Saturday, December 7, 2013

Do, Love, Hope to be Happy


This is going to be a bit of a digression, even more so than usual. It may be a little grim, but it is something that has been on my mind for a while now and needs some sort of outlet.

For the most part of my life, I've been quite sheltered from the world. Not by design of course, I was just born into a bubble. To the untrained eye we actually seemed quite worldly, but in truth it was all quite superficial. It wasn't the fault of anyone in particular, just a result of the bubble that no one was really aware of. We traveled a lot, but we traveled in our bubble. It wasn't a veil of ignorance, because we were not ignorant of the world; just the bubble. This bubble was more of a filter; a very rosy, pretty filter. Whatever was beyond the bubble seemed lovely. The extent of our woes was within the confines of this very bubble. So I grew up with a slight disconnect to the world.

It wasn't until I moved away that I distanced myself completely. The bubble came with me of course, but I left with an open heart and an open mind which made the bubble very weak. I knew there was more to the world. I knew there was more to what I have been accustomed to believe. I knew that the dodgy looking man with piercings all over his face was not necessarily a threat. I knew that the homeless woman humming to herself, cracking jokes at passersby was not going to bite me and give me hepatitis. I knew that the skinhead in the hoodie was not going to kick me in the shin and steal my purse. I knew that the friendly, chatty cab driver was not going to steer off course and kidnap me. Some may say I am naive, but it reinforced my faith in humanity, and I have had some of the most interesting - albeit fleeting - encounters because of it. Strangers are not a threat by default, I don't know when that happened either. In my 25 years of life, there are countless displays of strangers' kindness and zero danger. With odds like that, what reason do I have to change my supposedly naive ways?

As I was experiencing the world at an individual level, my mind was also opened to the world on a global scale, even historical scale. That is where things got dark. That is when the unanswerable questions started flooding in. That is when my newly found faith in humanity was in question. I didn't know what to believe anymore. It gave birth to the conspiracy theorist in me. I couldn't take anything at face value anymore. Either way, whatever I chose to believe would leave me paralyzed. I would feel helpless. All this injustice, all these lives lost, all the greed, all the famine, all the woes of the world would overwhelm me and leave me totally numb. People say there are small ways you can help. People say if you want change, you should get up and do it yourself. But the logical rationale of the conspiracy theory formula would just dismiss every suggestion; all this, to what end? The ugliness will still remain. And it was a hard pill to swallow when, at the individual level, I was experiencing a beautiful side to life. We are all victims of this ugly, unjust world, some painfully more than others, but we don't hold it against each other. Yes, it did remind me of the ugliness of the world from time to time and the paralysis would take over, but I have come to accept that it will never go away.

Although my position on life is subject to change, right now I am beginning to believe that the world is beyond help; whether by design or by divine purpose. Someone else may be able to figure out a way to heal the world, and I truly pray to see that day, but I am not holding my breath. That person is not me, though. I like to see myself as a realistic idealist; if I can't make it ideal, I gotta be real. If history has taught me anything, it is the sad fact that there is ugliness in the world and no revolution of thought or peoples will ever really change it. We always seem to be replacing one demon with another. For every change for good, someone else somewhere else is paying the price for it somehow. That is the state of the world in equilibrium I suppose. The good do not always prevail. Evil sometimes - if not a lot of the time - can win the race too. The amount of great minds that the world has witnessed I believe may have reached the same conclusion. They were only ever celebrated posthumously. And for all the praise, they probably got just as much criticism. These great thinkers were rarely ever doers; some would follow the herd for the sake of survival while others were ostracized by force or by choice.

Now, I just want to be happy. That is my ultimate goal in life. Not in the selfish, insatiable way; I want to be content. People make me happy. Working, eating, traveling, smiling, laughing, learning, growing, creating moments and memories with people make me happy. Seeing people happy makes me happy. Making people happy makes me even happier. I just want to live surrounded by the people I love and hopefully love me in return. I want to try to spread that happiness to anyone I come in contact with. Like the song says; the greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return. 

“Rules for Happiness: 
something to do,
someone to love,
something to hope for.”

-Immanuel Kant




Thursday, October 31, 2013

Viva La Gynarchy

Control is a big issue, at least it is to me. Some people fight for it and some people surrender to it. I feel one should never attempt to control a man who does not want to be controlled; if you fail you will pay the price for it dearly, but if you succeed you will have a broken man. And this goes both ways. Don't try to control a woman, even though some women believe they are to be controlled, or you feel compelled to do so because you insist they do not know better. It is never okay to be in control of another human in any case and in any situation, not just romantically. Let there be mutual respect for each other's individuality, no one likes to be played like a video game even if over time they have become content to just that. I find it more than a little demeaning, and mankind should be able to evolve past that by now.

I noticed that our Arabian culture still holds the belief that women are helpless, fragile little beings, that it is the man's duty and right to be involved in every decision pertaining to her life (that is if he doesn't just do the deciding for her). And it is the woman's duty to forgive and accept the man's shortcomings and fuck-ups, and do so without complaint. It baffles me how often society allows men to get away with murder yet scrutinizes women's every action. Even when we know it's wrong, we still keep that in mind. "Be careful taking this or that step because you know people will never blame him, they will blame you". It's a reality we can clearly see is flawed yet it is one we accept nevertheless.

It was Sigmund Freud who introduced us to the structural model of the mind, splitting it into three major functions; Id, Ego and Superego. Id is the impulsive nature we are born with which instinctively drives us to get what we need and want with little to no regard to much else. In my head I imagine the perfect example can be seen in the character Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: "I want it NOW!". Or even Augustus Gloop who didn't bother demanding, he just went for it! Ego is the rational part (could we say moral?) that develops as we grow to consolidate the destructive nature of blindly going after everything we desire. I think what could sum it up nicely is to say WWJD: what would Jesus do? Or Mohammed, or Moses, or whoever. Point isn't to model your actions according to someone else's teachings as much as it is to learn from them and be able to recognize right from wrong in order to better control the thoughts in your mind. Superego is the bitch here. While I would much rather see people ask themselves "what would Jesus think?" (or Mohammed or Moses etc), Superego is what Freud believes to be the part of our mind which asks "what would people say?!", constantly strives for social acceptance and perfection in doing so. The Ego, in part, is meant to consolidate both Id and Superego rationally, the aim being to develop the Ego so much so that one has better control of their own thoughts and actions. The imbalance of the Id and Superego supposedly results in mental instability and mental illness. I must say though, the Superego in this part of the world has grown far and beyond the reach of the Ego, and with it the Id driving us towards conspicuous consumption. What is meant to be the most important part of your individual mind is instead prisoner to your desires and societal standards, creating an imbalance which further proves my belief that this society is mentally ill.

But I constantly ask: why? Why do we give in to such a ridiculously outrageous double standard. Instead of eradicating it, we are allowing this phenomenon to grow and fester by playing along. Half the society doesn't care because this double standard works in their favor. It is the women who are the victims here, but also the perpetrators. We can never expect this to change if we don't actively change it ourselves, at least in how we think and treat this absurdity. Are we waiting around for men to so generously adjust the status quo (if so, it would likely be on their terms)? Do you really think that is ever gonna happen? Historically, globally, has a man ever been the one to fight for women's rights? I say this with the slight fear that it has happened, but even if it did I doubt it was done without an agenda! Yes, we have male supporters....and what?

What riles me up are the naive, brainwashed chicks who just ruin it for everybody. They claim they like things the way they are. They claim it makes their lives easier not having the responsibility to make their own decisions, not being expected to do anything of great importance. Even the meager tasks they are left with, they fail at miserably. You lazy, robotic, can't-think-for-yourself, waste-of-a-life fuckers. Go die. Please. And the men in their lives who planted that very idea in their heads should also go die a slow, painful death.

I know there are women who still think this way because they just don't know any better. This way of life is the only way they know. Even if you give them a choice, they would want to keep things as they are just out of shear fear of the unknown. I don't fault them for that, I sympathize. Just don't impose it on the rest of us. You don't have to change anything, just please allow us the chance to. You don't approve? Tough cookies.

I'm sorry, I can't be unbiased about this. I apologize for being a bit harsh, but this just pisses me off. So much so that I am unable to be reasonable about it. I'm sick of living in a patriarchal society which aims at putting women down, making them feel less capable, when I firmly believe women can do a far better job at running things if we had the chance. And we'd look fabulous doing it too. Those women who wish to avoid the responsibility of being in control of their own lives will soon feel how empowering it is to not have to depend on a man, and how much easier life would be then. Don't wait around for a man, get up and do it yourself! Viva la gynarchy!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Introspection/Outrospection



This talk/video has to be one of my favorite RSA Animates. If you take nothing from this but this talk, even if you don't read beyond this point, I would be happy so long as this video gets out there. The concept of empathy is such a powerful one, and this shows just how broadly the concept can be applied. And there was a point made that hit home for me:

There is no introspection without outrospection


It is no secret that I am a huge advocate of introspection/self-reflection, even self-love. Being honest with yourself about your thoughts and emotions is essential - if not necessary -  to know where you yourself stand in this world, not where you are told to stand or even where you are merely placed. But it is true that in this day and age that cannot happen without outrospection. If we are not open to the world we cannot truly understand who we are. We cannot delve deep into our souls in total isolation and expect to enrich our lives in the process. We need to look outside ourselves also to further enhance our lives; not to look in search for something to cling onto but to open ourselves up. We need to understand what goes on around us just as much as we need to understand what goes on within.

More and more I find that there is little value given to true human relationships; simply bonding with fellow humans on a pure, honest, genuine level. Even when we are close to experiencing it, we hesitate, we turn away, we build walls and fortresses out of fear that it is not the norm. But it is, at least it should be. People do focus (not so well) on familial relationships, professional relationships, romantic/marital relationships but we need more. A lot more. 

“The things we need most are the things we have become most afraid of, such as adventure, intimacy, and authentic communication. We avert our eyes and stick to comfortable topics. We hold it as a virtue to be private, to be discreet, so that no one sees our dirty laundry. We are uncomfortable with intimacy and connection, which are among the greatest of our unmet needs today. To be truly seen and heard, to be truly known, is a deep human need. Our hunger for it is so omnipresent, so much a part of our life experience, that we no more know what it is missing than a fish knows it is wet. We need more intimacy than nearly anyone considers normal. Always hungry for it, we seek solace and sustenance in the closest available substitutes: television, shopping, pornography, conspicuous consumption — anything to ease the hurt, to feel connected, or to project an image by which we might be seen or known, or at least see and know ourselves.”

Charles Eistenstein, 
Sacred Economics

People think of the word 'intimacy' and blush, referring to bedroom antics as intimacy. But it's so much more than that, and should go well beyond a single room with a single person. Creating a strong bond with a fellow human on any level is what makes life worth living. Even fleeting connections with mere strangers could be just as powerful. And I believe simply being able to have such strong, powerful, lasting connections with people is an accomplishment because it doesn't come easily. It actually takes work and requires a lot of trust and openness that not many people are ready to give. I feel people rarely invest in relationships that are not romantic, expecting all their human needs to be met by a single relationship with a single person. Even when they do, they feel the need to make it romantic thinking having a connection like that with someone could only be such. But I'm here to tell you it is not. Don't let such ideas cloud your judgement either. It's almost as if we have been conditioned to believe that having a closeness with someone is rare and eventually turns physical, leaving many to believe having close friends of the opposite sex is 'dangerous' for this very reason. I strongly beg to differ. We need to rid ourselves of such ridiculous and archaic preconceived notions. Clear our minds of such ideas, go forth with an open mind and an open heart, then we can truly understand our limitless capacity to love. That's when our empathetic nature truly thrives.

The thing is, even the relationships we do have, we do not give enough of ourselves. We don't put nearly enough effort into it, we expect it to just fall onto our laps. Every relationship requires a little work. As you give, so shall you receive. You cannot expect your friend to always be there for you when you are never there for them. You cannot expect your parents to love you unconditionally if you do not love, respect, and take care of them in return. You cannot expect your children to grow to take care of you in your old age if you did not love and nurture them as their parent. You cannot expect a spouse to cater to your every whim if you never consider theirs. (Read about how this man came to that conclusion after nuptials and kids. Better late than never!)

When two people meet and find that initial spark, they foolishly think that this chemistry continues to react forever. The way I see it, that reaction is a result of the state each person is in upon meeting, basically both being what the other had been wanting to find. Having found that person, the spark from the first chemical reaction is gone. The 'state' of each person has changed, creating a new compound altogether. Rather than trying to figure out what new chemical reaction might occur, how to deal with it, if it requires any catalysts for a better reaction, they just stubbornly want EXACTLY what they had before. If we want to approach it scientifically, it's impossible to relive that initial spark so long as they are now a 'compound' (and remain so). That infatuation is what attracted you in the first place, and that is the main role of infatuation. Infatuation could just describe what happens as a result of the pheromones released. If we were to continue with the chemistry analogy, infatuation would be that electromagnetic force that initially creates the chemical bond.

Armed with the misconception that the spark must last, some people may search to recreate it elsewhere. Chasing what is essentially a fleeting emotion rarely ever stops at one person as this cyclical search continues every time the spark begins to fade. We need to redefine what it is we are expecting to feel, be it 'love' or whatever you want to call it. We need to have a more realistic understanding of it, and consequently more realistic expectations. We need that radical social change to take shape on a large scale so that we can all live a little better, be a little happier. Everyone deserves to be happy, and it is within reach.....so long as we revolutionize how we choose to view and experience human relationships on any and every level. No biggie...

Finally, I would like to share with you something I personally feel is the most fascinating, bizarre and potentially revealing thing I ever came across in our dear World Wide Web. A 76-year-long study followed 268 Harvard graduates from 1937 in the longest-running longitudinal study to determine the factors which affect human (adult) development. Turns out, what matters most in life are warm human relationships. That also had a positive effect on almost every other aspect of one's life from health to professional success. George Vaillant, the study's most recent director, said one thing he learned from this study is:“That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people". Don't wait 76 years to come to that realization when you could have spent it being happy.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Deification of Youth



People joke about it sometimes, but I'm starting to think the young really do feel their life ends at 30. Just.... ends. By the age of 30, they want to have studied, reached the pinnacle of their career (if you planned to work at all), married and with at least a few kids. So....what the hell did you leave to achieve for the rest of your life (I know there is more to life than that but you get my drift)? You want to spend the rest of the decades ahead as you are? You want to throw away your freedom which you only just got at 18 and only really knew what to do with in your mid-20s? And for what, decisions, dishes and diapers...?

Why is everyone in such a rush?! When I see the young throw away their youth, I regret it for them. They are likely to do the same a decade or two later (most of which is spent in utter denial). Yes, the young are inexperienced and stupid. All the more reason they shouldn't hurry to wear daddy's suit and mommy's apron (I'm sorry for the stereotypes, just go with it). Being young and stupid means they are not prepared to embark on all life has to offer before they hit 30. In very few exceptions some people are mature enough yet realistic enough to go through - at best - some of that but still manage to enjoy being young (that being academics, career, marriage and/or children). So I suppose to some extent it can be done, but there must be limits. Also this is the exception, not the rule.

We enter this world straight into a life of structure dictated more or less by our bowel movements. We are too preoccupied as we grow. We are exposed to more and more stimulants, our brain constantly engaged and engrossed as it absorbs and tries to comprehend all that goes on around us. So we continue living a structured life that has been set out for us as to not disturb our journey of discovery. Lunch times, nap times, bath times, bed times; we just play along because we are just too immersed. We continue to grow and the routine starts to get a little tedious, but we are too young and naive to know how to change that since we are so used to playing along. It continues until we hit 18. High school is over, our senses our enticed by the mere promise of what is to come. Assuming we continue on to higher education, our routine life is not so routine anymore. Our daily schedule is now a bit more arbitrary. Our bodies may suffer from the lack of structure but we masochistically like it that way after being tied down for so long. One irresponsible decision after the next, and we continue to make and re-make those bad decisions. If you're lucky, you won't have anyone breathing down your neck in an effort to keep you from such bad decisions. If you're unlucky, you won't have anyone to prevent you from the really, really bad decisions. But this is all a continuation of that journey of discovery at a different level, which requires a little deconstruction of the structured life that was built for us. Our 20s should not be spent living the same way our parents do. I find that worrying. Even if after college a little bit of routine sneaks back into your life, you don't want to find that it's a similar routine to your parents' generation.

Even in physics, the Second Law of Thermodynamics says (more or less) that the norm for a given system is for order to decrease. The general tendency of the universe is to go from order towards lack of order. Seeing that we are a part of the very physical world in which this law applies, then it is safe to say it applies to us as well. We go from structure to lack of structure. However the common misconception here is that order can only decrease, when actually the increase in disorder can result in producing order in another part of the system without violating the Second Law. Meaning when we 'de-structure' a part of our lives, we can do so in order to structure another part of our lives. I guess sometimes it's necessary to mess up one aspect of our lives in order to get another part sorted.

As a baby you are not taught to walk or told how to do it but you learn; you observe, you build your strength, you give it a couple of failed attempts until you take your first step all on your own. Then you repeat the process till you can manage to get to the second, third, tenth step and so one. To me, that's how it is for life in general. You can't be told how to live it, you learn as you go along. Making mistakes isn't a possibility, it's a certainty. But it's not as scary as we make it out to be. Life goes on regardless of whatever monumental fuck up you got yourself into. More often than not, you eventually can look back at it and actually laugh. We have one life to live, why deprive ourselves of the joy of actually living?! Why put ourselves on such high a pedestal, or allow ourselves to be placed there, and attempt to live a pristine life? Aside from the fact that it is far too mundane an existence, it is impossible.

I want to celebrate my youth, enjoy the mistakes, bathe in the stupidity, let it consume me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Papa Don't Preach

The topic of this post has been itching to get out for some time, and it has been eating away at me inside all the while. It's a harsh reality that breaks my heart to just think about. It may not be the reality for everyone, but I'm sure at least some can relate.

"Unconditional love is loving your kids for who they are, not for what they do.... I don't mean that we like or accept inappropriate behavior, but with unconditional love we love the children even at those times when we dislike their behavior. Unconditional love isn't something you will achieve every minute of every day. But it is the thought we must hold in our hearts every day."
-Stephanie Martson

I know and fully understand that parents believe they know what is best for their children, and surely they mean well. But I would say their actions in some cases - or rather their misplaced values - would indicate otherwise even though I am sure it is not the case. The constant meddling in their children's lives seems to never end, regardless of gender, age, profession, or social status. I understand it is difficult to watch your child embark on what you firmly believe is a colossal mistake, but there must be a point where the authority takes on a more advisory role. You can't control everything forever. Making mistakes is part of growing up; it helps shape the person you become. It is necessary and inescapable part of life, even if the parents' worst case scenario actually does come true. Let's say a child has been signed up to be a part of a children's football league. As a parent, you could teach your child a hell of a lot more standing on the sidelines than you would playing the game for them. And this applies to all stages of life, on the field and off.

"The last step in parental love involves the release of the beloved; the willing cutting of the cord that would otherwise keep the child in a state of emotional dependence"
-Lewis Mumford

As we get older however, I feel some parents prove incapable of letting go. Then begins the emotional blackmail; obey us or you are on your own. The ultimatum that no child should ever be given. Even worse still, when they threaten your lifestyle, making it seem like the only reason why they believe you stick around is to continue living the comfortable life they have provided, and they whip out that long list of things they have done/sacrificed for you. It's such a shocking notion that it is rarely spoken of, but it breeds a powerful sense of disgust and resentment somehow that I don't think ever goes away.

Therefore the love of the parents - and with it the comforts afforded to you by them - are conditional on you acting as a vessel through which they themselves live based on how they believe it should be lived. If, by any degree, this vessel somehow veers off course, all hell breaks loose. It saddens me to see bright, young, capable people succumb to the life their parents impose on to them with complete disregard to what their children want or even need. It saddens me more to see such people ignorant of the blatant imposition on their lives; they are in a bubble of chronic sadness, the cause of which they will never truly discover.

It is in this idea of parents never letting go where I find a tragic injustice. And yes, it is to do with marriage -although it very well goes beyond that. When I see how some parents stand in the way of their children's marital bliss, over the most trivial of matters, my heart aches. Things like race, age, aesthetics, name, finances, and other material bits and bobs that never really determine one's happiness. When a father demands of his daughter's suitor a hefty dowry when he is in the beginning of his career, just because. When a mother refuses her son's choice because she doesn't have the right last name. When they father proclaims he has been shamed by the mere thought of his child marrying below their social class. What kind of message are you sending your children when you begin to judge people as such? What kind of values are you trying to uphold? How are these values enriching your lives and the lives of your children in any way?

They hear stories of people who have gone and disregarded such 'advice'. Oh, how cataclysmic it turned out to be, and the shame brought on those involved. Oh, the shame! But such stories exist regardless of who you marry, how, when, where. Shit happens. It happens whether you marry your choice or mother's choice or the neighbor's choice. So using such instances as reason enough to stand in your child's way for the sake of protecting them from a similar fate....is nonsense. Because shit happens regardless. Don't stand in the way of your children's happiness over ifs, buts and maybes. If you don't approve, by all means voice your concerns. Let your thoughts be known but leave the choice to them. Whatever that choice is, give them your blessing and pray to God you are wrong. And IF - God forbid - things go sour, be there for them. They made a mistake and they will learn from it. And hopefully be better parents because of it too. At least they won't resent you for preventing them from doing what they truly felt was right.

Even worse still is meddling post-marriage. Parents (read: mothers-in-law) I believe -deep down- mean well but are the source of so much trouble. They're like a hurricane that leaves a mess in its wake, only it doesn't realize it is a hurricane. If these kids ever have a chance in hell of happiness, constant interference from families in what is usually huge life decisions could rob them of the potential of marital bliss. They are inadvertently creating a rift between husband and wife with every time they stick their nose where it doesn't belong. Let your role be limited to giving advice, leaving the choice to the married couple and support them regardless. The irony is they do this when they themselves have likely been subjected to the exact same destructive interference and were miserable because of it. Yet they seem to be repeating the cycle.

What is more important: your child's happiness or the approval of those around you?

Life is too short and there is enough sadness in the world, we need to pursue happiness in whatever form we find it in. I beseech each and every one of you to really dig deep and try to realize what really matters in life, not what you are used to believing matters or what you are told matters. We all have the right to live our lives in pursuit of happiness.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Actions and RE-Actions

Meet Mike Falzone. An unexpected but endless source of wisdom. My favorite part is @1:25.


Actions really do speak louder than words. They are more potent. Doing the action without the commentary is even better. Let your actions speak for themselves because proclaiming what you do or why you do it does not really say much, especially before the deed is done (if in fact it is done). If anything, such self-made proclamations are usually false; it's usually what you think you do or what you'd like to see yourself as rather than what you actually do. If you want to be the person you claim to be, prove it. Show it in the way you carry yourself, in the way you treat others, in your attitude towards life. Don't just do so in front of those you wish to impress, turn around and put on a different mask. It's all about intentions - al-niyya - and believing that really having the right intention will ultimately guide your actions and guide it well. Even when it doesn't work out so well, as long as the true good intention is there it does actually count. At least it does in my eyes.

This is where introspection comes into play. This is why you need to spend time examining yourself; your intentions, your thoughts, your values and opinions. What is it that you see in yourself as good? How does that affect your conduct, if it affects it at all? What is it that you wish to see in yourself? How do you achieve that? How can you improve? What is it that you value most in life? Does it deserve such value? You start to ask yourself such questions, all the while examining your behavior as it is. Put them side to side, does it bode well for you? If you find yourself talking a lot of shit and never really backing it up it's okay, as long as you realize you're a bullshitter and attempt to sort that out. Now if you talk a lot of shit and don't think you do, you got problems. The problem isn't just that you lie to others but you lie to yourself in the process. What do you gain from peddling all that bullshit which more often than not is obvious to be so? You lose credibility as a person - as a fellow human - and people normally can sense the BS.

I can't stand people who just say crap which is usually wildly untrue just for the sake of pretending they know about said crap; the know-it-alls. Although this trait is not exclusive to a particular gender, men are far more likely to be in such situations. Men have a real problem admitting they don't know something. They only do when they know that 'knowing something' will lead them to doing something they just don't feel like doing, so in that case not knowing is more convenient. Otherwise, some people just can't accept the fact that there are some things they just don't know about, life has not led them down that path just yet. We are only human, it's okay to not know something. Even if yo do know quite a bit more than your average Joe, humility is a beautiful quality. However we are also in an age where information is so easily accessible, if you want to know about something, you very well can in minutes. Educate yourself and broaden your horizons! You don't have to wait for someone to push you to. There is a downfall to that though, because with all that information readily available, we have almost become dependent on it. We no longer attempt to withhold information because we can always go back and ask the same question again and again, no judgement from Google. But I digress.

Just as important as actions are one's reactions; how you react to certain situations or others' actions. Since you cannot control people's behavior, you can surely control your own to better react to the situation and sometimes even appease the person before you a little. But if - for example - someone explodes and you explode back, I assure you it will go nowhere.

I am a huge believer in taking the time to understand the person standing before you, regardless of who that person is. Everyone is going through stuff in their lives and it tends to spill all over the place. Even when it doesn't remotely concern you, you may end up being a target or a punching-bag of sorts. Try to envision what could cause them to spontaneously explode and make an effort to prevent the explosion or stop it in its tracks instead of adding fuel to the flame. The way you react could very well embarrass them as they realize how things have been blown hugely out of proportion, and that more often than not, it is over a trivial matter that could surely be resolved more peacefully. Empathy, my dear Watson, I assure you can go a long way.

If you can manage to adjust your conduct so that your initial response is not a vehement one, you will realize that life will run a bit more smoothly, for you and everyone else too. You could relieve yourself of that little bit of tension everyday until it all rolls away. Now I'm not saying we should all be passive in such situations, just gauge your reactions accordingly. I honestly feel we could attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. Even if you owe the person nothing, if they scowl.....then you smile. Kill 'em with kindness.

I came across this video which gives a small peak into various lives that are going in and out of a hospital, and ultimately in and out of our lives. As we pass by countless nameless people each day, we rarely think beyond our own life story. To us, they are mere extras. So try to envision those around you in a similar way; you rarely know of all the things anyone in your life is going through at any point in time, even those close to you. And I'm not saying we should always excuse people's behaviors, just seek to understand them better and understand what could be causing the behavior. Even so, lines can still be crossed just make sure they are reasonably placed lines.



I read something around the world wide web that really stuck with me:
Time decides who you meet in your life, your heart decides who you want in your life, but behavior decides who will stay in your life.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Listen...

It's not as easy as it appears...listening. You may be hearing something but listening actually requires you to process what you hear a little further. The wonders of listening are endless, but people seem to be doing it less and less. They may hear what you're saying, they may even sense your tone, but they could just pick up a word you said and just run with it hoping to God they have not exposed themselves to be far away from the conversation. Miscommunication from poor listening or lack thereof give rise to many issues most of which are trivial. Have you ever witnessed a conversation (more like an argument) where both parties are saying so much but it seems neither one actually heard what the other said? Instead, each party is more concerned with expelling what it is THEY want to say with complete disregard to what the other is saying.

Maybe the digital age is to blame. Have we gotten so used to reading and re-reading text at our 'earliest' convenience to reply only to confirm that we read? Only to take our time to calculate what to say; type, delete, type, erase, type, edit, type, send. When read off a screen, what is being typed in is sometimes not understood the same way when read out. Written and telephonic methods of communication are a blessing sometimes, but they certainly cannot compare to or do the job of face-to-face contact. That is also another cause of miscommunication in my opinion. But I digress.

There are various ways to categorize the different kinds of listening, but the following is more relevant and also sums it up quite nicely. The categories are as follows:
  1. Inactive listening: That's when you hear noise but your mind is elsewhere.
  2. Selective listening: You choose what you want to hear and run with it like an idiot.
  3. Active listening: When the noise is actually processed as words and you are aware of what those words mean.
  4. Reflective listening: This is listening while you engage with what is being said. This is like advanced level stuff, not a lot of people seem to be capable of doing it.
I know it seems a bit much to be fully aware and ready to really 'listen' at a moment's notice. You're brain is sometimes preoccupied making it difficult to focus when it is time to. And sometimes you really don't need to be listening intently. Other times, listening is so valuable.

I don't know about guys in this respect, but girls sometimes feel the need to talk and have someone actively listen.

Just listen.

We don't want an opinion,. We don't want a solution. We certainly don't want criticism. We just want to unload the matter off our chest. In some situations we may want your opinion or help, but you will know when that is. Just because you don't need to really have any input, doesn't mean you don't need to listen. On the contrary, it is vital that you listen intently! It's a sign of intimacy, and not necessarily in a romantic way. This could be our version of a cry for help I suppose. Or maybe this is something we are telling you because we want you to know. We feel comfortable and close enough to you to just let you in our heads for a brief time - guard down and completely vulnerable - as we regurgitate our thoughts and emotions that we have been struggling to suppress. So when we are in such a fragile state and you can't be bothered to pay attention long enough for that, forgive us for being upset, but I believe in such cases we have every right to be.

This applies to every possible form of human relationship, certainly the close ones at least. Just being there for someone to simply listen is a testament of how the person before you loves and cares for you. Allowing someone to just talk while you just listen with very little input on your part may not seem like much, but showing someone you care to hear what they have been thinking/feeling is.

Bad listeners: those who simply like to hear themselves talk, or are arrogant enough - even rude enough - to belittle what's being said, always cutting in to say what THEY think of the matter, ignoring how others may feel. Those who always have an answer for everything, and it's usually the wrong one. Those who always somehow turn the whole ship around and have the audacity to make it about themselves. Yeah, those assholes..not the best listeners. That could be because they simply don't care, or they are in desperate need of a listener themselves but are probably too proud to admit it or allow it.

It does require a little sensitivity to recognize when someone needs you to be there for them to listen. But it really does allow you to get closer and closer to a person; to understand them better and consequently show them that you deserve their trust. You'll slowly be able to read beyond what is being said to what is being  thought and even felt. If you are with someone you cannot be bothered to do such a thing for, you are with the wrong person. You should not be with someone if you have to censor your thoughts and feelings with them either, calculating everything that's being said.

Some people have it the wrong way, though. They are always on alert and firmly believe that whatever words you use to form whatever sentences you make is not what you mean, when that's exactly what it boils down to. You know them, they over-analyze and insist there's something 'up' when there's absolutely nothing up or down. That's taking it a bit to far, me thinks. Then you have some people who just fail to properly communicate what they think and have the worst choice of words. Put those two together and the relationship just might work out, or be one disastrous miscommunication after the other.

Don't underestimate the simple power of listening, but don't push it Freud...

Monday, February 25, 2013

رفقاً بالقوارير...والقدور

I think one of the strangest phenomena we encounter on a daily basis is just how differently men and women see things. It isn't the first time I discuss this, nor will it be the last. We function differently (here are the numbers to prove it!), and for that reason sometimes have difficulty communicating. Both have unspoken expectations of the other and that are just lost in space somewhere. The message never quite gets across the way you want it to. Many a time relationships have dwindled for having such expectations but never communicating them. And even when you say one thing and mean another, you expect the other person to understand what you mean, not what you say, then get upset when they haven't...! Even worse is when you say nothing at all and expect it to just be known. Things like pride get in the way.

Men, I feel, sometimes forget how fragile women are. Yes, we can be seen as 'vulnerable' sometimes, though not to be confused for weakness. A woman can be the epitome of strength and independence, but she is still a woman. She might not even admit she's fragile and would resist ever exposing that side, but you need to look beyond it. I wish more men would take the time to try and understand just how much a woman endures just for being a woman. It may seem that there's not much to it but that certainly is not the case. Especially nowadays when more women are proving capable of doing exactly what it is men are supposedly built to do - sometimes better - despite the constant opposition from all sides, both male and female, trying to get her to just sit down, shut up and look pretty. Meeting the high standards of being 'pretty' alone is exhausting. Kicking ass and looking fabulous doing it is no easy feat, and I must insist men start giving women credit for that alone.

What breaks my heart even more are those women who have yet to realize just how capable they can be. For some reason they have been suppressed - by others or even by themselves - and left to think they will never be better than they already are. They are left believing they are exactly where they should be and don't deserve any better. The woman who obsesses over how she looks, spending hours grooming herself believing she is not pretty enough to face the world without it, or has nothing more to offer besides aesthetics.  The woman who is on a chronic 'diet' or a succession of diets that never seem to end. Even worse is the woman who spends no time taking care of herself whatsoever, feeling she is a lost cause. I can't help but wonder what it is that makes them feel so defeated? I ask you, dear reader, the same question.

A woman, in addition to the many known qualities, has this ability for compassion that has no bounds, but having to fight against stereotypes constantly has more or less forced her to strip herself of that compassion, or at least mask it, in order to appear a worthy opponent to her male counterpart or even to just appear worthy in the eyes of her male counterpart. She must rid herself of what comes naturally to her; what should be seen as an asset, is made out to be a liability. Worst of all is the opposition from her fellow females; spiteful women who are either complacent or merely jealous that she had the courage to do what they themselves know they can also do but don't. There are women that do, and women that don't, and they all hate on each other because they secretly know women can do and should do. But I digress.

All things considered, yes, there will be mood swings. Yes, there will be inexplicable rants and fits of rage. Yes, oh yes, there will be many tears. This is our coping mechanism. You don't have to like it, you may never understand it, but with all the shit a woman has to put up with we may reach a point where we just implode. After a couple implosions you may get an explosion which may seem like it came out of nowhere, but believe me it came from everywhere. When this happens, don't go telling her she's overreacting. Don't go wide-eyed and panic at the sight of her. It comes with being female so don't fault her for being one. Then again don't just stand on the sidelines and watch her crash and burn. Even some women out there may not comprehend what it is I mean, but I'm sure most can relate.

Tread carefully though, because here's where it gets tricky. Different girls want different things. They do that thing where they say one thing and mean another, or say a lot of contradicting things because they just don't know how to properly get the message across. It is something we are all guilty of but in such cases it's really hard to verbalize what is going on inside. Some like to be left alone to cool down while others want as much attention and coddling as humanly possible. Sometimes the same girl would want both but for different situations. I'll leave that down to your sound, wise judgement. It will require trying different methods, testing the waters before reacting appropriately. At times, doing the wrong thing just might be better than doing nothing at all.

It is also these situations that would make a woman feel like she is with someone who understands, or at least tries to. At least she feels she is with someone who sees her. If she doesn't have your attention, believe me she will have someone else's. Be careful not to push her into someone else's arms, and then wonder why it happened (that does go both ways). It's the small things that count. You may shower her with gifts and take her all around the world, but you're too busy to spend a whole 5 minutes with her. You may be working your ass of to provide or continue providing a home for her and taking care of the children, but you spend your free time with 'the guys'. You may challenge her intellectually on a level only known to few but don't make the effort to call her back. You may feel you are flipping backwards and forwards for her, in a way most women would envy, but you may just be doing the wrong thing to try to please the right girl.

If you have been doing the same thing with the last X number of girls you've been with; giving the same compliments, telling the same stories, buying the same type of gifts for the same type of occasions even in the same price range and packaging, taking her to the same restaurants and same trips, maybe even feeling the same feelings....you know something is up. The same sweet gestures and the same surprises and the same pattern in general with X different women...? No wonder they all ended. Stop thinking about what it is girls want and focus on what this girl wants.

Women, on the other hand, tend to forget how proud men can be. I know it may be hard to believe, but men like to be men. Who would've thought?! So let him be one. Yes, we know women are highly capable, and you don't need to be a downright bimbo, just let him do his thing...humor him! They want to be the muscle around the house; they want to open jars and kill spiders, and I don't necessarily mean that literally (although I personally believe that is a rather important male role). They want to be able to take care of their own, and that includes their family. In return they want to be treated as head of the household.

Downside, some men want to be treated as such but don't deserve to be. So when you encounter that sort of proud man, I say bruise his ego every chance you get. He doesn't deserve such consideration and respect and sadly will never own up to his incompetence as a man and a human and will continue to punish everyone around him for it. Worst of all, men don't talk. Men have this annoying tendency to bottle things up. I've encountered men who are happy to walk away from a conversation having made their own interpretation of what was said rather than actually discussing it. Others who do the opposite, try to create an alternative interpretation of what has actually been said, one that is more to their liking. All this happens in their head though. Their actions reflect it, but we have no way of knowing where it came from. It's like they made an executive decision to behave a certain way and expect us feeble women to accept this change in behavior, no questions asked. Why? Because men always know better, right?

I know a lot of what I say about men is contradicting, but I must say you men are a contradicting bunch! And I know I shouldn't be generalizing here but there is no denying; just as women have this immense capacity to empathize, men have an equally immense capacity to be assholes. Demanding respect and consideration and offering nothing in return renders you more or less useless in my eyes. And I'm not talking in a materialistic sense, I am referring to the duty of a man towards his kin in general. Some men are just assholes to the world and are a disgrace to the human race. Men are capable of asshole-osity in ways that far exceed what women could ever dream of being capable of. I refuse to believe women would have allowed some of the atrocities in the world today to have ever been conceived as an idea let alone actually happened. Perhaps I'm giving women too much credit, perhaps not. But I have never seen such a lack of compassion in women as I have seen so in men, even throughout history. But I digress.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Live and Let Live

Before I get into the heart of the matter, I wanted to share what I feel is a very powerful video displaying the realities we face today, and in some way could prepare your mind for the topic at hand. It helps you step back and look at the bigger picture to fully comprehend what is going on around you. Sometimes we are trapped in a bubble for so long, we need to step out and look at the bubble from the outside to better understand what is going on around us, and what choice(s) we have in the matter.


No one can control everything around them, least of all the people around them. The only thing you are in control of is yourself. How you behave, sometimes how you think, very rarely can you control how you feel. Regardless, you can never manipulate those around you into saying and thinking what you want them to about you. Despite your best efforts, there will always be those who will find some thing or another to nitpick at. So why bother yourself with adjusting your conduct and the way you live your life for the sake of what others 'might' say or think?

It....is.....exhausting!

It is near impossible to lead a pristine, socially-accepted life. Not because we are all bad people, but because there will always be not-so-pristine assholes who are so miserable and unhappy with their lives, so much so that they feel the need to somehow hate on yours. You cannot control that. So why let it get to you? Why force yourself into this little box that society set up for you when there will always be people that will expect you to fit in a tube instead. Why bother?! You form yourself into whatever polygonal shape you please and don't let anyone tell you any different. Doesn't even have to be a polygon, whatever form or anti-form you want!

I really fail to see the point in this charade. All it does is keep you from really living and enjoying life. All you should really be concerned with is your own life, and by extension those who are intrinsically a part of your life. Anyone else; if they like it, hey come on in, otherwise there's the door. There is absolutely no need to concern yourself with such people at all and more importantly allow them to affect you, your life, and your happiness. Don't let anyone rain on your parade, they're only making it rain over in their parade so just take another route.

We all reach a point in our lives where the ideals, values and principles we develop can sometimes clash with that of society or even to those around us from family and friends. When that point comes you are faced with choices; one must decide what kind of man/woman you want to be, how you want to live out your life, how you can sleep at night, how you can be happy with the way you are and the way you would like to be. More importantly, how to do that without isolating yourself from those you may disagree with. The question is...is that possible? I don't know, I hope so. Surely it is better to try that rather than to conform or isolate oneself.

I cannot stress this enough:

Live and let live!

Live. Live life. Live openly, honestly and with conviction. Make your own choices in your life believing wholeheartedly they are the choices you want to make for yourself. Eliminate all the unnecessary buzzing around you and strip it back to the basics; you. What matters to you and only you.

I want to start some sort of campaign all over the world to spread the good word. You get off my case, I'll get off yours, and there you have it. That easy. Best part is, even if they don't get off your case, get off theirs anyway and don't trouble yourself with such pettiness. Brush it off your shoulder. Let it roll off like water off a duck's back. Cuz in the end..

haters gonna hate

Peace out...

Monday, January 7, 2013

(Un)Conditional Love

I read an interesting piece by Ziad El-Hady - aka my future husband, he just doesn't know it yet - entitled The Essence of Romantic Love is Nothingness. Funnily enough, I agree with everything he had to say, except for his main point; that relationships are built structures with no foundation, under constant and likely threat of de-construction (such a nicer way to say destruction). Maybe I'm being hopeful here, but I'd like to think that is not true.

One point he did make which rung very true is that there is no such thing as unconditional love. If you consider relationships you've been in but ended, relationships you may or may not have been unconditionally in love. Of those you did see yourself as unconditionally in love, surely it wouldn't have ended if it was truly unconditional, right? Let's say it ended because of an indiscretion of some sort, therefore your love is conditional on fidelity. If it ended because one or both parties 'changed', ergo love is conditional on remaining exactly the same as you did when you first entered the relationship. Somehow, you start to see that love actually is - and always was - conditional! To me the idea of unconditional love is exactly what gets people in trouble; people get swept away by the fairy tale idea until they are faced with the reality of it all. They just end up hugely disappointed. Worse still, instead of believing that their idea of this romantic love is indeed a misconception, they simply believe they just haven't found it yet. So they just abort mission and try again instead of genuinely attempting to change their understanding of love and apply it to their already existing structure. Some might even go RomCom and fight for this love believing that it is there, when it is not. If I had to say some form of love was unconditional, to me it would be the love towards parents and immediate family, even if I do feel at times their love for me could be under the condition that I do as they say or expect, but I digress.

Back to the idea of a foundation-less love. The conclusion reached would make sense based on the overall argument, but I can't help but feel something is missing. Perhaps it's the idea that 'romantic' love is not necessarily imperative in a happy, healthy relationship. Maybe it's a different kind of love. And it is upon finding that love you are able to lay down the foundations of a lasting relationship. A love that is not alone. A love that comes with mutual respect, understanding, trust, compassion, joy, empathy, acceptance and even humor. The all-consuming love, the blinding can't-live-without-you love is unstable and inconsistent. The higher the highs, the lower the lows. It is euphoric though, the 'high'. And once you get a taste of it, that's all you want and you want it all the time. So when something comes along to rock your love boat, panic ensues along with questions, doubts and fear of never getting that feeling of euphoria again. I've said it before and I'll say it again....love is a dangerous thing. Yes, it is beautiful, but the power it yields is immense and could feel threatening. Very threatening.

The problem I see is that such unrealistic expectations of this 'romantic' love, along with the list of personal criteria one has for their ideal partner may need a little tweaking. Not to mention the chronic fear of being alone, which by far I find is the biggest obstacle one must face (and many, many don't even bother to). All, I feel, begin from within.

"A man who - as a physical being - is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him"
- Søren Kierkegaard

Let's address this fear of being alone. A lot of people would never admit to see their relationships for what they really are: a distraction. Oh the amount of relationships I have witnessed and wanted to call bullshit...but didn't because people are sensitive to that sort of thing. I see people somehow find themselves in a relationship with someone, usually after a break-up or a rejection of some sort, or even based on sheer attraction. They try to force it to fit into this mold and endlessly try to manipulate it to make it spell 'happily ever after' but it simply won't. They use the rare, fleeting moments of happiness or 'highs' to justify their attempts, clinging on to the hope that more of this would come. In some cases it just goes terribly wrong and ends for good (might end a couple times before it's officially ended because fear can sometimes make one redundant). Other cases, they manage to spell 'appily e'er after' or something similar and simply make do with what they have, not knowing that over time, the letters will get jumbled up again and you will no longer have the energy or want to make the effort to manipulate it back into place anymore. Admittedly, in some rare cases, with time and effort the letters may eventually start spelling out the correct phrase. That, however, is a hope we all cling on to in such cases, but we need to be able to distinguish where there is hope, and where there is none.

"Nowadays we live in a world which is paradoxical. We pursue happiness and it leads to resentment and it leads to unhappiness. And it leads, in fact, to an explosion of mental illness." 
- Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist

All this, why? Because being alone or single is seen as a failure, in any culture! If you are single, clearly something is wrong with you. Why doesn't anyone want you? I see it's the other way around though; it's not that no one wants you but you don't want anyone...yet. You have not found yourself ready, you have not yet figured out what it is you want in order for you to finally be able to find someone you want, or even want someone you already found. You have to know what it is you want before you can know whether you want someone or not. That's not easy to do though. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes complete, unhindered, unadulterated and uncensored honesty. You have to face yourself, know yourself, love yourself. Embrace all that is you both good and bad, until the 'flaws' become your perfections. You have to be happy and comfortable in your own skin and mind to reach a state where you don't feel you need to be with someone to avoid loneliness, but rather you want to be with someone to further enrich your life.

"To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one's self...and to venture in the highest is precisely to be conscious of one's self"
- Søren Kierkegaard
So I ask that you allow yourself to venture. Find yourself first - personally, physically, professionally - so that along your venture you may cross paths with the person meant to be yours.