Thursday, June 29, 2006

A pizza without shame or thanks

Tonight, dinner was take-away from Pizza Hut. When we returned to our car with four pizzas and a salad, we found the wipers up. Someone had cleaned the windscreen, and was now going to ask for money for this unasked-for service.

Sure enough, as is usual, a child turned up. We got in the car, talking, and in a hurry to "deal with" the kid - i.e. to pay him with short change - left the pizza sitting on the roof of the car when the cleaner kid pointed out, "pizza!" My brother thanked him nonchalantly, put the pizzas on the back seat, and paid the kid. I had managed to find a few coins in the dark nooks and corners of my wallet too.

But. I thought the kid had asked for pizza! It was cleared a moment later that the kid had reminded us we might be driving of with pizzas on top of the car. But still my heart had said the kid had asked for pizza, and I better listen to my heart any time it speak because it doesn't sleep at night if ignored during the day. This heart!

I am slightly mean. My heart is shy to give. In my life I have been lucky to have at least seen people with an extraordinary heart - and they weren't rich or anything. In fact the most important thing those people, who in my view have a big heart, do is to simple stop and take stock of their surroundings. I see them not just walking off or away, but stopping, and asking: "Can I help?"

Tentatively, I suggested to my brother that we should offer a slice - just a slice because I am slightly mean, or rather, afraid of doing good - to the child. My brother said no, money is enough. I said well, why not pizza? So I gave the kid a slice. He got away with money and the pizza. And sure enough, within seconds popped up a second kid, this time asking for pizza.

"See, that is why," my brother said as he backed the car up. "Thankless!"

Thankless? I asked. Who is thankless? Them, or us? Who are we to make anyone thankful to us when we don't know where our next piece of bread comes from and what makes us imagine it's rightfully earned? Do we know we'd be able to reach home and have that pizza? Who brings us back home safe and puts food on our table?

Only a month ago, I had made a fervent prayer that was answered immediately. I asked shamelessly and without reserve. I can afford a few pizzas every now and then, with a Mountain Dew, and still I am not ashamed to ask and still I am not ashamed to make all sorts of tall promises that I will do this and that and change the world and open my heart and serve with my soul once my prayer is answered oh yes I will and I still forget to fulfill any promise the moment my prayers are answered and I am still asking and I am thankless and slightly mean.

Since I am afraid of doing good in a world where most of us deeply wish to extend hands and help and be good but are ashamed of everyone else - and because I am not in that very fortunate category of people who would ask, "Can I help?" without the slightest degree of self-importance or expectation of reward or showing off... we drove off.

I could not take out another slice, though I really don't eat that much and if no one were looking or asking, I'd buy a whole pizza for those kids. I don't eat that much. Pizza or salt-less daal taste the same to me because in my life, I have tasted much and nothing means anything to me anymore. No longer does a pizza make me feel like I am partying. Life is real.

The second kid was only perhaps deprived of a meager slice of pizza. But I am deprived of a feeling of wholeness and happiness. Who am I, on God's earth, to ask for thanks? When at having my prayers answered much more lavishly than I had dreamt of, I did not have the courage to return to the soul of the world the good that it has put in my lap.

Shame on me!


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Choices

ChoicesI once went to a person who is a personal as well as spiritual counsellor. As is usual in most first interactions between advisors and the naive seekers, I laid down a whole list of issues, concerns, wishes. At one point, he picked up one of my wishes, and asked me: what do you want to do?

"I have multiple talents," I said, "and I excel at them all. I learn new things quickly, much faster than most I know. So I never know what one thing I really want."

Then I paused, and said, "But I want to be a writer."

"Have you ever published?" He asked.

"No." I was amazed at what I saw in that little question. Am I, or am I not a writer? Who knows? My essence is only known to me, but it becomes a expression only when I undertake action. I had never published anything I wrote, though in my teenage, I often wrote brilliantly.

He did not reply directly. He told me the real story of a person who was repeatedly turned down as a potential script writer by my own organization. He did not have anything to his credit then. He went on to work for another place, became a "script writer bona fide."

"Now," my counsellor said, "your organization wants him back, but he refuses."

I listened intently.

"The point is, he is wanted now because it is now that he is a script writer. Earlier, he was just one of the many who thought or claimed that he could write. He had no proof, and there were many who turned his claim down."

Point was taken.



Months later, I decided to read Harry Potter. There is something about epic heroic tales that inspires something eternal, epical, in each of us. After all that I learnt about Harry Potter, I realized it was not a wizard and witchcraft story. So I decided to read it in December, 2005. I underlined all the words that has wisdom in them. In the first three books of the Harry Potter series, there are many.

In The Chamber of Secrets, I found a piece of wisdom. According to one, it reveals an "existential moral truth."

In The Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore is telling something eternally humanly wise to the young wizard Harry, who has been placed in the school house of the brave, Gryffindor, instead of the house of the cunning, Slytherin, by the magical sorting hat.

"Professor, the sorting hat told me I... should be in Slytherin," Harry said, looking desperately into Dumbledore's face. "The sorting hat could see Slytherin...in me and it--"
"Put you in Gryffindor," said Dumbledore calmly.
It only put me in Gryffindor," said Harry in a defeated voice, "because I asked not to go in Slytherin."
"Exactly," said Dumbledore, beaming once more....
"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

How do you define power?


Speaking of power, I may have shared this here earlier too... a definition of power given by my dear friend and advisor Rosen:

Power is when you have something that someone else wants from you, but cannot take unless you give.

As someone obsessed with the subject of power and power vs. strength at one time - I feel this is the best definition I have ever experienced. Every other thing that people is usually a list of things that can come and go, and over which we often have a surprising lack of real power.

Over time, I have shared this definition with many people. I have never yet heard a better one, though many just like to refute the definition. Why? I don't know. Sometimes refuting things is the only way we can get a sense of purpose. I am glad I didn't refute Rosen's idea when he proposed it. But this evening, during walk, I was thinking of what an obstinate young persistent I myself have been at times!
 

By the river Piedra, I didn't miss a thing.

Just want to report on one thing: that whole three-day no-complaint campaign? It has made me so powerful inside! Strong. Powerful. Whatever the word.

Nothing around me had changed. Except my state of mind.

In By The River Piedra I Sat Down And Wept, Paulo Coelho warned against becoming a part of the plays that people have constructed... plays in which they cast you as their imaginary villain and force you, by their behavior, to play that role. By not complaining or getting involved with thar resigned attitude, I have taken myself out as a one-person cast in many plays of non-effectiveness.

I love real life. It is actually more aching in some ways; "poignant" as my dear friend Tani calls it. I like it. It's like tasting a lemon. It wakes you up. Tasting that tang of real life, with its zest and its bitterness... it really wakes you up. So you don't miss a thing.

It makes you powerful when you don't miss a thing. When you know that you have lived your life. You know that it makes an ordinary life extraordinary in wonder and experience - to not complain about it but own it as your own life.

.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

2. in 1.

With great pain comes great realization.
-The Prophecy

.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Azure new looks!

Muahahahaha! Today is a lovely day, and I have changed the looks of Quest & Lust!

I love the azureness and the floweriness. With a heat stroke to beat, and positivity to seek, I expect the new look to make me want to look at the blog and feel afresh! And write while I seek, like thousands of others, that ideal desktop blog publishing widget that means you never have to face a dashboard again. At least not twice a day!

(Interesting how blogs are becoming extensions of our personalities. I am observing how seriously people think their blogs "make them, them.")

Monday, June 19, 2006

Bending spoons - May the force be with I


The power that I have felt within the three days of not complaining is tremendous. It is something that I haven't felt since a long time.

These are my feelings:

  • No one can solve my issues.
  • I have the the power to solve my issues and create opportunities.
  • If and when I do not complain, my mind is compelled to come up with a novel way, a solution around the problem.
  • If complaining, in some way, takes our energy out of us and disperses it in the wide, open, black space - then being thankful and quiet starts reigning the energy back in.
  • There is nothing to complain against or even to have praise for . It is only my state of mind.

Something from The Matrix fits in beautifully:

Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.


.

Use of time

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.
Rodin (1840-1917)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The boat shook, but we have arrived, Captain!

Day 3

Yesterday was the third and last day of my resolve to not complain. The penalty for the occasional slip-up was to send peace upon the energy of the universe/multiverse ten times (aka durood shareef) followed by thanking the Lord ten times (i.e. uttering "Shukar Alhamdolillah ya Rab-il-Aalameen").

I woke up early - something I have been having trouble with since I started working again after a year-long hiatus. The first complaint that I uttered was, also, very early.

There is a vacant plot next to our home, which has now been walled. Within the boundaries of that piece of land has grown a plentiful jungle... with seeds of a variety of trees carried on the wings of air. There are tasteful berries, the medicinal neem, and the thorny keekar.

This jungle is towards the south-east of our home, and that poses a challenge: a blocking of sunlight, and sometimes the air. Besides, since no one can jump into the jungle to cut down the trees, the jungle has grown wildly and completely spills over into our home.

So my first complaint was: "Oh now this jungle is totally blocking the air!" Immediately paused, decided it was a breach of contract, and promptly paid the penalty. A gush of wind ruffled the hair of the jungle and set my spine tingling. I thought the sound was beautiful.

I also remembered that a few months ago, I had wished that I lived (and worked) in a place where brids sang. This little forest had responded: over the past few months, a variety of musical and colorful birds including robins, parrots, and the mad cuckoos had taken up place there. Each morning, I get up to hear birds I cannot recognize the variety of. Each morning they remind me that this is a new day. Each day, I somehow forget to see how the most trivial and absurd of my prayers come true. I think I am, like most fellow humans, busier seeing what's missing rather than pausing to appreciate what IS.

But not yesterday, which was a day without complaint; a day which brought me a personal understanding of the blessing of being thankful.

.

Blog word of the week*: Magic

A haiku:


Affectionate friend, your magic touch of kindness wakes me up to joy!

-The Prophecy


* Blog word of the week (patent pending) is a private creativity exercise amongst a circle of fellow bloggers. I have been added to the circle by the almost famous Miss Insiya "Pop Critic" Syed. It's a brainchild of Karachi-based designer Sara Jamil aka Jammie @ Jam Designs.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Metaphysics, the mind, and a day without complaint

Day 2:

Hmmm.
Hmmmm.
Hmmmmm.

I am going to find the right words to describe this day without stepping on my resolve to not complain for three days.

I found the day very challenging, and my mouth nearly burst with the desire to yak. Some thoughts did run through the mind, which were promptly chucked out. Resistance is futile. It is best to sit back and watch what's going on in the mind. I have found this process to be very revealing - shocking, even.

The earlier part of the day was spent in a rather controlled fireworks display (my mood). I told my mind: think, think. There is another way. You will find a way!

My mind told me that the key was to break the routine. To rely on myself. To keep my power within me. And, for heaven's sake, not to seek external support or help. My mind told me that for a fiercely independent person like myself, I had taken over the cloak of someone unlike myself - a dependent, solution-seeking being - and that until I was either this or that, the clash was going to prevail.

A couple of nights ago, I had opened a book, hoping to find wisdom. I love opening random books on random pages, and often finding exactly what I need. (A friend tells me it's quite an art. We always find what we are looking for!) The book told me quite a few things.

It said: Loss of temper indicates (spiritual) weakness. It is somebody else who has violated the code of moral behavior, so why should it anger you?

The book also said something wonderful: Take out the thought of weakness form your mind and the weakness will go.

I remembered that as a child, we were masters of the knowledge of controlling our minds. We knew that a state lasts only as long as we entertain it in our minds. Don't read past in a hurry. This is no ordinary piece of info, it is a metaphysical truism.

A state lasts only as long as we entertain it in our minds.

As a child, we could shake our heads and move on. The adult world, however, is bizarre. The adult world has somehow grown to believe that life is a set of issues. Why, it is as if we'd think that a car is something that you change the oil and battery of, occasionally.

I say a car isn't even something we drive. A car is something that takes us places! And if there is no car, well, we can still go places.

Think. Think!

The mind must see the worlds of opportunities that are created and destroyed every instance. The mind has the choice to move one from one world to another. And another. And another. Go. Go. Go.

After feeling short at the absence of electricity that held up my work, my mind thought. It gave me an alternative schedule for the day. I went out, shopped, and had a fabulous time treating myself to wonderful things.... and getting work done. The day did not go as I planned. But I am in another world now. I have no past. I have no future. I have this moment to forget the past, and be not anxious about the future. From this world to another I go this second!

Think. Think!

.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Thank You

Last night, I made a resolve. For three days, I am not going to make any complaint. I am not going to say one self-deprecating word. I am not going to whine about the electricity. I will not comment upon the weather in any way that shows that I disagree. I will not talk to one person about another, and I will not say anything unhelpful about the government.

If I utter or think one such statement, I have to remedy it by sending peace upon the energy of the universe ten times, and follow it with praise to the Lord ten times. It takes a while, and serves as a reminder to my mind what it owes its existence to. And it allows the mind to see what it may be forgetting to see while complaining: themany, many gifts and the Beauty of Life.

Complaining, in some ways, takes our energy out of us and disperses it in wide, open, black space. It tells us, in some reverse psychological way, that we aren't masters of our fate. Why, I don't say that we create our fate, but we gradually master it like we master knowledge that we don't create either.

Day 1!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Postcard from Provence - daily artistic delight

Postcard from Provence: Apricots in a Cup, Julian Merrow-Smith




Each day since the past few months, I get delighted by a mail in my box, titled "Postcard from Provence." Contained in each mail is the photo of a small painting created by Julian Merrow-Smith, a British painter living in the French village of B├ędoin, near Avignon.

A link in the email leads back to the daily painting's home page on Shifting Light, Julian's website that's been operational since a year. Julian lives in a picturesque village now connected to the globe via the Internet. Each day, he is able to reach people across the globe, letting them have a slice of beauty in the mailbox - a rustic, leisurely joy.

Flowers, landscape, still life, and a lot of fruit are the common themes in Julian's art. I often enjoy the early impressionist touch of the paintings. France is the land where impressionism originated, and the French landscape has filled many an impressionst canvas.

Julian draws his inspiration from daily, village life. Part of the charm of his art is that it takes us all back into that world of idleness, homeliness, and a lot of green that a part of us always aspires to. Opening the Postcard mail is my daily moment of escape and relaxation.

Sending these little vignettes from his studio is also a great way for Julian to reach the appreciators of his art. Today's painting, Wild Oats and Wheatfield, has been sold to an Annie Vinnick in DC. Cherries in a Bowl, pictured above, was issued in June 5. It is sold to Patricia Goodstadt in Boston. Who can remain a starving artist in this interconnected world?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

"Kulsoom" & CPLC: Beating Harassment Together!

Yesterday, I finally got tired of getting those annoying missed and random calls from a certain number. I woke up to see several missed calls made in the night. I told the culprit mentally, “Well, sir, this is the end of me worrying what’s happening next. On your head be it!”

So I called him, and enquired what was the persisting matter now that I had explained on a call earlier received that I was indeed not Kulsoom the magnificent. As half expected, he replied in his barely educated tone, “I called Kulsoom.”

So who was Kulsoom, and by how many degrees of separation could she be related to me and my cell number? And why are you such a shameless person to make Kulsoom call you back – why not just give her a full-fledged call yourself? Keep aside, for a moment, that I am not Kulsoom. Tell me, why should Kulsoom call you back? And whoever this God forsaken Kulsoom is, has she got nothing better to do? Why, I am a little annoyed at this Kulsoom who must be somewhere within six degrees of my reach.

The man was apparently chuckling with a few buddies on the other side (who does that at 10.30 A.M.? – More jobs, Mr. Prime Minister! Or I’ll keep receiving the phone for Ms. Kulsoom.) I calmly told him that I work for the press, and justice was just a phone call away. I got a chuckle, and a, “Sir ji! Why are you angry!?”

Enough! I then used the power tool that basically dissects the intestines of most awara Pakistani men: accented English. I told him in cold British accent, borrowed from Simon Cowell and with as much “scowl”: “If you don’t stop doing this, I will tell the police.” I must say there was a significant pause in which the mind of the mobile marauder moved, only to come up with another oily, “Sir jiiii!”

That was it. Paa ji was going to have a bad day, and I had decided that before I gave him a last chance. I called up Rescue 115. The dispatcher on the other side was ready for gun & smoke action. He was disappointed at the report; but I persisted for help. He asked me to get to CPLC – Citizen Police Liaison Committee. I called 17 and got CPLC’s contact. Then I called CPLC – never getting tired of the trail.

The CPLC told me they indeed deal with matters of harassment, and the process was to make a written complaint. I got their web address, and got on to beat crime together. Using the contact form, I sent an email with accurate details (misreporting is serious, and just below ethics). Within about ten minutes, I got a call from a gentleman who surveyed the situation. He has told me to send in a written application which will be used to send a verified complaint to the cellular network of the harasser. We briefly discussed the harassment situation in general. He told me that in cases similar to mine, they would normally give a warning call from CPLC to the guilty party. Failing heed, the party’s phone would be blocked. If there was actual threat (i.e. the caller made a threat to life, honor, money, etc.) it would be dealt with accordingly. I didn’t press for details on this one.

Shortly afterwards, I got an apology on SMS: suddenly I was Dear Sister, and not Kulsoom. I replied that he must explain to the police who’d be very interested in the details. He called, and it was a near whimper that he pleaded in. It was not him, but his friend, he explained. I said it indeed sounded like he was chuckling in company at 10.30 AM and who on earth is up and harassing people at that hour in Karachi!

While by attending the phone I let the softer side of my heart hold sway for a minute, I know that I must not budge. Why? Because before I had decided to fight back, it was me with the shaking hands and the absolute dark worry. Let the good men amongst the readers know this: you might think it’s fun, but one has no idea that no matter what age or social class a woman is from, harassing gets to her. And if one has an idea and they persist, well then they deserve a good fight.

I have yet to fax, but I will do that and follow up the case and not rest until this man and his gang of number-swapping offender buddies are taught a lesson.

P.S. Check out the public safety downloads at www.cplc.org.pk/downloads.php. Some very good tips once sent to me couple of years ago; some of which I have found useful after practice.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Scanning brain activity through body language

From the Observation Journal: Understanding mental activity through body language


It started as joke, when we said, “my mind works like a computer – and heats up like one too.” Gradually, though, it became clear that the mind is the original computer we first met. And that it processes, stores, works, and heats up.

Now that I am conscious of this, and also doing a lot of brain work, I can clearly feel the areas on the temples and the front heating up after extensive thinking. If it weren’t for cooling by ablutions and praying, and care by massaging, I am certain that it would accompany major hair loss. As I put water on the head during ablution or bath, the water turns noticeably warm as it flows down the head. Such is the intensity of heat.

I also noted from the cues of body language (people touching parts of their head) as to which area of the brain activity might be taking place in, and what were these brain activities visibly associated with. It’s pretty simple. Observe, in this order:

  1. the surroundings and

  2. the circumstances of the subject,

  3. and see which part of their heads they touch,

  4. and what particular action do they do (pull hair, point to their head, scratch).

  5. For finer observations, note the intensity and duration of the action.

  6. note also whether the action is: a/ agitated or b/ peaceful.

  7. Also whether the action is: a/ thoughtful and calculated or b/ reactive and thoughtless.

  8. Then note what the subject does and what changes does she make happen in their circumstances.

When I say “surroundings and circumstances” I mean the visible, tangible surroundings. However, that is for the novice observer. An advanced observer will know that “circumstances” are not just visible; they are defined in terms of intangibles such as feelings, emotional dilemmas, and thoughts themselves.

Secondly, not at all times will a person change their circumstances – often the circumstances will just act upon the person. In these cases, the body language is agitated.

I became aware of the whole process recently when during traveling, I met a person for whom I felt a strong attraction. My companion traveler explained that this person was spiritual, and generally had a lot of attraction about him. (Frankly, I didn’t feel it was all “spiritual.”) I decided to observe.

One day, I was toiling away at my computer trying to find a certain troubleshooting method, a task which I had been unsuccessful at in the many earlier attempts. I noticed that he went all quiet. He put the tips of his index fingers on his temples, and appeared to be concentrating. That very moment, I felt as if I had a memory of how I troubleshot the bug earlier. I followed the steps I saw in my mind, and within seconds, I found the method I had been looking for. I exclaimed, “I found it!” He let go of his head and said, “Yes, I was trying to recall how it was done by a friend of mine.” I told him I was sure that I received that information from him. Interestingly, he was a believing kind, and for a few days afterwards, the whole group of us enjoyed a spiritual camaraderie with many experiments that none of us were skeptical about.