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Monthly Archives: December 2004

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Blog Meet: KNICQ! Yay!

I am well aware that the blog I’m about to type may land me in hot water with Chai, Baji, and other Godiva devotees worldwide, but I have something to say. Godiva is passé. The best thing since sliced bread is Bateel Chocolatiers. And I say these things in the name of rich, smooth, almond-stuffed and chocolate-covered date truffles, amen.

Knicq, who will henceforth be known as He Who Brought Bateel, called this morning at the ungodly hour of eight o’clock and informed us that he was half an hour away from arriving. My father received the phone call and woke us up. An appropriate cleaning frenzy ensued. (Come on, whose house is clean at eight in the morning? That’s preposterous.)

At 8:35 am, hordes of adoring Knicq fans had lined the driveway expectantly anticipating his arrival and oops, I’m lying but I was really excited. I think Knicq Bhai is brilliant, even if he does have body dysmorphia. Body dysmorphia, my dear friends, is the condition where your mental image of yourself is drastically different from how you look. Case in point: the last line of Knicq’s profile reads:

Fat, Bald, Bearded, Bespectacled.

In truth, not only is Knicq Bhai not fat, he’s also:

not bald

barely bearded

but does have glasses

We had been expecting a short, round, bald man with patchy facial hair to amble in the door way at 8:40-ish, what we got instead was a tall, non-bald and only sort of scruffy person who was SO not fat. In fact, I think I should put a petition in with Knicq’s wifey to feed the poor man whether he wants to eat or not. He’s looking underfed, bechara, which is why we lavishly breakfasted him. I asked him if he had had breakfast already, and although he said yes, we figured out that he did in fact have room for yet another breakfast, which is a good sign. He had, after all, been decimating the gingerbread population without mercy. He ate an entire…um, two cookies. Poor Knicq, I think starvation has caused his stomach to shrink.

Then we picked his brains about real-estate, job opportunities and the living standard in the UAE. He played vicarious tour-guide for a good 45 minutes while simultaneously playing with Narni’s cheeks (Narni: Lil Grey Crayon’s new wombat). Knicq Bhai is a father himself, and like any proud parent, he came armed with photos. We thought we’d show off with two family portraits, but he whipped out an entire album. MashaAllah, he has precious kids, and in case you’re wondering, By the Grace of Allah, they look like their mother. *phew*

Around noonish we ran out of food and in an attempt to prevent the underfed Knicq from eating one of Crayon’s children, we sent him off to Mirpur for his brother’s wedding. We also sent him with a box of cookies to ward off starvation and the explicit instructions to come again on the way back. On a scale of one to ten, the family collective gives Knicq an 11 for causing at least four people at the dining table to guffaw simultaneously and an additional five points for being able to get a word in edgewise with Abbu, who may actually be out-talked for the first time in his life. Three cheers for Knicq Bhai! Y’all come back now, you hear? 😀

we are family…

It never ceases to amaze me that somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, I have cousins with blonde hair and blue eyes and the initials J.C in honor of Jesus Christ. They were raised strictly Mormon, we were raised Muslim. They lived in small towns. We lived in Chicago. They only spoke one language, we spoke two. We were culturally brown, at least on the inside, and they were impossibly white. They blessed their food in Jesus’ name, and we had to serve ourselves before the blessing was given. They went to church and sang with the primary group. We went to church and slouched in the pews, coloring. .

One of my cousins is in the US air force, while I am one of those scary people draped in black that Time Magazine takes pictures of to show what the enemy looks like. (On the count of three, everyone roll their eyes.) We’re just so different, na? Almost on extreme opposite ends of the spectrum. And yet, we both like Strongbad. And we shared the same grandparents. He remembers us sneaking frozen hot dogs from Grandma’s freezer, I remember going blueberry picking with his parents one summer. Grandpa never let him drive the riding mower. He never let me either, so we’re even there too.

I can’t help but wonder what he thinks of me, the whacky-half Paki cousin living in a foreign country and wearing many yards of fabric. I wonder what he thinks about Muslims in general, what opinion he has of the religion. I have a pretty good idea about his religion, seeing as how it’s also my mom’s religion and the religion in whose church I sat in and colored. I don’t know that I have misconceptions to get over. Or do I? I sometimes wonder, when world politics are going exceptionally bad and Bush is talking about invading yet another Muslim country, I wonder whether I’ll be bombed, and whether my cousin will be pushing the button. We joke about being on opposite sides of the fence, he tells me to hand over Osama and I call him J**** Bin Harris the spy, but there’s a bit of truth in every joke. Otherwise we wouldn’t laugh so loudly or so nervously.

I know my cousin’s not evil. I know a million people will stomp their feet and tell me the US army is doing evil things, and I will agree, but he’s not evil. He’s just one of some government pawns who signed up a long time ago and are just going with the flow. I wish we were on the same side, I wish he was Muslim and his wife and little kids were here in Pakistan so we could chill and talk about Strongbad and joke about nonsensical things. He’s a funny, smart, and genuinely nice person who actually makes the effort to keep in touch with our part of the family when I have other cousins closer to my age that don’t even make conversation with us if we come over. They just hide in the kitchen. Why they’re hiding from me, the cousin they played dress-up with in G-ma’s closet and went hiking with and fell into the frozen stream with and then shivered all the way home with, why they hide from me I don’t know. We shared a childhood and the same American culture. We would have lots to talk about if they just felt like talking to us. But they didn’t, and they don’t. Which is sad, because there’s nothing pushing us apart except for their fear or distaste for my religion.

So yeah, this cousin of mine in the air force, he’s the only one, the only one who keeps in touch with us, who wastes hours of my time on IM cracking me up and reminding me of what having an extended family is like. I’m glad he’s in our family. I just wish he was on our side.

It’s 2:31 am and I can’t sleep. Chalk it up to mental turbidity. I tried to find something fun to do online but after fruitlessly searching I came to the epiphany that the internet isn’t as exciting a place as they’d like you to believe. Unless you have a 1 Gig a week bandwidth limit and feel like online gaming, and even gaming gets boring. I have Playstations (one and two) as well as numerous games that are collecting dust in the china-cabinet drawers.

There’s a void, and gnawing that can’t be filled by tv or games or the internet or fun. It’s a need for peace and resolution, two things in drastically short supply this evening. I know that in a few day’s time the waters will settle and the cloudiness of stress and irritation will be cleared, but I want them cleared now. I want there to not be a knot in my stomach. I want to stop feeling guilty for something I intended well but didn’t work out. I want powers of telepathy so I can explain myself without further gross misunderstanding.

If you’re wondering what all the drama is for, I’ve had an online argument with my brother, one in a long and stressful series that doesn’t have an end in site. It wears away at you, and it adds another second of pause before you can actually type out, “I love you.” It’s getting harder, the pause is getting longer.

I’m mad at myself. I allowed myself to become angry and say things in said anger. I would not take any of them back, but I would word them differently. I word take out the word ‘dummy,’ even though I would be thinking it, and I would count to three before returning fire via IM.

I should know, and do know, that it isn’t always what you say to a person so much as it’s how you say it. Being tired this evening, I was undiplomatic and untactful, and not only did I offend my brother, I also offended a complete stranger. Good job Abez. I have tried, in the past, to say things nicely, no matter how un-nice they may actually be, but tonight I failed. I was blunt, and it was a bad idea.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. I know my brother will stop sulking in a few weeks. I hope he does anyway. I don’t know if I’ll feel better though. I’ve said things I can’t take back, and now I’m sorry for them. Not words I said to my brother, just some I said to his friend about him. I should have held my tongue. You should never insult your brother to his friends. That’s low-down and dirty. I hang my head in shame. So much so, that I’m ashamed to hang it in front of him. Him, he’s still a dummy, but I had no right to tell his friends as much.

I’m sure I can justify what I told his friend, and so would Owl and Momma and Abbu, because it was meant to be a warning, but what do you do when you’ve raised a false alarm? What do you do when the false alarm is instead seen as slander, and the friend who promised not to tell what you said goes and emails the entire conversation to your brother in under a minute? I feel doubly bad, I feel I’ve been both wrong and wronged. I feel that my trust was betrayed, but I’m sure my brother feels the same way.

Shoot me now.

And this time, use real bullets.

Gobsmacked. Pow.

Help, please

www.reliefonline.org

www.islamic-relief.com

Those who (in charity) spend of their goods by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”

(Al-Quran, 2:274)

Inna lillahi wa inna ileihi rajioon.

ready, aim, FIRE!

It’s only 2 am, not three, but I’m entertaining crazy thoughts anyway. I’m just an hour ahead of schedule, that’s all.

I wanted to blog about Christmas in my house (as celebrated by my Christian Momma) and all the things that go with it, all the small ironies and oddities of having the Christmas tree on one side of the room and the rack of prayer rugs on the other. Yeah, we have a tree. And it has an ‘angel’ on top and presents underneath. If this were any other Muslim house, and if our mother was any religion other than Christian, there would be no valid reason or excuse to have Christmas. But since she is, and we do, I sometimes feel like we might be being misunderstood.

I don’t advocate celebrating Christmas for non-Christians. If you don’t think that Jesus was the son of God and that Dec. 25th was the day that said Saviour of mankind, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, was born to redeem us all, then don’t celebrate it. So what if there are gifts. Give them on Eid. Or any other day for no reason. So the decorations are pretty, who said you can’t decorate your house any other day. Maybe you find the sentiment nice? Appreciate your family every other day of the year if it’s really about appreciation.

The Christmas tree is a hand-me-down from English Druids, who worshipped nature and attempted to indulge in magic both black and white, for whom the evergreen tree had special powers for the reason that every other tree ‘died’ in winter but this one still lived. Even the Bible advocates (In Jeremiah) that we ‘be not like those who decorate and worship trees.’

The holly decorations on the window are pagan superstitions based on holly warding away evil spirits and therefore preventing them from entering your home. I’m not sure who came up with the whole kissing under the mistletoe idea, but I am pretty sure that unlike God, Santa cannot ‘see you when you’re sleeping’ and ‘know when you’re awake’ or ‘know when you’ve been bad or good.’ (so be good for goodness sake) Jolly or not, he’s not omnipotent. St. Nicholas may or may not have been a perfectly nice man a long time ago who died and knows nothing about what’s going on right now.

My mother, my Christian mother, knows all of these things but celebrates Christmas anyway because for her it is a cultural holiday. We help her out because she is our mother, and because she wakes us up for Sahoor in Ramadan and comes with us on Eid prayers to hug us after the dua is over. Whether or not this makes sense, the party isn’t for Christmas, it’s for her.

Like I said, it’s 2 am and I wasted the last three hours on my layout. I’ve picked form over content. Someone shoot me.

With a pump-action rifle.

Loaded with Godiva chocolates.

(This half-baked blog brought to you by Sleep-No, recommended by 9 out of ten doctors to cause mental fuzziness)

Murree in Pictures: Episode II


We did the obligatory shopping and browsing. (We bought a hat)


Shortly after we arrived a fog rolled in that was so thick you could’ve cut it with an over-priced, made for tourists only sword.


And check it out, Murree’s getting a KFC. Oh happy day. (bleh)

Hemmistan Zindabaad

I have the pictures for the next riveting installment of ‘Murree in Pictures,’ but I’m not posting them today because Hemmie is coming tomorrow and I feel as though I should blog in her honor. And plus Hello, the program I use to post pics on the blog, won’t let me login. *brandishes fist at monitor*

So about Hemmie. Once upon a time there was this Pakistani kurri named Hemmie who started a blog and managed to type in the accent of a Briton and the attitude of a pro-wrestler. Don’t ask me how she does it, just believe me when I say that Hemlock, for all her muscular WWF facade, is one of the sweetest, nicest, and genuinely good people I know. She’s too good, in fact. She makes me look bad. Which is why I try not to have her over more often than every other month or so. But I digress.

Now for secret insider information that Hemmie will kill me for sharing. (mwahahaaaa!) Hemmie maintains that traffic in Lahore isn’t actually bad. I maintain that’s because she’s the scariest thing on the road, but so long as she manages to get us from point A (Daewoo Station) to point B (house with bed) I’m content to close my eyes and hold on. And to recite Ayat-ul Kursi. And to repent of my sins. And to enjoy the montage of my life as it flashes before my eyes.

Hemmie is the middle child and one of three. She’s also the type of little sister who will call her brother on his cell phone just to bug him and will buy him shirts just because she thought he would like them.

She treats her own little sister, Demi-Hemmie, like a princess and is part of one of the nicest, most loving, and most down to earth families I know. A lot of what I learned about hospitality, I learned from Hemmie’s house. Granted, I should unlearn it before other people see what bad manners I have (dinner at midnight, breakfast at three pm, dessert at Hotspot in the wee hours of the morning, Hemmistan Zindabaad!).

Hemmie calls me beta and darling and she insisted on sleeping on the floor when we stayed in her house but couldn’t find her bed because it was buried under a K-2 of books and clothes. She dumped all the stuff off the bed and dragged the mattress into the room we were staying in. See, that took physical effort, and you know she’s going out of her way when something looks like exercise, hehe.

Hemmie’s the kind of person who would give you the shirt off of her back and maybe even the pants to go with it. She even let me graffiti her desk in dust and left it there for weeks. The housekeeper eventually got around to wiping it off, and Hemmie told me she was sorry about that. Bless her for lying. Next time I go back, I’m using permanent marker.

In the murky waters of a troubled human mind

A certain image swirling up turbidity and fear

Clouds the thoughts and darkens them with worry and regret

How it pains my heart when I think of you my dear.

-abez

It’s weird how the human mind works. You can forget things, even people sometimes, so completely that you forget they exist. You can’t remember that they were a part of your life, that is, unless you type in the letter ‘Z’ and see their email address appear automatically when you’re composing an email.

It’s amazing how intensely you can miss someone.

Murree in Pictures: Episode I


It was a little difficult fitting seven people into one Corolla, but in the end we managed alright. The person on the left is Homeee 1 of 3, I’m on the right with the granite head.


The roads were wet, slippery, and foggy. Higher up there were freezing, gale-force winds. Or so it felt.


It was, in fact, so cold and so freezing that we had to stop by the roadside for a cup of tea. I mean the roadside literally. This picture was taken on the shoulder. I’m on the left, Owlie is on the right. Notice the family resemblance.

A moment of (relative) stillness

So right now Owlie and the 3 Homeez (like the 3 Wisemen, only more fun) are off running last minute errands while I’m at home with a cup of contraband coffee. Black with sugar and vanilla, delicious. I stayed back to book tickets and coordinate pick-ups with two different tailors, and now that I’ve finished, I’m just relaxing and taking a minute to catch up on email and blogistan.

And I’ve typed four different paragraphs and then deleted them all. The first one was about my cup of coffee. The second one was about whether there’d be coffee in Jannah and how divinely delicious that would be. The third paragraph was about how I stink and if I want Divine Jannah-brand coffee I better work harder, and the fourth was about how one of the people from the Bangla matrimonial ad is still emailing me and they want my personal info. I also wrote about how nice the heater was working and how perfectly toasty my toes were feeling. Mmmm, toasted toes… Now you see why I selected it all and pressed delete.

And now, more randomness. You guys know that hadith about how a Muslim is like a horse on a tether, and sometimes he strays and goes to the very end of his rope, and sometimes he’s good and stands very close to it depending on how strong a person is in their faith. I know my poorly rendered version of this hadith is going to confuse people, which is why I was wondering if anyone had this hadith on hand. It’s one I remember fondly but don’t seem to have a copy of. Well, I feel like I’m pulling my rope pretty far from where it’s been tied and man, I miss Ramadan. Sometimes I just want me a nice empty cave (with light, heating and indoor plumbing) to sit and think and return the spiritual waters to the clear stillness they once had before life stirred them up and made things all murky.

And my last random paragraph is going to be dedicated to Binjetude and PakiPenguin, both of whom rule. One of whom has enabled me to use my digital camera again, and the other of whom got my cell phone fixed. 🙂 Alhamdulillah for nice people and Muslim brothers. Masha’Allah, JazakAllah, and of course, Hip hip, HOORAY!

an abbreviated blog

– Went to Murree and got cold, wet, and freezing. Piled seven people into one Corolla for the trip and had an AWESOME time. I don’t often type awesome in caps lock. Consider this particular use of the adjective to be especially powerful.

– My homeez brought a 12-inch Galaxy chocolate bar. Eight inches are gone. I may or may not be responsible for six of them, depending on who’s asking and who’s answering with melted chocolate on their face.

– Saw feet with red manicured toenails in purple rhinestone stilettos. I was scared.

– Drove into a pile of rocks and narrowly avoided hitting a median and another car on the way back from Murree (dad was driving, you guys can’t blame me). That was exciting in an adrenaline flavored, sick to your stomach kind of way.

– Happily paid a nice man at the bathrooms in Murree who gave me hot water to do wudu with. Bless him. And his lota.

a sign of the times

Yesterday: Friends over from the states.

Today: Sugar cookies for breakfast at 1pm.

WheeeEEEeeeeE!

(I’m too dog tired and run-ragged from having fun to explain anything else. Tomorrow we leave for Murree at 8 am. It’s ten and I’m going to bed. G’nite! )

So it’s 3:25 am and I’m awake and feeling kind of…ill. At three am (25 minutes ago) Owlie and I both sat up in our respective beds when we heard the sound of what seemed like a woman shrieking. We ran upstairs, (I stubbed my toe on the way) to investigate. The dog was alert and growling, but the screaming had stopped. We waited a few more minutes in tense silence and this time the woman, for it was definitely a woman, screamed again. Then two of the neighborhood chawkidaars (night watchmen) drove past the house in a hurry.

I went out and walked down the driveway, hoping to catch another night watchman and tell him what we were pretty sure we had heard, but no one else came by. It was cold on the driveway, and silent, and scary in that I was standing utterly alone on the street. It gave me a horrible creeping sort of fear, what if it had been me screaming? What if had only gotten the chance to raise my voice once before it was stifled, and what if, in that moment, no one woke up? Or even if they woke up and ran up the stairs and stood on the end of their driveway, what could I hope of them? What help?

At this moment I feel like two people, the person screaming in fear and the person shivering uselessly at the end of the driveway. I can tell you that the other woman must have felt worse, but I tell you, not by much. I feel horrible.

I stood on the driveway for a while before Owlie called me back in. The woman hadn’t screamed again, and no night watchman had come by, and the stillness of the air was so complete that I had even started to wonder whether I had heard screaming at all. But I know I did, and Owlie did too.

Sometimes, when you stand beneath the vastness of the sky, or put your bare feet into the blueness of an ocean that curves away into the horizon, you remember your insignificance. Sometimes when you are sick, you are reminded of your own weakness. And sometimes, when your strength fails you, you look to strength greater than your own. Please take a moment to pray for the safety and well-being of the woman who was screaming in her distress. Being weak and alone and cold at 3 am on the driveway, I failed her.

La hawla wa la quwwata illa billahi ‘Ali-ul Azeem.

Mortal Wounds: Hypothermia

Don’t cry over spilt milk.

Unless it’s very cold.

And you’ve poured a whole glass of it into your lap.

Having done so, weep.

bawhawwwhooohooooooo! <:o

God’s Green Bangladesh

Sometimes my life is like a soap opera that no one would watch. Ok, maybe not a soap opera, but at least a bad sitcom. (That was my intro, now here’s the transition…) Someone has posted my email address, with a matrimonial ad, in a Bangladeshi newspaper. Apparently I, Mr.K, have a daughter for whom I am seeking a groom, or to put it in other words…

“a young girl suitable for my brother in Dhaka”

and

“I have noticed u_r ad that u need a male for u_r daughter.”

For the last week I’ve been receiving emails with photographs, resumes, and ‘biodata’ from:

“5 feet 7 inch tall with slim figure(66 Kg), weatish complexion, and reasonably good looking”

and

“a gentleman with no serious problem or burden in my life”

and

“I m interested.”

My only regret is that since I can’t read Bangla, I don’t know what ‘my’ ad in the Daily Prothom Alo says. You guys, if anyone here is fluent in Bangla, please track ‘my’ ad down for me. It’s under the email address of zhkhan at gmail dot com, and apparently I’m applying on behalf of my daughter. I don’t know where I live or which edition of the newspaper I advertised in, but it can’t be more than a week old.

One of the people who emailed me has very kindly cautioned me that if I did not place this ad myself, then I should be careful because:

“I don’t think it was a mistake.Either your enemies or youe close ralative has made fun out of you.”

Alright you guys, I don’t have any family in Dhaka, so who in God’s green Bangladesh is mad at me?

Serious parties only may reply in confidence with photograph and biodata.

stand by your socks…



United Socks of Abezistan

Addendum:

Once upon a time, when I was a first-worlder with first-world fashion sense, I politely giggled at socks in sandals. Four years later, in a land where even mountain-climbing pathans on the snowy slopes of K-2 wear sandals all year-round, I am wearing my sandals with socks. The weather right now is pretty cold, in the evenings you can see your breath freeze and hang in the air.

See, you have to wear sandals, and because it’s cold, you have to wear socks. It’s that simple. You can’t wear sneakers, because only America-returned ex-pats with no local fashion sense wear big white sneakers, and boy do they look silly. After four years, even I laugh at a kid whose jeans are falling off the back of his knees and bunching up on a pair of big white shoes that look like they belong on an astronaut’s feet.



Note: if any of you guys come back to visit, leave your sneakers at home. If you wear them anywhere but a jogging track, you might as well wear a big sign on your back that sez ‘halo, I am from foreign!’

When I’m at work (when I have a job, unlike now, hehe) I can wear closed high-heels or boots with my socks hidden underneath, but for shopping or shlumping around the poorly paved sidewalks of Islamabad, it’s got to be sandals. And because it’s cold, there have to be socks.

Thank you and goodnight.

good dog, bad dog

I have a dog. Rather, we have a guard-dog who happens to have made herself an outdoor member of the family. Once she ‘rescued’ my father from a lit firecracker that someone threw at his feet. She picked it up in her mouth and dropped it farther away where it exploded. Then she came back to attack the person who’d thrown the firecracker. (that would be where my father rescued the other guy)

Her job is to bark at whatever is out of the ordinary, which includes people prowling around the boundary wall as well as hawks soaring at altitudes of hundreds of feet in the air. She also barks at:

Flies

Wasps

Cats on the boundary wall

Ravens

Nothing

She can’t help it, really, and no matter how well trained, and no matter how dedicated she is to her work (barkbarkbark!) she hasn’t got any logic. It doesn’t matter how good a dog she is (good dog), cuz she’s still a dog.

A heart, no matter how good or how sincerely intentioned, is still just a heart. Its primary concern is feeling and emotion, and although feeling and emotion are parts of human life that make the world a beautiful and compassionate place, they cannot take the place of logic.

But what’s up with the brain? Some people use their brains as weapons, and some people can warp logic so totally that anything can be justified. Granted, they may still have hearts that shudder at what they’re doing and don’t believe the lies the brain is telling, but their hearts may have been subjugated like the cringing, miserable puppy that’s been kicked too many times and follows reluctantly with its tailed tucked between its legs.

Because neither the heart nor mind are perfect, they are supposed to operate as a team. Neither one is meant to function wholly without the help of the other, but in this day and age, people are more likely to be told to ignore their thoughts and follow their feelings which is why I talked about the heart first. Few people these days are in danger of over or mis-using their logic. But it is possible. Logic is a sword with a double blade. A person of skill can swing it any way they want and it can cut through confusion, or take lows blows at sense and reason. This, in fact, is the very basis of most propaganda and the type of facetious logic that people use to justify actions that are wrong to everyone but themselves. The brain can be misused in the same way that the heart can, and a person can choose to justify whatever they want in the same way they can choose to act on whatever emotion suits them.

[I’m not using drugs, this is a prescription. It’s a halal drug, I just take ten a day…]

In the ideal situation, the brain is holding the leash to a well-trained seeing-eye dog. In reality, most of us are confused leash-holders who rely too much on under-trained dogs to guide us, and instead of taking a moment to reason things out and then run the suggestion by the heart, we follow the heart’s advice entirely and leave the brain on the backburner. It’s not a conscious decision, it’s just the effect of being told that religion, love, and sincerity are all matters of the heart.

Life, and everything in it, is a matter of both heart and mind, and the idea is to get them to function as a lean, mean, intelligent, compassionate human machine who reasons things through the lens of kindness and faith. Nothing can be left to one or the other entirely, because religion without heart is cold, and God has told us to be kind and act with mercy and compassion. On the other hand, religion based entirely on emotion may lead us in illogical directions (i.e. The Church of Elvis) that fulfill our emotional voids but do no favors to the search for truth and guidance.

Love based entirely on emotion will fade when the fireworks have faded and the conscious effort to invest in a person is missing, and love based only on logic lacks warmth. (I’m a man, you’re a woman. I’ll bring home bacon and you cook it.)

Like the well-trained dog (no insult to hearts or dogs intended) the heart can be a guide, a warning system, and a valuable informant, but it’s not perfect and it simply cannot reason. When your heart looks at something it wants, the fact that you can’t have it doesn’t make it want any less. It’s your brain’s job to gently pull the heart away and keep walking.

The heart barks at flies, and without the brain to hold on to the leash, it tends to run in any direction it wants. Hold on to that leash. Let’s not forget who’s master.

intermission

The discussion on the heart (bad heart, no muddy paws on the sofa!) will continue after I’ve woken up. It’s 5pm and the sum total of what I’ve eaten all day is:

Two gingerbread men

One Banana

Two cups of tea

I woke up at eleven and later I had a two hour nap. I think I’m coming down with something. blah

me and my headstrong heart

So what’s up with the heart anyway? A pure one is hard to find, and though there are plenty of decent ones, they tend to develop spots after a while. People try to use the heart as a metaphor for your true self or sincere desires (follow your heart?) but what they don’t realize is that the heart is not a compass. It’s more like a headstrong puppy on a leash that pulls you in whatever direction in wants, whether or not it’s the right one. Sometimes it goes the right way, but other times it wants to run out into the street into traffic because it smelled something interesting there. Bad heart, sit. I said sit!

Your brain and the heart vie for control, the brain being the more logical of the two. The brain is more like a compass, granted, it’s not perfect, but at least it can think where the heart only feels and living on your emotions is illogical. What you feel today is not what you’ll feel tomorrow, and the person you were completely in love with ten years ago who made you vow you’d never love again… you forgot their name. That’s because your brain is smart enough to move on. Good brain. *pat pat*

So not everyone has such good brains, but then, almost no one has an entirely good heart, so you’re still better off using your brain instead. Say you’re presented with two glasses of yellow liquid that look exactly the same. One’s lemonade and the other’s bathroom cleaning acid. Which one do you drink? The one you *feel* most right about? Or the one that smells lemony while the other smells caustic? One glass is pleasantly cool, the other one has gotten hot because the acid is starting to corrode the cup. You use your brains and pick the lemonade, hooray!

So the brain’s smarter. Yeah, the heart’s more in tune to emotion, but is emotion always a good thing? Emotionally speaking, you may want to punch the person who’s stabbed you in the arm, but logically, you realize it’s a doctor and that was a vaccination. Or you may want to talk to the woman who winked at you, but you realize she’s a prostitute. Yeah, you may feel attracted to her, but you logically know the moral, ethical, and health problems associated with such a liason.

So emotion is both good and bad and you’re stuck relying on your brain, no matter how squishy it is. You realize that na? So why is how you feel about religious devotion such an important thing? Why is it that if you sit down for zhikr and you don’t feel that Masha’Allah-SubhanAllah kinda feeling, you feel like there’s no point for you to do zhikr? I mean, what’s an act of worship without sincerity right? Ah, but where does sincerity come from darling, surely sincerity is not exclusive to the heart.

If sincerity is the perfect harmony of your intentions and your actions, then know that intentions are made in the brain, whether or not the headstrong puppy on the leash agrees where they should be going. After all, he wants to sniff trees, not jog. You want to go to the masjid, he wants to cavort with dogs. It is hard to train your heart, and even the most well-disciplined heart will sometimes turn whimpering away from the brain’s goals, but the brain must battle to keep it under control. This battle being a righteous struggle makes it a Jihad.

It is, in fact, Jihad-e-Nafs- the struggle to bring the self in line with the righteousness we logically know as compared to the unrighteousness we longingly feel. A sincere act of worship is one with sincere intentions, and having made the intention to do something for the sake of seeking God’s pleasure, the struggle to get that Masha’Allah-SubhanAllah kind of feeling does not take away from the experience, but only adds.

It is the same case with reading the Qur’an, a person who recites perfectly and without error earns blessings, but a person who struggles and reads with difficulty, possibly even making mistakes, they get double the blessings. One set for the act itself, and one set for the struggle. A person to whom zhikr comes naturally will be rewarded, but a person who sits down and makes themselves do zhikr even when the heart is whining that it wants to watch tv, they will be blessed more in proportion to the effort it took them.

There may be some people in this world to whom religiousness is a second nature the same way that some people are just born athletic. The rest of us though, being neither athletic nor spiritual, have to train harder, push ourselves farther to get to the level of performance that we seek, and the reward for our struggle is greater than that of their effortlessness.

Rejoice in the struggle, for there are blessings in the tears.

I give up on my digicam. This is a webcam shot of the fuzzy, fleece robe with duckies on it that Chai gave me, and it is also the reason why I have decided to love her forever. Mwuahz!

midnight in the garden of the sufi soap on a rope ladder

I don’t like my new layout, but at least it’s new, and it’s a layout, yay! I’ll probably get tired of looking at it in a few days and stay up all night making something else, and at the very least, it’ll give me something to do during those quiet, peaceful hours when normal people are sleeping and strange ones are playing with their HTML.

It’s only 12:30, and the night is relatively young, but I feel kinda tired. I think I’m coming down with a cold. A cold what? A cold ice-cream would be nice. I had one yesterday. And now I have a cold.

(Round and round and round she goes, when she’ll stop, Lord only knows…)

As lame as this entry is, I think this is all I can think of at the moment. Except for the bucket of gingerbread upstairs, and the illegal fudge cake in the fridge out of which I have already consumed an illegal slice. It was criminally delicious, though not necessarily sinful, because in this day and age, not everything that’s illegal is immoral, and so my cake was criminal and not sinful.

By Abez, the end.

You know you guys missed this madness. It barely missed me, I almost got hit in the head…