Thursday 30 September 2010

Thought of the Day 30.9.2010

Self Importance...

It starts with self importance, narcissism and ends with megalomania...the natural trajectory of a self gone wild...knowing no boundaries and no limits.

I want to write about the starting point - self importance.

Every single person is important by virtue of them being created by the Great Intelligence and Power - which I choose to call Allah.

But for me there is a difference between; the importance conferred by the act and status of being a creation of Allah i.e "human" and that of self importance.

Self importance is really quite ugly - it wears many masks. From outright self centeredness, to pedantic "intellectual" airs, masquerading as "intellectual sophistication" - hot balloons of nothing, to believing that one is the pivotal source of everything and everyone, to airs of superiority and snobbery, to self involvement to the point of being unable to be present to the Other or others, to total self absorption to the point of melancholia, to excessive focus on self to the detriment of surroundings --nature and society -- ie. to what is, to believing that one is totally extra special - terribly unique and above it on and so forth...all ultimately leading to a malignant form of individualism in which, unfortunately, many stay very stuck; degenerating into a permanent pathological state.

In fact -- when I come to think of it, the line is very thin between living with one self and getting to know it and remaining stuck there for ever...

Tuesday 28 September 2010

My Thought for the Day 28.9.2010

Myths and more myths...

In an age of instant coffee, instant love, instant sex, instant passion, instant wealth, instant connections, instant ignitions, instant communication, instant wash, instant dry, instant baking, instant cooking, instant managing, instant enlightenment; instant gratification...every one secretly expects instant Happiness.

There is no instant Happiness but there are instances of Happiness. And the minute one says Happiness one calls on its flip side. The minute one calls on Joy, one also calls on Pain.

Pain is inevitable...

The whole life trip is to alleviate the Suffering - so one can experience the Happiness/Joy that hides on the flip side of Pain.

And that's basically It.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Signs of Piety..

I miss writing on this blog...I really do. I am wasting too much time on Twitter and it is sapping my energy. I also realized that I have this incredible knack to make enemies across the board...that is the price to pay for speaking up, speaking one's mind and sticking to Truth, even though am fully aware no one has monopoly over the Truth.

Well tonight is no exception - I am going to make more enemies...I know it.

Tonight I want to write about external signs of piety. By external signs I mean external signs.
External signs that need to show affiliation to a certain religious group. Turbans, beards, veils, niqabs, kippa, synthetic wigs, scarves, shawls, hassidic hats, side curls, robes, cloaks, weird looking hats, long chains with gold know, the whole works.

Now I have absolutely nothing against religion. Nothing at all. But somehow these external signs of "piousness" make me question...

I've been brought up in a religious atmosphere, in school. Being taught by nuns and priests was the most traumatic thing anyone can inflict on a child. Maybe the Christian clergy has evolved from the dark ages of my childhood but I can't be that sure. Corporal punishment was the norm so were the daily humiliations. In retrospect, I see that what I experienced and witnessed was nothing but pure Sadism. A bunch of very frustrated, sexually repressed people taking it out on their subordinates - the children. The fact that I came from a Muslim family did not help matters too much. I was also put down for that. Going to school every morning was like torture - physical torture. At 12/13 I threatened to put an end to my life if I was not removed from this Abu Ghraib of my childhood. And I meant it.

I came to associate all the nuns and priests black robes and aprons with Torture. We had a small chapel in the school, I used to escape there and pray to God. I can still remember that chapel. Small, dark, and cold. I felt claustrophobic, but not as claustrophobic as in the rest of the building. So I'd kneel and implore God - who was represented by Jesus nailed to a cross - to save me from there. One day I remember getting cross with that statue. I said - How can you save me when you are nailed the way you are ?! - that day I gave up hope.

Thankfully I was transferred to another school...and years later, I made it a point to visit the grounds of that school. An assistant greeted me with - how can I help you ? I said I have one question - are the nuns still frustrated sadistic bitches or have they evolved since ? She was shocked and started stammering something or the other and started telling to me of the love of Christ. I spat on the grounds and told her - I am gracing and blessing your school - turned my back and walked away...

I did not stop holding love and esteem for Jesus, quite the contrary -- but I understood that a man nailed to a cross cannot save my memory --all I wanted was to save him. And I also decided that NO clergy was spokesperson, representative or had monopoly over the Truth.

Years passed, Time attenuated my first traumatic encounter with God's representatives on Earth...or so I had hoped.

All this quickly evaporated when I witnessed the several Jewish violent and barbaric wars, incursions and the rest...a rest that has not stopped. Men with kippas, side curls, star of David, shawls and weird hats frothing at the mouth with joy, exalted over the killings of innocents -- while their jets were flying over our heads - dropping bomb after bomb in the name of their God, put a quick end to my hope. I started detesting their external attire of piety and associated and still associate it with brutality, vindictiveness coming from a mean, nasty, vengeful God - their representation of God.

But I did not lose hope...I kept a secret wish somewhere...deep down, that maybe I will come across a person who dresses, speaks and acts with congruence. I suppose I was secretly hoping to meet a "representative of God" with some moral and spiritual integrity.

I started frequenting the Masjids - Mosques -- hoping to find a human "authority" to emulate.
During that period, the Muslim clergy had no such power, as there is no Clergy in Islam as such --definitely not like today. But following the advent of Khomeinism, I started noticing more and more people believing that Clerics can save them and Clerics or "men of God" became the living incorporation of the Divine on earth. This trend got exacerbated with the occupation of Iraq and the unleashing by the Americans of dark obscure forces in black Turbans and Chadors. Forces who did the unthinkable in the name of their God - from mutilation, to drills, to rape, to name it, they do it...Ironically those dark forces of the power of the Clergy collaborated with the Crusaders who invaded in the name of Jesus. My nightmare was far from over from the day of those priests and nuns dressed in black. It was now inflicted on a whole collectivity.

I also noticed that more and more men and women started embracing those external signs of piety. Apart from the turbans, you had veils, chadors, niquabs, beards etc...

I thought to myself, who am I to judge - I, the "sinner" - am in no position to judge those pious people who have finally "embraced God". So I kept an open mind...and I let a few of them into my life...wannabe preachers, pious veiled women, men with beards and rosaries...I let them into my life not politically, because politically I can never follow anyone, but on a social friendly basis - I kept the door open. None of them were political extremists either...they hardly had any interest in politics...their main interest was preaching and judging...I found them to be intolerant, judgmental, gossipy, back biting, slanderous, opportunistic, two faced, ignorant, rigid and hypocritical...and some were outright deceptive liars -- very much like the rest of the "pious" people I met from other religions.

In conclusion, all I wanted to say was -- what you wear on the outside is no guarantee of purity, cleanliness, honesty, goodness or love on the inside.

But then you knew that already...or did you ?

Thursday 16 September 2010

Virtue - less.

It is absolutely clear in my mind that virtuous characters cannot be meat for writing. I am really talking about fictional characters here.

A book full of virtues is no longer a story, it becomes a treatise in Ethics and Morality. And treatises of that sort, are not what novels are made of.

Surely, if one restrains oneself from delving in the underworld of the bad and the ugly, who will give birth to anything - for is not birth made of tearing, blood and pain ?

Virtuous characters cannot be redeemed, there is no redemption for them. They are born saints, forsaking all their human aspects - they are fit to be icons of worship.

And is not tapping into the dark, and willing to plunge in it, a way of expiating oneself on one's way to Sainthood, to Virtue ?

Surely when the pages are blackened with the human element in all of its decadence, impulses, bestiality, shadows - can the flip side be revealed.

Monday 13 September 2010

Warped Minds...

I write this post with a sense of urgency...not that it is a matter of life and death, not quite, but stemming more from not wanting to lose the thread of an insight, something that has dawned on me with full force. Not that I was unaware of it before, but awareness has many levels, and each time a new level reveals itself when the "student" is ready.

From my limited or maybe not so limited experience in life, from my dealings with people, of various backgrounds, nationalities and cultures, I can say without wanting to sound too pompous, that I have a little knowledge about people...

My being "middle aged" helps a great deal, along with a keen sense of wanting to know, to understand...and to give meaning to experience...Futility is not a word I have fondness for - hence my ceaseless quest...

Again, the subject matter will touch upon the Eastern male - by Eastern I mean the Oriental male. Al Rajul Al Sharqi as we call him in Arabic. I am in this context referring not so much to the male gender in his purely biological dimension, but to the culture of the male gender. I use the word culture short of a better word, trusting that the appropriate term will break through those lines as they unfold on this page.

From my dealings with women in general and Arab (Eastern and I will use those two terms interchangeably for convenience sake, bearing in mind that this is no treatise but a blog post),
I realize that a woman reveals herself in her intimacy, in her intimate parts to two "authorities" - her partner (husband) and her doctor (gynecologist in particular). These two "authorities" are the ones who are made most privy to her intimate parts - not just physical parts but also mental parts.

As a matter of fact, a woman might even share more with her doctor than her husband, when it comes to intimate matters, (not necessarily limited to the sexual sphere). Both fields in the medical profession - Gynecology and Psychiatry are the domains where women reveal the most.

I have many medical acquaintances, colleagues who share with me stories mostly males...

And I could not help but notice something pertinent - in both these medical professions, both gynecology and psychiatry, the male gender is extremely uncomfortable (to say the least) to discuss anything pertaining to the intimate problematics of their female patients beyond the obvious. The obvious meaning "something that needs to be promptly fixed." (an infection, a pregnancy that needs attention, a phobia, a depression, etc...)

The above is made much easier if the woman is married. The doctors in question are less reticent to discuss with the female patient any problematic that may be lurking beyond the surface and which might be indirectly related to the immediate issue at hand.

I shall give a very simple example : A woman presenting herself with a Salpingitis will be treated differently conditional upon whether she is married or not. That does not mean that both women will not be given the appropriate treatment but it does mean that the unmarried woman who presents herself to a gynecologist with an fallopian tube infection will cause a stir in the doctor's mind. To put it very simply - he will judge her. Here is a woman not married, who obviously had a sexual relation and is here in his clinic.

The same goes for a psychiatrist treating unmarried women. A psychiatrist is very much likely to be more open and less judgmental if the woman in front of him is married than if a woman is not. In particular if the underlying reason for this woman's visit is related to the area of relationship with the opposite sex and touches upon her sexuality either indirectly or directly.

The reason for this "stigma" from both these medical professions, stems from the fact that despite all the "scientific" knowledge these doctors possess (and female doctors are not excluded here either), in their minds, in their psyche - woman as sexual being per se is unfathomable. Meaning that a woman's sexuality (in the large sense of the word) can only find expression within well delineated parameters - marriage. Anything short of that is not well received at all. Open mindedness in the Eastern world - in particular the Arab world stops at the perineum. At the doors of the vagina.

I am presenting this by using examples derived from the medical profession and I do so purposely. Because if the medical profession is so uptight about this female area, can you imagine what the rest of the society looks like ?!

The consequences are vast and in some instances very serious.

An unmarried woman with an unwanted pregnancy will most likely be aborted by a quack, an unmarried woman who has been sexually abused, raped or simply has a problem on that front that she would like to explore will refrain from seeking help and if she does will not be totally open about it, an unmarried woman who has a gynecological problem will pretend that she is married so as to avoid judgement and unnecessary questions, so on and so forth...

I am sure there might be some in the medical professions who have moved beyond...but am not quite sure if they are many of them around and if their moving beyond is not prompted by financial considerations - like the doctor who is known to charge exorbitant prices for an abortion or for restoring lost hymens.

But really the crux of this post is not to have a go at the medical profession in the Arab world, it is simply to use those examples as a yardstick by which one can have a feel for the issue that I am trying to explore in those brief lines...

Bearing this in mind, it comes as no surprise that women have become proficient at hiding their "secrets" even from themselves.

This post is by no means conclusive nor is it meant to be...

Friday 10 September 2010

On Cruelty...

Cruelty is not given much thought, nor much reflection, maybe because Cruelty is a given, a commonality, a fait accompli, a fact, an intrinsic part of being "Human".

I don't find animals cruel, at least not deliberately so...but humans can be and some are and deliberately so...

I always believe in what I call the primary intention. Of course only the "actor" i.e the one who inflicts cruelty knows what his (I will use the He for convenience sake but the She is also applicable) primary intention is - no one else does.

Cruelty as opposed to hostility or anger is premeditated, always. People don't ponder enough on that word "premeditated" - to meditate before, this is what it means. To meditate before means to ponder something beforehand, to plan something before carrying out an act - act here can be verbal, physical or both.

The notion of premeditation is a giveaway, because it reveals what the primary intention was/is all about.

Having said that, if find cruel people terribly pathetic. Yes granted, their acts may have terrible consequences on others, but in themselves, cruel people are pathetically stupid.

Their stupidity derives from the "grand illusion" of their own powers. Inflicting deliberate harm on someone else, gives them that illusion. Also the fact that they premeditate their acts gives them another illusion - that of smartness, intelligence. Mistaking deviousness and viciousness for Intelligence is pretty stupid, no ?

They place themselves in a position of power/authority, and that insignificant ego of theirs can finally take up the space...In fact cruel people, when you unmask them, have no space of their own...deep down, their existential insignificance is really what troubles them...they have no center and no core self, they are in fact a mass of instincts held captive by their own demons.

They are pathetically stupid precisely because of that.

Sunday 5 September 2010

A Homage to M.

One hour ago, I learned that M. passed away.

Had not seen him in ages. Last time we met, there was him, another friend and me. We went out for dinner, and talked late into the night...

M. was/is a writer. I say is because M. left a legacy, a piece of his soul, imagination and mind behind. He wrote scripts, plays, novels, far as I can remember, M. was always writing. Writing was his life and life was all about writing...

M. was also an avid reader, he'd finish 3-4 books per week, cover to cover...he was into literature, poetry and philosophy. He was also religious, in a liberal kind of way. He observed the ritual prayers and fasted Ramadan.

After his wife's death many years ago, M. remarried twice. Each time the relationship did not withstand the test of time. He ended up single, with grown up kids who had a life of their own.

I was told tonight that M. was always thinking about Death, even contemplating it - as in suicide. But his religiosity forbade him from carrying out the act of putting an end to his life.

He had grown more and more disillusioned with life and people, and the more he immersed himself in writing and reading -- the greater his isolation from others.

This feeling of Isolation comes with age regardless, but it is even more pronounced for an intellectual and M. was one in the pure sense of the word.

Even though his writings were well known, he never sought fame or the limelight, he did not go out of his way to seek recognition, he was very devoted to his art, to his passion, and the outside world of celebrities, he shunned away from...focusing on an inner world where he could escape the mediocrity...

And even though M. was growing more aloof, he never lost his kindness for he was basically a very kind and sensitive person...the world had gotten too tight for him.

I remember one of our discussions, we agreed that the culture of Mediocrity is the prevailing culture worldwide...and there was not much place left for Brilliance - the more mediocre you were the more you excelled in this machine called the world... he then laughed it all off, by saying people who refused mediocrity will end up as drunkards, lost in alcohol on the streets...

M. did not drink though...but he saw where he was heading...with or without alcohol...

M. did not commit suicide. He rose for the Fajr prayer, stumbled as he lifted himself from his prayer mat, fell and hit the floor. There was no one around to help him. He crawled to the main door of his tiny apartment trying to call for some help. Help did arrive. It was suggested that he be transported to a hospital or have a doctor pay him a visit. He refused. His son said - My father knew he was going to die and he wanted it that way.

The following day, M. was found dead in his bed.

He said goodbye to the world of mediocrity in which he refused to carve himself a place.

You will be missed M. but you gave it all...

Life is precarious, fragile, vulnerable...and hard, tough, cruel and gut wrenching at the same time...

Or maybe it is Man who is...

In Peace.