Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Thoughts on the Arab World: Part 1: A Tribute to #MyLibya

The Libya I lived in was one under Gaddaffi. So it may seem strange that I am writing this. But I think I should, for the only way we know it is dark is when the light shines. Libya gave me much that I will ever be grateful for. It gave me my first real chance to experience the deep intertwining of Arab-Muslim life. I say intertwining because it is a bit tricky to separate one from the other. I was able to experience the practice of Islam in a Muslim majority country, to feel the practice of the religion first hand, free from all the media stereotyping and misguided notions regarding the Islamic faith. I had genuinely Muslim friends, people who really wanted to be their best and had their struggles.

It is where I learned that really God will make all our differences clear to us when He returns on Judgement Day. It is where I was able to enjoy the delight of dried dates and milk, a combination that is both devastatingly simple and wonderful; date syrup (to this day I still think it tastes better than honey :)), and couscous with camel meat. I also remember striving hard in my Arabic so that I could be able to read the multiple signs (they were actually billboards to be honest) of Gadaffi that were pretty much everywhere.
Signs that read 'Dawn of Freedom' were the most common and simplest to read for me, as I could memorize the few words on it and go look them up in the dictionary. Others I translated as well, but after getting the general idea behind the words, I would forget. It is also where I learned about the cause of the Palestinian people and since then, Israel is one of the countries I have no intentions of visiting. I'm visiting Palestine first, period.

A lot of us looking at Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, may think that the Arab Spring has withered. I disagree. Summer temperatures for the region are quite hot. So if indeed we have seen the Arab Spring, isn't it only natural that summer would follow? And I'm not talking about an idyllic summer. I'm talking about a real summer. When you turn on the air conditioning and it isn't enough to drown the heat. When you wish you could move around in a tank of cold water or a bubble containing cool air, so that the heat would not affect you. This is the summer that the revolutions of the Arab Spring are going through. And just as the summer days, with their heat and lengthened days, never seem likely to end, so do the troubles the revolutions are going through right now. Do not give up looking for Autumn. It is coming. The hopes of the Arab Spring have not withered. It is up to us to keep them alive.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Reflections: The Power Of Faith

Have faith...I think if you keep looking, keep desiring, earnestly, never wavering, always with a pure heart and mind, freeing yourself from all impurities that threaten to distract you, derail you and get you off track, you'll find what you're looking for and just how you should apply it.

                                                                                   -- Memoirs Of A Secular Nun, Vol.1

Friday, 8 August 2014

Reflections: Regarding Dreams

'Why did she feel this disquietude in her heart? Why did she feel so unsure?? When she envisions it, it seems real, perfectly plausible, pragmatic and practical. When she brings her dreams to life however, they have this odd distorted quality about them. It's like they've lost their shine. They are no longer as bright and brilliant as when they lay in the noonday sun of her imagination. They hang limp, immobile, seemingly devoid of life except when she pokes at them to be sure. It's like inside her is the heaven where dreams come true, and the world outside the place where hope is ground to dust, where dreams flicker then fade, and joy is but a brief cloud's shade from the burning sun of despair. She wants so much to go back inside, to retreat into the heaven that lies within. But she can't let herself sleep, not yet...'

We all feel like that sometimes, or actually, a lot of the time. If we do not retreat, then we choose to give into the humiliation of surrender. Slowly but surely mellowing, modifying, and changing our hopes and dreams for what everybody else tells us is right. For the narrative society has laid out for us. For what the statistics point to as the logical conclusion. It is no longer uncommon to hear our once valued ambitions comfortably brought out into the light after some good food and drink, when everyone is happy, satisfied and relaxed, to be made fun of. To be reminded of what we used to say when we were children. When we didn't know any better. And we shall hang our heads in shame or smile in acceptance. 

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in that grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
-- Theodore Roosevelt
The first time I read this quote, I did not understand it. When I tried to, I usually thought that Theodore Roosevelt was referring to cowards. People who, in my mind, had opted for the easy, predictable life. That in itself is one possible interpretation of this statement. However, I have since found that what he was really talking about were people, who when they have a dream, opt to go on sleeping in order to return to it, rather than strive to accomplish it in waking life. The sad hypocrites who pledge their undying love to their dreams, then go off and marry a life of mediocrity and subservience to society's demands. I say sad hypocrites because it is a sad life indeed to believe one thing and do another. A sad thing that you have courage enough to think, but fear enough to stop you from acting on what you think. Maybe for the person in question, the melancholy associated with the sell-out ceases once they've accepted their choice. For me who is watching, I see what could have been, and thus I can never stop weeping.  

There is a beautiful quote of Oscar Wilde that captures the essence of dreams. He says:
A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.
It is truly a punishment to see what no one sees. To feel what no one else can detect with their own senses. You run the risk of being termed mad, crazy as well as being the force of other subtle slanderings both by others and the part of you that is 'rational'. Of course, I like to look at punishment in this context as 'painful responsibility'. There is responsibility that is fashionable. It comes with perks, such as a good image or respect from your close friends and family. However painful responsibility is a lot less fun. If you find the courage to take it on, it means you'll do things that are unfashionable and unpopular. Things that make you stand out from the crowd in ways you'd rather not. A heartfelt calling can sometimes be such a thing. Even when you are doing what you love, what you enjoy, there'll always be a time where you'll have to go against the grain in order to take the practice of your calling to a higher level.

Reality can be very cruel. It can form such a deterrent to dreams that you may wonder from where it is that you got the strength, even the audacity, to dream. Reality's jagged edges, crooked lines, and distorted shapes exist to provide a different kind of hope. That is if you have the courage to look for it. It can show you the consequences of you failing to fulfill even one quarter of your dreams. It can show you how great the difference you can make. If you choose to see reality that way.

Remember that the statistics are made by people like you. Society, when it comes down to it, is made up of individuals. You too are an individual. You have the power to determine what next the statistics will show when you accomplish that impossible dream. Do not give it up because things look gloomy. Fight and make life a bit more colourful, as your contribution through the fulfillment of your own dreams.