Hello Goodbye

Several people have asked me why I haven’t been blogging lately. Okay, that’s a lie. Hardly anyone noticed. Not even Amma jan. Can’t really be surprised though; without persistence of presence nothing can survive in today’s culture of perpetual sensory bombardment. This goofy prepubescent blog didn’t stand a chance.

Though I hadn’t forgotten about this space. I frequented it on occasion with a half-baked idea and a half-chubbed motivation boner to type it out. But something always stopped me. A few things actually.

First, most of the views I was getting seemed to be from internet perverts. People using search terms like “slut and dogs” (I’m not even joking) unwittingly happened upon my page. I can imagine them sitting there, typing with one hand, cursing like masturbating sailors as they land on this space. Joke’s on you, weirdos. Or just dickheads using searches like “Fuck you Malala Yousafzai“, etc. The motivation boner didn’t enjoy these occurrences very much.

Then there was the creative writing workshop I had started, a weekly thing which sucked me in and left no desire to produce words for anything else. Week after week went by with me producing half-assed fiction as this space quietly stagnated, witnessed begrudgingly by my pervy visitors.

I also got busy putting a few personal/professional wheels in motion. Working towards becoming a pretentious artsy fartsy sort. Preparing a couple of art exhibitions. Building up an art portfolio. About to launch a retail brand (tum nay Engineering PhD quit ki darzi bannay kay liye?! LOL). I hardly had time to ingest illegal substances, let alone blog about weirdness.

But all of these are excuses, and I know it. The ultimate reason to stop blogging about survival in the land of madness is that I simply had no more to say. Each time I had a new blog idea it seemed like a regurgitation of something that had come before.

I never intended for this space to become a hub for social commentary, or a critique of our culture/politics/society/what have you. There’s enough of that going on, by better educated folk. One more rambling bitch-blog won’t help anyone. I wanted this to be a space where I put down whatever I’ve learned about living a meaningful, fulfilling life here. This basically involved introspection and cultivating growth within to counterbalance the madness that goes on without. And after a few months, that lesson hasn’t really changed.

This isn’t to say that the madness doesn’t change. Oh no, if there’s one thing Pakistan is good at, it’s the production of novel absurdity. In current news, Tahir-ul-Qadri is rolling into town in another ridiculously farcical march, the Army has finally decided that the time for dialogue is over (#Zarb-e-Azb), and so on. In the background, minorities are still being persecuted (recently, someone stole an Ahmadi’s eid cow because what use does he have for it anyway?), women are being mistreated (a woman was raped and hung from a tree, another was killed in broad daylight in central Lahore for ‘honor’), mismanagement and heat has led to several deaths at Shahbaz Qalandars’ urs, the police decided to shoot TUQ supporters in Lahore (it was decided for them, more like), our wonderful leaders continue doing what they do (idiocy and corruption), conspiracy soup is constantly a-stirrin’, and so forth.

Same shit, different day.

The specifics may vary, but the game is as it ever was. And as a regular little citizen of this space, I have three options in retaliation:

1. Bitch about it: on Facebook, Twitter, to friends and family, and so forth. Worst option. Useless, helps no one, and causes one to get addicted to the act of bitching as a mechanism of escape. Downward spiralling predicted.

2. Do something about it: best option. Contribute in whichever way you can, live a life of service, look to give back, fight the good fight. Place in heaven guaranteed. A difficult life, but one worth living. Not for the faint of heart.

3. Keep calm and move on. Water off a duck’s back. Be a bulwark of selfish fortitude and strength against the riproaring tornado of hate and evil, and sally forth. Make your peace with it all. Don’t pretend to be anything you are not (don’t pretend to be from the #2. category if you aren’t: it is better to be true to your base self than to fake virtue).

I choose a combo of 2 and 3 (weighted more towards 3). To put it another way: contribute or keep moving. Don’t stop to taste the horseshit. Anything I have said, perhaps anything I will say, are simply specific applications of this general principle.

So there it is. I’ll come up with one more post, a compilation of previous brainfarts, while I figure out where this blog is headed. Until then, it’s back to being a darzi for me.

 

P.S.: If you want to check out my artwork, you can do so here.

P.P.S.: Stop watching animal porn, you weirdos.

Rehearsal

There is one show that we are all guaranteed to attend.

I did a couple of plays when I was younger. The process is the same: rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, until you fully embody the role you play. Until the actual performance is just another rehearsal, one you get to bow at the end of.

And there is one show that we are all guaranteed to attend. One in which we take center stage. Or center coffin, as it were.

The exact date is unannounced. Over here, it could be any minute. Just the other day a girl around my age was shot in her office in F-8, Islamabad. One minute she was contributing to the community, the next minute she was dead.

Over here, the flavors in which death presents itself are many. Booms, kabooms, ratatatats, illness, accidents, stress. This bothered me initially. In the States it is easy to ignore mortality; the system is effectively designed to make this so. The old and the sickly are shipped off  to keep them out of sight. The young ones are kept insanely distracted by flashy rat-races. The big wheel keeps turning, and people can almost forget the one show they are guaranteed to attend.

Not here. Here it’s in my face, poking away at my brain, forcing me to pay it attention. There is no rat-race, unless you subscribe to a career. There is mainly just a pit of people playing out their lives, waiting for death, toying with death, threatening each other with death. Living lives of suppressed and unspoken fear. 

It is this last part that didn’t sit well with me. If it is in fact the most inevitable thing a human being can face, then is fear really the most appropriate response? It’s natural of course. As biological entities our primary purpose is survival for as long as possible, for which the fear response to existential threats is a necessary defense mechanism. But given the wonders of the human imagination, and the incredible fuck-yous it has been giving to our basic biology since way back, is it the most appropriate response?

And so began the rehearsals. I’m not sure where the idea came from. I’ll put money on Dr. Steven Covey (RIP). The idea is to ‘die before you die’, as the Buddhists say. To imagine your death in great, excruciating detail. It is uncomfortable initially. It is meant to be. But as with all rehearsals, it gets easier. 

The first time I rehearsed I was teary eyed. The next time too. These days, not so much. But through the process profound changes have taken place. 

*

The process, roughly, is this:

Get comfortable and close your eyes. Imagine your funeral in your mind’s eye. In vivid detail. The time of day, the place, the setting. Imagine the people arriving. Imagine your dead body being brought in. Imagine the people settling down. The mood of the place. Imagine your loved ones, grieving. How many people are there? What are they sitting on? What smell fills the place?

The funeral starts. Imagine the molvi saying prayers for you. Imagine the people you care about. What are they saying about you? How do they remember you? What regrets do they have about you? How does your memory live on, on this rock in the depths of space?

Imagine them burying your body. Imagine all the people standing around your grave. Imagine the tombstone that is put up.

Imagine them leaving one by one. Imagine your grave out there, alone. Within it, bones .Yet the memory of you lingers on in the hearts of those you touched.

*

Much like light shines bright only because of the darkness around it, life is that much more wonderful only through the contemplation of death. Every moment, every breath, every incident, is perfect just as it is. Every event, every occurrence, every joy, every sorrow, is exactly as it is meant to be. Since death doesn’t have that tight a hold anymore, I am now free to actually live. ‘Important and unimportant’ are now realigned with the one absolute in this life. How I choose to spend each day as well. Compromise can go fuck itself. Making do too. It is all or nothing anymore. This makes people uncomfortable. But the only real thing that matters is being absolutely true to myself. The second most important thing is making an offering, or two, or ten, for the benefit of my species. But this is secondary.

This is a morbid topic, and one people are not comfortable openly talking about. We talk about death as though it is something unnatural and unholy. We talk about it indirectly, through news items and statistics and horror movies. “Tsk tsk” usually accompanies these discussions, or “OMG how scary!”. It is painted as something grisly, evil. Grim reaper evil. Each death we hear about makes us sad. Because we suddenly remember something we had been trying ever so hard to forget. This is all part of what it means to be human. 

RHlJ

Yet if you dig deep enough, it is the most natural thing in the world. It is just a different side of the same coin. Peeling away the layers, and seeing it for what it is, has made me see life for what it is too.  Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea and sink, says Shunryu Suzuki. So we may as well enjoy the ride.

Suppressing the fear of death is a fool’s errand. The fear exists, and it will keep manifesting in different areas of life. Most of the time by confining us to lesser lives than we ought to live. I urge everyone to read The Denial of Death. It will change the way you see the world.

Through the rehearsal of death, through it’s contemplation and complete acceptance, you may understand that this life isn’t the past, and it isn’t the future. It is right now. This moment, these breaths, this computer screen, these sounds. What you do with it is then entirely up to you. But forgetting this truth, or ignoring it, may just be the biggest waste of time you can indulge in.

And it is great. All I have to do now is live with  complete acceptance of the present moment. With an open mind, free mind. If there is fear, so be it. If there is joy, fine. Just jive with it, man. The only thing we can do is jump in and join the dance. No stories, no narratives, no justifications, no excuses. Just dance. Fully aware that the dance will end one day. 

It all comes with practice. I do the full-scale death rehearsal about once every fortnight. For the remaining days I remind myself of it whenever I feel myself losing perspective. Then the days are spent, as Zorba the Greek says, in sacred awe.

This has nothing to do with theologies and ideologies. This is more fundamental, more basic, more primitive. Just be. As powerfully and wholly and fully as you can, as true to your basic nature as you can, until you can no longer be. Everything else is just window dressing, distracting us from the truth. 

 

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. 

Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. 

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. 

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” – Steve Jobs

Two Years Hence

Sheep-Big-City-07

A little over two years ago I hopped on a plane in Washington DC to go back to Pakistan. After four years, I was going home.

I remember looking out the plane window when we were in sight of Islamabad and seeing the darkness below. Just a few lights glowed in the black murk. It reminded me of a Stephen King book. The Langoliers, maybe.

I remember offering the security clearance fellow a broad smile, a mistake which kept me waiting for fifteen minutes as he chatted with his cronies, because I was clearly not a ‘saab’ so not deserving of his attention.

I remember seeing an old man sitting on the floor outside the airport terminal, blind and begging for alms, a mangy dog sniffing at his feet.

There was a gloom in the air, a despondency, thick and heavy like tar, through which everyone struggled without realizing it. Family members told me their tales of woe. Friends who I reconnected with were not the same. People were confidently spouting whichever lie they could best use to reconcile their lot in life. Everything was different from what I remembered. Or maybe it was me who had changed.

I remember driving through Peshawar and seeing utter despair on everyone’s face. This was back when suicide bombings were rampant. Two days in the city, and the only smile I saw was one a mother gave to her infant child in the back of a van as I drove past. That gave me some hope: mankind may fuck itself up, but the things that really matter will still prevail.

I remember standing at a red light in Islamabad and being jarred out of my train of thought by the beggar with the hunchback and deformed arms, or the other one with no legs who ‘walked’ on his hands. I looked around to see what other people in other cars were doing about this. Seems like pokerfaced ignorance was the call of the day. I remember the little Pathan beggar girls, the youngest no older than 3, scurrying around stopped cars with palms raised, like Munchkins. I remember a statistic someone had mentioned to me about beggars and child rape. I drove out of there as fast as I could.

Every street, every shopping mall, every fancy cafe, every pocket of affluence was marked by the simple, silent demands of the masses. An old man here, a little girl there, their clothes ragged and torn, their eyes hollow, constantly keeping us from reveling in our upper-class excesses. I looked around at others my age, my status, and realized that no one had any real answers. Ignorance was bliss. Everyone focused on their little lives and lost themselves to unnecessary intricacies. People lost themselves to whichever addiction kept them from facing it all. The women here live lives of quiet desperation. The men keep their heads down and plod along like mules, not daring to draw attention to themselves. The dream for women is to find decent men and have babies. The dream for men is to become corporate wage-slaves and make do. Its a bullshit system, but many accept it because that’s just how it goes over here.

And a simple question haunted me relentlessly: Is this it?

My soul was dying. Not only because things were so bad here, but because everyone had so readily accepted it all.

It took me months to heal. Months spent in solitary confinement, reading books and digesting information and looking for answers, occasionally meeting up with friends to keep from going totally insane. I was sick for a long time, over five weeks, bedridden, disoriented, in the fucking pits. There were times I would wake up in cold sweats, screaming.

I was the eldest son, the smart kid with the bright future, the PhD student in America. Now I was the has-been, the quitter, the loner who hides in his room all day, the anti-social asshole. No one here could possibly understand. And this place, with its contradictions and despair and sadness, a struggling, lumbering, diseased beast upon which I now rode, I could not possibly understand.

So I moved deeper into my solitude. I studied meditation and religion and psychology and neuro-linguistic programming. I connected with like-minded people, people who were rising above their circumstances and doing something with their lives. Inch by little inch, I found my basic freedom. I moved to Abbottabad and got lost to the ambivalent silence of nature. I returned to my most primal humanity and disconnected from this dualistic, broken society. I sat in green fields and observed the simple beauty of nature, the perfection with which every blade of grass and flower and leaf and bee conducted themselves, and I wept because I thought I mattered. I climbed the mountain behind my home and looked out at the white, dirty, concrete maze which was the city, and the bright, secretive, non-judgmental blue sky above, and I laughed at the folly of all men, confident and secure in their boxes, oblivious to reality.

I lost myself and got that much closer to salvation.

Out there in the wilderness I learned that love conquers all. Love of one’s true nature, of other beings, of everything perceptible and imperceptible, of the moment. Like the woman smiling at her child in the back of a van while all else is in turmoil.

I realigned myself with those ancient forces. With the grass beneath my feet and the stars above my head. Everything man-made ceased to matter. Both the excessive bling of the States and the base despair of Pakistan. The question had been answered: the world is a sum total of what you are able to perceive. More importantly, it is a sum total of what you choose to perceive. Nothing more, nothing less.

I gave myself up to the absolute fundamentals of life. If I were to die today, it would not matter.

Now I chat with beggars with abandon. We share food. I high-five the little girls. One day one of them offered me ice cream. One day I offered one of them coffee. I can not solve anyone’s problems for them, but I can still offer them my love.

icecream

I wanted to have these conversations with people. I wanted people to know that there are other ways out of the apathy. They just have to be brave enough to find them. But it is difficult discussing these things in person; people are too set in this ways. So I started this blog. I wanted to share my little story, hoping that it may inspire people to find theirs.

And it has been two years since I’ve been back.

I’m not fully there yet, but I’m close. Every morning I wake up with a sense of adventure. I can’t be bothered with social drama anymore. I can’t be bothered with upperclassmen’s complaints about their petty problems. I no longer watch TV. I can’t be bothered with fear, danger, harm, threat. All I have is my work. All I have is right now, and whether I can fight off the hate for another moment.

Back to work I go. =)

 

Thank You Aitzaz Hasan

aitzaz-hasan

For teaching me what it means to be a human being. For jarring me out of my overpriced, overprivileged stupor and reminding me of what’s important. For being the bravest fuckin person I will never meet.

When you’re mentioned in the news or social media it’s to push some narrative or the other: PTI supporters link your death to the drone strikes, anti-PTI supporters to PTI’s lack of action against the Taliban, you are labeled as being so much more heroic than that stupid Malala, the government is blamed for not honoring you fast enough, and on and on, until all possible permutations from within the quagmire of Pakistani politics are exhausted. The media vultures squaw at each other around these issues on their high pitched, rabid talk shows, and ask ‘what more could we have done’, when really all they mean is ‘how do we twist this story to further the narrative we’re getting paid for’. And of course, suicide bombers the world over are way pissed at you.

But that’s typical. Everyone just wants to push forward their own agendas, for which you are but a dead pawn, a talking point, a showpiece. They miss the real magic of what you were all about, because in their insular pursuit of ‘The Story’, they’ve forgotten what humanity means. They obfuscate the real lessons in an attempt to put the next guy down.

Because the truth, at it’s bare-bones, is that you were simply a kid, man. A 9th grader. Yet a total rockstar. I’ve always known people like you were out there, kings and queens and giants amongst men, toiling away in little towns, accepting your lot in life, yet putting the rest of us to total shame just by virtue of your rockstarness. Of course all we can do is chatter about the ‘Big Picture’. We find it too hard to come to terms with the incredible nature of your basic humanity.

You saved your friends by tackling a suicide bomber and forcing him to detonate.

That blows my mind. I can see it now, big kid that you were, one bearhug from you would have stopped that bastard in his tracks. He had no other option but premature detonation. And that was that for the both of you. Disaster averted, mission failed, hero lost.

I’ve put myself in your shoes many times. And truth be told, I would not have done what you did. I would have made noise, made some phone calls to friends inside to get out, but kept my distance. I would have assisted in the relief effort later on, dragging bodies out of the rubble. I would have attended the funerals of my class-fellows, my teachers, my friends. I would have lingered on, scarred for the rest of my days by the haunting sense that I could have done more.

But you, you saved your friends by tackling a suicide bomber and forcing him to detonate.

I have no words for that. Thinking about it fills me with pride and leaves me teary eyed at the same time. You represent the best of the best of what this country can produce, kid from 9th grade from a school in Hangu. And you are no more.

So all I can say is thank you, Aitzaz Hasan. Thank you for giving me hope and reminding me that bowing down or fighting is the only thing we have to decide when faced with conflict. Thank you for teaching me what’s important in this little fart of a life: courage, goodness, selflessness, loyalty, friendship. And what’s unimportant: ego, selfishness, material gains, petty disputes, fear. Thank you for reminding me of everything I love about the Pashtuns, those human cocktails of brash, valiant positive energy. Thank you for giving me something to aspire to.

If I am ever in that situation I’m going to do what you did, Aitzaz. Simply to honor the memory of the bravest fuckin’ human I will never meet.

Rest in peace my brother. You earned it.

Beginner’s Mind

kid chillin

I had a brilliant Chinese professor during the PhD days. He used to mix Eastern wisdom with his teaching of finite element modeling, quantum mechanics, material sciences, and other equally titillating engineering subjects. Those old adages were the only thing that kept me from jumping out the classroom window.

One of his favorites was the Zen concept of beginner’s mind. “You must approach this lesson with beginner’s mind,” he would often say, staring squarely at the PhD student in the front row with gray hair, “no matter how much you think you already know.”

That philosophy got me through his classes swimmingly. Because we used to be discussing things like microscopic models of various materials, and hypothesizing about how cracks would pass through them based on mathematical equations and Greek symbols alone. If I stopped to wonder what the fuck I was doing for even a second the dance was over. The only way forward was with beginner’s mind, or Shoshin.

It’s a simple concept, and one which has held me in good stead post-incomplete-PhD as well. It may well be the greatest lesson I learned from that stint: by shaving away everything I think I know, and escaping the mental labyrinths I’ve built up over the years, by moving forward as though I am doing so for the very first time, I remain open to receiving true learning.

Because it’s basically true. No matter what I think I know about the world and how much knowledge I may have saved up,  every moment that I experience is completely new to me. To use a staircase analogy, no matter how far up a staircase I get, each next step I take is unique. It makes sense to treat it as such.

I used to do the opposite: connect events from present to past, make comparisons, create this-or-that boxes in which events or people or concepts were placed, categorize everything that happened around me to build up a repository of meaningless nonsense in my head, live in a hazy soup of past-present-future, all the while denying myself the only chance I’ll get of fully experiencing the present moment. No so much anymore. Unless you’re skilled at juggling the two, which I’m not, you’ll end up trapped in a mental maze of your own creation. Only that will be perceived which can be connected to your preexisting mental models. All else will be sidelined as ‘unimportant’, simply because you haven’t constructed a box within which to place it. To paraphrase Alan Watts, the world will simply be a Rorschach inkblot: you’ll see what you want to see.

The cerebral ones amongst us will remedy this by constructing more and more boxes, expanding their reserves within to more effectively cater to the world without. But even though those exercises are helpful, no model can completely define reality. They’ll always remain incomplete, fun mental constructs to help navigate reality. Newtonian and Einsteinian physics. Science and Religion. God and multiverse probabilities. Evolution and creationism. Strings and quanta. And on and on. Even worse, every person we meet will be labeled, compared to an archetype, placed in a box, based on Jung, Myers-Brigg, astrology, age, background, riches. We cut them down to a prescription personality, and then look for characteristics that match our box while ignoring everything that doesn’t.  Some of us will see the tenuous world of symbols for what it is. Many of us will live out our lives within that world without ever realizing it, greatly inhibiting personal growth. I was there.

These days I’m trying to destroy all boxes. I’m trying to stay a beginner no matter what. That was the ethos driving everything I did in 2013, and the journey will continue in 2014. Meditation, mindfulness, exercise, writing, reading, following of passions, honesty, righteousness – all to remain in the moment – will continue.

This does not mean being a total idiot and YOLO-ing it all away. One of the main aspects of my journey is continuous self-education – because the more boxes you have, the more boxes you have to break. It does mean cultivating and practicing beginner’s mind, remaining open to new ideas and opinions and viewpoints, unsubscribing from absolutes and dogmas and the false comfort of ‘having it all figured out’.

Because time is short and moments are few. The the last thing I want to do is cockblock myself from full experience. The best way to do that is to approach every situation as a total noob, like a child, looking upon it for the first time. Doing anything else would simply be a limiting lie.

Do Your Work

‘Injustices’ have been happening since man first began measuring time. This is simply the result of a conflict between our ideas of what should be and the nature of what truly is. This is why we are so appalled each time we hear of unnatural or premature deaths. We find it difficult to mentally reconcile freak occurences because we like to believe in underlying order, cause and effect, cosmic determinism, and so on. But the hard truth is that shit happens, and it will continue to do so. What’s left then is how we deal with it. 

And we have to deal with an inordinate amount of shit over here. Bombs, suicide attacks, ethnic, religious, cultural, class-based strifes, corruption, chaos, bitterness, fear, apathy, greed, etc. Anything that isn’t directly a part of our lives is pushed in our faces by the ever vigilant media outlets, whose sole purpose seems to be to make us feel bad. For the most part they are successful. The past couple of decades have been rough, because the free flow of information has fully revealed to us what a quagmire we are really in. It used to be easier to ignore problems in the days of PTV and printed newspapers, and we could go about with our hedonistic lives in comfort. Nowadays all the crap that we’ve piled upon ourselves is inescapable.

It has now come to a point where we are exposed to such unspeakable, unjustifiable, unacceptable daily occurrences that we have to take notice. One can’t sit still anymore, one has to speak out or take action against the evil that one sees. This is basic human nature. The problem is that our ‘speaking out and taking action’ is almost entirely useless.

The internet is partially to blame; it has made it too easy to be lazily compassionate. We’ll put up Facebook status updates of indignation, share pictures of bloody kids out of context, get on Express Tribune blog posts and write long-winded hate comments.

And if that’s not enough, we’ll blame each other for the atrocities that we see: upper class blames the poor, conservatives blame liberals, populists blame the government, Shias blame Sunnis, Muslims blame minorities, and when all else fails, we’ll blame the unseen, unheard forces beyond our control: the fahaash, evil empire of the West.

And then we can breathe easy. Because we’ve sort of rationalized the evil, deflected it out of our lives, put it in a neat little box, washed our hands of any responsibility. All that evil goes back to being disconnected images playing out on our television sets. It isn’t our problem anymore, we’ve done our part. We’ve talked.

But this attitude is fucking us up pretty bad.

Evil exists. It will always exist. But that doesn’t mean that we should sit around and mope and whine and talk about it. All that we can do is accept it, and then take action despite it. Talking about the evil helps no one. Pointing fingers helps no one. The only way to blot it out is through action.

Here is an alternative way of looking at it. This is going to sound a bit strange at first but bear with me:

Evil is an essential force in this world. 

Everything in the universe is relative. Everything exists in contrast to something else. Tall is tall because it is compared to short. And good can come into being only when there is evil to compare it to.

Deep down we know this. But it seems like the message has been lost of late.

If all we can do is sit around and talk, evil wins. If we let it affect our reality, and we get sad and mopey because of events we hear about that don’t directly concern us, evil wins.

The only way that evil doesn’t win is to do your work regardless. Acknowledge evil is there, and be a force of good against it. Less talk, more action.

If you think talking about it will make it go away, you are useless. You are nothing more than a commentator, a reminder of the problem. You are not part of the solution. It isn’t enough to simply voice your opinion.

But then what is enough? There are so many problems, there is so much madness, there are so many issues to deal with. What can one person possibly do?!

Simply this: do your work. Do that which is unique to you, do it with all the love and energy and good that you can do it with. Push forward in spite of the evil around you.

Remember that one story in a thousand that you hear about, which actually warms your heart instead of making you feel bad? Be that story in your own unique way.

The reason we love Edhi is because he did exactly this. He saw the evil around him, he acknowledged it, and then he became a force of good against it. He started small, much smaller than the evil around him, but he did not falter, and he did not stop. And he has done more than a thousand men combined. 

Now he is revered, and rightly so. But instead of learning from him and using him as a role model, all we seem to be worried about is why the West doesn’t love him as much as we do. All we can muster up is more commentary.

Tribute sketch I made for the great man a while back

Tribute sketch I made for the great man a while back

Do your work. Don’t pay attention to what doesn’t concern you. Your faux compassion for the victims of FATA drone strikes is utterly insignificant. Your Facebook statuses of indignation change absolutely nothing. Your feeling bad because evil exists is a selfish feeling borne more of guilt than compassion. Just do your work, contribute however you can, devote yourself to your trade, craft, passion, or faith, and carry your own torch as far as you can against the darkness. 

I am working towards making contributions in my own small way. I’m teaching kids in Abbotabad Engineering coursework from MIT’s curriculum (and they are doing very well). I’m participating in campaigns for NGO’s, trying to use my artwork to forward a positive message. I’m in the process of launching a Tshirt brand which is geared towards embracing our quirky, silly sense of nationalism. Because levity and laughter are essential; evil does not like these forces since they are stronger than it. And I’m working on a couple of art exhibitions which will promote a slightly different narrative than the norm. 

None of these sound like revolutionary steps. They aren’t. They are simply what I want to do at the present, how I best think my individual talents can be used over here. And that is all any of us should aim to do. Use our individual talents to contribute in our individual ways. Less talk, more work.

This may sound like airy fairy bullshit to some of you, and so be it. You needn’t come back to this blog again. But if you agree, go out and do likewise. Be the change you want to see, rather than just talking about it. It kills me to see the commentary, in person and especially in the Comments section of various publications. Especially since people think they are actually helping.

You aren’t. Talk is essentially useless. Just do your work.

Laugh Motherducker !

laughcat

A beggar will go up to a car sadly, plead, whine, mewl. The driver will stare at her sadly, then drop some money in her hand. She will walk away sadly and he will drive away sadly. A bunch of teenagers will hang out sadly, and between “yaars” and “bros” will commiserate with each other about how sad life is. A gaggle of housewives will sit down behind expensive china, and sadly talk about how shitty their husbands and lives are, with a little servant boy sadly bringing them pastries, while in the background HumTV sadly tells them what to think. Waiters, shopkeepers, businessmen, news anchors, cricket players, even the Prime Minister, will always look perpetually sad and despondent. And most of the time they aren’t even faking it.

This place has become one big pity party. Everyone is sad, and comfortable being so. Almost every social transaction is undertaken beneath the umbrella of gloom and depression, so that you are actually worse off for having reached out to another human being in many cases. Simply put, sad people will make you sadder. It’s infectious, and more harmful than a zombie outbreak. Over here it’s considered a normal, accepted way of being. Happiness is looked upon as weirdness. If you laugh too much, or too loudly, people will give you funny looks. You better shut the fuck up with your happiness, their eyes warn. Be miserable like the rest of us.

This is just not good enough.

The poor are sad because the nature of their daily trials don’t allow them the luxury of mirth. Fair enough. The more well-to-do are sad because the poor are poor. We don’t want to be that asshole – laughing and joking while the country burns. So the big lie we feed ourselves is that our sadness is justified; that it counts for something. Look at me, I am commiserating. Boo fucking hoo. I am showing solidarity with my fellow brethren. Now excuse me while I sadly eat some more samosas and sadly play on my iPad and leave sad comments on social media.

We also play sad because life is cheap here; just about anyone is expendable. Personal safety is simply not guaranteed. And that’s a pretty sad notion. Let’s just keep our heads down to up our survival rate; that crazy person who is super exuberant and joyful is going to get it one of these days, we say to ourselves. We are simply being realistic.

But both of these notions, and any others that lead to the same behavior, are wrongheaded lies. Your being sad doesn’t help the poor of this country. Your being sad certainly doesn’t improve your odds of escaping the fickleness of fate. All your being sad accomplishes is your sadness. It is a selfish, vicious cycle which loves to feed off itself; before you know it, the years in your life and the life in your years have been wholly consumed by your sadness. And then you can die sadly.

Because being perpetually sad is unnatural. Man was designed to laugh and make merry, it’s a critical aspect of being human. I’m not saying we should all start crazy happy laughing frolicking and running around (even though more of that would be beautiful to see) – but I am saying that sad people are fucking useless; they are too busy being sad to get anything done. If you think you are helping by commiserating, then that is you being silly. Which isn’t really a surprise, because sad people are silly people.

Consider the alternative for a moment: to be brave enough to be happy, joyful, appreciative of life, no matter what pile of poop smacks you in the face. This is a more difficult option – choosing love is always more difficult than choosing fear – but it is infinitely more effective. Because let’s face it: most of our problems aren’t really that bad, we’ve just gotten comfortable complaining about meaningless shit. All of us, boys and girls, men and women alike, have started acting like arthritic aunties, scrambling past each other to see who can woe-is-me our lives away faster. And as for the real, pertinent problems that we do have: those will only be solved by action, not by pity or guilt or misery.

A friend of mine very rightly says that it has gotten fashionable to be depressed over here. That’s the persona many well-to-do and well-off people, especially youngsters, will adopt, because it fits the cultural narrative. But it’s a bullshit, debilitating character to embody. It helps absolutely no one, except maybe hash dealers.

The Law of Attraction has been built up a lot, but at its basics its a poetic description of a simple human concept: our brains operate on patterns, and sift through external information based on whichever pattern is activated within. If you think the world around you is shitty and sad and mean to you, you’ll find evidence for that wherever you look. But if you dig deeper and search for love and happiness and courage and beauty, you’ll find evidence for that too, often in the most surprising places. Including within.

So laugh motherfucker. It’s all going to be over soon anyways. Do yourself and those around you a favor and stop being so sullen. Make mistakes, get hurt, laugh it off, rinse and repeat. Taking yourself, or this life, too seriously, may well be the greatest waste of time. Let go of your need for control. That is all a lie anyway. Instead, offer all that you can to the world, every ounce, every kernel, every nugget, instead of sitting around complaining about how little the world offers you. You might just make a difference that way, and you’ll have some fun doing it too.