It’s the year 2015, and the part of me that is supposed to be wise at 40 – according to the commitment that my 20 year old self has made – is just goofy. The care-free part me back in my 20’s, evolved into a sardonic stranger who sees the world as weird paradoxical mess. As these two parts of me come together, there is a third part of me, an observer who sees these two parts. This observer in my 20’s he was a bohemian. He wanted to write poetry, he wanted to press a bubblegum and a tree together and contemplate words such as stick. He too grew up; he is now the husband, father, provider, worrier, and a novice see-saw-seeker.
This third mind on a bad coffee day may look out of a peephole and see an outdoor museum curated by greedy octopus from the dead Kennedy cover “bed time for democracy”, he peers into the sardonic stranger standing by him and shakes his head. He can sit on the sofa eat popcorn to “bitter lake” and be vindicated. He can think of painting a self-portrait that looks nothing like him, and feel good about it.
This third mind is the closest thing to me. I asked my third mind to write a biography in a 100 words or less, and this is what he wrote:
I’m a writer that can’t write. I’m a thinker who forgets his thoughts. I’m a rambler, a rant believer, a mind changer who spent his youth carving TOZ on wooden objects. I’m Lebanese and American, in Manhood and Childhood. I’m a self-hating egoist. I’m self-recovering punk rocker. I’m a full time engineer, father, and husband. My friends were refugees – I wandered their abandoned homes and this not a metaphor. I’m bomb scared. I’m death tested. I’m heartbroken from broken homes. I’m half mad with proven language. I’m at awe with our existence. I worship the elegance of unquestionable love.
I then pushed, and asked 3rd to describe himself with one word.
He said: belief
The sardonic part of me was antsy, sitting on chair waiting for me to ask him questions; he burped at the same time my third mind answered, there was laughter from the failed goofball. They both wanted to be part of the conversation, and for a moment it actually sounded like this: beeburpleaf.
I had to go back and tease what happened, before I could write: belief. But there is 1% chance that his answer is beeburpleaf.
The goofy part of me that loves to over promise and never delivers is laughing at us. We are in his world now, taking on a huge topic, he is the jester that is out of control. He is angry for all the time I silence him in public, sometimes with my hand of over my mouth. I can’t afford to be goofy these days. It’s not the right image, not if you desire to keep a steady job.
The third mind is fickle too. He can slip out of sight, be one with the morning fog, he can be silly with fog lamp on his head, and he can be strange and fly out of the window disenchanted by his two occupants, he is the guard that leaves the asylum door open, he knows he will not be accountable, he is just the witness. He is untouchable, he in visible, he is marginalized. He criminalized for lack of schooling. He sometimes forgets that he exists.
At 40 you are supposed to have wisdom, that was my youthful promise to myself.
I’m searching for the treasure map, but I’m not 100% committed. I see my pre-fabricated confidence locked inside all my body fat. I pound my fists on the blubbers, asking for wisdom to release my confidence, as if wisdom is some kind of isotope and at half-life it releases qula qula joo joo beans which self assembles into qualia.
These words for the uninspired are like a noose, hanging a pseudo life from the tree of being. All the same, but if you have confident eyes, you can enter your cranium caves and believe in a bunch of well-organized atoms.
There is a riot of laughter right now, and it’s like mind sex. The jester is fully aroused, like a Mussolini without pants. It is not the sexiest phrase in the English language? It’s not a hopeful declaration; you can’t run a presidency with such a slogan. If I uttered these words in my twenties I would be un-dateable. I may have been able to get one friend to come along, support me by quoting Socrates, my friend would say, you know Socrates made the same discovery back in the days. But that is about it, yet I can go along with I’m atoms, not because I like chemistry, but rather I like to think of how the world can be nameless, and yet still exist. I like that every five years my atoms are renewed.
At 40, I have awareness. I’m on the right path.
I’m at the sidelines of a green field, with the rulebook folded in my hand. I stare at a Game I no longer recognize, with billions of unknown players and billions of fans cheering with vigor for some kind of anarchy.
How can I explain this?
let us say if the rulebook in my hand was for a game of Soccer, the field would be bursting with millions of games that have nothing to do with soccer, like basketball, dodge ball, golf, etc…all equally convinced they are on the right path playing the right game. Worse, it’s as if nobody remembers how to play soccer, and perhaps someday soon nobody will be left how to play soccer.
Two million Jugglers swoop down from trapezes and make eye contact with me, followed by thousands of naked clowns balancing balls on their necks and noses. I don’t know why?
I stumble and look down at hundred million people stretched on their backs, just watching balls arc in the air like fireworks. I can’t understand why?
I can’t reply to my own questions, the reply is in the mendacity of the wicked, the reply is in the madness of man, the reply contains within it the perversion of the soul. I better not question, in order to avoid a slip into a reply that makes me slip further into another, a sure way to end up like the others.
I’m wrecked by the loneliness of my present; I repeat the rules in my book to keep me together, to help me cope with the un-reconcilable. I keep on staring, and from many legs, I see a miracle. A soccer player, a captain nonetheless, passes me by and his talent with the ball is perfection, commanding thousands of disciplined players, playing the game exactly how I know it, following the rules exactly as the book in my hand. I keep my eyes on the ball, I witness a marvelous score, I scream Goal! this is the first time I screamed in years. This play within it is my entire history vindicated. I see them, and I see the great chase, I see myself and I wonder can they use another self like me? I look in the mirror and everything I know is written on my face, so what is the point of waiting?
Really now, what motivates Soccer people? I certainly do not believe in organized sports, and the above was a way to express my displeasure with the entire field.
If I scrub myself from all that is imagined, it is clear to me that I’m bias in my thinking that down deep inside we are all lost and we are all searching for a reality that fits or resembles our bias. So in other words, the process of how I participate in the game is my ball. That does not make me any closer to the purpose, but I strive not to be on the executioners’ side, borrowing from Albert Camus, which is the real reason why I’m writing.
The certainty that the game of life comes with rules written in a book, and it is absolute, and it is indisputable fact is not really about Religion per say, it is about submitting to a story without question.
The story is a collection of ideas; the sum of all ideas only becomes religious, when you disrupt the start and end of the story. In other words, when the start of the story is attributed to God, thereof cutting the human cognitive source, and the end of the story guarantees some kind of immortality, thus cutting the human continuity, it is only then the story transforms to the religious realm.
Though, regardless people have an incredible inclination to buy into the middle part of the story, the ideas, that is they shape their behaviors based on the ideas, and it’s based on the middle part of the story that programs are erected, institutions are built, and communities are built. In other words, just because the source of the story is God, people tend to listen to the message, they don’t pretend to be god, generally speaking, and how the end plays out, whatever the guarantees, the people somewhat surrender to faith. So what is the harm? really nothing until things go horribly horribly wrong.
Like one day you wake-up and according to all your neighbors you are holding the wrong rule book.
It is a fact we are all victims of ideas in a story, that is the price we pay for using Language as a medium. While that is undeniable, who controls the idea becomes a critical question. To help me illuminate on this question, I need to think out of the box.
So what if we imagine Language as a technology, invented by humans to open the doors of perception, to loosely borrow from Huxley. Ideas become simply a program using codes from the technology.
The ecosystem that contains all these programs end-up representing you, the person. However, there is still a “you”, much like a ghost in the machine, it’s “you” who chose what ideas to bring into your ecosystem, you chose what to purge or transform. In other words you have control, although, you may rescind control when faced with a person or entity that you recognize as a master, a teacher, a guide, or a partner, but as long as you know you have human rights, you may choose at any time to reshuffle your thinking, you can change your mind without fearing death. It’s a nice safety net.
What if you can’t change your mind? What if you live in a country where there is such a thing as a thought crime? What if you fear yourself, as in the thought of doubting your faith terrifies you to death?
Knowing the above exist as a matter of fact, how would that shape our thinking of Control? I would imagine a phrase such as “trust yourself” would be akin to an obscure language.
Following with the example above, when the technology (language) removes the human out of the equation – in other words when Language references God as the source of the Idea and the Human as just the receiver- something magnificent takes place, much like how we remove humans from the production of assembly lines, the transfer of technology becomes automated.In other words the Idea is optimized and efficient for eternal reproduction and the human is only needed as an incubator. The Idea in this case is the very concept of God, which to the people that believe in him as part of a specific story, can only exist if the story exists, you take away the story, and to the story believers, God does not exist.
The inner mechanics of a holy idea protects it from dislodge, the very tenants of the idea forbid the incubator from dislodging it. In many cases, a human does not understand his choices and thus lives and perishes only to transmit and transfer holy ideas.
To boot, consider some governments or a culture that transfixes holy ideas as public law, beyond reproach.
In this sense, from the point of view of Holiness, every human under such governing entity are soldiers, not merely humans, they are the incubator of instructions. Which works really well for the ruling party as they can punish with impunity all those who deviate, as the masses are shamed by their imperfection?
This type of control is binary, as the people want to receive it to remain in good grace, as the ruling party want to dish it, to keep the state of affairs stable. It also helps that we are biologically wired to transfer our DNA by making babies, and the holy system certainly ensures lots of babies.
However we all know the laws of entropy must eventually prevail. I would imagine to be free from an un-human system, a human must learn cognitive skills, such as to think about his thinking and at the same time learn how to observe his thinking process. He also has to deduce that the knowledge he is gaining about his own process has transformed him sufficiently that he values his new Self more than his old Self. He also has to value the process of his transformation enough where he feels a need to transfer this knowledge to his peers, and thereby spread his decoded-self-idea from peer to peer much like an anti-virus or anti-code and thus become the Apostate.
Once an Apostate exists, a neon vacancy sign immediately props-up, and the bidders for another big idea get all cozy, think of something really unifying and uplifting to shape the character, like a Mussolini, a Stalin, a Hitler, a General Mau or something more ethnic like a Saddam, or an Assad, these type of rumors will always be circling in the mind of the believers.
The elegance of our fiction is rooted in survival and for many that means a horrific brief existence on this planet. As such, almost anywhere we live we engage in self-denial and that certainly prolongs our existence, but for the few severely disturbed self denial adds quality of life too. However we slice it, the knowledge of the Self, remains the most dangerous commodity that a human can transfer to another human, and it’s not represented by thing or a book or it may not be innate but rather it’s an endless research project – borrowing from Foucault.
PS: ISIS and Videos about the Nature of the Self, bring out the strangest concepts.
TED talks and you tube related to the question of Human Nature:
Conspiracy theories in America
Reference to ISIS Articles:
- Graeme Wood, timely piece on ISIS was published in the Atlantics saying ISIS is very Islamic. http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/
- Elizabeth Stoker, from the Republic reminds us that we shouldn’t and are incapable of talking about religion, and what is the point of it all.
- John Terry from Slate responded to properly calibrate ISIS as modern not Medieval
- Jake Jenkins, from Think Progress, provided ridiculous quotes from Nihad Awad , the executive director of the council of American Muslims
- Lauren Carroll, Katie Sanders, from Politifact weigh in on the virtues of Obama calling ISIS Un-Islamic
- Max Fisher, from VOX exalting the need for us to call ISIS Islamic
- Tony Ortega, from Raw Story, noting the consequences of the Atlantic article promotes advertisement for ISIS (which is correct):
- Graeme then published follow up here to his original piece, acknowledging ISIS is modern and not Medieval as he noted, and reminding us all that ISIS totally agrees with what he is saying, except for the part that concerns shaving, which basically acknowledges that everyone that is against the article is right to think that it validates ISIS and they are wrong because they under-acknowledge the role that religion plays with ISIS. He also references as article by Shadi Hamid which I thought it was deeply informative.
We have all already heard of the phenomenon of PEP (Progressive Except on Palestine), in which those who consider themselves progressives (liberals in the USA) or leftists are pretty liberal on every single issue except the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, their syndrome has been pointed out and diagnosed fully. A lot of them justify this position by saying that supporting the government of Israel is a liberal position. Their problems are not our problem… they need help that we surely can’t provide.
However, there is another phenomenon far more worrisome because it involves those who are Progressive ALSO for Palestine, and that is the case of PES (Progressive Except on Syria). Those who are afflicted by this malady feel safety in numbers, because they are in fact the majority of non-Palestinian supporters of Palestine. They will actually USE the argument of Palestine as justification of their support of Assad, even though…
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I’m in a dark mood. It’s the type that you’d announce out loud before you smile, or knock on a door. It’s a mood that lets you sneak into other peoples windows, where men and women are rubbing their faces like rape victims, blind to each other, standing in chambers receiving the ugliest news. I see them walking outside their homes, drying themselves with muffled pleas of disbelief. They see me and thank god they are not me, I wave back smiling.
I smile like nectar in a frenzied beehive; I want to be gulped as some kind of truth, I’m acting like a self conscience whisky barrel. I’m digging deeper into my strange language; I carry it like oxygen so that I’m finally remote dangling my feet from a grand crater. That is the same spot where I wrote the name of my first love on a tree. The tree is much smaller now, with a small shadow, it looks like a trinket. It’s the same spot where I pondered words like orphan, or sentences “ I desire that you know me, no what I write.” It’s the same spot the drunkards stumble upon, from above like a shooting star, where the damaged, the lunatics, and the in-love, camp for a night or two or at least use to.
I lament for the days where the absurd was fiction. I’m reliving my childhood at 40, once again the ignorance of blind faith is relegated to slave matters, as the civilized and mannered masters speak of things with valence, like Adam Smith, Nietzsche, or Karl Marx. All my friends are sitting on the table, waiting for their steaks. I’m painting them right now, because I do not know what else to do.
It’s a mood that wonders if flowers feel empty, after they blossom.
It’s a sharp razor mood that gleans back at the sun, slicing the nooses from the balcony right above the sky. I’m not shy, I believe we all share an eternal bend towards emptiness, a mortal affliction that lets us prize the timelessness of the stones. I arrive at water like a poet that suddenly realizes he is on the moon. I love the wetness. I love how water is an allusion to sex, even when it is not. I think you should go outside and stand in the rain every once in a while. I tell myself not to be awestruck at the news anymore, or what my friends think, as I listen to myself and wait for the rain. I shuffle my thoughts. I listen to the impossible, to the out there, to the future, to build my tolerance. As I think of the future, I fear that my children may never know me. It’s an odd thought; a hyper realism type of a thought that turns off all other thinking. I sat on my crater and pondered how vast is this wasteland as caterpillars fed on butterflies; forgetfulness is the word I pondered. I have internalized the agonies of so many tragedies this past week, the constant deaths and exodus of Syrians, the relentless destruction brought on by ISIS, the failed states of Iraq, Libya, Yemen, West Bank, Gaza, and the slimy gobbling underbelly of the literalist religion. I shuffle my thoughts like an old radio station.
Though I’m not certain of many things, I’m certain of the joy that my children experience, as it’s contagious. This is my fortune. Watching my boy read the alphabets exploding with happiness is life affirming. Seeing my girls sing together “let it go” is life affirming.
I hope in my lifetime I can provide them with the tools and skills that will help them dig and find themselves. As I know with certainty within us is the Self we desire most, it is our only Art and it’s the only vehicle that may transcend this vast wasteland.
Here is Nada’s blog
I’ve been asking myself this question a lot lately.
I was thinking of doing a blog post entitled “Four Years On”, because I’ve gotten into the tradition of writing an anniversary post for the revolution. But, I also realize that writing a commemorative post during what has got to be the worst time for Libya since WWII would be a bad idea, deciding instead to spare you the despair and anger that I’d probably come up with if I attempted to write about how I felt now. (Spoiler alert, it’s still a despairing read)
It would be easier to just post headlines from 2011 to now, so you can get a sense of just how far we’ve sunk into the Failed State category. They follow the general pattern of; “Revolution a Success!” “Goodbye Gadhafi!” “Uh Oh, Trouble in Paradise” “Something’s Rotten in the State of Libya” “Extremists Extinguish the Spark of…
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There is a thundering eloquence when reading the blog of
Nada Elfeituri, a civil society activist from Libya. Her ability to frame and re-frame the conflict in Libya as a citizen, capturing the menacing frustrations and diabolical politics that constantly undermine the very existence of a citizen.
She begins way back in 2013 to define a central concept:
“Double Shafra Culture
Double Shafra (arabic: دبل شفرة, translation: two cards) | (noun)
1. A cell-phone that can hold two sim cards
2. A Libyan with a second passports”
The dual identity , dual passport Libyans had a lot to do with the removal of ghadafi and subsequent failure of the state. This is not an easy conclusion, as Nada throughout the 4 years of her blogging career constantly reassessed the role of the GNC, in Libya, the role of the fanatics, now ISIS and the need for a unity government.
If words can transcend and summon their power into reality, at the end of her blog entry, a great dragon would be summoned and extinguish all her enemies.
The failure she is experiencing, the crisis she is witnessing is only the tip of the iceberg, she is just one voice that lives in a modern Cassandra paradox, where she is well aware of truth, but nobody can lift a finger.
“It would be easier to just post headlines from 2011 to now, so you can get a sense of just how far we’ve sunk into the Failed State category. They follow the general pattern of; “Revolution a Success!” “Goodbye Gadhafi!” “Uh Oh, Trouble in Paradise” “Something’s Rotten in the State of Libya” “Extremists Extinguish the Spark of the Revolution” “Oh Crap What the Hell is Happening in Libya”. One headline is literally “The Revolution that Ate its Children”.
“Life was not good under Gadhafi. But at least there weren’t street wars. At least the airport was open and you could get your passport renewed for if (or when) you wanted to escape. Now it’s not even easy to escape because no one wants war-affected Libyans on their doorsteps.”
“Frankly, I’m fed up and tired. Not fed up like ‘uhh, this sucks’. No, fed up as in ‘can the earth swallow me whole so I don’t have to live through this anymore’. If I had stayed home and kept quiet instead of protesting those far-away days ago, things would be the exact same. But I wouldn’t feel this heavy weight on my conscious like I share in the responsibility for the misery that’s enveloped us. I’m sad for the average Libyan, I’m angry at the politicians and I’m terrified of the future.”