I’m worse at what I do best

There is a game I play on the metro. It’s called Guess Whose BO? 

It might seem like an easy enough game to play but it is more complicated than you might think. The smell doesn’t always hit right when the person comes near you. Sometimes when the train jerks and people are scrambled about, you catch the whiff. It can be extremely hard to identify the culprit in the mass of people.
Other times there is a whole long row of people with their arms raised up holding on to the stirrups for support. It’s easy to look accusingly at the disheveled man with the tom and jerry shirt on or the overweight person that is trying to cough up the entire contents of their throat. 
But life is not so simple. Sometimes it is the lady with her hair perfectly curled. Or the man with the smart suit on. My eyes now dart from person to person, knowing that any one of them may be transporting the smell that is creeping into my skin, making me fear that it will follow me for the rest of my life.

All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning again


With Michael Jackson’s death predominating the news, Governor Mark Sanford’s recent scandal is already yesterday’s news. Like so many politician’s before him, earlier this week, Governor Mark Sanford apologized for his infidelity and his brief disappearance recently.

When hearing about this story, I can’t help but think about forgiveness. In his press conference, Governor Sanford commented, “I’ve let down a lot of people. That’s the bottom line. And I let them down, and in every instance I would ask their forgiveness. Forgiveness is not an immediate process. It is in fact a process that takes time, and I’ll be in that process for quite some weeks and months and I suspect years ahead.”

First of all, what does it mean to forgive? Webster Dictionary says to forgive is “to cease to feel resentment against.” It indicates that forgiveness is not so much about the other person but about yourself. Forgiving doesn’t mean saying what happened was ok, it isn’t even understanding why someone acted a certain way. It is merely a letting go.

But at what point should we stop forgiving people lest we should be made fools of or taken advantage of? At what point is forgiving self-depreciating? Maybe it never is.

John F. Kennedy said, “Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” 

Part of forgiving is learning from betrayal and not allowing someone the same place in your life before their transgression. Indeed, forgiving your enemies seems easy in the face of forgiving the ones you love. You know what to expect from your enemies. But when the people you love betray you, you are jilted in an entirely different way. This action betrays your very notion of stability and trust. It can make you very, very fragile. I can’t imagine Jenny Sanford’s feelings when she found a letter from her husband to his mistress. And later how she must have felt when e-mails between Sanford and his mistress were printed. In the public eye she has handled herself gracefully and there is even some indication that she might forgive her husband and even reconcile with him.

I have always thought that one of my greatest weaknesses has been a seemingly never-ending capacity to forgive. I don’t say this with any moral superiority. I genuinely spent most my life wishing I could hate certain people, that I could learn to see them only for the way they hurt me and not beyond that.

Perhaps my ideology is summed up by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find, in each person’s life, suffering and sorrow enough to disarm all our hostility.”

It is difficult to look at people and only see them as they are. Instead there are long, long roads full of stories behind them and highways of pain, regret and hurt within them. It is difficult to hate and be unforgiving in the face of a person’s humanity.

It is particularly difficult in the face of knowing that we will stand before God one day. Who is more forgiving than our God? And if He can forgive us, then who can’t we forgive? It is reported in a hadith that God says, “O Son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O Son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O Son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins as great as the earth, and were you then to face Me ascribing no partners to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.”

Likewise, the Prophet Muhummad was the most forgiving person. He was always ready to forgive even his enemies. When he went to Ta’if to preach the message of Allah, its people mistreated him, abused him and hit him with stones. He left the city humiliated and wounded. When he took shelter under a tree, the angel of Allah visited him and told him that Allah sent him to destroy the people of Ta’if because of their sin of maltreating their Prophet. Muhammad (may peace be upon him) prayed to Allah to save the people of Ta’if, because what they did was out of their ignorance.

Despite realizing all this; for the first time in my life I am struggling to forgive someone and I fully understand that what I thought was my curse was the greatest blessing. Hate is a disease that sneaks up on us and which can destroy us. It eats away at the heart and poisons our thoughts. Not forgiving someone does not hurt them in any way, it makes them stronger, it allows them to continue to dominate us, it is self-defeating in the worst way.

Whenever I have difficulty letting go of a negative feeling towards a person I always thing of an old Zen story. In the story there are two Japanese monks on a journey. In their Order, they are forbidden from touching a woman. When they reach a swollen creek, there is a young woman there. She is distressed because she cannot cross with the water so high. The younger of the two monks just looks away and prepares to cross the creek. As he steps in the water, he looks back and sees the older monk pick the woman up and proceed to carry her across. On the other side, the older monk puts the woman down and bows to her as he leaves her there. The two monks walk in silence for quite some time. However, the younger monk could not keep it in. He finally says, “How could you do that? You know that we are directly forbidden to touch a woman!” The older monk stops walking, looks at him and says, “I put her down way back there. Why are you still carrying her?”

It is difficult to let go and until we do that, we cannot forgive. It is difficult to realize that forgiveness does not mean letting someone or something back into you life. Jenny Sanford can forgive her husband, indeed it looks like she will, but that does not mean he has any right back into her heart or her life.

You are not alone…

Heal the world, make it a better place. For you and for me and the entire human race. There are people dying, if you care enough for the living… make a better place…

Today, people will be laughing and smiling more than they have in a long time. You can’t talk about Michael Jackson without remembering one of his songs and telling a story about how it carried you through a rough time, made you jump up and dance at a club, or made you blast your car stereo. You can’t help but say how even your mom who doesn’t know how to turn on a computer, knows who Michael Jackson is. And there is no way you can talk about Michael Jackson without starting to sing and suddenly your heart lifts up, your face breaks into a smile and you know that this man did something good.

Beat me, hate me, You can never break me. Will me, thrill me, You can never kill me. Do me, sue me, Everybody do me. Kick me, strike me, Don’t you black or white me. All I wanna say is that they don’t really care about us.

It was strange to see all the news coverage this morning. The past decade, his blunders and ours, are forgotten. People are praising him, talking about his influences on music and the world. But even recently the media and most people ridiculed him, often referring to him as a freak show. The latter half of his career was plagued with allegations of misconduct. And now in his death, they see his humanity. Like all of us, he returns ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

People say I’m not okay ’cause I love such elementary things…It’s been my fate to compensate, for the Childhood I’ve never known… Have you seen my Childhood? I’m searching for that wonder in my youth…

He entered our lives when he was just six years old. For more than four decades he gave us his music and his self. We saw him struggle with his identity and his past and were here to welcome him back as he prepared for a new future with his comeback tour. e.e. cummings said, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” This was Michael Jackson’s struggle. One of the reasons that he will be so greatly remembered is because he gave from his essence- there will never be another like him.

They told him don’t you ever come around here, don’t wanna see your face, you better disappear. The fire’s in their eyes and their words are really clear. So beat it, just beat it.

The years of abuse in the media only drove him away though. In 1983 he gave his first interview since 1979 where he dispelled many rumors and myths on Oprah. But the public was unforgiving and eventually Jackson faded from the public eye. Even though he was not making music or working on major projects, Michael Jackson continued to make his impact on the world.

A willow deeply scarred, somebody’s broken heart and a washed-out dream , they follow the pattern of the wind, ya’ see cause they got no place to be, that’s why I’m starting with me…

He donated over 300 million USD to various foundations in his lifetime. “We Are the World” which he co-wrote with Lionel Richie became the anthem for African relief work and helped raise millions of dollars for the continent. All the profits for “Man in the Mirror” went to charity and he founded the Heal the World Foundation which helped children threatened by war and disease. The list goes on and on so much that he is in the Guinness Book of World Records for supporting more charities than any other entertainer or personality.

Every day create your history, every path you take you’re leaving your legacy.

Throughout his life, Michael Jackson struggled with the man in the mirror. His changing face got as much coverage as his music. People couldn’t understand his need to morph but like all of us, he was struggling to reconcile the person he saw with someone he could love. All I can think of is how incredibly tired he must have been. But still, even to the end he was willing to give himself, to us who rejected him and to us who loved him. For years his music has carried me through my hardest times, he was an imaginary friend I talked to and his struggles reminded me of how delicate we are. His life, his music and his legacy will carry on eternally and I pray that he finds eternal peace. Ameen.

Like a comet

Blazing ‘cross the evening sky
Gone too soon

Like a rainbow
Fading in the twinkling of an eye
Gone too soon

Shiny and sparkly
And splendidly bright
Here one day
Gone one night

Like the loss of sunlight
On a cloudy afternoon
Gone too soon

Like a castle
Built upon a sandy beach
Gone too soon

Like a perfect flower
That is just beyond your reach
Gone too soon

Born to amuse
To inspire to delight
Here one day
Gone one night

Like a sunset
Dying with the rising of the moon
Gone too soon
Gone too soon

The Nature of Reality

More and more these days, I am writing and then putting the entries into my private journals. They seem too much like the explorations of an adolescent who is only beginning to see the world. But what is the point of writing if you don’t allow yourself to be naked and exposed? What good are filtered, edited and contrived words? “If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.” (Anais Nin) From now on, some of my entries will seem overly self-obsessed, too introspective or too superficial for the more sophisticated readers. I won’t apologize for that. I want to chronicle who I am becoming. I want to remember the road I came down so I can look back when I begin to forget. I want to write about life as honestly as I can and that also means being honest about who I am. And I want to write openly because there is no shame in having a voice.

“The years that are gone seem like dreams-if one might go on sleeping and dreaming—but to wake up and find—oh! Well! Perhaps it is better to wake up after all. Even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.” From the first time I read The Awakening this quote took hold of me. It used to be a life philosophy but as I get older, I wonder how much wisdom there is in it. Is it really better to live in a world that is real? Why do we strip ourselves of our illusions? Why is there such a desperate hunger for truth?

I have often thought about these questions and I think part of the reason that we search so painstakingly for truth is because we long for something we can count on. If we are ever to find this truth, then maybe we can turn to it, even if it is ugly, we can know what to expect of it. It won’t strike at us like a snake the first time we turn our backs. If we know it to be ugly, then we won’t rely on it. If we know it to be beautiful, it can comfort us like a dear friend.

And there is the possibility that there is no absolute truth. That it is fluid, ever changing like the waves in the ocean. That as soon as we have seen it, it has already something else. So, for the time being I am only searching for the truth of myself.

And as I delve into myself, I want to go deeper and deeper. To the parts that life has taught to be silent. I want to see the most ugly and vile parts of myself so I can learn to conquer them. I want to know the parts that exist when I strip away status, ambition and a desire to belong. I want to be only myself. I crave only myself now. How can I want or crave someone else? How can I want something that I don’t know? That I can’t trust?

I will discover the parts that have been buried, that have been molded by someone else’s hands. I can appreciate the influences in my life but I am the artist now. By knowing myself, I will mold myself into some version of truth. Some days I will want to paint my face with stripes, some days I will want to be moody and unapologetic, and some days I will give myself freely to life. But, how am I supposed to discover myself if I am going to pick a date and say that on that day I have arrived? I don’t know who I will be next year or next week. I have no desire to be consistent.

Does that make me fickle? No, being fickle is arbitrarily picking a moment and letting it direct who you are. I want to always be changing, coming out anew. I want to live life through many, many lenses. I want to experiment with my mind, my ideologies. I don’t want to be a slave to someone else’s need for consistency and stability. It is not selfish to live our lives the way we want to, It is selfish to expect other’s to live how you want them to. If you want a me that you can label, that you can compartmentalize and put away, then you are going to be left dissatisfied. What do I owe to the universe? Before I can give anything to the world, I must firstly be loyal to my self. I owe it to the universe to know who I am.