Tweaking Life

If only that were possible, eh?  I’ve been thinking (*insert witty retort here*) and came across certain thoughts  that have been (perhaps) lurking at the back of my subconscious for a long time, but only arranged themselves into a coherent sequence today.

The first one is pretty simple. I don’t know if others feel this (they probably do, but no one’s said it to me before), but recently I’ve been wondering why it is that I seem to meet the wrong people in the right place, at the right time or the right people in the wrong place at the wrong time … and every other permutation of that idea, except the perfect one. If I could twiddle some knobs and just exchange a meeting here, an experience there, a month here, a moment there, I might come up with a less tumultuous life.  But, with my flawed perspective, it would probably be one with terrible repercussions.

The other, larger and more disturbing issue that then arose from the above is as follows:

I know that I get a lot from the people around me. In the sense that I learn from them on a constant basis. There’s not a single conversation or experience I have that doesn’t leave me with a sense of either having added to my knowledge, or refining my perspective or just re-affirming something I had an opinion on.

But have I been doing this selfishly? I find that more often than not, I’m the one initiating, probably because I’m the one seeking out new information. But it’s not the same as when other people seek out stuff, because in my case I’m involving other human beings. That means when I take, they’re giving.

The question then is: do they want to give? Or am I forcing them to do so by expecting it from them? Sometimes I seek out a smile from a friend, but what if she’s had a bad day and doesn’t want to give it? Other times I simply want to voice my thoughts to clarify the jumbled mess they’re in, but since I’ve chosen an intelligent being instead of, say a brick wall, then I’m expecting a response and ergo I’m asking for a willing ear – what if the ear isn’t really willing?

I write ridiculously long mails to my brother for example: exploring ideas, rambling, asking questions … and the reason I send the finished product to him rather than save it in my journal is because I want (sometimes need) him to respond. But what if he’s busy? Or he’s heard it a dozen times before and wishes he could save his previous answers to copy and paste them into his reply?

I know give-and-take is the magic phrase in all human relationships from a simple exchange of greetings to that of more complex, multi-layered, undefinable emotions. However, there’s always a clause that says “give more than you take”.  In Islam for example, it’s recommended to reply with an extended salaam to a shorter one – give more than you receive.

Which is why I’ve been wondering (worrying, fretting and being disappointed) about the fact that I don’t think I give back to those I take from. When I walk away from another person, as many times as I can count back, I’m the one with the advantage. I’m the one going away with more than I came with. I can’t see anything that they’re taking away from the same place.

Sometimes, I’ll share something I know or something I’ve come across. Sometimes I’ll teach something that I learnt from someone else and for a brief moment be a link in the passing on of a knowledge.  But I don’t really want to be an impersonal provider of information.  Take away the data and there doesn’t seem to be much I have to give. As a person and as a human being, I fall short of my own standards by more than I like to admit.

I know people who make my life better without saying a single word. Just bring aware that they’re around and that I have the honour of knowing them is enough to make me feel this world is a safer, better place.

I know people who light up my week with just a smile and when I’m down and they’re not around, simply the memory of their smile makes me smile.

I know people who challenge me to re-think the way I am and the way I want to be.  Who force to me answer the difficult questions I’m trying to avoid and to confront my fears when I’d rather hide away in a corner – and sometimes they do this without even verbally asking the questions!

I know people who give me hope that traits like honesty, integrity, nobility, elegance and humanity do still exist in this world.

And these are all people that I take these things from. I suck in their energy like a black hole, absorbing it, soaking in it and then assimilating it into my own energy, that I don’t seem to share back with them in return.  Maybe it’s because they have so much of their own, that they have no need for mine. 

And that’s sad.  Because it means at the end of my life, I will leave indebted to all the people I know and there will be no way to pay off that loan.

Especially if, as I suspect, it’s not a loan as much as an enforced demand on my part.

I wish I could find something to give, I’d be shovelling it out in spade-fuls, just to get rid of this sense of burden.

Bint Ali

Current Saying: 

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” 
-Madeleine L’Engle, writer (1918- )

The Hard Stuff

Let’s do things from bottom up this time.  I read this quote and despite the fact that I should be doing a dozen other things, I had to post it:

“Don’t be yourself. Be someone a little nicer.” -Mignon McLaughlin, journalist and author (1913-1983)

You know how sometimes when you’re trying to figure out stuff, something just falls into your life that tells you to get your act together because nothing in life comes easy? This quote was the one for me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want and how it seems unfair that I might not get it simply because of circumstances. And I’ve been wondering why God would give me sneak-previews (so to speak), if He knows that I know that I’m never going to get to experience the main feature anyway. What’s the point?

And on the other hand, I’ve also been trying to accept the fact that there are some things I’m going to have to ‘put-up’ with, which kind of deflates the whole ‘I’m-so-excited-about-being-alive’ feeling I want to hold on to.

I guess, what I was hoping I could do was to have my cake and eat it all. And that’s one of things about the process of becoming an adult: you have to realise that eating the whole cake might be fun, but it gives you a mighty tummy-ache afterwards.

Don’t be yourself. 
That’s what I wanted to be, partly because it’s so easy to be yourself, to set up your own rules. To live in a small world of your own definition, regardless of how it affects those around you.

Be someone a little nicer.  That’s the hard, and let’s admit it, boring bit. It means sometimes having to adapt to the way other people live and to accept a set of rules for the greater good of others, although you might have no need or inclination to follow them.

Being nicer means giving up the heroine role of being exciting, mysterious, a little spoilt, a little wayward, a bit unnerving and possibly unpredictable. But at the end of the day, when we want a shoulder to cry on, or someone to turn to whom we can depend on, someone who’ll understand without questioning, we all look for the ‘nice’ people in our lives.

The difference between being yourself and being nicer is the difference between interesting and comfortable.  It’s the difference between being the actor on the stage, and the cue-prompter in the darkened wings.  It’s the difference between the vibrant paint and the plain canvas that sacrifices everything to hold those strokes just so.

It’s the difference between the wallpaper and the dry wall it’s plastered over. It’s the difference between the house and its foundation, between the flower and its roots, between the software and the binary code beneath it, between the interface and its functionality.

And at its core, it’s the difference between being human and being humane.

Being yourself is human. Being nicer is a step towards the Divine.

Bint Ali

The Geek Shall Inherit The Earth

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a little miffed by the fact that the whole Superman saga was based so much on Superman. In my opinion, the hero of the whole tale is Clark Kent.

When I was younger, all the girls I knew heaved collective sighs (as only young girls can) whenever Christopher Reeve appeared with the famous cowlick, and all the boys wished they had muscles they could flex that well under spandex. (Reeve is probably the only man who could ever carry off the ‘clinging to every curve’ phenomenon without a whisper of femininity crossing the mind.)

But while all this hero-worship and sighing was going on, the only thing I was thinking about was what an unfair deal CK was getting. Brawn just never has had a chance over brain in my dimension. I mean, being Superman is easy, isn’t it? All he has to do is whoosh! into the air and everyone looks up to him – literally, as well as figuratively. But CK…now, being CK is a whole different deal.

I’m sure the inventors of Kent had the word Nice Guy pasted somewhere as inspiration for every move he made. And seriously, the guy – fictitious as he is – has the power to tug at every heartstring that was ever strung across any true-blooded female heart, no matter how cynical.

The classic off-beat, slightly clumsy, a little tuned-out, socially-inept intellectual has always been in a class of his own. There was CK and Peter Parker (although he never matched up to Clark), there was Remington Steele (who in my book beats every James Bond, including Brosnan’s own), there was Jerry Steiner in Parker Lewis Can’t Lose (who even remembers that show except me?) and more recently Adam Brody’s Seth Cohen from The O.C. who has literally revived (or is it initiated?) the Age of The Geek and definitely invented the last fad-phrase: Geek-Chic!! 😀

Pronounced geek-sheek (for the French-challenged), this new term means that suddenly, it’s not only okay to have a crush on that gawky, bespectacled, shy-guy who sits right up in the front of the class and has his head buried in a book most of the time, it’s actually cool . And if he can trip over the odd pebble, sprawl out occasionally on the sidewalk, utter completely absurd statements and fumble with anything smaller than a large-sized tome – all the better!

Mind you, there’s a huge difference between a ‘geek’ and a ‘nerd’. The former might be hot, the latter is definitely not. And just so you don’t mess things up, a nerd is someone who knows every piece of factual information about his highly complicated hobby/career.

A geek on the other hand is “…obsessed with things (he) should have no reason to know about. You’re not a geek until you take your obsession beyond socially acceptable levels.” And obsession here usually refers to science and sci-fi oriented stuff, according to someone out there who’s done some studies.

Naturally, the whole Geek-Revolution has the full support of the box-office. Hollywood Hunks (Gibson. Hah! Pitt. Double-Hah!  Bloom. Don’t let’s got there! ) are slowly being usurped by Glamorous Geeks.

Which really bugs me because for a whole lot of years, while my classmates drooled over TV Show Hotties, I took on defending the supporting stars (almost always geeks) like they were my flesh-n-blood. In a way, perhaps I was defending my self. I mean, if I could convince them that the whole ‘dark, broody & intellectual’ look was in, then I could be ‘in’ too, right? Wrong. My timing was off, so I only managed to sound like even more of an odd-ball. (In my defense, I’m an Aquarian and we’re ahead of our time.)

In a way it’s sad – I mean, if it weren’t for mainstream media, geeks would still be a hidden treasure that only a select few would be able to take advantage of… er, appreciate. Now, it’s free for all and even those who have no idea of the depth and complex facets of geekiness are going to be hungrily hunting it down.

On the other hand, it feels good to have had better taste that the rest of the crowd for so many years. 😛 The only down-side is that so far, the whole culture change is tipped in favour of the male species. But I’m hopeful, when the Take-Over happens, they won’t forget their female counterparts 🙂

That’s one of the good things about geeky men (as opposed to nerdy ones) – they’re not just smart, they’re also intelligent (and if you don’t know the difference, you have no business reading this. Go ‘way). That means that they can spot fake and shallow personalities. Hopefully. They are men after all, and that means you always have to leave a margin of error.

If you know me well (shout-outs to SK and Bzz), you’ll recognize the profusion of parenthesis as a sign that I’m slightly high on glee right now. If you don’t know me that well, then this post might read as being a little off the usual ‘inner-outer conflict’ track. I’m Muslim, yes, but we generally tend to be human as well. 🙂 That’s all the explanation I’m giving on that front.

The glee bit? Well, after years of feeling guilty for going jelly-kneed every time I came across a respectable geek, this new-fad feels like the cream that finally rose to the top of the milk-jug. Next time I come across one, I’m going to sigh, say Masha’Allah and thank God that the girls-of-collective-sighs have become women who finally got their collective acts together.

After all, geeks deserve kudos simply because of their dedication and stubborn adherence to their own unique-ness, and nothing in the world beats feminine appreciation, does it?

I leave you with the words of an official geek: 

The normal people wouldn’t know what to do if they inherited the Earth.

‘The geeks will inherit the Earth, that’s true,’ Grelck says. ‘We’re smarter and we’ll live longer. We’ll know what to do if a comet destroys Earth.’

And if you’re as unreasonably excited about all this as I am go check out Geek Chic for the inside scoop. Wikipedia also has an article on Geeks.  

Isn’t the taste of revenge is sweet on the tongue?

Bint Ali

P.S. I think one of my future posts might be called: “A Geek To Call My Own: The Ultimate Hunt.”  Then we’ll get down to the real nitty-gritty stuff…

The Way Things Are

What is it called when things suddenly go from being compositions to condensed elements of a whole?

When people become individual scents and sounds and the world takes on unique textures and colours?

When you recognize a sense of being, rather than a presence?

When familiarity is an essence, not an emotion?

When you expect things to happen a certain way, and then are still surprised when they do?

When you can feel something in the now, and simultaneously watch yourself experiencing it from a distance outside of the moment?

What is it called when life ceases to be comprehensible, but everything suddenly makes sense like it never has before?

If you can put a name to this, then put me out of my elated-misery and tell me.

Bint Ali

Current Saying: 

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. It it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” 
– E. B. White, writer (1899-1985)

Flip Side

“Tolerance is the graveyard of defects.” – Imam Ali ibn abi Talib (a)

There’s always been this huge issue about how the Muslim, and as an extension Islam, is usually intolerant of other faiths. And seriously, the fanatics and extremists don’t help much in dispelling this misconception.

I’ve never seen anything of the sort being encouraged within Islamic ethical or legal codes. It’s not an attitude we’re encouraged to adopt, and it’s not hidden away deep within the system. In fact, the more you dig in – and I’ve been doing quite some of that recently – the more surprising it is to learn how much more lenient Islam is than even Muslims themselves think!

At first, I used to feel that the emphasis on the equality of all mankind was so great that it doesn’t seem to make a difference if you chose to be on the Right Path or not. Which is a little dangerous because it borders on pluralism.

Many people think that because Islam does not support the concept of pluralism in its entirety, that this means it is aggressively hostile towards all other faiths. Things are never that B&W.

The way I understand it, (and I’ve discovered that many people don’t know this) is that Islam is the final Divine code. It was never meant to be a ‘new religion’, just a perfect and comprehensive version of previous codes. Any Muslim will tell you that Islam began with the creation of the world and that Adam was the first Muslim.

At some point in time along the way, people adapted and tweaked religion for various reasons, and voila! we ended up with all the different faiths we have today. Some diversions branched off at greater tangents than others, thus the monotheists, the polytheists and the atheists (who have a belief system, even if they claim to abandon the one involving God.)

Of course, when you disagree with pluralism, there’s always the essential question: “Do you believe/think non-Muslims will go to Hell?” which I always had a problem answering, until I realised that there really isn’t a yes/no reply for this one. Like I said before, hardly anything is ever B&W.

When you’re talking about God, it’s impossible to do so without mentioning His Justice. It’s our un-wavering belief in that attribute that allows us to accept Him as God, as Creator and Master. Without it, we have every reason to rebel or reject Him.

The one thing I’ve often made the mistake of overlooking is that He’s not only Just, He’s PERFECTLY Just. That’s something we cannot comprehend.

We make laws based on general assumptions and then we apply them and hope that 7 times out of 10, we’ll make the right judgements and keep society stable. Does that justify what happens to the innocent who get caught up in the ‘system’?

How many people have been punished for their “crimes” only to be absolved later because of new evidence? And what do we do other than say: ‘Oops! Sorry about that, but we’re only human’? The reason we get away with it every time is precisely that: we’re only human.

You can’t apply that to God. He has an overview we don’t. His Justice is specific to each and every individual and takes into consideration their unique situation and circumstances, which means nothing is generalised when it comes to His judgements.

Which is why we can say that being a Muslim gives you an advantage because (ideally) you’ve studied all available paths and chosen the best one, but we can’t guarantee with 100% certainty who will go to Heaven or Hell, because we’re not privy to what goes on inside another human being’s soul/mind.

Sure we can make certain assumptions based on actions, but only when those actions are consistent and clearly defined. Otherwise, it’s just different forms of stereotyping.

So we’ve established that Islam isn’t intolerant of other faiths. The thing is tolerance is a relative term, and it’s dependent on context too…

Bint Ali

This post will probably work better with a Part Two, and I haven’t done one of those since I started P2 anyway, so why not? Watch out for Flip Side – Take Two!

 Current Saying: 

“In some circumstances, the refusal to be defeated is a refusal to be educated.” 
– Margaret Halsey, novelist (1910-1997)