The Unthinkable Thought

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Is the very thought of being alone with your thoughts really so unthinkable?

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  • “I can’t do my work without headphones plugged in.”
  • “I can’t stand to go on public transportation without earphones plugged in.”
  • “I can’t focus on studies without headphones plugged in.”

When I ask a lot of these people if it’s their obsession with the music quality they can’t resist, I often get a shrug and “no, I just can’t focus if it’s silent. I need background noise, whatever it may be.”

OK, so…

Besides the problematic fact that music has gone from an art to mere background noise… there is a more significant question I would like to pose:

Is our addiction to background noise a necessity because we actually function better that way… or is it simply because we’re afraid to be listening to our own inner voices?

Is the thought of being with your own thoughts really that unthinkable?

We live in a world of noise, in which we will desperately plug anything into our ears – good music, mediocre music, crappy swear words – anything and everything – to drown out any possible survival of an inner dialogue. Distract yourself deliberately just so that you won’t hear what your inner voices are desperately trying to tell you.

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We’d prefer planning for the future while mercilessly silencing the voice of the past. Let’s look ahead to making the world a better place without fixing what is damaged in the past and still affecting us now. We’d rather contemplate if a future plan can be executed right than to contemplate if what we did today, yesterday, or even presently is done in good intentions.

Do we want to consider intentions? What if they’re not as noble as others think they are?

–Plug them earphones back on.–

–Block it all out.–

–Don’t think.–

Again, I ask:

Is the mere thought of being alone with your thoughts really so unthinkable?

Time to start thinking about that. 

You might be surprised to find out how much more alive you’ll feel when you actually start listening to yourself.

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A.S.

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The Critic and the Doer

The Critic and the Doer

“It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails,
at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
who neither know victory nor defeat.”

(Theodore Roosevelt)

From a Niche to a Rib Cage

*All references from Nouman Ali Khan.

You may be familiar with this mesmerizing verse of the Quran:Image

Let’s break it down, shall we?

First off, I am a visual person so I needed to draw out what I was hearing from this RIS2013 talk. Sadly, my notes look like a bunch of scribbled words all over the place, so I’ll reveal it at the end of the post when you can easily look at it and know exactly what all the scribbles mean.

Nouman Ali Khan starts off by explaining in detail what the basic translation of the ayah is; then he proceeds to make a fascinating connection that will leave you breathless with amazement! (Stay tuned.)

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  • “The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp”

Never forget that God cannot be explained or understood fully through a human’s mind… He is much too Great, Glory to He, for our limited minds to comprehend Him. Nonetheless, in His mercy, He knows that those who love Him strive to know Him, and gives us examples to help us relate to the reality of things. 

Like a niche“: A niche is an arch-like spacing in a wall to allow for a lamp to be placed within it. The shape of the niche is constructed such to allow for light placed within it to spread outwards. Here is a visually appealing example of a niche with a lamp inside it:

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  • “the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star”

It’s nothing new that the lamp should be made of glass… but for the glass to be shimmering and luminous like a pearly white star, even before a flame is lit up inside of it? Hmm! So the lamp itself, flameless, is almost lighting up on its own. It’s pearly white, clean, pure.

*Note: the word used for lamp in the Quran is ‘misbaah’, which comes from the root word ‘subh’. ‘Subh’ means dawn, but it can also mean to be alert and awakened (“asbe7!”)

  • “star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west”

Now note: the lamp is inside a niche, which is inside a building. Yet Allah tells us in this example that the lamp is lit from the oil of a blessed tree; trees are outside. Blessed things are from outside this world. This lamp is indoors, yet its source comes from outdoors… interesting point to keep in mind.

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Note:

the word used in the Quran for oil is ‘zayt’,

which comes from the word of olive oil,

‘zayt zaytoon’.

  • “whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire”

Not only is the glass itself seemingly glowing without a flame, but so is the oil without the spark! Two sources of luminous matter interacting… what results in…

“Light upon light.”

and we know that

“Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.”

And now to blow your minds away. (Metaphorically speaking, that is.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a moment to look at my scribbles below: they should make some sense now.

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Prepare for a paradigm shift.

Look within yourself.

You have a rib cage. Inside the rib cage is the heart. Inside the heart is the ruh (or spirit).

Picture this:

  • RIB CAGE = niche
  • HEART = lamp
  • FUEL = ruh

Mind = blown!

Just as a niche’s purpose is to spread light outwards, so is our duty to spread our inner light out.

Just as the lamp is clean and shimmery, so is the heart initially at the time of birth; clean, flawless and bright.

Just as an unkempt lamp will get dusty with time, so does a heart rusty with sins or consistent in refraining from doing any good for the soul.

Just as the lamp is lit from the oil of a blessed tree, so are you, an ordinary earthly human being, lit up by something otherworldly, an outside source… by God Himself…

And just as the oil is initially luminous and blessed, so is your ruh… because it comes straight from Allah SWT. It is your essence, and if you do not actively keep a spark near it to light up your and others’ surroundings, then your inner light is of no benefit.

“The believer and his heart is necessary for dark times… What’s the point of a lamp if it doesn’t light its surroundings?” (Nouman Ali Khan)

Light upon light: the light of your ruh, and the light of Revelation.

May Allah guide us all to His light!

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-A.S.

Cheese Whiz & Frogs… Hello, Prince Charming!

*Once a while, it’s good to just be silly.

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“This can of Cheese Whiz was not so easy to open up at all. I pulled at the cap, twisted, punched it, sat on it – but to no avail. In my anger, I smashed the can of Cheese Whiz against the wall, where it shattered into large chunks of glass. Cheese Whiz splattered everywhere. I was about to start licking the cheese when, before my very eyes, it all assembled into a young handsome man. “Hello, Gloria,” he said in a deep voice. “This may be cheesy, but still: thank you for smashing me against the wall and returning me into my actual form – a prince.””

My siblings and I thought it would be fun to test our creative writing skills after some time of utter brain relaxation and watching episodes of Friends. Using The Writer’s Toolbox by Jamie Cat Callan, I had 3 minutes to come up with something given the simple statement This can of Cheese Whiz.

Now where did I get the idea to transform orange cheese spread into a handsome young prince? I’m not that creative… but the Grimm brothers were.

We all know the classic tale of The Princess and the Frog. Although I think it is positively gross to kiss a slimy frog, others find it rather romantic, and the magical kiss of true love was what returned the frog to his original form.

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But that’s the sugar-coated version of the tale. The actual, earliest version depicted some violence on the princess’ part.

The talking frog followed her everywhere and drove her insane with annoyance. To her, he was just a talking frog who wanted to be close to her and eat from her plate wherever she went. In her fury, she grabbed him in her hands and threw him with all her might against the wall.

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As a frog, he should’ve died; but as a Prince cursed into the form of an amphibian, he instead returned to his original form. As an added bonus, he was handsome, and he held no hard feelings for the girl who tried to kill him.

They got married and lived happily ever after. The End.

Would you like to know some other facts of the original fairy tale stories? All references are taken from the book Grimms’ Fairy Tales:

  • SNOW WHITE:

Contrary to Disney’s version, Snow White had not sung with her Charming Prince before the curse happened. She’d never laid eyes on him. When she ate the poisoned apple (which wasn’t actually swallowed, but just stuck in her throat), the Prince heard of the matter and decided to check out the so-called dead body. When he saw her, he thought she was so beautiful that he couldn’t keep his eyes off her. He had no intention of kissing her awake – who would kiss dead lips? – but he merely wanted to stare at her endlessly, through the glass coffin, in his castle. Not like there was something creepy about that or anything… She would be his decor in the castle! As fate would have it, on the way to the castle, his klutzy men tripped and dropped the coffin, allowing the poisoned apple piece to come spurting out her throat.

She agreed to marry a stranger. They lived happily every after. The End.

  • CINDERELLA:

Contrary to Disney’s version, Cinderella’s dad was not deceased so that he was helpless to defend his daughter against her step sisters and step mother. He was shockingly quite healthy and alive, but simply was passive and did not play a very serious role called fatherhood.

But it gets worse: When it was time for the girls to try on the forgotten shoe (and it was not of glass), her stepsisters sliced off their toes and their heels to fit it. The naively blind prince was tricked every time into believing each stepsister was ‘the one’, threw her on his horse (kidnapping much?) and never noticed the blood trailing behind until a plant or a tree sang to him midway to the castle to look behind the trails of the horse. Each time, he returned the injured stepdaughter to the mother, and failed again, and returned the second one home, before he finally found Cinderella.

(Never mind that he was looking for ‘the one’ yet could not identify anything about her except the shoe size.)

Despite his gullibleness, Cinderella agreed to marry him. Somehow, they lived happily ever after. The End.

Almost every fairy tale story you are familiar with, actually has a dark plot. There are often gory details involved, but I think I have written enough about the origins; your childhood is most certainly destroyed now.

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I actually have nothing against these fairy tales… they’re amusing to me and I can’t help but ponder what made two brothers think of collecting them all. Regardless, I think it’s important to know the original sources of inspiration for popular culture stories we raise our children on. (Look at me, even I used inspiration from The Princess and The Frog for my Easy Cheese 3-minute-one-paragraph story!)

In the meantime, work your creativity juices by writing your own stories!

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Wishing 2014 to be a year of happiness, blessings, tranquility, and, above all, increased empathy for humankind and a tender heart that keeps praying for them all.

Happy new year! 🙂

-A.S.