Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Five things I never thought I'd be doing in 2014

1. Eating Chinese Food. I never eat Chinese. In fact, I even managed to convince myself that I don't like it. But alas, lately, I do like it. I like it a lot.

2. Living in Saudi Arabia. The only place NOT on my (very long) list of places to move to.

3. Beginning the work week on a Sunday. Because here Sundays are Mondays and Fridays are Sundays and Saturdays... well, they're still Saturdays.

4. Missing winter. When it's 30 degrees centigrade at midnight and it's only spring, even the most die-hard summer lovers will start longing for rain and snowflakes.

5. Speaking more Spanish and Arabic than English. Because when you spend most of your time with a Mexican and you have to navigate your way through everyday life in the city, you need to adapt or die.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...

I've been a student of History for most of my life. Yes, astoundingly boring, but true. It began at a very early age when my parents acquired a fantastic historical book detailing thousands of significant events that had occurred over a period of 2000 years, along with an Atlas filled with beautiful photographs of places far and wide - among the many hundreds of books they had purchased over a short period of time.

I remember paging through this history book incessantly, fascinated up to my eyeballs at the various illustrations of events as they occurred over time. In the later chapters chronicling periods when camera photography was available, photographs were used instead of illustrations... photographs showing NASA's first venture into space and the first computer ever built, as well as people who changed the world... from Lenin and JFK, to Walt Disney and Elvis. Needless to say, I remained endlessly mesmerized and captivated by this book.

On other days, I would reach for the Atlas and stare stupidly at the pages, escaping through space and time, becoming hypnotized at the pristine images captured by the very best photographers in the world, desperately wishing to visit every place. Each country had a text box with summarized facts and figures, followed by in depth descriptions of their histories and socio-political-economic facts... it was like Wikipedia, but with pages and  pretty pictures.

I would read the pages completely at random and retain the most arbitrary information, often marrying the geographical demographics with facts I'd read about in the History book... 

The Lady of Shalott, an 1888 oil-on-canvas painting by the English Pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse, whose work is a representation of a scene from Lord Alfred Tennyson's 1832 poem of the same name, describing the plight of a young woman, loosely based on the figure of Elaine of Astolat from medieval Arthurian legend, who yearned with an unrequited love for the knight Sir Lancelot, isolated under an undisclosed curse in a tower near King Arthur's Camelot...

My mind played out on a reel, a list of places and their histories indiscriminately, like a movie. And I would spend hours, days even, wondering what it was like for people to grow up there, to live there, to love there, to have families there, to die there... wondering what they ate, felt, saw, heard, did... I spent many nights wondering if The Lady of Shalott was indeed real... did she really live near Camelot... was Camelot even real... what did she like, and what were her thoughts...

Of course, my questions were never answered and I could only come to conclusions based on my own assumptions. On top of that, my Mother was convinced that I was batshit crazy, always telling me that "living in the past is not going to help you succeed in the future"... and that I was "wasting my time and energy".

And maybe she was right, maybe not. Sometimes I believe that we have a lot to learn from the generations that came before us... that there are secrets lodged in the annals of time that can help us live better lives, perhaps even be better people. And there are times when I don't think there is anything left for us in those dark passageways but shady narratives of dusty cloudy stories detailing too many conflicts, wars, sufferings and losses.

They say that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I don't know about that because there seem to be many people that are well acquainted with the lessons, yet seem determined to repeat the mistakes out of their own free will.

Still, the most important lesson that I've learned looking back into the ever fascinating ether of what once was, is that everything ends, eventually. Every age, every eon, every golden era, every reign, every war, every moment - good or bad - will come to an end. And if we're extremely lucky, we will leave behind a name and a story... but for the most part, we will only ever be carried on the wind, fading into eternity. And thus, we are reduced to nothing, but dust.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"My Master's in the yard, giving life to the unaware..."

For some reason, I've spent the last couple of weeks roaming around in a reflective haze... drifting amid nostalgic clouds in the sky and being rudely interrupted by thunderous bouts of reality. It's been both pleasant and mildly annoying. 

One of the memories seeping into my conscious stream of thought was that of a ring (no, not my Precious...); but a ring that I had made using the 22k gold bangle I had inherited from my Grandmother when I was around 21 years old. My grandparents (like most people's grandparents here in SA) grew up quite poor (partly because of Apartheid, partly because it was Post-World War and all that shit) so they never had much to leave to the younger generations, hence only one 22k gold bangle. 

And back then, I loved jewelry. I still do... but gosh, sometimes I forget how much I loved jewelry. I even had my own impressive collection of gold... a hobby I spent a lot of time, effort and money investing in. 

So at that time, I thought that I would take this Bangle to a Jeweler and have a ring fashioned out of it... that way, I reckoned, at least I'd wear it instead of housing it like a relic in the safety-deposit box. Not long after that, I traipsed off with a very specific design in mind (no, nothing like my Precious...) it was a simple, 15mm thick band with a large solitary cubic zirconia embedded in the center (because, hello, I couldn't afford 5 carat diamonds and cubics had to do). 

And I loved this ring. More than anything else I owned. I wore it everywhere, everyday. Everyone I knew complimented me on it and in my own way, I felt like I finally owned something of value... something that I valued. 

A few years later, I moved to London and in my first week there, the ring was stolen. And I was absolutely devastated... for many reasons. For one, it meant that the one thing I had left of my grandmother was gone. I was way too emotionally attached to it, but not so much for sentimental reasons; but because it became a part of me, a possession... and also because it was pretty and shiny. So in a warped sense, I felt like I had been robbed of my identity. 

Looking back a solid 10 years later, I can confidently state that losing that ring turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. Because see, I didn't realise it at the time, but what the ring came to symbolise was a false sense of status... a precedent that couldn't have continued in order for me to become who I am today... a lifestyle that I've ceased wanting years ago, a lifestyle I no longer endorse and have even come to despise.

The truth is that 10 years ago I was a very materialistic, selfish girl and all the decisions I ever made were based on how I could benefit from the situation. And in a way, that ring cemented who I was. Losing it, and the chain of events that followed afterwards, forced me to re-evaluate everything I came to believe up until that point. In hindsight, it gave me the opportunity to lose my old self... to form a new identity... to begin anew... to cast off the chains and shackles I had placed on myself in keeping with other peoples beliefs and expectations of who they thought I should be. 

Suffice to say that the girl I was a decade ago, and the woman I am today, are two completely different people. I realised at some point that the mere fact that I was alive meant that my Grandmother would continue living through the eons... that her connection with me didn't cease to exist because I was no longer in possession of the ring made with what was once her gold. 

These days I no longer possess any real gold... all my jewelry is (proudly) the fake stuff. And while I love beautiful, shiny things, I don't have a need to own any of it. My hobbies now consist of collecting stamps, coins, postcards, stones and sand from different countries... most of which have absolutely no real value whatsoever. A decade later and I'm so completely un-materialistic that it's difficult for my mind to reconcile who I was with who I am today. I don't place any emotional value on anything I own, and I am prepared to lose whatever I do own. Most importantly, my self-worth is no longer placed on the value of what I own and I am a much better person for it.

Here's the thing... money, things, and even people will come and go. What matters most is what remains of us when they leave... what we own doesn't define who we are. 

I've changed so completely in the last 10 years that I'm both somewhat anxious and curious to see what will become of me in the next decade. Whatever happens, I know that I will survive and learn from it, God Willing.
Blog Title:~ Live "Overcome"(Video)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Maybe I am over-thinking it...

The person who will spend the rest of my life with me needs to understand that I am mostly made up of water; that simply means that even though I am extremely strong I am also unstable and vulnerable and I usually take the shape of whatever you put me in so that’s why I hope your heart will be close to God and your face will be radiant with righteousness because you see, I am forgetful and heedless and careless and lost and maybe I am looking for a solid anchor to guide me when I can’t find my way and I follow the wind because that’s what the sea does and my tides are guided by the moon - but you see I hope that you will be the sun so that the moon could follow you. 

Most of the times I am scared because I don’t really think I could bare the responsibility but when my heart is covered by complete and utter frightfulness I hope you will tell me a joke, maybe be my friend, maybe remind me for a second that I wouldn’t be alone, maybe I am over thinking it, maybe I will fall in to the role all naturally and maybe you wouldn’t notice the thousands of walls I have put in place to protect, maybe you will never really know that I’m seriously contemplating not doing it at all. 

Maybe you will understand after all it is said that our names were transcribed next to each other before the creation of the heavens and the earth, maybe you will laugh at me and maybe I will join you and maybe we will look back and think that the unknown future has a way of blending with the past to create this uneasy present but no matter how bad the past is its always funny and maybe it will be funny, maybe in a few years time we will both be scared of something else that the future holds in place for us but maybe will do it together and maybe we will over come that too and maybe that’s when I will realize and learn that this poem was written for two and maybe its cause I have never really met you maybe its because of the fact that you walk the face of planet earth right now probably unaware that I sit here scared but mostly hopeful of what the future holds…

I can't quite recall who wrote this... or where I got it from... (enlighten me if anyone knows). All I DO know is that at one point, it struck a chord. Perhaps it still does. 

All this talk of Valentines Day is somewhat depressing for someone like me. Depressing not because I'm single - I've made my peace with that a long time ago - but because it marks the beginning of the end of Summer for us. And everyone knows how much I love Summer. 

Then there's that pesky little thing where, for some reason, my marital status or rather lack thereof, seems to be a constant point of contention amongst selected family members and a few so-called friends. You've never seen so many unhappily married people utter their concerns in subtle passive aggressive tones and desperate nuances... because misery loves company, see.

I do find it more than a tad insulting though, that those same people can chalk up everything I've ever attained and achieved, to dismal failures or empty victories at best, based on the fact that I haven't latched myself onto, or have become consumed by someone else's identity. I refuse to be defined that way. 

I am however, not against Love in its whole, raw, unconditional, most natural form. It's the only thing that's still good and true in this increasingly wicked world. But I am against consumerism, and moreso, against how people interpret what Love should be... what it should look like... which rules govern it... the confines and constraints in a number of non-existent rules that people tend to force upon others. 

Here's to the free-flowing, authentic stuff.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Genetic Predisposition of Han

Han is frequently translated as sorrow, spite, rancor, regret, resentment or grief, among many other attempts to explain a concept that has no English equivalent. Han is an inherent characteristic of the Korean character and as such finds expression, implied or explicit, in nearly every aspect of Korean life and culture.

Han is sorrow caused by heavy suffering, injustice or persecution, a dull lingering ache in the soul. It is a blend of lifelong sorrow and resentment, neither more powerful than the other. Han is imbued with resignation, bitter acceptance and a grim determination to wait until vengeance can at last be achieved.

Han is passive. It yearns for vengeance, but does not seek it. Han is held close to the heart, hoping and patient but never aggressive. It becomes part of the blood and breath of a person. There is a sense of lamentation and even of reproach toward the destiny that led to such misery.

The concept of Han is seen as unique to Korean culture but I don't necessarily agree. I've seen Han, or aspects of Han, in many other cultures that ascribe to something similar... some of these cultures have a history of oppression and in others, Han could be derived perhaps from different circumstances or reasons. One such group are the Iranians. 

Mohammed Asad described in poignant detail the malaise and melancholy that plague the Iranian people as a result of generational mourning from one era to the next over the deaths of the Prophet Mohammed's (saw) grandsons, Hassan and Hussain (ra). In this way, I think that Han either is, or can become, genetic in a sense - learned behaviour over many generations... until it becomes so ingrained in the sub-consciousness of a nation, that even when far removed from the country and all cultural aspects of it, the individual cannot escape the stench of inexplicable emotions inherited from eras gone by - a sense of loss with no purpose or meaning, and lacking in understanding too.

Sometimes I wonder if I too, suffer from some aspect of Han, unbeknownst to me. It would certainly explain the sporadic restlessness and unfounded yearning for something, someplace, that I have yet to become acquainted with... a longing and yearning for that which I do not know and have no prior knowledge of.

In the grander scheme of things, I'm inclined to think that this sort of general discontent is a waste of time and good energy. I don't advocate or endorse that martyr mentality...or any kind of defeatist attitude. But what do I know? I'm sure there is more to Han that can be explained in passing.  As Bruce Lee once said, "Sorrow's are our best educators. A man can see further through a tear than a telescope".