Purpose

While doing a quick round up of the eminent theorists from some major schools of thought in Psychology, Dr. Yousuf Raza told me why he thought Viktor E. Frankl’s psychoanalytical system left a “working” space for religion, not just a symbolic, sympathetic one, as you might find with his more popular counterpart, Carl Jung, and his brethren. I was familiar with the growing fascination among boys over Frankl but wasn’t able to read him before. Dr. Yousuf’s eloquent synopsis was something that came in handy.

He said that Frankl’s system was unique in a way that it would begin to treat a patient by stressing him more instead of trying to relieve him of it. And it worked as miraculously as the tenth century Chinese inoculation where they injected the patient with the same virus they wanted to protect him from to immunize him from future viral attacks of the sort. However, the way in which Viktor E. Frankl stressed his patients was surprising. His psychotherapeutic method began with insisting the patient to find a meaning in life, hence his best-seller book, Man’s Search For Meaning (Have you read this book yet? Please do. It’s enlightening!).

That brings me to my topic. At some point in our lives, we all wonder if there is any purpose to this meticulously elaborate drama of life. We ask ourselves, for example, where do we fit in the grand scheme of universe? What does it mean if we lie on top of major ecological chains as ultimate beneficiaries of all that universe has to offer – why exactly does this universe seem to be at our service? These questions have substance and they demand answers just as substantial. Everything that matters hangs delicately on these questions.

We, as human beings, have an innate tendency to find our answers – to know the reason of our creation, to shake sense of all that is out there in relation to our own self and its connection with the universe. We are sometimes referred to by the evolutionary scientists as the only intelligent design that inhabits the universe. Of several hundred million different species of Earth and counting, it’s really flattering to know this but it has its downside: we can’t just wake up in the morning and leave to make a living unless we have figured out what is it that we want to live for. Even a jackass is smarter than us in that it just grazes away when it has to and doesn’t really need to grapple with this conundrum.

During my discussions with people, i have discovered that the very term “purpose” induces great anxiety in most of them and they don’t want to pursue the discussion any further. While they might have their own reasons to do that, the reason I’ve been frankly cited at times is that purpose, in its own cold, calculative and mechanistic manner, tends to kill freedom. And its totally understandable. If you wake up in the dead of the night hungry as a wolf and aim for the fridge with a clear purpose in your head to eat something, you definitely won’t be much amused with a Santa Claus, should you find one, standing in his chariot blocking your way. In fact, you might as well walk right through him! That’s the case with purposes. They block a significant number of exciting possibilities from entering your life. But then, you have to ask yourself what’s more important after all? Finding your destiny or living ‘one hell of a life.’

The decision, ultimately, rests with you.

Scum

Once upon a time, the only place whores were allowed to exist was the red-light district. Things have now changed – poverty has shoved them outta their bordellos into your streets like zombies in an apocalyptic break-out. Once upon a time, you sought them; now they seek you. They inhabit your dark alleys and public toilets, nurturing mortal viruses and whispering salacious utterances the dark melody of which you are familiar with but don’t pay attention to. And precisely for this very reason that you don’t pay attention, they have now stormed your bus terminals, railway platforms, markets and what not, seeking what’s legitimately theirs, offering you in place what’s not yours.

Their moans echo in your urban nights like the fuming cries of your laboring wives, except that they are cheaper to silence. Their rates rise and sink with the moon at night, so does their womanhood, so does your lust. You feast upon their starving bodies in order to feed their burning stomachs. You are too generous, and they? They are just scum.

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I feel it necessary to mention here that i don’t advocate immodesty or obscenity anywhere; particularly not in writing because it’s timeless and stays there long after its creation. But I feel things like this should be discussed more often. Taboo needs to be redefined. Talking about ‘bad things’ is not necessarily bad. Doing them is.

Seek the Ordinary

There is a growing frenzy for the ‘extraordinary’ in our world. Appearance has overshadowed the Essence. The god of capitalism is actively creating a parallel universe of false images. Time has quickened its pace and people feel the strain to have to catch up to leave their print. If time were slow or the god of capitalism not fast, people might have some space for the ‘ordinary’ in their lives. Now there just isn’t any.

God intended beauty and happiness to surround man in His world. The commercial god, however, wants mankind to run after them. In order that people seek what they already have, they should be told that they don’t really have it. The commercial god, therefore, makes use of his ungodly satellites to curse people into believing that certain things are devoid of Beauty and certain actions are devoid of Love. And that love is finite and should be selectively bestowed. And that happiness is the sense of fleeting satisfaction that vanishes as soon as you begin to suspect it’s actually there.

I see a dismal situation: Denying the true idea of Love and Beauty to the people of a loving and beautiful God creates a mega-vacuum in the society. This vacuum, in turn, drives all the commercial machinery, allowing it to create even more powerful ones. More convincing illusions are created, more people believe them to be true and more lives are lost seeking the non-existent Meaningless.

People develop a tendency to deny the spirit, deny its exigencies and as a result, there is a growing void in the society that can swallow it up whole. Here, have a glimpse into this void: You see that the corporate culture promotes confidence, boldness and expression. As a result, we are already left with a limited number of shy, quiet and inert people. A time will come when we won’t have any just like we don’t have Caspian tigers, Dodos and Eastern Cougars on our planet anymore. Also, a time will come when digging for the real faces under layers of permanent organic cosmetics will become as impossible as guessing the original contours of a plastically engineered face – thanks to the endless streaming of ‘supposed beauty’ by the ungodly satellites. The worldwide advertisement agency will utilize our left-over originality and plot how to make maximum money out of it. People might move to Mars to get easy land allotments, invent high wattage heat pumps for survival and give birth to Martians.

Human race is on the verge of extinction, people.

Lets find our way back to life. As ordinary people, we can not slow down time or stop the god of capitalism. They will stay and they will do what they will. The only thing we can do is to realize that all the beauty and happiness we really need is by our side, breathing delicately in the most ordinary of the books, faces, streets and shores, waiting patiently to be discovered. If ordinary people seek the ‘ordinary’ in their ordinary lives, extra-ordinary things can happen. A belief in that will restore Life on Earth.

 

Love grows like weed in your backyard. It needs no water, no sun, and more often than not, its unwanted. Smoke it once and it pumps itself in your veins, in the red gossamers of your bloodshot eyes, in the vaulted archways of your god-damn heart. It fills you up and keeps oozing out until the whole world rolls up and fades away in a distance and nothing, absolutely nothing, is the same anymore!!

On Norms, Freedom and Equality

The following essay will probe the nature of social norms, the problematic relationship between the perceived social norms and the ideals of freedom and equality, and finally, if and how the resolution of this problem is possible.

First, i will dissect the colloquial term of “social norm” in order for us to be able to understand it better. In the very term “norm”, there secretly hides this repulsive and scrupulously unsupported assertion that humans, in certain situations, are supposed to act in predefined ways, to the effect that all uniqueness is ultimately labelled aberrant, and individuality virtually curbed. Granted that there had to be some sort of generic code of action in order to protect people’s freedom from the remarkable uniqueness each one of us is bestowed with, why then did it have to go on and curb the very thing it set out to protect us from, as it happens with the social norms? Moreover, if there had to be such a thing as a norm after all, why then did it have to be defined by the society anyway? Because to me, it only seems to suggest, in simpler words, that everybody is the slave to everybody else, obeying unquestioningly the orders (or norms) without needing to understand the rationale behind them which, not to mention, is non-existent more often than not.

One often hears this complaint that genuineness no longer exists in our world and that artificiality has permeated the minds and hearts. You might first question how one defines genuineness. Even if one is not able to articulate it, one often has a clear idea that nature is genuine. Jean Jacques Rousseau, in his Discourse on the Arts & Sciences, employs the very same construct i.e. nature as that point of reference from where he projects criticisms on Enlightenment – the modernity of his era.

The problem of modernity is that, with all its virtues, it inevitably brings along inequality and takes away the freedom of the masses. Rousseau puts this blame on the two wheels of modernity: arts and sciences. Allow me to illustrate this more clearly by stating the reciprocal statement: Without arts & sciences, equality and freedom would prevail. The most visible of the signs of modernity at work is the birth of sophistication in mannerisms due to which certain more natural ways are qualified to be crude, and once the modernity is victorious, what was natural and hence rampant now exists in the periphery, and the concept of social norm is invented to safely label the crude (or natural) as deviant in order to eradicate it.

Is there a solution to this rapid artificialization of human race? For Rousseau, the answer to this question is a yes, but only if we return to Nature. Thinkers have launched blisteringly sarcastic criticisms on him for having tried to reverse modernity and push mankind back into the Middle Ages, but his solution makes a lot of sense to me. That is, when i recall that Hadith in which Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) implies that Nature is Islam. But i think i need to do a lot of thinking over it before proceeding any further.

Whore

It’s fashionable to write about prostitutes these days. Men generally write because they want to be looked upon as compassionate beings, capable to view the misery of prostitutes above and beyond their own assaulting nature. Women write because they have a continuous need to be hailed as feminist warriors. Nothing else seems to catch as much public attention on the media. Clerics write fatwas, reporters about raids on brothels and all this drama interests an ordinary man very much.

Teenage writers are perpetually on the hunt for such hot topics to get noticed so I, once one, jumped the bandwagon and began a story with: Once upon a time, there was a whore.

I knew the opening line was good and the content could not be a problem as i knew reasonably enough about the prostitutes from Hollywood and hearsay. But then i found myself confronting the question if that would be honest to ascribe the character of glamorized fictional prostitutes to the genuine character that took birth in the opening line. Then i asked myself if i could state the facts. More importantly, if i knew the facts. Even more importantly, if i could put them down while not trying to tip-toe about the taboos. These rather unlikely questions brought me some insights that i felt i should share.

It’s really easy to create literature and make a seemingly intelligent drawing-room talk when maintaining contact with reality is not a constraint. One might even get some applause but not knowing the difference, one ends up turning a prostitute into a whore that way. At the end of the day, i don’t feel it’s a good bargain. A quintessential writer, you may disagree, creates all his characters from first-hand experience. The technical difficulty in creating a prostitute’s character, however, is that one, in our conservative society, most likely never has an experience with a prostitute and therefore all one’s ‘observations’ and details about one are actually only speculations based on hearsay, and hence lay invalid.

I read the opening line back and though hard it might be to trace them earlier, it was replete with insensitive inaccuracies. I realized there was no “once upon a time” because every conceivable story about a prostitute is already cliched. Secondly, there was no such thing as there was. The story ran in the present – in the very moment that ticked by. Thirdly, i was not sure if “whore” was the right word for a woman who left her bastards every night to be able to put food on their table but only managed to produce more of them in the struggle.

I backspaced and the words disappeared fast until i was left with a clean sheet staring back at me. I absently typed “whore” at the top again and flinched; old habits died hard. I backspaced once again and this time, not knowing why, I typed “human” instead. It felt better. Acknowledging the humanness of a downgraded human fellow always makes you feel better somehow.

Vagabond

The advertisement for Thai Airways has been making the Reader’s Digest back cover for quite some time now. The catchline always stirs something deep inside.

So many faces to see,                                                                                                                           too many places to be.

It’s perhaps an old desire to be a vagabond.

Ever since the onset of early adolescence, I have found myself away from home, living in boarding houses. At times, i had to rent cheap hotel rooms in urban sprawls that smelled of semen, cigarettes and shaving creams. I eventually grew to love that just like i loved how the morning sounded there amongst the delightful monikers hurling about distastefully painted corridors and the raspy swearing voices piercing paper-thin hotel walls. Even if it sounds dirty, life is an immaculate piece of clockwork there. Miss a minute and the dining hall is already closing down. The pandemonium dies after eight in the morning, only to return at eight at night. In between the two pandemonia, the hotel, devoid of the hubbub of the early morning hours, feels to have slipped into some kind of deep meditation. Later in the evening, with people teeming back in, dining hall gets to be the center of all activity. A scene out of it can get a jovial laugh out of you or a nasty vomit depending on your disposition. However, the best part about being a vagabond is not the crudeness of places you have to put up with; it’s experiencing the richness of souls you come across. Among the cheapest underclass, you meet the free-est of the spirits and the universal wisdom, if there is any thing such. It’s only beyond the point we have nothing more to lose do we reveal who we truly are and there in such hotels, i have taken a glimpse into what mankind truly is and capable of. 

Being a vagabond is more about removing the human filters around us and within than traveling far and wide. As long as these filters are in place, the world we move in is not the same as the world that God created. All his life, a bourgeois walks a bourgeois world, a jet set, a jet set world, and an underclass, an underclass. These insurmountable filters shatter the harmony of our world by dividing it into several parallel universes that never intersect, keeping us from experiencing its phenomenal beauty as an organic whole. Breaking free of them is an essential part of what would truly be an insightful transition from being an ordinary traveler to a true vagabond. Being able to admire a diverse cross-section of humanity, irrespective of the social strata they belong from, simply as people, is the first step in this spiritual journey – a journey that is sure to transform the one who undertakes it.

Godspeed.