Thursday, November 4, 2010

Most/Least Valuable Thing?

I think the most valuable thing in the WORLD.... is humility.

and the most worthless thing in the world is...? you guessed it. arrogance and self-worth.

I see or hear in the news about a country president who is attempting to change his country's constitution in order to be eligible for re-election for an indefinite number of terms. And I cringe at that person's arrogance and self-worth. I hear someone screaming down at a worker or a maid just because they gave them a task which they didn't do to perfection (a perfection that only exists vaguely in that person's mind, and is not consistent, and can change after a day or two).

I literally cringe with disgust when I see such belittlement of others. and the scary part is, if I had done it, I probably wouldn't have noticed anything wrong. I would probably feel I am worthy of being superior than those around me, and I'm showing them what's right for their own good. Even though my real motive would be to show them how superior I am to them, and that they should know it in their cores never to challenge me.

Self-worth is purely a lie. that is the main source of it's evil. It is simply misleading and drives you to do some things that are out of your capabilities, yet you'll think they are within them. We think we know all the ins and outs of a problem, it's limits, it's variables, we think we have total control over something. Therefor we know what's best.

But we don't know everything, and the more we believe that we do, the more we think that what seems risky behavior in the eyes of others, is totally safe. So we do risky behavior and lead others towards destructive outcomes.

On the other hand...

I haven't seen anything in this world more beautiful than humility.

And what sort of humility do we mean really? how many kinds of it are there? A person can never show real and genuine humility to another except when they feel that they are truly and unquestionably inferior to them.

If I walk to my office and pass by the teaboy, and he accidentally stumbles and spills coffee over my clean white dishdasha first thing in the morning. What would stop me from cursing him for his clumsiness and low education. Clearly thinking that it was his fault and his parents' fault for not educating him enough to get a better job than this one. For not knowing exactly how many cups of coffee he can carry safely without spilling them. For not judging properly how many cups his tray can carry.

In my arrogance I could go on for hours listing all the flaws in this poor man's life that led him to this simple unfortunate event of spilt coffee.

And also in my arrogance I would forget to list all the necessities and forces that made it impossible for his life to have taken any other course. Choosing to skip college in india and work as a tea boy right in his early teen years wasn't much of a real choice for him. Choosing not to start a small farm with modern high-yield farming practices, in order to increase his family's prosperity and freedom wasn't much of a real choice since he didn't know how to do all that, and without someone teaching him how to do it, it would have been very unwise for him to risk what little assets his family had with such a project that could fail.

In reality... if I had infinite knowledge about all the factors that controlled this teaboy's life up to this point... if I had known how he had no REAL control over his life in order to land this lowly job, and no control over the genes he was born with to have such muscles which would falter at this particular moment and cause him to spill coffee all over me..

If I had all that knowledge, I would understand FULLY that it wasn't really his fault. so I would do my utmost to calm his fears about my wrath or backlash.

But do we really have to be SOooo full of knowledge and foresight in order to be compassionate? for one thing we're NOT full of knowledge. Our information about things around us chronically limited and incomplete. But what we CAN be sure of is that we don't know everything. And that IF we knew then we might have lots of reasons to forgive and to understand.

That's why humility is the most valuable thing in the world. It's because it's the most truthful. it puts us in exactly our rightful place. and from there we can act accordingly, and properly.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Nag Hammadi Library, Apocalypse of Peter and Surat al-Nisa'

I've been doing alot of reading trying to understand the New Testament..

I mean, ok, we as muslims we say teh Qur'an is completely the word of Allah. given to Gabriel, given to irrasool Mohammad (pbuh).

Old Testament is mainly the Torah, given to Moses, which til today the Jews hold dear.

New Testament however, turns out its more like narrations by the disciples of Jesus (pbuh), rather than an actual inherited book. One according to each of the disciples. Book of Mathew, Book of Marc, and so on.. so it's just the narration of things that happened to/around Jesus (pbuh) told from the point of view of that disciple.

I came across this piece in the Nag Hammadi Library from Apocalypse of Peter:

When he had said those things, I saw him seemingly being seized by them. And I said "What do I see, O Lord? That it is you yourself whom they take, and that you are grasping me? Or who is this one, glad and laughing on the tree? And is it another one whose feet and hands they are striking?"

The Savior said to me, "He whom you saw on the tree, glad and laughing, this is the living Jesus. But this one into whose hands and feet they drive the nails is his fleshly part, which is the substitute being put to shame, the one who came into being in his likeness. But look at him and me."

But I, when I had looked, said "Lord, no one is looking at you. Let us flee this place."

But he said to me, "I have told you, 'Leave the blind alone!'. And you, see how they do not know what they are saying. For the son of their glory instead of my servant, they have put to shame."

So this is basically Peter, the closest companion of Jesus (pbuh) being confused as to why he's seeing two Jesuses, one being nailed on the cross, and the other standing on a tree watching. And Jesus telling him that the one on the tree is truly himself, while the one being crucified is a substitute!

And then you look at the Qur'anic verse in surat al-Nisa' 157

و قولهم انا قتلنا المسيح ابن مريم رسول الله وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَـكِن شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُواْ فِيهِ لَفِي شَكٍّ مِّنْهُ مَا لَهُم بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِلاَّ اتِّبَاعَ الظَّنِّ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِينًا {157}بَل,رَّفَعَهُ اللّهُ إِلَيْهِ وَكَانَ اللّهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا {158}النساء

And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah ." And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain. {157}

Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise. {158}


Now, the Nag Hammadi scrolls are all authentic and dated to the 1st-2nd century A.D. yet they're all called "non-canonical", meaning they're not recognized as "official" parts to the New Testament. It is even theorized that the scrolls themselves were buried in fear of heretical persecution.

I feel thankful that such a document exists to show some of my christian friends.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mokaani Mokaani, Ya Zamaani

My eldest daughter Taiba when she was 3 years old, had this conversation with her maid:

Taiba: "laish ma 3indech xxxx?" (forgot what the xxxx was)
maid: "ma 3indi foloos" *chuckle*
Taiba pauses thinking.. then: "eshtere foloos!" *expression clearly stating problem is solved*

So now that's her iconic line which we remember of her childhood.

Then my boy Abdalla also when he was 3 years old, after being fed his last lunch lugma, and seeing me walk past the table carrying a plate with a big slice of chocolate fudge cake on it. He puts the back of his hand on his forehead and says:

"ana ta3baan, abe cake..." *and he lets out a fake tired sigh*

and that's his iconic line.

So I'm thinking of making Tshirts with these lines.. and thought since Zaina is almost 3 years now.. she's due for her own iconic line.. and a couple weeks ago she didn't disappoint :P

My wife: "Zaina goleeli qessa"
Zaina: "inzain.."
My wife: "yalla"
Zaina: "Mokaani Mokaani, ya zamaani.."
me and my wife looking at each other puzzled..
Zaina: "kaan fee elephant"
me and my wife break out laughing

Friday, February 12, 2010

Who do You Subscribe to on Youtube?

Here are a few of my favorite Youtube channels:

By far the coolest guy on Youtube these days for me is Joe Penna (AKA Mystery Guitar Man, MGM for short) famous for this one:

The 6ag erguba he does at 1:26 is smile-enducing. going strong approaching 6 million views.

And last one he did here is also creative and amazing:

The amount of patience this dude has in his editing makes me just scratch my head.

He also directed this movie for RhettandLink:

just.. so.. good.. I'm thinking of buying one of those t-shirts to be part of the whole experience.

And other channels I follow are the witty and funny Natalie (AKA communitychannel)

Also Brandon Hardesty (AKA ArtieTSMITW) some pretty funny and good movie re-enactments:

This guy Tobuscus is also funny, spoofing Farmville!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Bitter Sweet Humility of It

Three days ago our whole house got hit by a quick virus. It started with my little one Zaina, then her 10yo sister Taiba, then my wife, then me, my son Abood, the maid, you name it. In the period of 24 hours the household turned into a sort of refugee camp.

It took me personally completely by surprise, as I'm rarely sick, I stay in the company of sick people with an almost smug expression like I have some sort of silly immunity or something. Astaahil.

Wed. afternoon I was fine and teasing my grumpy sick Zaina, and by the same evening I was in Zaina's bed clutching my stomach while she was infront of me singing and waving her hands as if conducting the opera playing in her head. Ahh the irony eh? thankfully it was lost on little Zaina or I wouldn't hear the end of it.

But here's what made me make this post..

At one point in that evening as I started getting stronger and stronger gagging urges, I went to the bathroom sink, waiting and anticipating each heaving sensation.. then my stomach got squeezed so painfully and in a sustained upward surge of agony, it felt like a large hand has gotten a firm hold on my intestines and was trying to wrench them out of me. it wasn't like the usual stomach aches you get, it was much more severe and different, on a scale I couldn't have imagined only seconds before. My knees buckled and I had to suddenly rely on my hands on the sink to keep from falling to the floor. That near fall was another nastily sobering surprise, after you have taken standing tall for granted your whole life.

During those 10-15 seconds of being barely in control of my own body and mind, I felt one singular thought crystalize shining and clear in my head. I felt like those people in the Aya

حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا جَآءَ أَحَدَهُمُ ٱلۡمَوۡتُ قَالَ رَبِّ ٱرۡجِعُونِ ( المؤمنون٩٩)


{ولو ترى إذ المجرمون ناكسوا رؤوسهم عند ربهم ربنا أبصرنا وسمعنا فارجعنا نعمل صالحا إنا موقنون}السجدة 12

I felt suddenly very sorry and repentant for every and any bad thing I did in my life, whatever it was, remembered or not. I felt utterly weak and powerless over anything. not even the train of thought in my own head. And when you lose the illusion of the power you think you have, you quickly know who to turn to, the One WITH all the power. The decision and choice becomes utterly simple, as if it was even ridiculous to even call it a choice. There is really no choice, there's just Him sib7anah.

I spent the night in fever and weak sweating but it was so blissful and much better situation than the pain I was in earlier, and I felt immense gratitude for this respite. Sej sej we take soooo many blessings we have for granted, unthanked.

And now only 2 days after I am much better and walking around confidently, eating whatever I like (no more mash5ool o low-fat robah)..... and that feeling of humility starting to slip away again. as if nothing bad has ever happened. How quickly we forget.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Imogen Heap - Wait it Out

Finally, finally, finally Imogen Heap made a new album after her amazing 2005 Speak for Yourself.

She does all the instrument tracks herself then compiles them on her own computer. is she cool or what?

The new album Ellipse is wonderful, and at times even cleverly funny. But this track by far steals the whole show.

Please enjoy,

Where do we go from here?
How do we carry on?
I can't get beyond the questions.
Clambering for the scraps
In the shatter of us collapsed.
That cuts me with every could-have-been.

Pain on pain on play, repeating
With the backup makeshift life in waiting.

Everybody says: "Time heals everything."
But what of the wretched hollow?
The endless in-between?
Are we just going to wait it out?

There's nothing to see here now,
Turning the sign around;
We're closed to the Earth 'til further notice.
Stumbling cliché case -
Crumpled and puffy-faced -
Dead in the stare of a thousand miles.

All I want: only one street-level miracle.
I'll be a an out-and-out, born again from none more cynical.

Everybody says that time heals everything all in the end.
But what of the wretched hollow?
The endless in-between?
Are we just going to wait it out?

And sit here cold?
We'll be long gone by then.
And lackluster in dust we lay
'round old magazines.
Fluorescent lighting sets the scene
For all we could and should be being
In the one life that we've got.

(Musical interlude)
In the one life that we've got.

Everybody says that time heals everything.
But what of the wretched hollow?
The endless in-between?

Are we just going to wait it out?
Sit here. Just going to wait it out?
Sit here cold. Just going to sweat it out?

Wait it out.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Keep Right

As I stood on the escalator going down to the Bond St. subway station, I got a tap on my shoulder and heard a voice behind me "move please?". I instinctively moved from the side I was on to the other side, which was the right side of the escalator steps. And the man who tapped me swiftly descended down the steps, passing a few people until he stopped behind an asian lady who stood in the same way I was standing, which is on the left side of the steps, while her friend was on her right. He repeated the same mumble to her and she also walked down one step to stand infront of her friend as the man continued his hurried descent.

As he went down I looked back and saw that the man had cut a clear path on the left side of the escalator from the top all the way down to the bottom. And a few people were using this path to walk down the escalator swiftly and efficiently, saving a few moments of time on the hopes of catching the train right before its doors shut, or maybe feeling that atleast this way they get SOME exercise. After all by looking at the other escalator going up, it was much clearer how the number of people walking up was much less than the people walking down. People going up preferred to stand still instead.

And then I noticed the sign in the middle between the two escalators repeating every few feet.

Stand on the Right
No Smoking

And that made sense how it was mostly new tourists like me and that asian lady who were ignorant about this directive to stand always on the right hand side of the escalator steps.

This was interesting to me for two main reasons:
1- it was an individual instruction. aimed at one person. the reader.
2- it achieved a system where people in a hurry could walk up/down the stairs unimpeded, while lazier folk like me could stand comfortably without acting like a road block.

It didn't say "Clear the way for walkers" for example. If you say something like that to a 100 people riding an escalator they would all appreciate what you're trying to achieve, but would be confused on how to do it.

So the solution was to give each individual a simple thing to do.. and also, the key was to have the SAME instruction given to ALL the people involved.

This is pure Conformity.

The sign "Keep Right" is basically the LAW from above. And if "most" people follow it then a "good" thing happens.

If however most people prefer to be individualistic and choose to disobey and stand however the HELL they like, on the right, on the left, spread their legs wide and raise their arms in a big human X shape (to show rebellion against the corrupt bankers no doubt), then for sure the 1 minute which they spend on the escalator trip will be a more satisfying and free experience for them.

But the healthy person wanting to walk up or down the escalator and not just stand there will have to tap alot more shoulders than just mine and the asian lady's.

Conformity is generally viewed in a negative way in the post WW2 era of revolutions and libertarian movements.

Yet, sometimes it has its value to make our lives easier. If we all wear the same clothes then clothes will become alot cheaper, and we could maybe make more of them. If we drive the same cars we'll have cheaper cars. And so on.

On the flip side Conformity kills Diversity. And we need to have diverse options when we don't yet know which specific Amino acid secreted by which deep sea bacteria is going to be the next super anti-biotic as the life-span of Penicillin draws to an end. Or which will kill Cancer cells.

So we need both at different times. Which LAWs to conform to however?

Keeping Right can be evidently beneficial in a very short time. But other Laws take longer for their effects to be felt for good or bad.

It was generally accepted that taking interest on loans is not only ok.. but an economic necessity. If you don't allow it then stagnation of the economy is assured.

Yet now they are so scared of the economic meltdown of mountains upon mountains of global debt, BBC economists predict the worst is yet to come. And that no real change of the LAWs has been effected. They say that all that has been done was similar to giving a heroin addict who was having a cardiac arrest, a dose of more heroin to let the emergency pass.

The US can't keep buying Chinese stuff on loan anymore. And all that happened was that the addiction was allowed to continue a little longer using federal money. It is nothing more than borrowed time.

The only good sign of recovery is ordinary people getting profoundly scared and starting to be thrifty and saving more.

But the practices which get us in this mess every 20 years haven't changed. And the lesson learned will be only temporary in our recent memory. Until the next generation takes over and repeats the mistakes.

In this case, we think the current LAW is ok, and good, and it works. but we can't see its consequences coming 20 years later.

Where did we get this LAW from? from people who are able to predict no more than 5 years into their own futures. at best.

What if I say that Allah, our almighty God and creator gave us a different LAW. saying that we should NOT take interest on loans.

It's an individual instruction like "Keeping Right". And we are not far-sighted enough to see what good it will do to us.

I for one take it on faith that its a good practice.

We'll see inshalla