.

Only a seashell to hear the sounds of your sea,

Only autumn leaves, to see your summer in,

‘I believe your promises’, engraved within,

Latent desires, alive with a spring,

Now he feels, at arms’ length to your shore,

Praying your waves, don’t evade him more,

In the night, he spoke,

To his Lord, with hope;

‘Of this kindling let my heart not be bereft,

Of what use is a candle that unlit is left?’

Ambition..

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Ambition

Three men met at a tavern table. One was a weaver, another a carpenter and the third a ploughman.
Said the weaver, “I sold a fine linen shroud today for two pieces of gold. Let us have all the wine we want.”
“And I,” said the carpenter, “I sold my best coffin. We will have a great roast with the wine.”
“I only dug a grave,” said the ploughman, “but my patron paid me double. Let us have honey cakes too.”
And all that evening the tavern was busy, for they called often for wine and meat and cakes. And they were merry.
And the host rubbed his hands and smiled at his wife; for his guests were spending freely.
When they left the moon was high, and they walked along the road singing and shouting together.
The host and his wife stood in the tavern door and looked after them.
“Ah!” said the wife, “these gentlemen! So freehanded and so gay! If only they could bring us such luck every day! Then our son need not be a tavern-keeper and work so hard. We could educate him, and he could become a priest. 

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C.S. Lewis…

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A few of my favourite excerpts from C.S. Lewis’ work;

“What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

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“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is Hell.”

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“When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.”

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“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

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“I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner. …I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life — namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.”

 

The Mountain & Me…

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_______________________________

The Mountain & Me*

As I lie in this desolate valley, staring up at the mountain before me,

The stars adorning the sky, above this giant’s peak,

I find comfort in my struggle to emulate this sight before me,

I spend my days wondering how best to attempt this ascent,

To the watch tower of the world,

Admiring and desiring to match its excellence,

As the sun sets on my days,

I painfully reckon,

The haunting realisation that I should have desired to seek no more than to be at the foot of this mountain,

My arrogance and obsession with the grandiose consumed my mind and sight,

It blinded me from the pebbles this gracious mountain offered me through all my years,

These pebbles taught me more than the mountain ever did,

I now scale this hill with little infatuation for its majesty,

For I realise that most of my days will be spent on its lowly slopes,

I have lost friends, foes and even a true love on my journey to the summit,

Yet at the tip of this mountain I’ve come to discover the treasure which evades all but its conquerors;

the ascent defined me more than the peak ever will.

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*Please note- I did not write this piece in its entirety. Part of this text was sent to me by a friend. I appeciated the style of writing, and the underlying message. Resultantly, some additions were made in creating the final post above. Hope you enjoy it. Peace, salaam, and take care.

Impulse Acquitted…

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I find it impossible to carry out certain tasks half-heartedly. Of course, there are some notable exceptions (e.g. writing up a 30 page report to my boss at 2am concerning the impact of a new foreign exchange system being deployed by our client). However, issues surrounding emotional input or commitment either consume me in whole, or exclude me in totality. There is no middle way, unfortunately. This is problematic for various reasons. Fellow sufferers of this condition, which I’ve handily dubbed obsessive-committal-syndrome, may care to empathise. Thick skin and a tinge of indifference can often act as a measure of security. Yet there are times when such cavalier dispositions are swiftly banished by deflating emotional-barriers. The outcome is a continuous mental preoccupation which is highly consuming, amongst other things.

I wrote the passage below in my attempt at describing sentimental impulses which we often seek to arrest. Or ultimately, fail to. Obviously, the description below is idealistic (I’m a dreamer). I can acknowledge this much. Although, in my defence, the last paragraph does add a measure of realism. I hope you enjoy the short read.

For another week, peace, salaam and take care- my dudes, dudettes, and everything in-between.

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Impulse Acquitted

The scent of sentiment will eventually seep through. The dams you construct will spill over. The floods of feeling will engulf your townships. Floods of devotion. Of intensity. Passion. A day will come when you’ll let someone walk across the floor where brittle creeks you once hid.

You will assail this breach. You will be joined at the wrist with the perpetrator- guiding them through the prisms of your glass which life shattered into countless pieces and dispersed across the horizon. But every so often, both of you will roll the fragments together, not to rekindle your reflection, but to recreate clusters of union which out-shadow the past and sanctify your wholeness.

The streams that once breached with aplomb will flow uncurbed into channels of serenity. They will complete the being of a man who seeks less than the heavens promise. One who has been compelled to live through a time-interval between the consciousness of you, and the fulfilment of us.

Yet, do these words really describe our universe? Isn’t language just a silver-tongued lie? Are words not the impure and unavailing ancestors of our actions? Does happiness not look pretty squalid in comparison to the romance of misery and sacrifice? And have you ever considered that the idea of certainty might not live up to expectations?

These are life’s mysteries we can uncover together. The answers may bruise us, but let’s learn to laugh at our injuries, not madden under them.

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My Friend…

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My Friend

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” If you but knew, my destitute friend, that the poverty that sentences you to wretchedness is precisely what inspires you with a knowledge of justice and allows you to perceive the essence of life, then you would be content with the destiny ordained by God. I said ‘knowledge of justice’ because the attention of the wealthy is diverted by their treasures from this knowledge. And I said, ‘the essence of life’ because the powerful are distracted therefrom by their pursuit of glory. Rejoice, then, in justice because you are its tongue, and in life, because you are its book. Be glad, for you are the source of virtue on those who take your hand.

If you but comprehended, my forlorn comrade, that the burdens that have defeated you are the same power that illumines your heart and elevates your soul from the plane of ridicule to the station of esteem, then you would be content therewith as your inheritance and would accept its effects as your mentor. You would know that life is a chain with links, some intertwined with others, and that grief is a golden link that divides acquiescence in the outcomes of the present from the enjoyment of the delights of the future, just as morning divides sleep from the waking.

My friend, poverty manifests the nobility of the soul, and opulence brings out its blameworthy tendencies. Sadness lends delicacy to the emotions, whereas joy sullies them. For human beings still employ riches and joy as means to excess, just as they commit evil in the name of the Book that forbids it, and do in the name of humanity what humanity disavows.

Were poverty to be wiped and sorrow to vanish, the soul would become a blank scroll save for the characters that signify egotism and a love of aggrandizement and words that connote earthly appetites. For I looked, and found divinity, the spiritual essence in the human beings that cannot be bought with lucre nor augmented by the pleasures of libertines. I contemplated and saw the affluent forsaking their divinity and safeguarding their wealth, and the slaves of the age abandoning their divine selves to follow their pleasures.

The hour that you spend, you the destitute, with your wife and little ones after you come from the fields is a symbol of the human family of the future, a token of the happiness of coming generations. The life that the rich pass among their assets is a contemptible life that recalls the burrowing of the worms in graves; it is a symbol of fear.

The tears that you spill, you the sorrowful, are sweeter than the laughter of snobs and the guffaws of scoffers. Those tears cleanse the heart from the filth of rancour and teach the one who sheds them how the broken-hearted shares his feelings; they are the tears of the Nazarene.

The power that you sowed, you the poor, which the rich and powerful have exploited, will return to you. For the law of nature is that things return to their source. The tribulation you have endured, you the grief-stricken, will be transformed into bliss by the edict of heaven.

Coming generations will learn equality from poverty, and love from woes.”

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Between Reality and Fantasy

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” Life has borne us from place to place, and the fates convey us from one spot to another, but we see only the obstacles that stand in our way and hear only the voice that terrifies us.

Beauty manifests itself to us on the throne of its splendour, and we draw near to it; in the name of yearning we defile its hem and pull of its diadem of purity. Love passes by us cloaked in a robe of kindness, but we fear it and conceal ourselves in the grottoes of darkness; or we follow it and commit outrages in its name. The wise among us construe it as a heavy yoke, but it is more delicate than the breaths of flowers and more subtle than the breeze of Lebanon. Wisdom stands at the turn in the road and calls upon us publicly, but we consider it false and despise its adherents. Liberty summons us to its table, that we might savour its wine and fare; so we go and make gluttons of ourselves, transforming that table into a stage of vulgarity and a scene of self-abasement. Nature extends to us the hand of loyalty, asking from us that we delight in its comeliness; but we fear its quietude and take refuge in the city, where we crowd in upon another like a flock of sheep that spies a hungry wolf. Truth visits us, led by a smile of a child or the kiss of a beloved, but we slam the door of our emotions, excluding it and abandoning it like a vile criminal. The human heart appeals to us for help and the soul calls out to us, but we are more deaf than a stone, unable to comprehend or understand. And when anyone listens to the cry of his heart and the call to his soul, we say, ‘That one is possessed,’ and we wash our hands of him.

Thus pass the nights, while we remain heedless. The days greet us, but we are frightened of both days and nights. We draw near to the earth, gods join our company; we pass by the bread of life, and the famine feasts on our faculties. How beloved life is to us, and how remote we are from life. ”

Majnun and the King…

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“ The King of Arabia heard of the story of Majnun’s love for Laila and called him to his court. “What have you seen in her that makes you so distracted that you always cut your hand when you peel an orange?” “Many have asked that, but if only you could see her…” The King searched and brought Laila forward; She was thin and dark, less appealing than the least of his harem girls. “Ah,” said Majnun, “you must see her through the wicket of my eyes. There is a great difference between holding a little salt in your hand,

…and putting it on a wound.

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Undeniably, there are different ways in which the passage above can be perceived. The lens through which we analyse, assess, and acknowledge- is often constructed through whims more arbitrary then we care to admit.

Even the likes of Freud, who rejects the idea of free will, and postures that human behaviour is predetermined by unconscious motives that are shaped by biological triggers and early childhood experiences- does not renounce the uniqueness or ideography of human perception.

With that in mind, perhaps it’s the unrelenting romancer in me who understands the passage above as so;

In accomplishing empathy with another’s emotions (which in this scenario seem to be synonymous to a wound), we must not only possess or fall witness to the cut itself, but also comprehend its depth. And how better to test the sting of a wound, then to sprinkle over it some salt? And if you possess not the wound, but only the salt- you’re numb to the thorns of Majnun’s love.

Just as if you’ve lived, but only thus breathed- you’ve not really lived at all. And if you’ve loved, but not suffered the hours of separation- perhaps you’ve not yet loved at all. And if you’ve built sandcastles, but not witnessed the inevitable waves of destruction- perhaps, you’ve not yet acquainted with the sea. In vein similar to the king, if one bares little but the salt, the depth of a wound will land stale on his heart, which is a dogma oft repeated by those carrying wounds of hope, love and divine transcendence to others who stare at us puzzlingly…whilst clutching some salt in their hand.

Or perhaps, as my old (perverted) friend Freud might suggest, it’s simply a genetic and cultural disposition of being South-Asian, where love for sodium-laden food is rife, which makes me fond of all this salt related talk.

Who knows…

Salaam, love, keep safe, and keep smiling.

A Virgin of Will…

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A Virgin of Will

What was whispered to the rose, causing its blossom?

Only its withered petals will know.

What contained the musk, on Joseph’s shirt?

Only the eyes of Jacob will know.

What was said to the heart, causing its beat?

Only its final breath will know.

What was prayed for at dawn, to find redemption at noon?

Only the supplicating mute will know.

What sees the moth, in the scolding flames?

Only its charred wings will know.

What was fed to the mule, to cause its gallop?

Only Halima’s breast will know.

What possesses these slaves, who polish their shackles?

Only the smiling Key-bearer will know.

O, lover of Light…

Seek not these fleeing answers.

Questions and answers are but milk-sisters,

Each bathes in the other’s dirty water,

Let not knowing be your baptism.

Walk to edge of Love,

Find God to be its circumference.

Take a leap off this cliff- defy all reason,

And as you fall, down this ascend,

To the demise of your mind,

You’ll realise,

You were writing with wings.

Short stories…

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Salaam, and greetings. Those of you who have (or will) visit the blog today in eager anticipation of my imminent return have provided the clearest indication that, you, basically, love me. If you ask me, it’s a pretty apt acid test; pencilling in the date of my return which was announced over a month ago, and marking my homecoming by eagerly checking the blog at the day’s commencement. It’s fine. Denial is the first hurdle.

The rest of you casually checking-in over the course of the following week are just wayfarers. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing. But whatever. I hate you. You make me feel like an unloved and neglected child. Woe unto you! Amongst other things.

The traditionally irrelevant introduction aside; let’s move onto matters more serious. If you can call them that. You probably can’t, because they’re not really, ‘serious’. You get what I mean though. Whatever.

My intention is to add another section to the blog which will (hopefully) tickle your interests. Most people who regularly read blogs possess the tendency to enjoy reading in general. I am certain many of you have favourite authors, books, and so on. With this in mind, I considered it a good idea to include a section devoted to short stories, ancient adages, and well-known parables.

Due to most of us possessing a 2-minute attention span on the internet (I blame Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook), the stories to be included will be relatively short. I contemplated including longer texts, but very much doubt that will work. And here is the most important part; none of the writing included within this particular section is mine. All of the borrowed material will be included with quotation marks. However, I will fall short of disclosing the source, as that is something I generally avoid doing, for reasons beyond many.

So without further verbal-hubbub, here’s a link to the new section below. Insha’Allah you guys enjoy some of these as much as myself.

https://sundaymorningrambles.wordpress.com/short-stories-new/

Thanks for reading, and for another week; take care. I’ll end with the following quote below.

Accrue as much time required to reading and commenting on blogs where the author includes a section on short stories – for this will enrich your soul and do lots of other good stuff. Yeah.

– Some Clever and Philosophical Guy.

The universe of ‘you’…

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You sleep. You wake up. Suddenly everything is different. Or at least something is. The loss of something you cherished has left an imprint on your cognitive skin. Or maybe it’s the presence of something that bothers you. Who knows. Different people. Different lives. Different scenarios.

Although there is a constant.

There always is.

It’s the waves. The ups, and the downs. The presence, or the absence.

The cyclicality of life always baffles me. What baffles me more is our ignorance of this reality. If one standardises, we can (roughly) determine life to be half joy, half despondence. Good most of the time, bad sometimes, right? So, doesn’t it seem illogical, that we only choose to deal with half? To acknowledge and learn to deal with only the positives? To live in half? To breathe half a life?

To deal with this cyclicality, we should be honest with ourselves. Painfully so. And in order to reach this place of sincerity, I often turn inwards. But our times are so externalised, it’s impossible. Or, it nearly is. Society progressively resembles a mass gathering of eggshells, which every so often, knock into each other as a means of interaction. And this is true of Muslims, just as much as those we label unbelievers. We exist in an age where even the most intangible of phenomena, such as spirituality, is being materialised. Spirituality is the yolk, if not the metaphysical epicentre, of faith. Yet something so deeply salient and unapparent is plastered across Facebook, Twitter and other social networking applications. Often not for calculated benefit, but for tangible imagery. To make faith something you can see. Or touch. Or read. My aim is not to deter the sharing of knowledge, where deemed reasonable. But rather that people define religiosity as an externalised phenomenon. Rather that, if you have a beard, upload Surah’s of the Quran on Instagram, and excessively use religious platitudes in conjunction with banal Arabic terms which lazily evoke God’s Will; you’re religious. A lack of hijab or outward display of faith, and you’re spiritually stumbling. And it’s this externalisation of something that is deeply transient which causes an internal collapse. Undoubtedly, the physical manifestation of religious requirements is not wrong (i.e. the hijab or a beard). But the climaxing of faith at the advocating of such tenets, along with a few rushed prayers, accentuates the direness of our predicament.

It begs the question, when have you faced your internal universe? I’m not alluding to the plethora of meaningless talk inside your mind. My reference is to the plantation in your mind where no language exists. A place of real harvest. Real truth. When do you turn away from the external, and face this painfully honest place. To see yourself, and the universe of the ‘you’, as it is. And, most importantly, to ask yourself the really difficult questions. Questions that might impact how you wake up the next morning. How you behave. What your priorities are.

Think about the following exercise. Close your eyes (if you’re a willing participant), and name three things that are most important to you. Done? Now read on. Certainly, there will be some outliers, but here is a standardised list to which most of us will be subject to.

  1. God (i.e. faith)
  2. Parents (i.e. family)
  3. Passion (i.e. friends, career or academia)

The vast majority of us will regurgitate the set of priorities above. Strikingly, if you take a step back, and are painfully unbiased, how much of your time are you actually accruing to this order? The typical answer will dance around the following tune; ‘I have a degree to finish’, ‘I have college’, ‘my job takes most of my time’, or ‘indirectly I am adhering to these priorities’. Rest assured, I know of these excuses. Mostly, because I’ve used them, and still do. The real nail in this coffin of self-reassurance is that these excuses are indefinite. This is what I’ve learnt personally. We have a set of priorities, and our practical lives sway from these rather profusely. We counter this contradiction by saying, “well, currently I am occupied in xyz, after this I’ll do what I can’’. Here’s a telegram, this is a never ending cycle. I thought after I ace my education and degree, I can really breathe life into the list above. Subsequently, with only the Grace of God, I managed to get the best job I could find in my field. And, lo and behold, my current appropriation of time is even less truthful to this hierarchy. When I settle down in the near future, this contradiction will be exasperated.

My suggested panacea to such a conflict isn’t to live a life confined to a prayer mat, whilst camped outside of your parents’ bedroom. Not at all. Rather, by asking such difficult questions, and looking within ourselves, we often open a road of self-awareness and truth. And by being honest, we commence an internal market of sincerity. In such a place, the only trade is action. A response. Since the reality above has been portrayed to me, nothing has drastically changed. Except the recognition of this truth, ofcourse, and my consistent propensity and willingness to rebalance the scale. The outcome has been purely beneficial. A truthful assessment of my real priorities has motivated me to rescale my time, where I can. It has often done wonders. I have the same job, the same timetable, but now remain more aware of the subtleties, and often act upon them where possible. And most importantly, I am more acclimatised with being truthful to myself. To resist myself with the same strength I resist others, to deal with my mental arrogance, and finally, to tackle the crucible of self-mastery. Our most important battle.

My advice, if you call it so, is not a breeding ground of personal opinion or outlook. If you read into the work of great Islamic thinkers, from the current (bronze) age to the (golden) past, the consistency in narrative is resonant, and also very reassuring. If you really focus on the nuances, the subtleties, there is compelling harmony in the principle message. From Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, to Al-Ghazali and Ibn Arabi. There is consistent talk of priorities, of truth, of solace in solitude, of focusing on the basics of faith, and most importantly, the culmination of such ideals into a realm of spiritual stability.

Every so often, take a step back, be honest with yourself, and converse deeply. Rest assured, He will be listening intently. This honesty will take you places. It will help you deal with the ups and the downs. It will force you to rebalance the scales as much as possible, and often, it will draw a smile on the faces you cherish the most. You’ll keep moving forward. And rather than trying to live in each moment, you will learn to make each moment live.

Your life, your heart, or even your eyes, can turn towards a different reality at blistering speed. Undue and unexpected elation, or unwanted distress, are self-inviting creatures. They don’t knock much. God taught them little manners. Wisdom will forever live in always keeping your house tidy.

I hope I didn’t ramble for too long or cause offence in my writing. Please keep in mind, the shortcomings I highlight are always my own.

I will end this post with a beautiful quote I came across recently;

“This place where you are right now,

God circled on a map for you.”

It’s beautiful because it equates life to a map. All of us know where we are going- this ‘final destination’. Defining the harvest we seem to be good at. But the first thing you do when you come across a map, is to locate the red dot. The “you are here” sign. That’s the tricky part.

It begs the question, right now, if you unfold the map, where do you find yourself?

Be honest.

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I will leave it here. Just to note; I am taking a virtual-detox, and won’t be writing anything for the next 4-6 weeks. The next post will probably be on November the 17th (not that any of you care!). Until then, Salaam, peace, love, and always remember; live as if every breath is borrowed.

Auguries of Loss…

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What am I, but a handful of yesterdays.

This loss, and that gain; think of them as daybreak.

They’ll come around again.

All these false dawns, only our final sunrise will expose.

These inimitable winds, they’ll soon sweep you.

We spend life running; different paces.

To get to the same destination.

Have you ever thought about that?

We’re that sea oft moving, sometimes staying still..

..your shores complete you.

Maybe you are what you seek.

Maybe it’s within you.

We stare out of these windows, perhaps we peak in from the outside?

We think our loved ones perish; perhaps we are of the dead.

We drown in this drop; perhaps they come alive in the ocean.

These losses, they’ll come around again.

Every goodbye is a broken melody.

Perhaps the symphony we haven’t yet heard.

This world breathes in the death of sound.

We hear so much- yet never listen.

Sleep in the lap of experience, and surrender your dreams to imperfection.

You’re a tear running down the world’s face.

Happiness may sprout, when you’re wiped away.

Heaven sees no sunsets.

All that you lose, goes to a place of greater love.

And if it’s that, which you cannot replace,

What it gave you; you must become.

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Hope…

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”Hope never to believe it is your duty or right to harm another simply because you mistakenly believe they are not you.
 
Hope to understand suffering as the hard assignment even in school you wished to avoid.
 
…But could not.
 
Hope to be imperfect in all the ways that keep you growing.
 
Hope never to see another not even a blade of grass that is beyond your joy.
 
Hope not to be a snob the very day Love shows up in love’s work clothes.
 
Hope to see your own skin in the wood grains of your house.
 
Hope to talk to trees & at last tell them everything you’ve always thought.
 
Hope at the end to enter the Unknown knowing yourself. Forgetting yourself also.
 
Hope to be consumed to disappear into your own Love.
 
Hope to know where you are –Paradise–if nobody else does.
 
Hope that every failure is an arrow pointing toward enlightenment.
 
Hope to sin only….
 
in the service of waking up.
 
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A flower in the seed…

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Good health is a flickering thing. Spiritual statisticians would claim it a phenomena which is negatively correlated with the idea of gratitude. When one increases, the other sharply decreases. On the surface at least, the logic seems watertight. In good health, we are cognitively predisposed to overlook the most trivial of biological blessings. Deduct the most insignificant of physical convenience, or even the threat of withdrawal, and we suddenly find ourselves unhinged without constant gratitude.

For instance, when is the last time you were appreciative of breathing without significant difficulty? If you’re a distinctly average person, like myself, such inartificial reflection will rarely permeate your thoughts without an external trigger. That said, in this year alone, nearly four million people will suffer from severe breathing difficulties. This condition will often impact their lives in extreme ways. Let us take it a step further. Think about your family members. Stories of death, injury, or the development of a terminal condition, are all around us. Yet, sincere reflection on our exemption from such calamities rarely predicates our thoughts, at least on a consistent basis. And if it does, such moments more aptly represent scattered practice, as opposed to a uniform approach.

Is forgetfulness of that which we possess an innate human propensity? In personal analysis, or at least on initial impressions, this particular assumption can be deemed reasonable. Even those of us who claim to be persistently grateful for good health, and the immeasurable blessings that are attached, might be guilty of subconscious dishonesty. We are predisposed to yearn presence in absence, and overlook absence in presence.

Pain and loss dominate the design of our constitution. Our reality. And a highly advanced civilisation, which is addicted to preoccupation and entertainment, excels in divorcing us from this recognition. A recognition of our time-bound nature. An understanding which highlights that we, our family, and friends; will perish. External endeavours, whether they are social, economic or ideological, further compound this divorce. And through the instruments of life, God shows His inconceivable mastery at reminding us of this constitution. That our existence, and that of our loved ones, lives in a falling raindrop, the surface it seeks will remain a mystery. Until the point of impact, of course.

This post is not a condescending reminder. Or even meaningless rhetoric. By all means, I am fully aware of this not being the first time someone is advocating the act of calculated gratitude. Conversely, my intention is to communicate the infallibility of comprehending the temporal constitution we exist within. The material around us has a designated expiry date. The vegetation in our garden. The stars painted across the sky. The warm and affectionate gaze of our mothers. These things will fade. And we, as individuals, or as components of a whole, will eternally be defined by our comprehension of this reality, and consequently, our capacity to deal with it on a practical basis. A practical basis which takes root in our day-to-day life. Nothing is more humbling than the comprehension of our finiteness. When caught in life’s stormy streams, having to paddle vigorously against the current becomes an effortless task if you conceive the sea where every river meets. Seeking indifference to worldly matters allows your heart to be liberated from the vicissitudes of this world. And nothing is more cyclical than our existence. Not seeking undue elation in every success, and seething distress in every loss, is the formula for contentment.

Therefore, if you fear a loss, close your eyes and inhale faith. If you seek success, open your eyes and exhale belief. In trouble, pain and sorrow, or happiness, joy and elation- seek His countenance, and embody His decree. And submit. Submit to the ordinance which got you this far. My purpose isn’t to engage others in constant negativity. Rather to strap your camel, and then enjoy the ride. To know that a flower already lives in the seed, even if your crop didn’t flourish. At each and every separation; to not drown in tears, but rather remember the moments which breathed a smile. When the road gets rough, to always remind yourself of the map.

At every turning point, every pit-stop of pain and disappointment, we are pregnant with the possibility of gaining more from God. He waits for us to unfold our hands, and take this secret medicine. Some of us do, others wail in remorse, keeping their hands tied firmly tied behind their back.

If you believe the words above to be overtly idealistic, then feel free to ignore them. Although do not overlook a simple reality; the people who changed the course of history, or even our lives, learned to smile through sorrow and be contagious in their ability to do so. They certainly will not be infallible; nonetheless such individuals understand the essence behind every cut and graze. They will comprehend every loss and every grievance, yet apply unrelenting context. You can spend your life observing such individuals, talking about them, or even scolding them. Or, alternatively, you can become this person. As always, the choice rests with us. Until we truly awaken.

To close this week’s post, I have included an amalgamation of a few poems which befit the topic above. None of the work is mine, my input ceased at the conjoining of separate ideas. For another week, peace, salaam, and God bless you all.

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The ear in the centre of the chest speaks;

“Hear!”

“Hear what I have to say!”

“Who gets up early and adorns the dark, and suddenly discovers the moment light begins?”

“Who comes to a spring thirsty, and finds the moon reflected in it?”

“Is it not an oyster that opened his mouth, to swallow one drop…

Now there’s a pearl.”

Do you not understand? Did the prophets not dance with anklets of fire?

“Hear!”

“The stream knows it can’t stay on the mountain forever.”

“Leave and don’t look away from the sun as you go, in whose light

you’re sometimes crescent, sometimes full. “

Will you keep shining…

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Love a Guy who Loves God.

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Salaam, shalom, and peace, everyone. It is about time I spread some drivel across your Laptop and Smartphone screens. I hope, with the Will of God, that time has been treating you well.

This week, as I scrolled through my Time Line on Twitter, I stumbled across a rather awesome blog post. Essentially, the article was a play on the expression, ‘Love a Girl who Loves God’. Now, I have no association with the person who wrote it, going by narrative alone, I can conjecture for her to be from the States or Canada. But that’s irrelevant, as her words, and the sincerity and sentiment behind them, really made for enjoyable reading. This post was personal, yet generic, and draws in, as much as it excludes. It lingers around sentiments of heartfelt rhetoric, but also the reassuringly real. Without further distraction, I’ll include a link to her post here;

http://vivalakhabatha.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/love-a-girl-who-loves-god/

I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Because I enjoyed it enough for me to create a personal version of her expression. The idea is exactly the same, and even the structure is consistent, but the perspective is that of a man, and the content is different for obvious reasons. I hope I can do some justice to her originality, and her sincerity. As much as I am not a fan of all things cheesy, I found this to be beyond pompous, self-worshipping ideals of love or relation. But please, prior to reading, I strongly suggest for you to read her article first. It’s very concise and can be finished quickly. Anyway, here goes.

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Love a guy who loves God. Love a guy who seeks Him in pleasure, and finds Him in pain. A guy who understands Him in love, and sees only humanity in hate. The boy who grew up thanking God for his muscles, but cried after his first fight. With his sister. Love a guy who wants for others, what he wants for himself. A guy who found God in his mother’s smile, and in his sister’s laughter. Love a guy who worries about his prostration, not the posture of others. A guy who let his Lord’s laughter, drown out the melancholy of scripture. Love a guy who has faith in God’s mercy. His compassion. His love for His own creation. Love a guy who claims he’s too cool to do the dishes, but helps his mum with the kitchen every night. A boy who dreamt of putting the devil in a headlock, but couldn’t sleep with the lights off.

Look for a guy who loves God. You will find him wandering. Not aimlessly. But with purpose and intent. He won’t be saving the world, he will be saving himself. He won’t be carrying others; he’ll be saddling his family. He will be gathering the pebbles, not telling tales of the mountain. Offer not your ears, rather gather some pebbles too. Seek not his, but find some of your own. He knows the manner in which he serves those closest to him; defines him. Pay heed, for you also might be his immediate one day. But don’t beleaguer his preoccupation, or his lack of time to give away. If you laugh through the rain, he’ll notice you. And don’t worry.

He will introduce himself.

He will tell you what he thinks of you. What he thinks of himself. He’ll be awkward, and cold, pretending to be more masculine than he is. He won’t ask of religion, he’ll seek it within you. He won’t hold back. He will observe more of your speech than you think. He will scrape past the surface, to see what ideologies define you. He will say they confine you. Call him hard-headed. A fundamentalist. Patriarch. Backward. Ask him about astronomy. You’ll be surprised how much he knows about the stars. Ask him, if in the darkest hour of the night, when the breath of humanity has betrayed him, when silence his ears have married, and the earth his brow has kissed; he feels doubt. Ask him what saddles his shoulders as he kneels. And you’ll hear a break in his voice. Pretend that you didn’t.

It’s easy to love a guy who loves God. You can please him, by pleasing his own. He’s not impressed by what you perceive. He is simpler than you think. He will be wildly impressed when you cook up a storm. Even if you forgot the salt. He’ll love you for your dreams. As long as they include him. You’ll please him through priorities. Through more of ‘us’, and less of ‘I’. You will please him by hiding his blemishes, and always seeking from the sky. Through overlooking in others, what you overlook in yourself. By pointing fingers, only when you’re polishing a mirror. Sometimes, he’ll throw you in the deep end. He will tell you shallow water doesn’t breed sturdy swimmers. Keep swimming. He will find solace in your scars. He’ll say they define you long after beauty has faded.

You’re his divine ascent. Or a clamber in vain.

Let him down. He’ll remain tight-lipped. He will let silence tend to the wound your words inflict. He will pray for you. He’ll be patient. Like you are with him. He will ride your waves, just as he enjoys your stillness. And the silent moments you share, which speak a thousand words, will crystallise the undeniable truth; you are two threads, weaving a single piece of fabric.

The place you find a guy that loves God, stay there. That place is emancipation. That place preserves God. He won’t let go of this place. It’s his liberation. It’s where he found his nature. He will shake at the thought of this separation. Remind him, that to time, this place is no captive. He will question his purpose, if he knows he brought you pain. Tell him it was a slip-up. Lie and say you’ve forgotten already. Remind him, we all make mistakes.

He will marry you after a struggle. There’s much suffering before gain. And he will wait. He will wait as long as destiny calls. And if the means to hurdle the wait, are defined by moments of silence, he will marry the strings of solitude.

When the moment comes, there will be elation like no other. A moment you won’t forget. He will forever attempt to recreate that glimpse. You will never tell him to give up, although you know it all the same. You will marry him in a house of purity. You will live to learn how he loves God. Sometimes you will envy this kinship. Sometimes you will argue about being second. Sometimes you will find solace in it the same. You will tear up when you see him and your son prostrate. You will hear him tell your son that God is the absence of hate. That God is the joy in pain. He will tell your son that God lives in the beggar’s empty hand, and how we should never look away.

Time will pass, words will wither, and actions will stay. The house will echo, the walls will tell a story, with only you two left to listen. You’ll make fun of each other’s wrinkles, and sing songs of yesterday.

Love a guy who loves God. Love him for you both seek the same. But before all that, there’s a road of strain. A seething sigh, much trouble and pain. But persevere, and have faith in God.

Why all this anguish, you whisper to him.

Water only fills an empty cup, he thinks.

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Ready to Depart

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Ready to Depart

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”The autumn leaf is poised to fall;
The rider’s foot is in the stirrup,
Mounted and ready to depart.
Soon I must also leave this world.
However many buildings I construct,
None can protect me from the demolition
I deserve.

Though born from the water of life,
Now I merely skim the surface as a bubble.
I am unable to bow my head in prayer,
Drowned as I am, in an ocean of sin.

When I consider what I’ve done,
I know I deserve each and every trouble.
Blacken my face with soot and
Parade me on a donkey.
I must admit
The truth before I go.”

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Abdur Rahmān Bābā (1653–1711)

 

Tears of gold…

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There’s suffering behind every set of lips.

Yet what is it to suffer, if our cries sing His melody,

And what is it to suffer, if scars thicken our skin.

There’s a tear behind every set of eyes.

Yet what is a tear, if it quenches the thirst of a wilting flower,

And what is a tear, if it forces our gaze on the earth whence we came.

There’s love in every believer’s heart.

Yet what is love, which whispers ‘me, myself and I’,

And what is love, seeping through liquid life.

Indeed, what are suffering, pain and love at all,

Without wisdom in the recipient to understand their worth.

He says, ‘Are lips not little but words,

A heart but a vessel of blood,

And our eyes nought but vision?’

Maybe so.

But a thousand pilgrimages later I’ve learnt,

It’s through our lips, we decorate life,

It’s in this tiny heart; we hold the grandeur of God,

And through our diminutive eyes, we behold the entire world.

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Vignettes of Wisdom

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Vignette I – Success

”To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch of a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.”

Vignette II – The Unseen

”We think having faith means being convinced God exists in the same way we are convinced a chair exists. People who cannot be completely convinced of God’s existence think faith is impossible for them. Not so. People who doubt can have great faith because faith is something you do, not something you think. In fact, the greater your doubt the more heroic your faith.”

Vignette III – Our Capacity

”Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than minority of them – never become conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?”

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..the laughter in our tears..

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Salaam, and peace. The following is an amalgamation of two poems by Mawlana Rumi. I’ve made slight amendments in enjoining two separate texts, and also to make certain messages more ubiquitous (and easier to absorb).

Nonetheless, the purity and beauty of his message is ever-present, and the amendments are minuscule in nature. The credit of ability is not diluted, nor sought to be diverged. I am aware of Malwana Rumi holding a significantly greater status than ‘poet and Sufi Mystic’ for certain individuals. With this in mind, I would like to apologise in advance if potential offence is taken due to the variation in wording. Any complaints, and I am more than willing to edit the post.

Apart from that, please, enjoy and gain, God willing, as much as possible.

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We expound our grief, staring at scars we so detest.

The cuts that so bleed.

Yet, a builder looks for the rotten hole where the roof caved in.

A water-carrier picks the empty pot.

A carpenter stops at the house with no door.

Workers rush toward some hint of emptiness, which they then start to fill.

Their hope, though, is for emptiness, so don’t think you must avoid it.

It contains what you need!

Dear soul, if you were not friends with the vast nothing inside, why would you always be casting you net into it, and waiting so patiently?

What the material world values does not shine the same in the truth of the soul.

You have been interested in your shadow.

Look instead directly at the sun.

What can we know by just watching the time-and-space shapes of each other?

Merely a temporal illusion, cascading the noise which drowns the flute,

Someone half awake in the night sees imaginary dangers;

the morning star rises; the horizon grows defined;

dark shadows suddenly become friends in a moving caravan.

Night birds may think daybreak a kind of darkness, because that’s all they know.

It’s a fortunate bird who’s not intrigued with evening, who flies in the sun we call ‘too bright’.

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Read it a few times, there’s much to mull over. Apart from that, until next week, Salaam, peace, and always, be safe.

Reflections in a glass-house..

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Salaam, peace and Shalom virtual BFFs. The sun is shining through the slanted blinds of my window, and I am sipping from my ever-so-perfect cup of coffee. Ah. Bliss. Life does feel infallibly warm and fuzzy at the moment. Until my gaze lands on an item in my room with the words ‘Madrid’ stamped across it. At this point I realise that it’s much sunnier in Madrid, people are in all likelihood much happier there, and that my life is a vicious cycle of distress and sorrow which will end in deep-rooted disappointment, and inevitable death. Screw Madrid. With all their sun, tasty fish and beaches. Eurgh. Hate sand. So… grainy.

Happy thoughts aside (o’ how I rain cheer and joy upon my readers eh), one thing I perpetually come across, probably even engage in, and am fascinated by, is the act of transposing judgments and assumption on those around us. It’s an act openly defiled by most of us, mainly on the premise of individual shortcomings nullifying the right one has to focus on those of others, and also because judging or ‘pointing fingers’ rarely leads to a positive outcome. Important to note, this post will not address the act of assuming upon and judging the behaviour of others from a simplistic ‘right and wrong’ perspective, which we often recognise at any rate, but rather from a deeper view that questions the basis through which we rationalise such behaviour, and some unspoken, but relevant actualities.

Interestingly, we judge others very openly in social media, the work place, within the family, and anywhere else, for that matter. Even more surprisingly, those who claim to detest or avoid any involvement, often remain unaware of its permeation into their actions, speech or intentions. It’s a slender line to tread on. We often need to judge or pass assumptions in order to understand one another. At the same time, err on the wrong side of caution, and we’re guilty of transposing the weaknesses of personal faculty onto others.

But then again, do we not have a right to judge and assume on the structure and nature of our surroundings, especially if our external environment, people or otherwise, can morph our being? There are visibly, and cognitively, few permanent elements in the constitution of our lives. Therefore in having to deal with a continuous plethora of change and dynamism, in people or our general surroundings, would it be foolish to suggest that some element of internal judgement or assumptions are key in successfully mediating external challenges? The answer might rest on our perception of the world, our life, and the kind of conduct that befits the places we occupy.

In contrast, the Qur’an simplistically, and even forcefully, emphasizes the individuality and uniqueness of man. I am sure other holy scripture rehearse in similar vein, although don’t feel compelled to rely on my assumption alone. With this reality in mind, one which sanctifies the individuality of man, with almost cerebral glorification, it becomes increasingly difficult to moralise an attitude which vilifies an individual through the transposition of judgements and assumptions, especially if we rarely possess scant exposure to said individual’s intentions or sincerity.

Intentions or sincerity. These two phenomena add a very distinct dimension to the discussion. Can we ever, with certainty, claim to know the intentions and sincerity of another individual? Extremely difficult; intention and sincerity are higher-consciousness thoughts. Very difficult to pinpoint, define, and rationally or evidentially prove. What we can define, or judge upon, are the results of intentions. Actions and outcomes. Personality traits. Characteristics. Habits. Things as such. What’s even more fascinating, is that habitual traits and characteristics, are often defined by choice. The motley of choices our life bestows often predicates the manner, and type of personality we embody. And this is where the discussion about passing judgement becomes very interesting. If humans are invariably defined by choice, which we can meekly gather from the previous few paragraphs, then at what point, if ever, does ‘judging’ become justified?

Think about the following. We all make mistakes, and often fail in the choices fate provides. I doubt the existence of many readers who claim to never have made mistakes, or acted upon wrong choices. In this sense, what makes you different than a murderer, or a political tyrant living on the other side of the planet? Can you, based upon having a completely different structure of choices and tests, sincerely claim the moral high-ground? Their choices revolve around taking the lives of others, or exercising political corruption; where they often fail in exertion. Our choices revolve around hurting the feeling of others, bringing good to our family, being honest, straying from haram; do we claim to have never failed in any of these tests? Profound, if you comprehend what is being implied. It seems, the only variant between us and those we dehumanise due to brutality and immorality, is the environment in which they exercise incorrect choices, that’s all. We are all susceptible to failure at life, some failures simply seem to be less socially and morally acceptable than others. Can we sincerely take credit for not having murdered someone yet, or regard ‘lack of political corruption’ as a reflection of meritorious character? Of course not, it would be absurd. Facts and research would suggest we all have suppressed urges, which remain repressed not due to piety, willpower or a sense of humanity, rather because of the social and psychological barriers which our environment has cocooned us with.

To elucidate this point; I have personally read about a study which might be of interest. The related research involved studying the most common characteristics of top business-executives and corporate leaders. These equated to traits such as confidence, intelligence, being highly manipulative and outspoken, amongst others. The most striking results related to the correlation of these traits with those of convicted criminals. The study found vast amounts of behavioural similarities between successful business-execs and convicted killers. It seems, as the previous suggestion goes, that one set of qualities in a given environment lead to very different results if applied elsewhere. In a rather revealing sense, the study carried out by Fritzon and Board, simply described the executives as “successful psychopaths”.

This brings us neatly to the answer of the initial conundrum in regards to passing judgement. If through humble realisation we recognise that it’s only fate, and the constitution of the life we are born into, which has cocooned us from committing some of the most horrific transgressions known to man; two subsequent lessons can be learnt. Firstly, it is not through your nobility or sense of soul that you possess a greater taste for morality than others. This credit rests solely with your Creator, who blessed you with birth in an environment where the road to his pleasure remains significantly less crooked. Secondly, if we lack the right to pass (excessive) judgement on even the most repulsive of people, where does this reality equilibrate with the notion of passing similar judgments in respect to those we simple dislike, disagree or live distinctly different to? Fact is, it doesn’t equilibrate. The right is simply lacking, and non-existent. Views that have to be passed with great caution in cases of extremity are simply nullified in cases of mild moderation. Let’s keep them to ourselves, in a dark corner of our mind, similarly sectioned to those desires which we consciously rebuke and consistently oppose.

If we lack the right to excessively judge the worst of us, then, if anything, we should crusade against the right to judge those adhering to different social, political or religious manifestations than our own.

To end this post, I’ll leave you with the following;

He, whose own being lacks goodness, feeds the hunger of his deprived soul with the faults of others.

Thanks for reading, fully aware that this was a long post. Although it required an analysis from a deeper perspective, in order to fully question our disposition. These are simply lessons I am being taught, which I am passing onto you. With the Grace and Will of God, may we all benefit.

Salaam, peace, and have a great week.

Forever in her shadow…

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Greetings, peace, shalom, salaam, my wanderers of the web. As I begin to write this week’s blog, I’d like to claim caffeine as the biggest evil in the world, at least out of the category of legalized substances produced for mass-distribution. It should be subject to the most stringent type of drug licensing requirements any overtly bureaucratic Western organisation can set. Why, you ask?

Having drastically limited my caffeine consumption over the past few days, primarily due to a lack of sleep deprivation and so on (which was the primary reason for over-consumption in previous weeks), I am officially getting dragged through migraine hell. The pain has reached a stage where I (reasonably) suspect someone to have laced my jar of Nescafe with heroin, and am now going through the withdrawal symptoms. It’s either that, or an invincible Woody the Woodpecker has been accompanying me for the past few days, pecking into my cranium with his pointy beak, excavating for some actual brain. I need to visit a clinic for this, as soon as, or at least talk to Frank. They should give out pamphlets warning us about coffee. Forget Class A substances, that stuff is for the weak and unadventurous. They need to join me on the dark side.

Anyhoo. Typically irrelevant introduction out of the way, something I wanted to consider, albeit belatedly, is an event which came and went, but left un-discussed. Mother’s day. Especially relevant for Muslims, I guess. Primarily because it has implications on our lives beyond those capsulized into a single day. Not to beat a dead horse, as my habit of scrutinizing Hallmark Holidays might suggest, but this is a rather crucial topic.

Over the years, you read, hear, and watch videos of various Shuyookh, Muftis and Ustads. From the point at which you initially begin to practice your faith, to the stage where it becomes the focal point of your life; as it should. The fascinating thing about the knowledge and wisdom I’ve absorbed during this time, partially revolves around the consistency of a particular message. Various Shuyookh and speakers have different styles and also different areas of focus, understandably so. Some focus on the social degradation of our communities, some on spiritual emancipation, and others on the importance of Dawah. Nevertheless, one specific message echoed consistently in every hall and mosque they decorated with words of insight and wisdom. Every time. Without fail. Unanimous importance accredited. And this was nothing other than the importance of our mothers. Every single one of them drove this message home, often to the point of exhaustion.

Yet it remains compelling, that the vast majority of Muslims and Muslimahs, practicing and non-practicing, fail to accredit this message with the importance it deserves. In all our attempts to struggle for the sake of Allah, we remain wholly incapable of fulfilling this fundamental tenant of Islam.

We have sisters fighting for the sake of women’s rights, and brothers seeking to emancipate the Ummah (me included, I am guilty before all else). Yet the only person which Allah swt has granted more rights over us than any other, stumbles around at home, catching a whiff of our shadow, here and there, in all its preoccupation. It’s fascinating to imagine the extent to which we have fooled ourselves. We really have. We strive, sacrifice, and claim, to be in pursuit of paradise. Carry out actions, dawah and social activism soaked in flamboyance, yet completely ignore that our efforts are owned, by right, in a hierarchical structure. And at the tip of that structure, sits your mother. This is a fact of Islam. Black and white. Shia or Sunni, Salafi or Sufi, completely consistent throughout.

Yet most of us ignore this hierarchy. We struggle for the world before we struggle for ourselves. We want to save the Ummah. We want to save Palestine. We want to save Syria. And we definitely should do. But please, all of you reading this, remember the following if you want to remember anything at all; worship your Lord the way He wants to be worshipped. Do not branch-off and create a mosaic structure of practise which fits your comforts. Allah swt has put the rights of your mother before that of the Ummah. Live by these priorities. Live by these realities. We will be held accountable. You don’t pray Tahajjud before getting the five fard prayers out of the way first. Similarly, you don’t attend rallies and spend hours raising awareness for the Ummah, if your mother sits in disdain or discomfort, or unsatisfied. Even slightly.

The point isn’t to disregard the plea of our Ummah, or the importance of intellectual strife; by all means, it is vital, but just to substantiate the critical (yet ignored) priorities which are in place. With the weight of responsibility upon our shoulders, can we even begin to comprehend the expectations Allah swt has decreed? That the ultimate reason a Muslim lives, to attain paradise, lies beneath the lowest and ruddiest part of your mother’s anatomy? Have we truly comprehended that message?

A point specifically for sisters; a man who does not look for Jannah below his mother’s feet, will rarely seek sincere love in his wife’s heart. Choose wisely. Most men who cannot unconditionally love, and devote their efforts to the happiness of an individual who bore them physically and emotionally for decades, will scarcely ever pertain to achieve similar for a woman they are casually introduced to at a marriage-friendly age.

Hazrat Umar (RA) was famously asked by a man who carried (yes, physically carried) his mother during Hajj, whether he bore sufficient recompense for all her sacrifice. Naturally, Hazrat Umar (RA) replied, ‘you haven’t repaid her a single contraction’. SubhanAllah. Not even one contraction. For all of you who have done Hajj, I am sure the mere task of carrying yourself in the now air-conditioned halls and streets of Mecca, was physically strenuous enough. But 600 (DC) Arabia, in the scorching heat, to carry another person on your back; unimaginable. Yet that profound effort didn’t equal a single contraction. Not a single one.

The perplexing issue here is, have we ever come close to carrying our mothers on our back?

I, personally, do not find these stories to be in a category of lessons we can much longer comprehend. It might be the reason why a lot of us seek inspiration and spiritual consumption from sources other than the Quran and Hadith. We struggle to contextualize the related facts and expectations. How do we conceive that the Nabbi (saw) declared our mothers to possess rights (over children) three times greater than those of our fathers? Simple fact, but again, profound implications.

Facts like the above truly mythicize Western notions regarding a lack of rights appropriated to Muslim women. Undeniably, female-rights are almost absent in most Muslim countries. Although the extent to which this is caused by tribal laws, feudal judicial systems and a complete lack of economic and educational development – is grossly downplayed. Inexplicably, one might be tempted to opinion that the current reincarnation of distasteful coverage appropriated to the role of women in Islam, might be fueled by underlying inhibitions of the truth. That being; the status of women in Islam is propelled to a level which societal fallacies won’t be able to reach. Thus the current narrative might be more ardently related to societal dispelling of an ideology which might be “too out of sight and reach”. Why promise her the stars, when you can hand her the flowers scattered around your feet, right?

A further assessment of the rights of Muslim women in financial inheritance, and even more so in matrimony, accentuate this reality further. Although that’s another blog post all-together.

Most of you probably needed scant reminding of the above, although I hope the post served some positive purpose. There is an underlying sense of comfort which might be threatened if we assess the implications of our priorities. How are we seeking to pleasure Allah (swt), and what priorities are we constructing in doing so? Are we worshiping Allah (swt) in the manner which He has ordained, or in a way which we find convenient? Or dare I say, fashionable? These issues are ‘closer to home’ than we think.

 I am certain if we knew the importance of every smile on our mothers face, we would lay claim to a million tears in its invocation. May we never regret the extent to which we struggled for our parents, insha’Allah. They are the yellow brick road all the way to Jannah. Let’s not complicate matters and lose track of this fact.

 I would like to close the post with a quote, but not one from a soothsayer or philosopher. Rather, this is a quote from someone I know, who lost his mother whilst in his twenties. Upon hearing it, I was significantly shaken, and had no option but to sit and reflect. Needless to say, it is a remark I will never forget. As we talked about the untimely death of his mother, and him dealing with it whilst having an amazing career, being on the path of Allah, and having gained significant respect from his peers and elders, a brief pause ensued, after which he said the following;

‘You know…,I would give up the world just to see her smile at me one last time.’

Subhan’Allah.

A poem, and the faculty of the self…

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Hola, peace, hello, Shalom, and Salaam, beautiful people/person – delete as appropriate. You know, if the shoes fits an’ all. You decide. Just be honest. This post will commence with a short poem which was personally written over the course of last week. Don’t worry its nothing ‘romantic’. Being a practicing unmarried Muslim means my expression of romanticism, within the confinements of the halal, is limited to, ”Sister, where is your Wali?”. Yeah, I know, Romeo got nothin’ on me. Anyway, here it goes;

_____________________________

A hollow land of decay, stumbling in strain,

Every step he lays forth – sinking in vain,

Worst are the whispers; echo and collide,

Voices diluting the pure which remains,

Scattering his thoughts- a conquerable divide,

Screams searing through his skin,

Exposing the void inside,

Chimeric perceptions flow therein,

Flawed fallacies ardently belied,

Soon he submits to withhold,

The voices afflict ruin, beyond that foretold,

Wounds transcend the vagaries, of place and time,

As the clocks of his faculty, began to whirr and chime,

How he misses the silence;

yet he dismisses in haste,

The voices expel a rhythm, his lips seem to grace,

Perhaps the inconceivable be true…

To his own the voices accrue.

_____________________________

As the adage goes, the only way to rid a work of art, expression or creativity from its intended impact and beauty, is by conducting a thorough ‘academic’ dissection. Obviously, this is what I will be doing to the above poem. Although not to suggest I regard it as a ‘work of art’, or anything close. Just merely drawing a rather simplistic, and maybe inept, comparison.  I am positive most of my readers have the ability to communicate better in writing than myself; judging by your tweets, status updates and blog posts. Anyway, here goes.

We often misapprehend, or simply ignore, that the faculty of our perception lies in our being. We tend to have dichotomous forces pulling us towards varying directions. The above poem seeks to accentuate that the source of separation may rest within us. The extent to which we see ‘lighter’ and ‘darker’ forces (or ‘voices’) externally, might be dictated by an internal light-switch. Images of the external help us visualise the material world, whilst ‘judgment’ categorizes and defines them, often into a chimeric perception.  The peak of the challenges we face, might be more of an internally contained phenomena than we would propagate. The control over these voices, and the source from which they originate, lies awake in our conscience. The cognitive harm they can inflict should not be underestimated, especially given the damage may be permanent, whereas our ability to react, remains temporary.

Indeed, ‘the dichotomy of night and day, might reside within us’.  It’s definitely thought for food. I will refrain from over-elaborating this point, as it requires personal reflection more than anything else. Mostly dependent on whether you have ‘time’ or the desire for such assessment. I will close this post with my favourite quote of all time. Bear in mind, I don’t regard religious texts as ‘quotes’ – before we jump to conclusions. The following excerpt left me absolutely confused at the first time of reading. I had no clue what it meant. Nil. Was a mix of gibberish. It is only at a later date, when coming across it again, I made an attempt to comprehend its message. And once I did, I was blown away. The best quotes, books or articles of expression are those that one must analyse, in order to understand. The most rewarding treasure is one which requires exploration. I probably have hundreds of quotes, self-written and borrowed, hidden away in virtual documents. Although, this trumps all by considerable measure;

”Yesterday’s ordinary drop of lukewarm aqua, transforming in the light, into a model of haughtiness and vanity, just to find out how dependent and repentant he is in the dark, without realizing that the dichotomy of day and night reside within him.”

I sincerely hope you appreciate it as much as I do. I think it tells us more about ourselves than we might be aware of. If you don’t ‘get it’ (as I didn’t initially), re-read it, even resort to the dictionary if it includes unfamiliar terms, you will find its definitely worth it in the end.

Peace, love, and for another week, thanks for reading. Salaam, and with the Will of God – take care.

Falling through love..

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Peace all,

As we all know, house-guests and visitors come and go, what remains is the dusty furniture, creaking floor, and of course, us. Greying away in our brittle abode, stumbling back and forth on a rocking chair, staring lifelessly at the fire-place (no, I am not depressed!). We also had a guest on this blog last week who, rather unconventionally, left us something behind. A post which raises interesting philosophical and physiological questions. But if his post was to match the house described above, it would resemble something of a half-built sofa. Providing a much needed resting place, before leading to an embarrassing fall if comforted on unsparingly. It was a post which enticed as much as it provoked. Providing a spot for reflection, before pulling the carpet from under our feet and leaving us dazed. GuestRambler would not be shocked to hear, that me, along with my readers, would like to see him finish what he started. Like half a beautiful painting, only the original artist can adequately apply the finishing strokes. GuestRambler – we keep you to your word.

Moving on, what interesting events and occurrences unfolded this week? One pressing ‘occasion’ does come to mind. Good ol’ Valentine’s Day. Every year, on the 14th of the 2nd, the final tattered remains of our values and analogies regarding love are dealt another severe blow, which coupled with post-modern divorce and co-habitation rates, blast our little remaining credibility on this matter into a vacuum of nothingness.

In my personal, and humble opinion (which I admit to be rife with immaturity and inexperience on the subject matter), the very notion of Valentine’s Day is an apt representation of our philosophy regarding love. The very idea of compartmentalizing the notion of love or responsibility is indicative of our shortcomings. The view that one can compress accountability into bite-sized chunks is fraught with skewed representations that our environment drills into us. Magazines, movies and the internet have perfected the idea of romance into a marketable product and stamped it with the ‘Tesco Value’ brand. It now waits for us in the aisles of expensive wedding brochures and ‘dream get-aways’.

One must wonder whether such pressure has done anything but decree ‘true love’ to be unobtainable. The glossy magazines have painted over the rough edges of marriage and relationships, which we as a society are increasingly incapable of dealing with. This might possibly be fuelling our dependency on ideas such as Valentine’s Day, which seek to capsulize expectations which are increasingly unrealistic.

Let’s not kid ourselves – there is a problem. Currently, 34% of marriages in the UK are ending in divorce. That is one in every three couples, i.e. for every three people within your social circle – there will be one divorce. Will you be one of them? Certainly, none of us are magically immunized. Scary thought. To further accentuate, 49% of these divorcees have at least one child. Indeed, we are not discussing an issue which effects in isolation. The epicentre of this problem might be at home, but the aftershocks are resonated across the different facets of society. The good thing about facts is that they (usually) leave less to be argued. With figures like those quoted above – it’s obvious there is a problem. What is the solution? I could not tell you a general one. What I can ascertain, is that it won’t resemble anything close to the modern laws of affinity which currently predicate our thoughts.

Personally, I think we seem to be in love with an ideology, out of which we expect an individual to sprout. Should it not be the other way around? Should our ‘better-half’ not solidify and help blossom our definition of love? Is the journey not in greater importance than the destination? Should an individual fit the lines of a predetermined blueprint – or instead help us design a distinct structure of living which encapsulates a place where twin desires, wants, hopes and dreams meet, rather than collide? I know my choice.

Do acts of romance or love need to be done in isolation? Should they be? Undoubtedly, such deeds exist not in solitude within healthy marital relationships, but rather in a mosaic set of challenging circumstances, which equilibrate to fit the notion of love. It is a much deeper bond, not based upon love for the self or the desire for a zenith experience, similar to that portrayed by Hollywood, but rather supplemented by the willingness to sacrifice, compromise and ultimately love for another.

Let’s keep our feet on the ground and build a criterion of expectations which are not only manageable, but also healthy and attainable. Let’s not construct Utopian ideologies of love which 90 minute movies, 30 second ads and 100 word articles have suddenly made plausible. Such lapses of perfection are only obtainable once every year (Valentine’s Day?). The higher the peak from which you aimlessly seek to fly, the greater the hurt upon your inevitable fall.

This article is not to taint or downplay the concept of love; rather, I find it to be the most important ingredient for a purposeful life. From our unrelenting love for God, to that love which breathes life into our ability to sacrifice, compromise and romance – it is vital. Although to fully utilise the potential of love, we must source it from the right place, and nourish it with the right expectations, lest it turn into a flickering flame, blown out by the winds of speculation and alchemic desires.

Until then, I certainly won’t be falling for Cupid’s arrows, which are laced with nothing but sprinkles of glamour, dopamine and some cheap caster sugar.

Apologies for the long post – hope you guys soldiered through to the end. I’ll leave you with the following:

Treat love not like alchemy – for you don’t fantasise about the real. Let it foster in a frictionless place within your mind, where the want is dissolved, and the will blossoms. Seek not to undermine this place, for a tiny heart can hold the grandeur of God, and through our diminutive eyes, we behold the entire world.

– ZK

Peace, ‘love’, and with the Will of God – have a great week.

The lion, the snake, and the mice.

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“A man stumbles through the depths of a jungle. As he tries to find his way through the sea of shrubbery, he awakens a lion which lay nearby. As the lion awakens in a sleepy rage, he sets upon the man without delay.  The man, fearing for his life, runs as fast as his legs can carry him, hurdling the tree trunks and leaves that lay ahead. As the man cuts through the jungle at blistering speed, he notices a well in front of him and jumps inside, hoping to escape the lion.

As he falls through the darkness of the well, he grabs onto a loose rope which nearly evades him.  The rope provides him with a moment of relief, as he wipes the sweat from his brow. Although, to the man’s horror, there slithered a venomous snake at the foot of the well, waiting patiently for him to fall.  With every hiss of the serpent’s tongue, the man tightens his clutch around the rope.

The man then looks up and suddenly sees two mice, both gnawing away at the rope. One of the mice is black, the other white, both slowly chewing away the barren threads. As the man’s heart pounds faster and faster, he is reminded of the lion above, who lets out an impatient growl.

The man’s muscles tighten, his head feels heavy, while his sweat turns cold in angst, as the snake’s hissing and the lion’s grumbling, drown out his thoughts. Suddenly, the man notices a honeycomb in front him. The honeycomb, in arms reach, was dripping in delicious, golden honey. He slowly raises his hand towards the honey comb, and sticks his finger into the soft surface, oozing in juice. The man then brings the finger back towards his mouth and delights in the moment, with the burst of delicious syrup in his mouth. As he savours the taste of the fresh and floral sweetness, the man, for a moment, forgets about the lion, the snake, and the two mice chewing at the rope.”

Before writing-off the above parable, and its intended wisdom, contemplate the following; imagine the lion to be death, always looming above us; think of the snake as the grave, which we all will inevitably face; consider the black and white mouse to be night and day, slowly nibbling away at our lives, in this case the rope. Day by day, the rope thins, and so does our clutch upon it, never knowing exactly when it will give way. And finally, and most importantly, try to comprehend the honey as this world, which through its momentary delight, makes us forget the reality that should indeed define us.

The sense behind the struggle…

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The remnants of an old conversation come to mind when addressing the importance of “struggling”.  The conversation, which took place between friends, was mostly based around a famous quote which defined spiritual and progressive emancipation as a consequence of human struggle. And as the abstrusity of life’s experiences now crystallise, and the lessons behind them demystify, the wisdom of this quote heavily resonates in my conscience.

Having parents who emigrated to Europe, with exposure to countless others of similar descent, I have a sense of appreciation for the struggle and hardships faced by the generations which had to physically transcend the laws of geographic disabilities, in search for better opportunities. Not to say that emigrants are the only group fit for such appreciation; the working class across the Western world (and beyond) deserve respect for acting as the whale which carries the world on its back. And history is further littered with examples of extraordinary individuals who withstood countless struggles in order to lay down a legacy for later generations. Not only are such individuals now in scarce supply, but also seem to have been painted over by the brush of history’s selective strokes.  I won’t include an exhaustive list here, but ask a modern feminist, for instance, who Louise Michel is and you may get fewer acknowledgements than the individual in discussion deserves. Indeed, today’s Nobel laureates would be yesterday’s village-folk.

If you were to get a short-list of some of the most influential people to have graced the surface of this world, you would, among otherwise spasmodic traits and qualities, find one pressing commonality. You would discover a single attribute which runs through the lives of said individuals, almost like a disease which continuously pulsated their efforts, providing life to their potential. That quality would be one which allows them to embrace the notion of ‘struggle’. Cast the net of your conscience far and wide, from Darwin to Darius the Great, Malcolm X to Mahatma Gandhi, Plato to Picasso and from Jesus to John Watt, they all had one common challenge, they had to struggle – and do so viciously, whilst make progression a by-product of this reality. In between them, they had to face every type of adversity, every type of resistance, from the medical to the marital – yet chose to embrace the struggle in order to progress. I invite you to do your own research, don’t rely on mine, read up about the 100 most influential and successful people since the dawn of history, and be not surprised when you find the above to be true.

It is the ability to run from that which is comfortable, to embrace setbacks, and to understand their value as the catalyst for achievement, which defines those mentioned above. It involves sourcing the light within ourselves, rather than aimlessly chasing the shadows on the wall, which do nothing but occupy the peripheral. Self-victimisation is something which we all are guilty of. From cursing our luck when stuck in traffic, to slandering our fate when life takes us to an unwanted path, or even ruing a lost love. Complaining, or self-pity, is as natural to us as wailing is to a new-born. In this state of pseudo self-analysis, we haphazardly miss the opportunity for growth, the opportunity to build our character and let our wounds become the place where light enters us. While we drown in our own tears when at the bottom of the well, the individuals named above would look for rope.

If we embraced every test, whether small or large, from helping others after a long day at work, to even spearheading charitable movements, we would find the outcome to make us stronger, and more ready to tackle future challenges, which we otherwise might have failed. Undoubtedly, passing a test today saves us from a failure tomorrow. Indeed, we are all engineered to seek comforts, all of us living a life which kings of the past might envy, but seeing the sense behind continuously testing ourselves, is a realisation which will be spared for a precious few. And the same individuals who are precious and few, will achieve all those things sought by the common and many.

With that, I bid you farewell, and leave you with the following poem;

”The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. 

Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? 

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?”

KG