One of the most boring days of my previous job ended with one of the most glorious set of clouds that I have ever seen, I only took this one picture that day.

Live life with your head in the clouds

I don’t recall the exact timeline,
since when I have been looking up at the skies and enjoying the view,
the great brush strokes of a painter called Nature,
that is quite creative in her trade,
and though she is whimsical in nature,
as on some occasions she picks up soul searing hues,
but by far her favorites in the palette,
are the soul endearing whites and blues.

And these few lines that just came to my mind basically sum things up.
To quote what I shared around last year-

A pointless activity which is why it is so important. Cloud Watching.

You don’t need to plan an exotic trip to find creative inspiration. Just look up, says Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society. As he shares charming photos of nature’s finest aerial architecture, Pretor-Pinney calls for us all to take a step off the digital treadmill, lie back and admire the beauty in the sky above.

Live life with your head in the clouds.

I highly recommend that you watch the following TedTalk and see the images that he shows for yourself.

Here are few of the pictures that I hope you would enjoy watching.

 

Dog dashes away

WP_20150402_003The dog comes sniffing around the restaurant. A boy who works in sees it, goes in and brings the bones and leftovers on a newspaper. Dog sees the boy coming his way, he dashes away, No! not shy away, dashes away. Boy leaves the leftovers on the ground. Dog comes back sniffing and then digs into it, cleans the paper to the extent that you can read whatever sordid information that was printed on it.

This is how we are.

See. The dog is used to being cursed, beaten with sticks and having stones pelted at it. So that was his natural response, to make a run for it when he saw the boy coming towards it. Maybe he isn’t used to have people coming towards him to give something, maybe he was, but then the world taught him how it would be.

Similarly. We are used to being cheated, lied, and some poor folks, even abused (in whichever way you understand this word). So when someones comes towards us, our first response is to make a run for it. It wasn’t always like this, we also trusted others, we thought in our naivety that I haven’t done anything wrong to this person, why would he do wrong to me. But as the world taught the dog, same way the world taught you.

Don’t Trust.

tumblr_lrxb4pCIww1r19e2io1_500What’s in it for this person coming towards me, approaching me, what does he/she wants for me.

This is an unhealthy way to live for you aren’t an island.
Oh yes you are.
For those who put up with the world, don’t give up the good fight as Paulo said. The world teaches you the secret.

Trust but Verify.

You give access to few. You have trusted them with your past, you are trusting them with your present, and you will trust them with your future. You will make space for few more, some would eventually leave, some you would have to kick out.

But, that’s life.

Duma Key

People who know me know that I am not a big fan of the paranormal/horror genre, so the question arises as to why would I buy a Stephen King book. Well, to be honest, I bought it because I found it dirt cheap. We had a book fair in the city last year and as I was checking the books in the cheap books section (mostly used books) I came across this, checked it up on Goodreads, taken.

Now I did know about the fame of Stephen King as a master story teller, I have watched The Shawshank Redemption which is numero uno in the Top 250 IMDb list, and then I have also watched The Green Mile. I also had prior knowledge of the scaring prowess of Mr. King, having heard it from brother Abdur Raheem Green in his How I Came to Islam lecture that he wasn’t able to sleep after finishing Carrie. And that’s how I picked it up and boy I made the right decision. I absolutely loved reading this book.Duma Key

This is a paranormal thriller with a dash of mild horror so I will not divulge much as I dare not give any leads that will ruin someone’s book reading experience.

The lead character, Edgar Freemantle, is a major big shot in the building and contracting business, living a quality life with his wife and two daughters that don’t live with him. Then he met with an accident at his construction site, that accident destroys him and his smooth sailing life, and things go south drastically. To escape all this he takes the advice of going away to a different place to rebuild his broken self and his broken life.

We all came here to dig for treasure.

Presented just before the opening section, you understand them deeply in the context of the book, but the poem really struck me from an Islamic perspective. Magnificent.

Of all the places a man with his kind of financial worth can go to lay down, he decides on going to Duma Key, or is it a illusion of making a decision. As Wireman would say, “We fool ourselves so much we could do it for a living”. You will hear about Wireman quite early even before you meet him. Wireman is an interesting character, one in whose name you can easily slip a ‘s’ in the place of ‘r’ and voila! Wiseman.

There is something strange on Duma Key and it effects the lives of the few people who inhabit it and the lives of the people who are part of the lives of the people who inhabit Duma Key.
The characters in this book are skilfully brushed out and one is able to easily build a connection with them.

Some people whom I told about the book were not able to understand what the ‘Key’ means in ‘Duma Key’. So for them, lmgtfy.
“Cay, also spelled key, a small, low-elevation, sandy island formed on the surface of a coral reef”.Duma Key

I will leave the rest for you to discover, to unfold the mystery of Duma Key, to share some rare happy moments, to blank out after getting tired of the pain, to pick up a brush and start to paint, to see the distant horizon,  to see the Sun setting, to see the Sun rising, to see a man’s failure, to see a father’s triumph, to see a girl’s bravery, for all that and more, I give you Duma Key.

“If I kept saying it; if I kept reaching out. My accident really taught me just one thing: the only way to go on is to go on. To say ‘I can do this’ even when you know you can’t.”

“Talent is a wonderful thing, but it won’t carry a quitter. ”

“I realized the shells were talking in a voice I recognized. I should have; it was my own. Had I always known that? I suppose I had. On some level, unless we’re mad, I think most of us know the various voices of our own imaginations.

And of our memories, of course. They have voices, too. Ask anyone who has ever lost a limb or a child or a long-cherished dream. Ask anyone who blames himself for a bad decision, usually made in a raw instant (an instant that is most commonly red). Our memories have voices, too. Often sad ones that clamor like raised arms in the dark.”

“Life is like Friday on a soap opera. It gives you the illusion that everything is going to wrap up, and then the same old shit starts up on Monday.”

“A person’s memory is everything, really. Memory is identity. It’s you.”

“In the end we always wear out our worries. That’s what Wireman says.”

“Clear communication between selves – the surface self and the deep self – is the enemy of self-doubt. It slays confusion.”

There is plenty more where this came from, Duma Key is indeed a masterpiece and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who found the above interesting.
Will I pick up some other paperback by Stephen King? Insha’Allah, yes, not any time soon though. Peace Out.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Reading some classics now and then is a great joy in itself, they are from an era long gone, but the message still connects with people. As mentioned in an excellent article that I read on The Art of Manliness, “This is partly what turns great books into classics. They ultimately speak to the most basic truths of humanity in story form.”, and this book truly stands out in this regard.

I read the book through the Kindle App on my Nexus 7 (2012), started reading it around 2nd or 3rd Jan and finished it today. It had been on my reading list for a while. I first found it on the 100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Man’s Library, many of the books on this list are on my next to pick up list, and some of them I have already read. The best part is that a good number of the books mentioned here are available for free on Kindle Store and Project Gutenberg.

Note that this is not a review or critique of the book, rather my thoughts and what I felt while reading the book, and this may contain spoiler, depending upon how sensitive a reader you are.

The-Picture-of-Dorian-GrayThe book is written in an exquisite manner and wit oozes out of its chapters. The story by Oscar Wilde was first published in the year 1890 and the language is of that time. Though not many people care for dense phrases and complex sentences, the book is an easy read, the plot though quite known,  a beautiful young man, Dorian Gray, upon seeing a portrait of his made by his painter friend, in pursuit of vanity, wished that he always remain as young as the picture in front him, and that the portrait bears the signs of his age. And so it happens.

“How sad it is!” murmured Dorian Gray with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. “How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June…. If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that—for that—I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!”

There are two more important characters in the story and it is around them that the plot moves and the narration flows.

The painter, Basil Hallward, an individual with deep rooted moral beliefs, finds Dorian to be a great inspiration that has helped him find his best form as an artist.

The painter’s friend, Lord Henry, an eloquent cynic, and a firm promoter of  hedonistic thought and way of life.

While I was reading the book, a hadith (saying) of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) came to my mind. ‘A man is upon the Deen (way of life) of his close friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.’. One of the axiom that I have always held on to is that “It is better to be in good company than to be alone, but, it is better to be alone than to be in bad company”.

I read a good chunk of the book today, the last eight chapters, and another thought came to my mind.
‘So when the devil wants to dance with you, you better say never
Because a dance with the devil might last you forever’.
This piece of lyric is from the song “Dance With The Devil” by Immortal Technique, a song that sent a shiver down my spine, you can read the lyrics here and I don’t recommend listening to the song.

The strange part is that I remember reading this book in the form of a short story as child in my early school days, though what a dark tragedy it is, not many could guess. In some sections, I was able to see what was going to unfold next but there were also some dreadful moments that I didn’t perceive.

This book is also a goldmine in terms of quotes and epigrams,

“He says things that annoy me. He gives me good advice.”
Lord Henry smiled. “People are very fond of giving away what they need most themselves. It is what I call the depth of generosity.”

“Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.”

“Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever. It is a meaningless word, too. The only difference between a caprice and a life-long passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.”

“You like every one; that is to say, you are indifferent to every one.”

“It is the stupid and the ugly who have the best of it in this world”

“They get up early, because they have so much to do, and go to bed early, because they have so little to think about. ”

few of the many gems that you will find inside.

I highly enjoyed reading this fascinating book and recommend it to my fellow readers. It will make you chuckle, it will make you sad, but most importantly, it will make you Think, Ponder, and Reflect.

If-

If, this two letter word is a conjunction that does what conjunctions do, that is, connect words, sentences,  phrases or clauses. If introduces a condition.
I don’t want to give you a grammar lesson but if you keep this stuff in mind, what is to come will give you much delight.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

If you would like to get a better feel of it, kindly listen to the recitation by Sir Michael Caine, the butler in the Dark Night Trilogy, not a problem, I won’t judge you, I also did not know his name.

This poem has fascinated me, I heard it couple of years back, though it seems to be a standard poem that is taught in schools. I don’t remember learning it in school but that does not tell much as no one remembers much of what they learn in school.

Before we go any further, I would like you to recite the poem and I will be doing the same.

How does it feel? I can tell you how it feels to me, Splendid.
As you would have understood by now, in the poem a father is giving advice to his son. One can also say that a wise elder is giving advise to someone who would be the age of his son. The sublime wisdom that is contained in the words after every If is sheer genius.

Every If as I mentioned above introduces a condition. Are the conditions easy to meet or hard? Hard. To meet them one must develop a certain amount of self-control and as you may already know, this is not easy.

First of all, in this day and age, not many people care about what all Kipling mentioned above. The thought that one needs to control the Self, to put a check on one’s emotions and desires, for many is not worth their time and some may even take offense as they would find it to be an intrusion in their way of life.

Secondly, it is a difficult path to tread. For people suffering from the shortsightedness of instant gratification, those who are accustomed to choose now over tomorrow will not go far on this road.

But If you stay on this path, no matter how many times you slip, you fall, you give into your weaknesses but you hold on, you get up and walk, and if you can’t do that you still crawl, then truly as the poet said, ‘Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.’.

To begin and live each day with the intention that you will become a better person than what you were yesterday, that is the meaning to be alive, a life worth living.

Controlling one’s desires is not easy but I would like to mention what Ibn al-Jawzi said in his book Disciplining the Soul:

Chapter Two: Dispraise of Hawa (desires)

“Desire or Hawa is the inclination of one’s nature to what suits it. This is not a matter for concern when what is sought is lawful. However, it must be dispraised when it is used to pursue impermissible acts or indulge in excess.

We should know that part of our inner self is intellectual, the virtue of which is wisdom, the vice of which is ignorance. Part of it is elicited, the virtue of which is poignancy, the vice of which is cowardice. Part of it is lustful, the virtue of which is chastity and the vice of which is unrestrained Hawa.

Restraining oneself and practicing patience in the face of vice is a merit of the inner self, and through it a person can endure both goodness and evil. Whoever lacks patience and allows their Hawa to lead their mind has been made the subject of their own desires. Ultimately, even if they were to get all the things that they desire, they will be harmed by them instead of benefiting from them, and experience sadness where they expected happiness to be.

Human beings are favoured over animals because of the intelligence or their mind. The mind is designated to enable us to retrain ourselves from following our desires. Therefore when one rejects both Divine commandments and the better judgement of their own mind in order to follow their desires, they become no better than animal.

A person of sound mind should comprehend that enduring hardship when contradicting their Hawa is easier than enduring what comes from following it. Know that the example of Hawa is like a rampant flowing water leading the ship of one’s nature. If we allow Hawa to lead our actions it will take us into troubled waters. Contemplating these matters makes it easier for us to reject the callings of our Hawa.”


In case you would like to read a brief explanation of the poem, check this. I hope that you found this article interesting and beneficial. I make dua that first and foremost I am able to take benefit from it and apply it to myself, May Allah (God) make us sincere in our effort and forgive us for our shortcomings, Ameen.

Keep Calm and  Carry On.