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