Friday, 18 September 2015

the undignified silence

On the way home from school today, my daughters were nattering away in the backseat. They can be very competitive, a game which the elder one understands and dominates. She made a comment to put the little one in her place. I asked my daughter, "Was that kind? Was that necessary?". She didn't understand. 

I explained to her the idea behind this: before saying something, ask yourself if it is kind. If the answer is no, ask yourself if it is necessary. If the answer is yes, speak, but speak kindly. If it is kind but not necessary, then you can also say it. If the answer to both questions is no, then keep your words to yourself.

It got me thinking about how we use the various tools of communication at our disposal - be they words, actions, or silences. "Is it kind? Is it necessary?" is a filter you can use for all of these tools of communication, so you can use them for good, and not as weapons against others. It's a filter I myself want to use as often as possible starting now, since I know I've been ignoring it.

In my culture, expressiveness is encouraged, but only in certain forms. You'll have extremely melodramatic reactions to pretty much everything under the sun, as long as it's a trivial matter. When the turd really hits the fan, most people expect you to keep a "dignified silence".

Fortunately for me, I was not raised in this culture. I am a third-culture kid, and have had the luxury of adopting and adapting, finally creating my own culture and beliefs which are entirely unique to me. Not everyone would understand or agree with them, and that's fine by me, hence I don't discuss them with most.

Women in particular in the subcontinent are expected to keep a "dignified silence". I keep putting that term in quotation marks, because I scoff every time I come across it. What, in particular, is dignified about silence? How many hearts have been won by a stiff upper lip?

Alright, granted, if there's someone being a right twerp and doesn't deserve a response, the best and only thing to do is walk away. Then, silence is necessary, and perhaps also kind. But often, silence is the most passive aggressive weapon people use.

I chatted with a friend today who suffers from fibromyalgia - a debilitating, confounding, painful and untreatable disease. All you can do with FM is manage the pain. For a long time, this friend suffered in silence except for a few of us who knew. For starters, it took her the longest time to get diagnosed, because when you complain, people label you a "whiner", and nobody wants to have that emblazoned on their forehead, especially since people are fantastically judgmental when you complain about anything. When you start thinking about the number of people with problems that can be fixed, helped or managed who aren't getting any help because they are staying silent, it's infuriating.

The day my friend opened up about what she has on social media, she started receiving messages from people with similar symptoms, wondering if they might have FM, too. She had friends sending her good wishes, praying for her, trying to cheer her up. She found a supportive community online, providing her with both psychological and physical tips to have the best quality of life she can.

This proves that for every judgmental person who calls you a "whiner" and can't empathise, you'll find ten people who genuinely care about you, and even if they send you a smiley face, it can help you feel better. As the proverb says, "Shared sorrow is halved sorrow. Shared joy is double joy."

Lately, her physiotherapist told her, "When you suffer in silence, it means you are either staying sick or burdening one or two people in your life, which is unfair". What a fantastic point-of-view!

FM is an extreme case, and while most of us are fortunate to not have critically serious problems, everyone is carrying around their own baggage. The point is, you don't have to do it alone.

At the end of the day, whether it's your words, your actions, or your silence, ask yourself,
"Is it kind?
Is it necessary?",
before you proceed.

To be continued. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Of new beginnings...

Hello, all!

I'm sorry it's been so quiet on the blog. I've been spending a great deal of time working on this new venture, and it's taken up all my free time.

The picture above was taken at the Kuch Khaas Farmer's Market a couple of weeks back. While visiting Islamabad, I thought there would be no better place to launch this new chapter than their crafts market, in what is a place I call my second home. So, armed with my bag of handmade goodies, I set up my stall and got ready to be a "crafter" for the first time.

It was a lot of fun, got a bit hot, and I found a new appreciation for the people who do this every single week. There were some people who stopped and chatted, asked questions, enjoyed having a look, some just walked by without a glance, and some just smiled furtively and carried on. I'm new to this so I'm terrible at it, rather than solicit customers, I was sitting there doing more calligraphy and painting. Ah well!

I had a few people come up to me and tell me I should give Urdu calligraphy a try. I said I would love to, except that my Urdu handwriting looks conspicuously like that of a 6 year old. The most interesting exchange I had was with a middle-aged Pakistani gentleman who told me, in just about the thickest American accent (much more so than anyone I ever encountered IN the US), "I could buy this in New York, you should do some Urdu calligraphy". I couldn't say much in reply, because I'm not really that good at comebacks, I always think of the right thing to say when it's far too late. What I would have liked to tell him is, "Uncle, you can find beautiful Urdu calligraphy made by local artisans. Just visit Rana Market, they're sitting on the sidewalks. And they could really use the patronage." Those artists sell their hard work for practically a song.

That's when it occurred to me that in Islamabad you have a certain breed of people - those who move within F6, F7 and the Red Zone. They don't step anywhere outside that perimeter, and if they do, it's within the safety of their cars. Is this what Islamabad has become, or has it always been like this? I used to be much more adventurous pre-mommyhood, now if I have to go to G9 or Aabpara I won't take the kids simply because they get really fed up wandering around with me. But they still exist in my definition of Islamabad.

Moreover, the issue of identity cropped up again. I've been living in Pakistan for 11 years now, but I grew up all over the globe, which is why my Urdu took a beating. I've worked very hard to improve my oral Urdu and reading, but when I think of Urdu calligraphy, it would be like learning Chinese calligraphy for me. A challenge I'm ready to accept, mind you. What I don't understand, though, is why is there a need to make people feel smaller because they are more comfortable with a certain language? Had I grown up here, I would understand the stigma, which is why I want my children to be perfectly bilingual as they are growing up here, and luckily their school has a strong Urdu programme. Well, I guess I shouldn't expect "New York wallay uncle" to know that I didn't grow up here, but I did find the whole experience quite chuckle-worthy even if it irritated me at first.

Anyone want to help me with my Urdu script? I need all the help I can get! I have a feeling uncle still wouldn't want to buy those pieces, because, considering my favorite quote is, "When life gives you lemons, throw them at someone", I'd say my style is more "Bitchy Urdu ecards" than Bulleh Shah. *Wink!*
That's my work, right there! 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Final Day - 40 Rules of Love / 40 Days of Love

Rule 40
“A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western. Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple. Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire! The universe turns differently when fire loves water.”

Here it is... day 40. It doesn't feel like 40 days, and though this started out as an exercise in self-discipline, it became an exploration into my own mind and heart. Having to think about what each rule meant to me on a daily basis did a lot for my discipline, for sure, but it also set me off on a journey with unexpected results. 

Was there some great epiphany? Have I magically stopped yelling completely? No, let's be honest here. I'm still very much who I am, but I'm starting to make more sense to myself. I'm a little clearer on who I am and why. I know exactly what I don't want in life, and from there I'm starting to figure out what I do want. What I can and can't do without. And it's not what I suspected. 

Perhaps that's why it's fitting that all roads lead to rule 40 - "a life without love is of no account". It is important to love oneself, ones family, ones friends, and having love in return is just as necessary. 

In these uncertain times, I find that an alarming number of young people are swearing off love. It's for the naïve, the needy, the weak. Those of us who are self-aware and world-wizened know better. Right? 

Wrong. If you are with someone who has this kind of attitude, please, walk away. If you have this kind of attitude, please, do yourself a favour and get off that high horse, because you're riding it backwards no less. It is the most foolish thing to be ashamed of loving someone else too much, what are you so afraid of? 

We need to take a long hard look at ourselves, to face our fears head-on, and realize their place in the universe is just a tiny speck... exactly the same as us. And then there are the opinions society at large has of us, and guess what? That's not even a tiny speck, it's non-existent in the grand scheme of things. 

What have I learned over the last 40 days? Here are some of the bullet points, you know, since we all have ADHD these days:

- There is no cure for road rage. None. 

- Most things I yell at my kids about are just coming from me being overworked / overtired / not mentally stimulated enough / not creatively fulfilled enough, and has no actual connection to the action itself or my kids. Well, most of the time. And, in those instances, it's just not worth losing it, but it's hard not to. I'm still working on this one. 

- Sometimes, you do need to lose it, because you're trying to make your kids into good, decent, considerate human beings. Or save their life. In either of those two cases, you do what you have to in order to get the point across. That's what parenting is. 

- Tell your kids stories about your pregnancy. Their birth. The first time you saw them, held them. Their baby stories. Kids love this stuff, and there's nothing that makes you bond more than sharing those special memories. 

- You can never have enough cuddles. 

- It's hard not to judge people sometimes. It's really bad to do it, but sometimes it really is hard. Still, must keep trying. 

- Be grateful for what you have. You never know what others are going through, and if you only have small problems in your life that you can fix yourself, you're very lucky indeed. 

- If you have people who love you in your life, you are also very lucky. Try not to take them for granted. 

- There is no point in dieting and cutting back on roti at dinner if you're going to get the munchies at 11pm and eat a packet of crisps with dip and several chocolate chip cookies. Seriously, T, just eat the damn roti at dinner! Ugh. So mad at myself. 

- Exercise is vital for your brain as much as for your body, and yes, even for your creativity. 

- One weekend I was so exhausted I just couldn't get up. As a result the 6 year old made breakfast for herself and the little one. Well hey! That was a wonderful surprise. It's what we teach them to do for themselves that matters, right? No more "helicopter" parenting. 

- The signs are there. Everywhere, in everything. You just have to open your soul to see them. Tune in to the right frequency, if you will. 

- Love with all your heart. Try with all your heart. Create with all your heart. It may or may not be returned or well-received. But you try your very best regardless, because you are you, and that's what you do. 

And on that very Dr. Seuss note, it is time to bid the 40 days of love farewell. Thank you, Shams. Thank you, Rumi. 40 days might be over, but those rules are always in my mind and heart as of now, and you start to see small things around you differently. There are dualities within me that will probably always exist, I accept them but also accept the challenge to constantly work on myself. I do not want these 40 days to be over and forget everything I have learned. I will revisit the rules time and again, some more than others. I will playfully wonder, "What would Shams do?" in various situations. 

I decided for the last image that I would take a picture of the calligraphy I did in its raw form. Those tools have been my faithful companions, and I think the 40 days did the most remarkable thing bringing us back together again. 

If you've made it this far, thank you for going on this bizarre ride with me. You're awesome, and I'm high-fiving you from here. I hope you've gotten something helpful out of these 40 days, but hey, I'll settle for mildly entertained. ;) 

Friday, 15 May 2015

Day Thirty Nine

Rule 39
“While the part changes, the whole always remains the same. For every thief who departs this world, a new one is born. And every decent person who passes away is replaced by a new one. In this way not only does nothing remain the same but also nothing ever really changes. For every Sufi who dies, another is born somewhere.”

Balance. Life is all about balance. Sometimes it takes a while, but it will come. There will always be good and evil in the world, and I don't know if it's really this world that becomes more rotten each passing year, or the fact that we were unaware of it before this age of "disinformation", or maybe we were too young to understand. 

The universe is a balancing act, and so are you. My good friend always says, some people enter our lives "for a season, for a reason", and others are for life. Trouble is it's hard to tell which category people fall into. Tricky, that. 

Well, to all who have suffered heartache and heartbreak, to those of you who are going through it right now, this one's for you. This, too, shall pass. Have faith. 

cry your heart out, sweet one
there is no shame in crying
you don't have to be tough
you don't have to keep hiding

so she left you without a trace
so he broke your wounded heart
these things happen sadly
but you'll get your brand new start

i know it feels like a trial
walking through these walls of fire
cupid shot a blazing arrow alright
but it was for a funeral pyre

sometimes your heart needs to break
into a million tiny pieces
so you can build it back up stronger
get to know it, get to feel it

just promise me one little thing
when you're all cried out and done
know this, deep in your heart
that person was not the one

the one is a myth, a fairytale
to keep us warm at night
you don't need it to get back on your feet,
soon everything will be alright

promise yourself you'll always keep
an open heart and mind
no matter what anyone does to you
you will remain true and kind

there is a love that's meant for you
and it will make you forget this hell
but the one true love for all of us
is knowing to love ourselves

- tka

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Day Thirty Eight

Rule 38
“It is never too late to ask yourself, “Am I ready to change the life I am living? Am I ready to change within?” Even if a single day in your life is the same as the day before, it surely is a pity. At every moment and with each new breath, one should be renewed and renewed again. There is only one-way to be born into a new life: to die before death.

It's getting impossible to ignore the evil in the world. Yesterday, the monsters struck again. Who are these monsters? Where did they come from? Who's backing them? Too many questions, not enough plausible answers, and no solution in sight. It feels at times like the walls are closing in, and instead of becoming more accepting and peaceful, intolerance, xenophobia and hatred are on the rise. "It's always darkest before the dawn"... but it's getting harder to believe in a promised dawn, and this feeling of being helpless to stop the madness is infuriating.

As the world becomes crazier, the questions in Rule 38 are questions I've asked myself countless times. Let me sum up what growing up looks like in my brain:

Late teens / early 20's - You saw the Matrix. You read Beckett, Genet, Sartre, and now you're having one big massive existential crisis. Who am I? Am I even? We all die alooooooooneeeeeee! You have so much energy you're not sure what the heck to do with yourself most of the time.

Early to mid 20's - I'm going to conquer the world! As soon as I figure out who I am.

Post-25 - A steady paycheque would be nice, since I've kind of figured out who I am. Conquering the world was a crazy idea anyway.

Post-30 - Hello, me! I like me! Yay, finally. I think I've got this figured out. But man, I'm tired. Why am I so tired?

As 35 approaches - Wait, what? Omg omg omg 40 is coming soon, and I have nothing to show for it! I want to start a brand new career! Where did this belly come from? Shoooo! I'm totally not going through a pre-midlife crisis, this is pre-midlife enlightenment!

Tina Fey, my hero. I thought of this image because 
as I am typing this, I have a little person on my lap 
who's sucking her thumb and pinching my elbow. 
Who says we can't have it all? Pfft!

Look, it's normal not to be sure what you want to do when you grow up, but you want to hear something funny? As I grow older, I find myself being drawn back to the things I really loved growing up. Maybe our young souls know our calling perfectly, and denying it is like suffocating your soul. Just a thought. If you find yourself wanting to go back to something you always loved, why not give it a try? And if your kids have a passion, encourage them (as long as it's not pyromania or animal torture... you know). 

The fact is that pursuing our dreams is something that only the privileged can contemplate. If you are already living your dream, you are one of the lucky few, so hang on to it! Most humans on this planet are stuck doing something they hate, getting underpaid for it, possibly being exploited, and some of them may not have even had the time to ask themselves, "Hey, what are my dreams in life?" So, if you have the luxury of even entertaining that notion for a second, do the universe a favor, don't be ungrateful, and follow your dream. Why? I believe that every time a soul finds its calling, happy vibes go back into the world. Oh, don't look at me like I just spewed some hippie bs. Happiness is contagious, and the world needs more happy people to make this a happier place for those who cannot afford to follow their own dreams. You don't know yet where your dreams will take you, and how it may help others... because it's hard to do anything truly constructive when you hate what you do. 

It is never too late to reinvent yourself and your life. Just ask Madonna. B**ch never grows old.

Note: The wreath in the calligraphy is from a tutorial by the amazing Lindsey (The Postman's Knock blog). It's easily the best resource for modern calligraphy and much more!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Day Thirty Seven

Rule 37
“God is a meticulous clock maker. So precise is His order that everything on earth happens in its own time. Neither a minute late nor a minute early. And for everyone without exception, the clock works accurately. For each there is a time to love and a time to die.”

“what my babies taught me” 

they made me stop taking myself so seriously
they made me look at myself from the outside
and look outside myself at others
they made me smile
at old treasures rediscovered through their eyes

a favorite childhood book, a song, a film
and how I love to share these with them
they made me question the meaning of what we do
does the daily grind help their future?
are test scores a measure of greatness?
they let me sing and join in
they laugh at my silliness
they tell me off when I don’t make sense

they make so much more sense
than any adult
even when they can barely speak
through giant heartfelt sobs
so why do I tell them to stop?
why lose my temper?
why not just stop my own madness
and join them in their beautiful world? 

everything has a time to be
slipping through our fingers everyday
headed towards something
soon i won't be able to carry you anymore
all-encompassing hugs, kissing little feet
new adventures await us
but right now i just want to enjoy this

dishes be damned
housework to hell
laundry get lost
we have fairies to find 
in the wild recesses of our minds

time slow down just a little, please? 
time be kind

when you're big some day
my little angels
i hope you'll read this
and know that mama is only human
she tried her best, yet faltered much
but she loves you so deeply
that it's a raging storm inside her heart

i hope i'm teaching you something of value, my girls
know this, though
you grace me with your infinite wisdom and perfect love
every single day
and teach me more than i can thank you for and you can know
and i vow, from this moment on, to tell you so.

- Tülin Khalid-Azim

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Days Thirty Five & Thirty Six

Rule 35
“In this world, it is not similarities or regularities that take us a step forward, but blunt opposites. And all the opposites in the universe are present within each and every one of us. Therefore the believer needs to meet the unbeliever residing within. And the nonbeliever should get to know the silent faithful in him. Until the day one reaches the stage of Al-Insan aI-Kamil, the perfect human being, faith is a gradual process and one that necessitates its seeming opposite: disbelief.”

A friend posted an image, a quote by Louis CK. He says, "When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don't get to decide that you didn't."

It struck me, because I had just had this conversation with my girls earlier yesterday. The little one wailed dramatically to the older one, "You hurt my feelings!", to which the older one flatly said, "No, I didn't". I had to stop the older one right there. "You can't say that. They are her feelings. If she says you hurt her feelings, then you hurt her feelings. Now say sorry." 

I'm not sure the meaning of what I was telling her actually sunk in, but this is one lesson I wish all mothers had taught their children, because there are plenty of adults who walk around as living proof that their mamas did not tell them not to be complete jerks to others. 

The quote is interesting enough, but the comments underneath it are equally good. One person said it is simple to apologize. To which another person said, even if you don't want to apologize, "don't you DARE invalidate the other person's feelings". 

You have a right to live your life, do what you like as you see fit. You have a right to think you are right no matter what you do. You, quite unfortunately, have a right to be a complete bum wipe and feel entitled to be so. You also have the right to not apologize. But like it or not, you do not have the right to decide that you did not hurt someone else's feelings. Sometimes we get even more defensive when we hurt someone's feelings inadvertently. We feel a bit self-righteous, because that was "not my intention". Still, you hurt that person. So, even if you think you're right, you have to accept that it hurt their feelings. And if you hate this situation, here's a little tip for the future: be considerate towards others. Yes, it's that simple. 

Today's rule is, to me, about acceptance once more. We need to understand all the different colors, the ones diametrically opposed to our own, before we can begin to understand ourselves and our place in the world. As for faith, if you don't question your faith, how do you know you truly believe in it? My years in school in Senegal, being put in a situation where I had to regularly stand up for my faith meant that I also had many days of questioning my faith and any other faith altogether. Those questions helped me define what I believe today, and if I have any faith, no matter what shape or form it takes or how unconventional it is, if it's there it's because it's been through several burning rings of fire. 

Rules 35 and 36 get one post, because you can't talk about one without the other. Again, you have the right to be a complete jerk, that's just the way the world works. That said, here's some food for thought...

Rule 36
“This world is erected upon the principle of reciprocity. Neither a drop of kindness nor a speck of evil will remain unreciprocated. For not the plots, deceptions, or tricks of other people. If somebody is setting a trap, remember, so is God. He is the biggest plotter. Not even a leaf stirs outside God’s knowledge. Simply and fully believe in that. Whatever God does, He does it beautifully.”

Oh snap. 

Karma is not a "new age" concept. It's not some frou-frou hippie nonsense. No, far from it. Without getting into specifics, I will only say this - I've seen karma at play. From small to big things, I've seen it work too well to deny it. Something as small as knocking a car and driving off will come back to you later on. Everything has to balance out eventually, and you will have to pay the piper, too.

So, if you discredit the feelings of others, if you make someone feel bad, if you try to disempower them by refusing to hear what they have to say, if you cheat them out of their due, if you hurt someone, let me just say it again in case Shams didn't get the message across... It WILL come back to bite you in the butt. 

For those of us who deal with wee ones, let's first try the approach that hurting others is wrong before resorting to karma right away. I think it's important children understand the difference between doing something nice for the sake of it vs. out of fear or for rewards. 

But as for the adults who never learned this lesson: look, we all have a responsibility towards each other, and don't think you can take it lightly or absolve yourself. 

Be proactive. Help out. Listen. Care. Be empathetic. Be considerate. Just be nice. I mean, how hard is it?

And if none of those is genetically programmed in you, then do the world a favor, will ya, and do it because you're selfish and don't want karma to give you a backhanded slap in the face.


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Day Thirty Four

Rule 34
“Submission does not mean being weak or passive. It leads to neither fatalism nor capitulation. Just the opposite. True power resides in submission, a power that comes within. Those who submit to the divine essence of life will live in unperturbed tranquillity and peace; even the whole wide world goes through turbulence after turbulence.”

"God helps those who help themselves."

I have always been a firm believer in this simple fact. There's a joke that goes like this: Floods were about to hit a village. Warnings were issued, and people were told to evacuate. One household said, "We will not go, God will provide for us." The floods came and people left, except for that one house. With the rising waters, a boat came to rescue them. They said, "We will not go, God will protect us". When water had flooded their house, they climbed on top of their roof and waited. A rescue helicopter came to get them. They said, "We will not go, God will save us". And so they stayed, and so they drowned. When they stood before God, they were hurt and shocked, and said, "God, our faith in you never wavered! Why did you let us die? Why didn't you save us?" To which God replied, "What are you talking about? I sent you a warning, then a boat, and then a helicopter!"

Reality is right in front of your face, whether you choose to accept it is your call. Submission does not mean weakness, it does not mean being a victim. Even if you are in a bad situation and there seems to be no way out, it is your choice to stay. It is your choice to accept that you have no power to change certain situations, and you certainly have no power to change people. 

Let me state this in no uncertain terms: NO ONE has the power to change ANYONE else. It's a lie our society will shove down your throat without the slightest consideration, and I have seen people feel like utter failures for not being able to "change" another person, usually their partners. 

You can only change yourself, and that too only if YOU want to. Nor do you have to change for anyone else unless you absolutely want to change who you are, and maybe you have compelling reasons to do that. In which case, good for you. 

We can't even change our children, to be honest. They are given to us as presents, complete with minds and personalities of their own. They are not extensions of us, their legacies are not linked to ours. They must forge their own path in this world. They must never be "weak or passive", no. But they must accept when things are the way they are, simply because they are. But, as soon as a solution presents itself, it is also our choice to take action. Submission is not subservience. It is acceptance. A quality we all could use more of today. 

happy mother's day

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Day Thirty Three

Rule 33
“While everyone in this world strives to get somewhere and become someone, only to leave it all behind after death, you aim for the supreme stage of nothingness. Live this life as light and empty as the number zero. We are no different from a pot. It is not the decorations outside but the emptiness inside that holds us straight. Just like that, it is not what we aspire to achieve but the consciousness of nothingness that keeps us going.”

With only one week left of this 40 day journey (seriously? It's almost 40 days? Where has the time gone...), the rules are getting serious. 

So, I have some trouble with this one. As a parent, it's almost impossible to live your life as "light and empty as the number zero". I'm not an ascetic. I'm a mother. I went to see a play this evening (more on that in a bit), and in every scene with a mother, I thought of my babies. When me and my friends started having kids, I told one of them, "You realize we are never going to have a proper night's sleep again for the rest of our lives, right?" We both sat in silence, looking shell-shocked and letting the weight of that sink in. My mother, to this day, says she sleeps better when we are all under the same roof as her. Your heart goes wherever your child goes, it is no longer yours. I cannot have it any other way, nor would I. My kids might find this hard to believe because I'm so strict, but instinctively they are the same. We will always have that umbilical cord connecting us. 

The play I saw this evening was a beautiful project that was a long time coming by Theatre Wallay, an Islamabad-based theatre group, and the US Embassy and Fulbright Association. The project is called "Voices of Partition", and the play is called "Dagh Dagh Ujala" ("This Stained Dawn"). It's a collection of actual partition stories told from the perspective of all those in the Indian subcontinent who were affected. I was crying, I was laughing, and my heart hurt thinking of the struggles through which this country was born. Born in blood... perhaps that's why it's so hard to shake this legacy. 

When I looked at this rule earlier, I didn't know what to do with it, honestly. As I watched the partition stories before me, I understood that when stripped of our identities, we are as light as zero. People forced out of their homes within a few hours, told to leave everything behind and simply take what could fit in one bag. Forced to leave and start over in a new land, in an unfamiliar place. Wondering where we are and how we got there. Losing loved ones, friends... stripped down to zero. 

As Tyler Durden's character in "Fight Club" (authored by Chuck Palahniuk) so aptly put it: 

"You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your f**king khakis. You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world."

Rumi would probably make some edits to that last sentence, but you get the idea. When did we let rich old men define our dreams for us, so we could make them more rich? Here's another Durden gem: 

"Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh*t we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off."

Except we really aren't that pissed off in general. We let ourselves be blinded by the perks and forget about the price we pay for this life. I may not be an ascetic, but if I could, I'd pack my bags, grab my family, and head to a Thai beach for the whole summer to do some work (to self-sustain such a long travel period) and have fun with my girls. A mom can dream, right? 

As for being light as zero, that will never really happen for me, I just have to accept it. I feel a responsibility of showing my girls that they can dream any dream, and hard work is nothing to be afraid of if it brings you closer to something that really makes you happy. Then it's not work, it's your calling. And yet, to always be conscious of "nothingness", and be grateful, not greedy. This is one that will take a lifetime to achieve. 

Friday, 8 May 2015

Day Thirty Two

Rule 32
“Nothing should stand between you and God. No imams, priests, rabbis or any other custodians of moral or religious leadership. Not spiritual masters and not even your faith. Believe in your values and your rules, but never lord them over others. If you keep breaking other people’s hearts, whatever religious duty you perform is no good. Stay away from all sorts of idolatry, for they will blur your vision. Let God and only God be your guide. Learn the Truth, my friend, but be careful not to make a fetish out of your truths.”

I'd like to take this rule and plaster it everywhere. Ev-er-y-wheeeeeere. I'd like to graffiti it on the streets, put it all over social media, and keep writing this everywhere till everyone sees it. 

"Believe in your values and your rules, but never lord them over others."

Assuming you actually know right from wrong (an assumption I am loathe to make in certain cases), don't be a self-righteous prig. 

"If you keep breaking other people’s hearts, whatever religious duty you perform is no good."

No comment. Just... why, human race, why? 

And yes, you read the word right, it's "fetish", but not in the sense you're thinking (get your mind out of the gutter, people!). It's the anthropological sense, where you think an object has religious or mystical powers. This is my "lucky shirt". It's cute, but you can't actually believe it. Well, I did. I was a very superstitious teenager, if I had a bad day wearing a certain shirt, I would not wear it ever again. I similarly wrote off a necklace. I had a red hoodie that I believed got me good grades if I wore it to an exam. My special "Allah" pendant with an evil eye I wore everyday, and as I got older, every time I traveled. I also believed that if I carry an umbrella, it won't rain, but the day I won't, it will. So I always carried an umbrella, every single day, all of high school and first year of uni. 

It was exhausting, keeping track of patterns with lifeless objects that way. These days, everything is about functionality and practicality. Having kids really makes you pull your head out of your own butt, which is something I desperately needed (not saying everyone does! But I did, well and truly). 

Perhaps fetish can also mean fetish the way all you potty-minds thought about it as well (ok, ok, I thought that at first, too, guilty as charged). Some people definitely get off on their own truths, that's why they love lording them over everyone else. Religious or otherwise. If you know something is true, and believe it deep down, my advice is - read your audience. Not all audiences are receptive to the truth, and it's not always my job to call people out on their awful preconceived notions. I used to love engaging with my interns on their preconceived notions, for instance, because they were open to the discussion. Maybe very few people had asked them why they thought a certain way about something, and it made them feel they mattered to discuss it. I loved talking to them, hearing their thoughts, and questioning stereotypes with them. Young people have a lot to say, and any meaningful change we start now will have to gather speed with them. On the other hand, I absolutely dread engaging in debates with people on social media, and elders or others I don't know well. Social media debates... the equivalent of poking yourself in the eye with a red hot poker. 

Speaking of social media, I read something that made me think - why do we yell at each other when we are angry, even if we're standing face to face? It's because at that point, our hearts are far apart from each other. I don't like thinking that my heart is far from my kids, and that's another reason not to yell, which is still proving to be a challenge for me. We've been talking about it regularly, though, I hope that's helping on some level. Before bed, we looked at old pictures and videos from when they were little babies. If there's one way to immediately bridge the gap between hearts, that has got to be it - the air was simply filled with love and beautiful memories. If you're having a hard day, pull out some old photographs of happy times. Or chubby babies. Man, I just want to eat those chubby little cheeks. That's one of the things I say a lot to my kids: "Can I eat your face?" It's one of the reasons this blog has the odd name it does. 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Day Thirty One

Rule 31
“If you want to strengthen your faith, you will need to soften inside. For your faith to be rock solid, your heart needs to be as soft as a feather. Through an illness, accident, loss or fright, one way or another, we are all faced with incidents that teach us how to become less selfish and judgmental and more compassionate and generous. Yet some of us learn the lesson and manage to become milder, while some others end up becoming even harsher than before…

"It is life that has made me the way I am." Something you will hear often, kind of a mantra for the bitter I suppose. I know I've said it often enough! Life throws curveballs at you. Some of them are practically molotov cocktails aimed at your head. Survival is hard, and you have to be strong to do it, I firmly believe that. 

But does "strong" actually mean what we think it means? My head would say, close yourself off to this pain, don't ever allow it to happen again, people are scum, etc. etc. In my heart I would know that's not true, though. My cynic and my romantic sides are always conversing with each other, the dichotomy is something I accept and embrace, since both are necessary. 

There are tragedies beyond comprehension, and it's hard to say at that point that anything is meant to be. I have seen people in such circumstances, and many of them are still the most loving and positive people you will meet. It makes you marvel at their strength, but I still wish they never had to go through such trials. 

It is often the petty trials that bring out our ugliest side, and that's where I feel this rule packs a punch. Don't fall into the traps, try to empathise. I read somewhere that we should never take anything personally, because whatever wrong someone does to you is about them, their own issues and insecurities. A few years ago, a friend of ours and her 5-year old son were held at gunpoint in her car outside a bakery. The gunman pointed the gun at her child's head and said, "Say you forgive me for stealing your car". She complied, the car was stolen, but both were safe. When I told this story to another friend as a caution to be vigilant in that area, he said, "Wow, that's someone who's having a really bad day". He meant the assailant. I would have never considered thinking about the kind of day the assailant was having, quite frankly. On the one hand, I felt like saying, "What?? Are you kidding me?", but on the other hand, I admired his compassion. I still feel the same. 

At the end of every yoga class, our teacher leads us in a wish at the end of meditation: "May all be free from disease and disability, may all look to the good of one another, may all be happy, and may none suffer from sorrow". It is a wish for all mankind, and it's one of my favorite things about class. After nap time, of course. 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Day Thirty

Rule 30
“The true Sufi is such that even when he is unjustly accused, attacked and condemned from all sides, he patiently endures, uttering not a single bad word about any of his critics. A Sufi never apportions blame. How can there be opponents or rivals or even “others” when there is no “self” in the first place? How can there be anyone to blame when there is only One?”

Yesterday, I touched briefly on why I walked away from my first love... theatre. It stopped being a team sport, which was what I loved most about it. It became about outdoing each other, outdoing your last show, every time the focus shifted more towards what your general public wants. Creatively, it was slow murder. Insolent Knights, the troupe Natasha Ejaz and I formed together in 2008, was born out of a desperate need to put the fun and creativity back into theatre, and take out all the pressure of "outdoing" anything or anyone, censorship restrictions, and funding or sponsorships. We performed in a tiny room at Civil Junction our first year, with audiences sitting on the floor and packed in like sardines. We had one spotlight (a tall lamp we borrowed from Atif Siddique's house and brought to the venue in my Santro with the top part sticking out of the window as Atif held it), a portable stereo which we only used once, and no entrance charge. This was only possible because Mr. Arshed Bhatti, the owner of CJ, was kind enough to let us use that space for free (something he did on so many various occasions I don't think we can ever properly thank him). 

We had so much fun in those early performances, and took such creative license that we miss it. We performed at NCA Pindi, Nysa Lounge, and Kuch Khaas, where we have performed since 2010. Insolent Knights is still dear to my heart, but I feel we've lost our raw quality, that experimental feel. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that Natasha and I aren't in the same city anymore, and part of the energy was the two of us laughing hysterically over chips and soup at CJ. Us saying, "Wouldn't it be crazy if...?" Of course it would be crazy, and that's how we liked it. It was not about perfect performances, not at all - we embraced all the lost creative souls in the city just because they wanted to be there. You want to perform? We will find a way to include you. There were no auditions, just an open door policy. We worked a lot on the newbies, no doubt, from writing to performance, but it was that atmosphere of creativity without stifling control that made it special... at least to me. 

I could blame a number of things for why I walked away from commercial theatre, but the blame game is pointless. The only truth worth knowing is that I chose to walk away from it. I might go back, one day, if the time is right. When and if I do, I will know better not to take everything to heart, not to be mortally afraid of failure, and to create from within.

Even if you have to pay the bills and do something that you're not crazy about, find the time to create for yourself. Not because it's what people will like to read / see / hear, NO. But because it's what you want to say, what you have to say, otherwise you will spontaneously combust. Create because you need to create. 

As for competition, when you create for yourself, there is no competition, not even yourself. 

On a completely unrelated note, I have an observation to share, and I'm curious about whether or not this happens with other people also. Here goes: every time I get a phone call, my offspring decide that it's the perfect time to pretend like they're training for the circus. I mean, that's the only thing I can imagine they must be trying to do, otherwise how can I explain the acrobatic jumping, running in circles and loud yelling? It happens every single time, and can only end in tears (both mine and theirs). I've tried going into another room, only to be followed endlessly. As a result, I rarely talk on the phone anymore, so people think I'm careless with my phone (true) or antisocial (possibly), but... it's just too stressful. There's no way I can concentrate on a phone conversation in such conditions. I think I also have phone phobia. I don't know if that's a thing, but if it is, I have it. It started as a mortal fear of the phone ringing when one of the babies had just fallen asleep. After some time it became a mortal fear of the phone ringing at all. Ok, ok, I am getting better since they don't nap anymore, now it's more me leaving my phone in a different room. I apologize to my friends who have been let down by my phone phobias - it's not you, it's definitely me. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Day Twenty Nine - 40 Rules of Love / 40 Days of Love

Rule 29
“Destiny doesn’t mean that your life has been strictly predetermined. Therefore, to live everything to the fate and to not actively contribute to the music of the universe is a sign of sheer ignorance. The music of the universe is all pervading and it is composed on 40 different levels. Your destiny is the level where you play your tune. You might not change your instrument but how well to play is entirely in your hands.” - Rumi

"You are entitled to nothing."
- Frank Underwood, "House of Cards"

Finally started season 3 of "House of Cards", I wanted to wait till I could focus and really enjoy it. Oh, how I love the show. Every time Kevin Spacey breaks the fourth wall, I feel gleeful like a kid in a candy store. And Robin Wright... holy wow. It's the modern day Macbeth, and I adore it. 

In a game-changing speech in the second episode, Frank Underwood looks straight at the camera and tells the American people, "You are entitled to nothing." 

Think about that for a moment. You are entitled to nothing. Recently we've been seeing a lot of talk about not raising a generation of "entitled" brats. I'm sure you all know some entitled little sh*ts, as well, people who walk around expecting that they are due something simply because of who they are. Or simply because they are

"It's my fate."
"It's my destiny."

It's all bull. You make your fate, you make your destiny. If there's anything you can learn from the Underwoods, it's that you have to seize the opportunities, nobody gets anything by waiting around because it's their "destiny". Obviously, you shouldn't resort to the means the Underwoods use to get what they want (uhhhh... they're ruthless sociopaths). But there is no way you will fulfil any destiny other than being a couch potato if you don't help yourself.

Until very - and I mean very - recently, I had the worst writer's block. My own words scared the living daylights out of me, and I can't explain why. I can only guess at the things that contributed to it. One of those is that theatre is practically a competitive sport, especially where I live. You will always be compared to others, even if they are doing the polar opposite of what you're interested in. The revival was squashed before it was fully breathing, unfortunately.

Then, there was availability. In any industry, there is always going to be someone younger and with more free time than you to do the job. Some people can resume their normal pace after having kids and I am in such awe of them... I am clearly not one of them for a number of reasons (serious trust issues with caretakers, the need to be there regularly at bedtime, etc.). For a while, that meant I did absolutely nothing creatively, and that's exactly what I needed to do at the time. Sadly, stifling my creativity had other effects I didn't realize till I got through that haze. Once I made up my mind that I have to do something, and after trying to keep pace with single people at work, I realized that not only could I not keep up, I didn't want to. Still, I am not entitled to anything. So, if I want to do something with my life, I decided I have to do it on my own terms, in my own way, and I am still figuring out exactly what that is. Every single day, I try to take one step closer.

Are you playing the right instrument? If we must, let us change our instruments, stick to our instruments, or make up new instruments! That's not what matters, the important thing is to each play our own tune the best we can. Are you jamming right now? I hope you are, and if you've had a hard time with it, take it from someone who was on mute for a while... you'll get there, but it's in your hands to start playing again. 

Monday, 4 May 2015

Day Twenty Eight

Rule 28
“The past is an interpretation. The future is an illusion. The world does not move through time as if it were a straight line, proceeding from the past to the future. Instead time moves through and within us, in endless spirals. Eternity does not mean infinite time, but simply timelessness. If you want to experience eternal illumination, put the past and the future out of your mind and remain within the present moment.”

Quantum physics, anyone? 

Ha. No, but on a serious note, how we perceive time and space is constantly changing. In a book called "Einstein's Dreams" by Alan Lightman, the author tries to give the reader some insight into how Einstein himself was working through his own perception of time as he worked on his theory of relativity. And then there was that absolute mind-boggler, "Interstellar". It's amazing to see how this idea interconnects across time itself. 

This rule even puts into question our perception of "eternity", which directly affects our notion of an afterlife. Rumi puts forth that eternity is "simply timelessness". How you take that is up to you, I know that for me it helps solidify a feeling that the afterlife as described in scripture is simplified for us to understand it, but does not look or feel anything like time, space or being as we know it. 

Forget about that thought for the moment. Be in this moment. That's a tough one. Being in the present, fully present, letting go of the past, and not trying to predict the future is the toughest thing for us all. I'm rubbish at it, I can tell you that. My brain refuses to go blank while I'm awake. It's exhausting, though. That's why I need to really put more of an effort into the meditation / relaxation part of class and not fall asleep! 

I can tell you what feels like a spiral, alright. The daily grind, the daily routine. Wash, rinse, repeat... for all of eternity. What are we working for? What are we running around like crazy for? What is this rat race we've created for ourselves? This is why I start fantasizing about dropping everything and for our little family to just get up and go anywhere we like, and do something crazy. Start a new life. Screw the safety nets, get out of the rut, the idea that this is crazy and responsible adults don't just do that. But, what if... just what if it's the other way round? What if that's exactly what we are meant to be doing instead of being corporate rats? Some people really love their jobs and their structured lives, and I don't mean to belittle them at all. I am very happy for them. But with time, I strongly feel it's not something I want as much as I thought I did. Plus, I have a terrible case of wanderlust (blame it on my urban nomadic globe-trotting childhood, something I wouldn't trade for the world). My friends and I often have this conversation, where we say, ok, let's just do it. Let's buy a guest house in Thailand and run it together. Why the heck not? Well, it's nice to dream for a while. 

Time is crucial, but to me, so is space. Each place you go to brings out a different part of your personality, allows you to discover something new about yourself because it throws you into the unfamiliar. Sometimes, you'll go somewhere you've never been before and feel right at home, too. No matter where we've moved, I've always tried to embrace it wholeheartedly, give it time to see what's in store. Some moves have proved to be far better than others. Either way, it's always an adventure. 

If you're stuck in a real rut in life, my advice is... move. Up and go. This option is not available to everyone and is getting tougher by the day, but if you can and are so inclined, don't think too much about it. I mean, this lady seems pretty pleased about her decision to start over. When David Bowie wanted to reinvent himself, clean up and get out of his own rut, he moved to Switzerland and then Berlin (1976). Berlin defined a new sound in his career, and is one of the reasons he is the legend he is today. 

Sometimes, you just need to find a new sound to change the course of your life. 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Day Twenty Seven

Rule 27
“Whatever you speak, good or evil, will somehow come back to you. Therefore, if there is someone who harbours ill thoughts about you, saying similarly bad things about him will only make matters worse. You will be locked in a vicious circle of malevolent energy. Instead for forty days and nights say and think nice things about that person. Everything will be different at the end of 40 days, because you will be different inside.”

Wait, so now I have to not only see the good in all people, but I have to actually say nice things about them, too? 

It's surprisingly not that hard to find something good about someone, even if it's just one thing. Can you think of one person who is completely, irredeemably despicable? Maybe you can, fortunately I can't think of anyone I actually know in person. Moving past disagreements is very liberating, staying in a deadlock of anger is just taxing. Not worth it. 

To me, this rule = karma's a bi*ch. [You know, whenever I say that, a part of me thinks, "well how very sexist!" Hmph. Why isn't he a jerk? But then the phrase, "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" comes to mind, and the idea of universal justice being a feminine force suddenly appeals to me. Maybe it's time to reclaim the word bi*ch from bad rap songs. Own that bi*ch.]

Since we're talking about words, I want to talk about swearing. Love it or hate it, there's no denying it's taboo for most. It makes some people uncomfortable. Other people can't say 2 words without swearing. Have you ever seen a little kid swear? It's shocking yet comical at the same time, and the way they enjoy doing it proves that it's the height of liberation.

I will never forget the first time I was exposed to prolific swearing. My mom and I had gone to the cinema to see "Casino" (great cast, it looked like a good idea). Oh. My. Goodness. Every other word out of Joe Pesci's mouth was f*ck. And there I was, 14 years old, sitting next to my mom. Awkward! 

A lot has changed since then. When I had kids, I became strictly PG, but you can't hide who you are for long, even from your kids. And once the floodgates open... I really wish I didn't relish it so much, but it's therapeutic. Especially while driving. Or all the time, really. And yet, I have a hard time typing swear words. I'm not sure why the discrepancy, but in the interest of not completely alienating the more sensitive of you, it's probably for the best. I'm a reserved potty mouth, if there is such a thing. I make up a lot of terms, don't I? 

So yeah. Try not to talk sh*t about others, because karma's a bi*ch and she's coming for you, yeah she's coming for you... 


Even if you think you hate someone's guts (start thinking about one such person right now), try to think of one decent thing about them, visualize the bad as a big red ball and push it far away. Hold on to that one nice thing. I'm not saying you should go back to trusting someone who's hurt you and who is clearly a jacka$$, no. I'm saying this so you don't hold on to your anger towards them, and as a consequence poison your own life. Break the "cycle of malevolent energy", free yourself from it. At the very least you'll be rid of that negativity, and at best, you will gain a friend. 

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Day Twenty Six

Rule 26
“The universe is one being. Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation. Do no harm. Practice compassion. And do not gossip behind anyone’s back – not even a seemingly innocent remark! The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space and they will come back to us in due time. One man’s pain will hurt us all. One man’s joy will make everyone smile.”

Here's another one to add to my favorites. This whole rule, all of it, is made of pure love. Each and every sentence is worth mulling over. 

"Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories."

This makes me think of Professor Xavier's contraption that connects him to all the other mutants in X-men. Yes, you read that right, that's exactly how I picture this. Seriously, though, isn't it mind boggling? The universe as a "being", and that too "one being". I can't properly get my head around what that means, and the kind of responsibility that puts on our shoulders for the vibes we put out there...

"Do no harm. Practice compassion."

And there you have it. Black on white. It's not rocket science - don't do bad things. Period. 

"The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space and they will come back to us in due time."

What an incredibly karmic concept. I don't know about you, but I've seen karma in action, and it's impressive. Don't just not do bad things, don't SAY bad things. Don't write bad things. Whatever hurtful word or deed you put out there will come back to haunt you, trust me on this. If you know you've put out something hurtful at some point and you feel sorry, then say it and make amends. You can't erase the ink of the past, but you can change the flow starting right now. 

No matter how you do it... by paying it forward, helping someone out, saying something kind, or even smiling and saying hello, the second you put out a good word or deed, you're changing the energy of the whole universe. Now let that sink in. The same for any negativity. Sometimes, it's too easy to wallow in misery and frustration, but those vibes will work their way around and come right back to you. Now it's easy to grasp this concept, but the implementation is decidedly harder. 

The point on gossip... it's the bane of many people's lives. It's not a girl thing, sometimes boys are the worst gossips! It's not just an aunty thing, though they are notorious for good reason. And it's not just a South Asian thing. It's a human thing, and it's very tempting. Often, people will repeat a rumor even if they know it's far-fetched and ridiculous. 

But here's a thought: if and when you hear a rumor or idle gossip, let it end with you. Don't take it further, not even a whisper. If possible, tell the person who is inflicting it on you that it's not ok, but whether or not you can do that, let the buck stop right here, with you. 

"One man’s pain will hurt us all. One man’s joy will make everyone smile.”

We are all responsible for one another, for creating heaven or hell, for the collective good. Day 26, and it's easy to see how the rules, just like people, are connected to each other beautifully. 

As far as happy vibes go, tonight's bedtime routine had lots of happy vibes. The little one picked out a book for bedtime reading - Dr. Seuss, or "Dr. Deuce" as she called him. And so I read them, "Oh the Places You'll Go", which was a gift to me from some very dear friends, and what a beautiful book it is, no matter how old you are. If you haven't read it, grab a copy right now. If you have, read it again. Thank you, Dr. Seuss, for putting such beautiful words out there for all of us to enjoy. Tonight, you brought some good vibes into our home... and that, friends, is how the universe works. 

Day Twenty Five - 40 Rules of Love / 40 Days of Love

Rule 25
“Each and every reader comprehends the Holy Qur’an on a different level of tandem with the depth of his understanding. There are four levels of insight. The first level is the outer meaning and it is the one that the majority of the people are content with. Next is the Batin – the inner level. Third, there is the inner of the inner. And the fourth level is so deep it cannot be put into words and is therefore bound to remain indescribable.”

Words. They can be so wonderful, so magical, but sometimes they can rip you right apart. Words that harm, words that heal. It all depends on who uses them and how.

Last night, I went into Hulk mode. It was not pretty, I hated it, but it was necessary. They have to know not to cross a certain line with others, something they need to know for the rest of their lives. I love them more than my own life, but that will probably not be the case with others, and they have to know that even with their parents, they have to be considerate.

That said, I did not want the sun to set on my anger. After I recomposed myself, we kissed and hugged, I apologized to them. I asked them to help me, as well. We are a team, one unit, and have to be mindful of each other. I asked them why they fight so much. It was a very candid conversation, and I was glad we had it. We then decided on a code word whenever someone was about to lose it, a signal to defuse the situation. They chose the word "bum", and then giggled madly. Well, that will surely defuse the situation!

I bet this is how God feels about the various religions, too...

Words... crucial to our lives, but so dangerous in the wrong hands. Today's rule is about understanding the Holy Qur'an, but I believe it applies to any scripture, or even the universe at large. As far the Holy Qur'an goes, there is no shortcut - it's already no simple task because the original is in Arabic, one of the most nuanced and complex languages on earth. A friend was telling me that it took a noted scholar over 20 years to translate just one passage, and she could understand why - as she herself was trying to learn Arabic, it was the only language that got harder the more you learned. This means that translations don't really do it justice, and since most of the Muslim world is non-Arab speaking (this link will give you some perspective), we rely on translations. 

Not all translations are created equal, people. In the wrong hands, a passage can be interpreted in a very skewed way. This is addressed in Shafak's "Forty Rules of Love", when Shams is talking about the often mis-quoted passage about a man's rights over his wife. A poor translation and interpretation make it look like it's condoning physical abuse (and is widely accepted by most). A different interpretation would say the verse is telling the husband to walk away when there is an argument. These two interpretations are poles apart, so how do we proceed? We have to stop looking at mere words, and as we progress in faith, we have to understand the essence. Taken out of context, or with a bad translation, or even with a good translation, we will never be able to grasp the words fully unless we are scholars in Arabic, and even then we might have a hard time. Use your heart, is what Rumi says, not your head. 

Easier said than done, and not an exact science by any means. This is why there are so many conflicts in our own faith, with other faiths, and we find ourselves in the mess we are in today. I guess God wasn't going to make it that easy for us, He wanted us to also use our common sense and see which side of the line we fall on. 

No matter what your faith, insight is necessary in life. Understanding a bigger picture, a common good, knowing right from wrong... these are ideas that transcend words and our limited use of them. That's about as much justice I can do this topic with words alone. The rest is up to you. 

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Day Twenty Four - 40 Rules of Love / 40 Days of Love

Rule 24
“Hell is in the here and now. So is heaven. Quit worrying about hell or dreaming about heaven, as they are both present inside this very moment. Every time we fall in love, we ascend to heaven. Every time we hate, envy or fight someone we tumble straight into the fires of hell.”

Jean-Paul Sartre famously said, "L'enfer c'est les autres" (Hell is other people). Ah, now there's a man after my own heart. 

The trouble with the rules right now is that instead of making me feel all warm and fuzzy about my fellow humans, I feel more frustrated by how wrong things are going in the world, how blind we are as a collective. It's bad because it's bordering on judgmental, and I'm hoping that it's something like the 5 stages of grief where this is also a phase that will soon pass. Or muscular pain when you start exercising that you need to get over before you see results. Till then, I shall chuckle at memes like this

I am always fascinated by people who practice "brownie point" religion. Never heard of it? Of course you haven't, I made it up. Brownie point religion is when people go through the motions and rituals of practicing religion and talk about nothing but the afterlife. They act as if this life is not worth their time, they might as well ignore this world and just go about their rituals to save their own soul. Everything they do, it's not for the betterment of others, but for their salvation in the hereafter. This strikes me as curious, because God gave us this earth and this time here. There must be more to this life than just being preparation for a final exam, no? Read this verse this many times and your sins for x number of days will be pardoned. Is that all? 

Maybe, just maybe, we are meant to make this earth a little more like heaven, too. Call me crazy, but isn't that the hardest test? It's so difficult to love others, to truly care about their lives and their souls. It's often painful. We can all read something x number of times, and please, do so, I'm not knocking that. But we also need to each take time to step out of ourselves and our preoccupations to see what's going on around us and actually give a crap. And no, not just throw money at the problem, but find solutions. 

It's either that or move to a remote island with my loved ones and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist. Hey, I'm entitled to my fantasies, and who knows? Maybe if I did that I'd find an amazing way to help humanity. A girl can dream, right? 

The point once again is that the choice is in our hands. God gave us free will for a reason, which is what separates us from the angels. If you don't believe in God or a monotheistic religion, then you can still understand free will. It's all up to us. To create heaven or hell. To make our lives and the lives of others better or unbearable. Someone once told me that when you remove "maybe" from your life, things become a lot simpler. Just bring it down to "yes" or "no". For instance:

"Should I lose my temper?"
"Should I apologize for doing that?"
"Should I eat this chocolate eclair?"

Whenever you are about to do something, ask yourself if this will make life heaven or hell. I shall try to do this every time I feel myself about to go over the edge today. Till I can get to that remote island, it's the only way to try and make life more bearable. 

I've been backsliding on the yelling, sad face for me. So I need to go back to finding creative ways of not losing my s**t, no matter what life throws at me. This morning it threw a baby lizard in my kitchen sink. Not going to lose it, not going to lose it... Not. Going. To. Lose. It. 

Going to think about chocolate eclairs now while having porridge (*sob*).