Moment

For the first time, in a very long time, if not ever, I decided to “live the moment”. And for a while I have never experienced such ecstasy before… every day was not only a new day, but composed of individual hours all beautiful in their own ways.

The morning hours are beautiful in the cool morning sun, the smell of freshly washed linen hanging to dry; taking out the garbage to clean up the apartment; the relaxing (!) drive to work; and listening to the Quran which has become part of my daily routine, whether or not I pray.

The noon hours beautiful in the message exchanges with my loved ones on twitter and on the phone; the thrill of finally getting a hideous work task done; the gratefulness to the fact that it’s part of my job to use twitter and Facebook and even YouTube; being around amazing colleagues, and looking forward to the time I leave the office. Especially if it wasn’t a particularly “good” day. Then I drive home, far outside the city, leaving all problems and worries behind.

The afternoon and evening hours, filled with books (now digital, even) that fill my soul and creativity – like eating. Oh, eating! The joy of eating is one thing I cannot begin to explain. Even if it is a simple cheese sandwich… pressed on the grill, with a cucumber or a salty tomato on the side. And olives! God’s gift to mankind… and my new infatuation with dates! I can eat them all day, feel the textures with my tongue and let them melt in my mouth… much like how I have a Hershey’s or Galaxy.

And I miss having biscuits and tea with my grandmother. Bless her heart.

The night looms, but I am no night owl. I learned that I do and think terrible things if I don’t sleep before midnight. But that’s when I enjoy writing as I am most honest to myself. And I enjoy the flicker of the candles in the background, and the dim lights, with the shadows of the artificial tree in the apartment dance on the walls. I often see shapes and people and a story being made.

And when it’s time to sleep… oh! The smell of the sheets… the feeling of sinking into the mattress!

This is bliss – enjoying moment to moment.

And last night, I slipped, and thought about the future, my life, what I am doing, how I ended up where I am, and the darkness ahead I never manage to see through, and the shadows I left behind out of fear and disgust.

And became depressed.

Why Ramadan is Still Special, Despite Everything

For those who know me I have been going through some rough mental patches when it comes to faith, but I am not one who likes to openly discuss these issues, even though I may voice a concern or two sporadically. This is because (A) for me religion/faith/etc is a pact between heart, mind, soul, and God, and talking about the contents of the pact with other people does not make sense, and (B) because such discussions always end up in a tribal warfare with two opposing camps I would rather not be a member of. They’re issues that are my own and I have to deal with them on my own. No one has the right to influence me, or anyone else, on how they should think of and feel God or religion or whatever they choose to believe in.

If it’s not from within, then I would rather live without.

I don’t need to give a PR press release on what Ramadan is about. Local newspapers online and off are <sarcasm> doing well  with their “Ramadan special Iftars”, other exclusive tents, and depicting the stories of expatriate converts as well as threatening people who eat in public with a jail sentence.</sarcasm>

Ramadan, to me, is a generally happy month, regardless of whether or not I am leading a happy life. I am visibly more quiet, calm, tranquil, and even more passive than normal. It’s not because I am upset. I simply enjoy the “spirit” if you can so call it.

serenity-kinan-jarjous-photography

Ramadan, to me, is when problems become trivial. I am saddened when Ramadan passes not only because of obvious religious reasons, but because nothing seems much of a big deal in Ramadan. I haven’t been presented yet with a life changing crisis in any Ramadan, but usual problems that piss me off and have me drive for hours around Dubai just to mentally escape realities I cannot deal with, all seem insignificant.

As long as no issues occur 20 minutes before Iftar that is, LOL :) but that is why I subscribed to food delivery during the month to ensure that noms will always be present regardless of plans.

I enjoy the call of prayers, whether or not I attend them. I am especially attached to the mosque on campus, whose Imam has a most exquisite voice that speaks to me. Ever since I graduated I still go to the mosque on campus in the last few days of Ramadan. Sadly this year, the semester has been pushed to commence after Eid, so I will not be able to enjoy Taraweeh or Qiyam prayers there. For those who want to know more about Taraweeh, you can reach Mich’s fantastic post on her reflections during the month here.

For those not in the know, Qiyam (officially called Tahajjud) is a prayer similar to Taraweeh that takes place in the last third of the night (1-3 AM depending on the mosque and sunrise). Qiyam can be done on any day, regardless of whether or not it is Ramadan. During the month, though, they’re performed in the last ten days of Ramadan in mosques. The religious significance of the prayer is the belief that God grants whatever you ask for if you’re staying up to pray at these odd hours. The Hadith is:

يتنزل ربنا تبارك وتعالى كل ليلة إلى السماء الدنيا حين يبقى ثلث الليل الآخر فيقول : من يدعوني فأستجيب له، من يسألني فأعطيه من يستغفرني فأغفر له

Last year I took a recording of Qiyam from the campus mosque and I often listen to it when I want to zone out, especially this particular segment here.

Wishing everyone to find peace in this month.

Patterns

It often is very odd how the human mind likes to “work” – I have read many alleged scientific articles on the mind insisting how it is into organizing thoughts in some manner, on how we feel comfortable with symmetry, lines, and categorization, and how everything we do or impose on ourselves – including racism, class, prejudice, and war – is simply nothing than a materialistic projection of our thought patterns.

Intriguing and debatable, until I came across my thick journal that I used to write in. I’ve talked countless times about my many journals before, but this particular one has such a wealth of information it often scares me to the point of me wanting to destroy it. But alas, the writer in me begs to keep it, conjuring up illusions of my future at a wooden vintage typewriter with that journal the sole survival, and proof, of many memories in my life. I opened up the pages of the book to read what I have written in the last week of July during the past decade.

What I found, worried me, only slightly but nevertheless made me wake up to something I have always known; my life is being dictated by thought patterns. Through the gibberish nonsense of my teens it was easy to pick out patterns that occur at roughly the same time every year. The overarching storyline is that I always feel lost regardless of whatever external indications I receive and convince myself of. On the details, there are always the same cycles I go through.

Every period of months, of every year, follow the same pattern. Like the seasons, my life takes a course and my mind dictates how I should be feeling. In several accounts, the same people have been mentioned and it is typically the same annual scenarios. In the winter months, the tales focus on a different group of people and the events share a similar pattern. And so it goes year after year.

In fact, I was looking at an entry a few years back directed at my cousin who shares the same name. As I read it, I felt as though it has been written by someone else and dedicated it to me. It’s the biggest Karma bite I have ever experienced.

What’s different now is that the characters changed and so have their stories, but the arch story is still, to a large degree, the same. It feels as though the only way to predict what’s coming in the next few months is to read about them in my past.

Can the mind really be so powerful as to manifest itself as life?

Wishful Thinking

I received an email as a form of a joke but it has the undeniable truth of how we prioritize the aspects of our lives incorrectly.

The joke narrative, in brief, describes a group of businessmen crossing paths with a small group of people living a very simple life, one very similar to Abufares’ Tartous he vividly reminisces. The businessmen ask the villagers how they spend their days, and the villagers explain how they simply fish and enjoy family and friends around. Businessmen respond by giving them more elaborate fishing ideas, expanding fishing boats to fleets and running a multimillion dollar business after many years of hard work. The villagers ask what’s the point. The businessmen reply saying they can then retire and spend times with their families.

Which is what the so called simpletons have been doing all along.

It’s interesting when you let it sink in. We spend time away from friends and family, planting seeds in other people’s gardens and harvesting very little. We are afraid to tend to our own garden – others’ are more expanse, presumably greener, and presumably have better soil. As the years pass, our own garden deteriorates even further, making it even more difficult to refocus and grow our own farm.

We hop around, till our garden dies away, the plants and the trees and the people we know and love but have never given them the time nor energy, all while we tend to others to “gain the experience” enough to remedy the ever deteriorating situation.

How sad is that.

Shouldn’t we give focus and energy to people and issues that really matter? How many opportunities do you come across in your life? And how many parents and grandparents and kids can you have in your life? Your health and happiness?

The opportunity of a lifetime? It’s hearing every story your parents have to tell. To be with family, with friends, and with loved ones. To experience life as it was really meant to be, and die knowing more about the people around you and their stories than the stagnant businesses and skills you’re told you need but never really do. To die knowing that you left more than an empty and readily replaceable chair at work – to pass on your own story and have your spirit linger around the recliner where you spent your final days.

“This is where your grandfather used to sit, and tell me stories of his grandmother’s siren phone and her great cooking.”

Wishful thinking.

The Brave & The Fool

“Countless were the occasions,” I wrote, many years ago, “where I set out to write these memoirs of mine, but a strange sentiment – mixture of terror and anguish – always stopped me from carrying through.”

I have written many memoirs since then, and looking back, I can only laugh at myself for the fool I have been. For putting work and career before everything else, and everything else before me. I don’t dwell on the past like I used to, and as they say in Arabic, اللي فات مات and it should be.

Today (probably literally, but mostly figuratively) I stand at a crossroads where many men have stood before, weighing options and outcomes of decisions with factors including personal preference, spiritual gain and happiness, family obligations, societal and life expectations, and financial metrics.

It’s not particularly challenging, mind you, if you only put the necessary factors in. And I am not exactly old enough to be worried too much about many of those metrics, but circumstances are there whether I wish it or not. However, before I start my family, I need to live in one.

Now what is making a difference is the little history of experiences I had previously regarding similar decisions. Of course I am expected by everyone to make the wisest decisions that would satisfy the majority of mankind but myself.

Looking back at all the shit I have written over the years, I think enough is enough. They’ve all been bad decisions, their only good outcome is providing me the wisdom to choose differently this time. I refuse to be “just another one”, because though I am not sure of where I belong, I know how to tell when I don’t belong.

Whether or not I have the guts, though, is a different matter. But what I can smell, and very strongly, is the sea and freedom. And it boils my blood for it to be so close and almost tangible that I am even considering otherwise. Fuck it, I’ve had enough.