Today is probably the first time in about a year where I have had hardly anything to do. It’s easy to fall into the trap of sitting around doing nothing, Tweeting, Facebooking and grazing like a cattle, you know, searching the fridge every 25minutes. Instead I’ve occupied my mind with fairly useful activities: reading and thinking. Here are some random thoughts from today, some arbitrary but others perhaps intuited from something deeper. Continue reading
Babies and young children are naturally curious: if there is a loud sound, they will quickly look for the source of the sound and ask “what was that?” They are not routinised and everything is intense. This is why Aristotle said: “All men, by nature, desire to know.” As we grow up and become people “of” this world and not people “in” this world (note the difference), we become blinded, indoctrinated and attached to the world. We forget the world is transient, fleeting and, according to one saint, “You are nothing but a number of days, and whenever a day passes away, a part of you passes away.” Continue reading
Although my life is probably only half way through its course, the remaining chapters don’t particularly interest me. My soul yearns to return to its Author, where the book of life shall be explained and I will exist in a state of plenitude, tranquility and happiness. However, I have no say over how much time my Author has allotted me; but I must continue to play my part as the protagonist in this sorrowful story.
As I entered this realm and began playing out my character, I was still fresh from the divine Presence. But one loses the affinity with his or her Author upon getting too caught up in one’s own story.
My book, however, is a microcosm in the grand book of life, amounting to nothing more than a mere sentence. How I wish I could comprehend my own book let alone the grand book of life. The characters that I began with in my life are slowly disappearing, and returning to the Author who removed them from both my book as well as theirs. And with every day that passes, another page is turned and the end of the book gets closer and closer.
While it seems that my father’s book was not yet complete – dying only at 47 – every book has an end and every character finishes his or her story – no matter what age they depart.
Suicide is when one rips out the remaining pages of the book and, with it, rip themselves out – which is, of course, still part of the storyline. We cannot always understand why the Author, in His divine Imagination writes what He does, but we must accept it and upon returning to Him, all shall be revealed.
Life is like a game of chess and we, as an individual piece on the board, are free, in a limited sense. We must obey the rules set by the Creator of the game and we cannot transgress the limits set by the Creator – all our moves are therefore completely free yet completely determined. This is the paradox of our existence.
Sooner or later, we will be knocked off the board – sometimes we will know it is coming and other times we won’t. We will return with the other pieces with whom we started with who were on our side: our friends, our family. We will not return to the board: it was just a short-lived experience to see how we, in our limited movement, could survive in the game of games.
Be prepared to be knocked off the board at any time; we will return to the Creator of the game and the Author of our stories. From Him do we originate and to Him shall we ultimately return.
During rush hour, it is often the strongest or the most determined that guarantee themselves a place on the tube: sometimes people will push and shove their way on to the carriage. Others, however, are left behind and have to wait for the next tube to arrive. When on the tube, some will rush to an empty seat in an attempt to get there before others – somewhat reminiscent of the battle of the fittest idea. It seems that we have a kind of instinctual inclination to do what serves our personal and temporary interests at the expense of others. But, then again, many will get up from their seat when an old lady or a pregnant woman steps foot inside the carriage. Others ask fellow passengers whether they would like to sit down first – even if they are around the same age as them.
The tube will stop every other minute; people will leave and new people will come on – reminiscent of the fact that people will always leave your life while new people will come into your life. Some people will be on the tube for only one or two stops while others will remain on the tube for a long time – just like some people will be on this earth for a very brief moment while others will be here for a longer time. Both, however, will depart from this earth sooner or later.
The people on the tube are dependant on the driver who is in control; he starts and stops the tube every now and then. We often forget the driver is there but his or her role is essential for us to arrive at our destination. However, the driver has no bearing on our conversations, moods or what we do on the tube. This is similar to the relationship believers have with their Lord who is believed to be in complete control but His Omnipotence does not affect His creations free will. Furthermore, we often forget He is there but we are still heavily reliant on Him.
In the morning and in the evening, the tube often becomes packed; there is little space to move – you’re often squashed and uncomfortable. But this is only for a short period of time until the majority of people get off or a seat becomes available. However, during the afternoon, the tube is empty, one sits comfortably and can think, contemplate and day dream whilst gazing out of the carriage window. In life, the inevitable vicissitudes we’re confronted with will mean that we are bound to face hardship. But in between the moments of hardship are periods of ease. And, most importantly, we realise that no hardship lasts forever.
This extended metaphor may seem hyperbolic to some, but there is some truth to be delineated from it.
So I’m 20. Hmmm. It seems as if each year, birthdays become less and less important. But having lived for 20 years now, I want to share some thoughts with everyone.
I have noticed an increased maturity about myself over the last year. It may not be noticeably obvious, but mentally and spiritually I have definitely changed. It’s actually quite weird writing this because I keep using the personal pronoun ‘I’ – a despised term in my vocabulary. I don’t know if I will come across slightly psychotic saying this, but I really don’t like using the terms ‘I’ or ‘me’ – it makes me feel a little egotistical. Recently, I have been becoming more and more selfless. I don’t see myself as anyone important in the grand scheme of things. I’m just another one of God’s small creations in this universe. You and I are merely parts of this creation. Nothing more, nothing less.
I didn’t do anything for my birthday – not necessarily because I couldn’t – but because I didn’t want anything. If I was to get a birthday present, I would have liked to have something like ‘world peace’ or ‘an end to poverty’ you know, something along those lines. Alas, I don’t expect any of those any time soon.
But anyway back to my life. When I was seven, I told my mum I wanted to be a journalist. She was shocked and she replied: “Where did you learn that word from.” I replied: “The journalist that speaks to me in my head told me.” She must have either thought ‘damn it, I have given birth to a deluded child’ or ‘aww he has an imaginary friend.’ Neither really answered her question of where I heard the word ‘journalist’ at such a young age, though. Perhaps I am still deluded…
Anyway enough cynicism. One thing I have learnt in life is that to get what you want, not only do you have to believe you can get it, but you have to work for it. Scientists have long known about the great wonders that can occur from ‘thinking positively’. People can cure themselves from ‘incurable diseases.’
The subconscious is undoubtedly something incredible. So too is the human soul.
I often feel a sense of disquiet – discord even, between my mind/body and my soul. A debate often sparks between the two. The soul, which predates the human body, knows the secrets of the universe and yearns to return to return to its Lord. Mine certainly does. I sometimes feel estranged in this world, feeling a sense of unease about my very existence. ‘Is this my real home’? – I often ponder.
My attitude towards religion has also changed. Mostly because of listening to intellectuals and academics and reading their works. I started reading properly about one and a half years ago – before that I thought reading to be something mundane and tedious. How wrong I was. Reading can have the most profound change on an individual. It can literally liberate the mind and get one to think in profound ways.
So back to religion. I had a very simplistic and regressive perception of Islam. I thought it to be something very literal, and not open to interpretation. How wrong I was again. At the heart of the deeply intellectual and nuanced faith of Islam is a plethora of possible understandings. God knows who is right. And God alone knows our intentions. And it is our intentions that, ultimately, we will be judged. It doesn’t matter what you believe or don’t believe -nobody knows what is in the the heart, what somebody has been conditioned to think, and why a human being acts in the way that they act. Nobody human being has the right to judge.
Many people can’t fathom why some live lives of luxury whilst other live in abject poverty. One woman died last year from drinking too much water in a water drinking competition. At the same time, those in Somalia, as we speak, are dying because they have no water. What sort of world is this? A world without a God? It sounds possible. But once we understand our purpose: to know our Lord, to be vicegerents of this world (helping one another) and to do as much good as possible, everything starts to make more sense.
Life is just a short soujourn. It’s transient and ephemeral. We will all soon be gone and be replaced. So this is why we shouldn’t take anything for granted. Especially your health, money but most importantly, your time.
I await the next 20 years of my life.
*By the way I wrote this in under ten minutes, sorry for any mistakes, grammatical or otherwise.*
From stabbings to shootings, to muggings, why are our youth so obsessed with crime?
As I elucidated in my post ‘Why is the world in such a bad state?’ we all have a natural quest for belonging, for meaning, for happiness and well being. The youth who are inclined towards a life of crime, confrontation and conflict seem as if they are not in search for ‘peace’, but it’s as if aggression and tension are the states that make them feel the best. The psychological reasons why people choose – and the emphasis is on the word choose – to lead an aggressive life has been studied in some depth: they look for trouble because in doing so they mask their deep unease about themselves. The individual, whether it be a boy or girl, believes his or her hostility towards others will bring them well being and allow them to feel at ease. Human beings who behave in these modes of behavior are trying to regain possession of themselves – they feel lost – and in the eyes of others, they want their recognition, trust and love. Their hostile behavior is often a form of communication, and looking for trouble is a sign of them looking to fill a gaping void in their life.
Those whom they love, or admire, determine the world in which they belong. Their real or symbolic violence is their own way of entering that ‘world’ and then having a sense of belonging. They can then be seen and then recognized by others, and ensure they have a place within that ‘world’. Belonging to a community means obeying their rules and procedures, and if, for example, that community is filled with hate, aggression and crime, the adherents too will follow suit.
Although I doubt the term ‘psychological hedonism’ goes through the mind of our young criminals before they decide whether to commit a crime, it is on this basis that they freely choose their behavior. The perpetrator plans his or her behavior based on the pain vs pleasure basis. If the pleasure is deemed to outweigh the pain, the the action is necessitated. The crime is ultimately done as part of a selfish desire to get something for nothing.
The purpose of prison is meant to remove the individual from the world he/she was inhabiting and make them come to the self-realization that their previous life only breeds further disquietude and agitation within the psyche. For some, prison serves its purpose: they break free from the shackles they had put on themselves and come out reformed. For others, however, the world they previously lived in has been irremovably imprinted on their personality. So even when they try to reform, they slip back into old habits and find themselves in the same desperate situation as before.
The latest figures from the Metropolitan police show a sharp increase in crime over the last 12 months according to the Telegraph. Compounded with this, is the Evening Standard’s alarming figures published last month of functional illiteracy amongst the youth in London. For some, a lack of education is a primary reason for an escalation of crime in society. For others, it is because of poverty. For me, it is deep psychological reasons which are understood through philosophical analysis, coupled, of course, with socio-economic factors.
Everybody needs a purpose in their life to carry on living in some sort of ease. It is exactly when a person loses all sense of purpose and hope that they commit suicide. A religious believer’s purpose may be to ascend into the celestial world once they die. An atheist or agnostic’s purpose could be to live a good life, or even, live to pass down their DNA-as Richard Dawkins says our purpose is.
The astounding crime rates amongst our youth emanate from their quest for purpose. Because they feel severely disenfranchised, lost and demoralized by the supposed lack of ‘opportunities’ around them, they feel contempt inside themselves and often resort to aggressive behavior to vent their internal disquietude.
Regardless of whether one believes in a Divine being or not, we need to show the youth – who will one day run our world – that, every individual can transcend their environment and circumstances, and lead a rich and fulfilling life where they have a purpose.
Feel free to comment if you disagree.
From rapists to murders to the gangstas who walk around with permanent wrinkles on their forehead as they look to intimidate others, to girls who walk around in the skimpiest of clothes, to the university student, to every professional and every homeless person, you, me and every other person on this planet- what do we all have in common..? We’re all searching for meaning, for happiness, for love and for peace.
Our soul – which predates our physical body – replied in the affirmative when our Lord asked us the following question in our primordial existence: ‘Am I not your Lord? ‘Yes, we do testify!’ we all said. This primordial covenant is ingrained deep down within our consciousness.
Our descent into this lowly existence caused us to forget our Lord and the covenant. Because most of us lack this intrinsic bond with the Divine, we are in a natural state of agitation and disquietude. We search far and wide in our quest for meaning, and often, we end up lost, in strange places and even more confused.
There can be no world peace if we do not first find peace in ourselves. [click here to read my article on the search for inner peace]
If we look around the world, we can see that some of the most devoutly religious countries are plagued with corruption, whereas some of the most secular, like Finland, don’t suffer from such problems. Hamza Yusuf (pictured left), the American intellectual believes – and so do I –that religion is not the absolute solution per se, but what’s important is a strong middle-class in society and tax laws that help prevent the vast accumulation of wealth to an elite few. This, in turn, prevents wealth disparities; a society can therefore become much more just and secure. Peace and security are synonymous and one often fails without the other.
When poverty and corruption become endemic in a society, seldom is peace attained. Why? Because people are not free. Poverty prevents people from reaching their potential and corruption causes anger and hostility amongst the people.
There therefore needs to be a more just economic system, not one based on capitalism or any other permutation of a system which allows for greed and the neglect for the poor, and not one based on Pharaonic corporate and individual wealth. Economics governs most of our day to day affairs and a just system is imperative. There needs to be some modifications in our use of fractional reverse banking; we shouldn’t sell on debt neither should we exploit people through interest re-payments, for example. By no means am I an economics expert, but these things are two examples of unjust policies.
The way we elect our leaders also needs, perhaps, a rethink. Even though, in the west, we elect our leaders in a democratic fashion, we still find that our leaders often become war-mongers, and, really, are just as bad as the tyrants in the East (just a bit less crude and more sophisticated).
Our leaders, in my opinion, should be people who are asked to become Prime Ministers and Presidents, not those who are determined to become our leaders at any cost. Of course, the leaders we ask should be qualified to do the job, but most importantly, they should be people of honour and prestige. These leaders (hopefully) will be less concerned about the countries’ interests, but the countries’ virtues. And as Socrates believed, if a country is more concerned about its virtues than its interests, its interests will naturally be taken care of.
The paradox of being perplexes even the most profound philosophers: we find it hard to comprehend life. But, really, all the answers we need lie within us. Although intellect is important, it is not everything. The most important thing is to understand and learn who we are, so we can work on our inner state. Once we realize who we are, we can then start to find peace within ourselves. Then, of course, we’ll find peace elsewhere.
Follow me: @omar_shahid
Life is full of ups and downs, apparent contradictions, worries and happiness. In this short sojourn we find ourselves in, we are all faced with different challenges and obstacles we must tackle. Everyone one of us has had a different life, has a different personality, a different group of friends and family and has had to deal with different experiences. This is why “we can never assume that anyone in this world can really understand your circumstances other than from the perspective of his/her own circumstances, because, in reality, people see things only in accordance with their frames of reference and their personal path(1).”
Whatever situation we find ourselves in, it is important to always remain-or try to remain- impartial and objective in all that we do. Our thoughts, however, can never be truly independent. We are all products of our upbringings and environment, our personalities and our beliefs. But sometimes we have to try to step back, take ourselves out of the equation and it is then, and only then, that we will have more of a perceptive, free and penetrative view of life. Discerning the truth is impossible without a free mind; uncluttered from all the junk it is fed everyday on the TV and radio.
In this day and age our minds are not trained to think on the level they were designed for. There is not necessarily one way at approaching life per se. And this is why developing a philosophy of pluralism is essential to understanding all the differences in life. We are all in search for meaning, either knowingly or unknowingly. And once we acknowledge that there is a meaning, everything in life is transformed into signs pointing us to our ultimate destination. These signs are singular and individual and will therefore lead us to the source of meaning.
by Omar Shahid