October 31, 2012

Fear is the key!

Continuing from my recent blog “Darkness keeps fear intact”, let's look at fear being the prime disrupter of society. When we are free from fear life’s blessings can be truly enjoyed - freedom will prevail and creative endeavors can be attempted. Fear keeps us bound, for fear has a source that that keeps us transfixed into a situation that we feel we are helpless to breach; a situation that straps us into state of learned helplessness in regard to fear because the majority of the fears we harbor in our lives is not material, but imagined -- those buried deep within us in our psyche. How many times do we have to confront physical (material) fears such as a natural disaster, a motor vehicle accident, a tree falling over us, or have to confront a lion or a snake in our living environment? Of course, there are many such of the latter in human form we may encounter and that vicarious fear lingers even in regard to these human manifestations.

However, what I am talking about here are the fears we have nurtured over the course of our lives that hide in our sub-conscious, and those that arise into our consciousness whenever we are challenged in life in whatever way, or are used by despots and other bad guys in our system when they wish to desecrate our God-given rights or want us kept in the bind. Our ignorance of the source of this fear, or even when we discover this, the fact that most times we don’t want to confront these, keep us snared. Why is this? It is because our ego whispers to us that our self concept will be lost if we try to meddle. And so we let the ego have its way, and we continue to be kept its prisoner.

So this fear has to be confronted if we are to get out of this mental prison. Once we know the content of the fear we can grapple with it practically or we might find that this was actually nothing to fear after all. Fear arises out of a seeming state of dependence on something (an object, a person, a benefit or such thing that the ego desires so desperately – objects that we are attached to; those items or aspects of our lives we think we cannot live without!). Our ego makes us believe that if we lose these objects of our attachment, we will become nothing of any importance. So the ego, through it inherent guile, keeps us tempted in this state of self importance and experience of a false-paradise, using our fear as the opening to its tantalizations; this is the prison of pleasure, and helplessness. In our hedonism, we may in fact revel in this ‘bliss’ because our minds are so bound-up in a time-warp, do not seek to move beyond this world of pretense that we have deemed as our one and only reality. We fear our parents, our bosses, our wives, husbands, our friends, and even our servants (in our meager households or in lofty political posts); in this present time of affluence and materialism, such intense dependence prevails, for many of us in this present generation, having been nurtured by doting parents in the lap of indolence, have lost our ability to perform even the most mundane of life chores in our households and need servants to do these for us. Such is the dependence that fuels our fear.

Actually if we really reflect on the sources and content of our fears, at least 90 percent will fall in this category of mental fears that we have conjured up within ourselves – figments of our imagination, that bear no practical truth. Some call these fears insecurities. And so, if we can discover the flimsiness of these fears, such a big part of our worries in our lives will quickly vanish. The 10 percent that is left over can be tackled wisely and practically. So, imagine how much of energy within ourselves we can liberate through this awareness, and how we can use this in the service to mankind; to enable our nations and communities and our families to bring the harmony we so wish for, yet are unable to because we are all so mired in our fears and insecurities. Democracy can enter only when fear makes the exit! 

October 29, 2012

Nature abhors a vacuum

Nature does not allow a vacuum be, something will always fill it. Like a straw pulling in the liquid from your soda pop or the wind rushing in to take the place of low pressure created by the rising heat waves from a warmed up earth to cause our daily environmental variances, we may say nature abhors a vacuum. While this relates to the physical environment, we may liken this to our mental and spiritual environment too. An idle mind is the potential vacuum there. And we can be sure idle minds cannot remain idle for long as some ambient idea or fashion will soon occupy it. This is the gist of my focus with the soda pop and the weather being just the allegory.

An idle mind is the devil’s playground” goes an old saying. This means that if you have no particular goal in mind, you can be easily distracted. And mind you, old sayings have a lot of wisdom in them!

Our societies are brimming with ideas, fashions and philosophies, and these days they are closer to us than they have ever been; thanks to the information age. A lot of this is brewing around us in society’s cauldron of thoughts waiting for us to drink from. We have choice and we become responsible to that which we make; and there are very few second chances to fall back on. The idle mind is thus quickly filled up by what is sold best to us. The TV channels, the third place talk, the gossip, the written media, social networks all rally around us in a dizzying milieu vying for our attention. The unawares mind will be filled up in no time with the most forward and enticing, but perhaps not what’s best for you.

We need to be aware of this fact for us to be able to parry the undesirables that would rush in to mar our personality, most often easily overpowering the ones that would improve it. If nothing positive is out there to attract us, then the ugly ones will grab us! And not unexpectedly, our heads seem to turn faster towards those that are merely pleasurable and of short term benefit, rather than those potentially joyous but assuredly more lasting. And that is unfortunate, for, at the community level, such negativity accumulates and become the status quo of collective wisdom by which the next generation grows up. The sad thing is that unlike a physical captivity that we can break out of or runaway from, the mental formations that occupy the vacuum of our mind is so much harder to run away from; the tentacles dig deeper and the ego is so much harder to fight; as if with each accumulated negativity, its army gets ever larger. No guns or war planes can shoot this down to liberate the soul. Our Maldivian society needs to halt the decline we observe in the scarcity of social conscience and inspirational values that can compete with the pleasurable and exciting that now gets the lion share of our social market space.

My refrain as always is to call for creating social harmony in Maldives and for this we need to prevent these mental formations from taking permanent occupation our minds. Let's become seriously aware of these insidious processes; to realize the folly of such short-sightedness and not be swayed by the hedonism of today. The youth of today need to be aware that such attractants are not liberators, but those that will put you into permanent fetters. And to parents I would say, please bring your wisdom to bear and push for a worthy future for your children. Youth of Maldives, this is your nation of tomorrow that the earlier generations have merely borrowed from you. Don’t let us plunder it. Please keep us accountable. Unfortunately, you can't do so without you yourselves first assuming that accountability. 

October 26, 2012

Eid Mubarak!

Dear Rukkuri readers, Today is reason again to connect with each other and rejoice the blessing of life that we enjoy. Today's occasion of our Hajj has its own significance of sacrifice in Islam and the uncompromising submission we make to the will of Almighty Allah. Our lives too are a sacrifice we make to the power of good winning over the bad. May Allah's boundless Blessings be on you all. My prayers as always, is for Him to provide for a Maldives imbued with an abandon of social harmony and a very bright future. Eid Mubarak to one and all!

October 23, 2012

Darkness keeps fear intact

"Being kept in the dark" is a common phrase we are all familiar with. Darkness is a metaphor for ignorance or not knowing what's there or beyond it. And inherently there is fear when we don't know; when there is darkness shrouding our path. Therefore, fear and darkness are related because fear is the consequence of darkness, because darkness is the vista of the unknown. A child learns to be afraid of the dark only when it becomes aware of the hidden dangers lurking in the dark. This may be real or imagined, given that the child experiences or does not experience the content of the darkness. If nurtured into believing it contained scary stuff, then the seed of fear is planted, whereas if the content of the darkness is shown as not intimidating – just the absence of light – then the child grows not to fear. Or even when there is intimidating or scary content in the darkness, if we are made to deftly anticipate and harness this content, fear is diminished or vanishes.

This metaphor has great bearing in the sphere of our adult life to mould us into what we are as individuals and communities. Keeping people in darkness is to keep people in fear. And the easiest way to do this was to keep people in ignorance – away from learning and knowing. Fortunately, public education in the modern era has turned the tide. In many societies in the days gone by, including ours, education was a privilege of the few; the well to do. This was a way of keeping people in fear through sustained ignorance (darkness of the mind), for those with fear are easier to govern and so it was a powerful instrument of social control, and used assiduously by autocrats of the past. It kept society segmented and divided such that it became a way of life, accepted and live with over centuries. The age of enlightenment through education has shaped to dispel this darkness, liberating the mind out of its bind, and shattering the social demarcations that held people separate, towards an integrated whole; hopefully towards a realization that we are all God’s creation and not different from each other. It was our own doing that kept us apart.

However, the vestiges of our past cannot be done away with that easily. Remnants still linger and even with increased awareness harnessed from education, mindsets take generations to re-frame and rewire. And sadly, but surely, such delays in our ecological realities are capitalized on by those who govern us, to keep us in control. The controlling instinct too is a primeval one linked to our evolutionary ecology and so for our spiritual evolution to happen, we must learn to detach ourselves from the past vestiges and be inspired to espouse our common human heritage. Even with this idea called democracy, the essence of which talks to the primacy of all human beings being equal under God’s Law, we falter -- falling back on our ecological reality that tugs at our ego strings. We see this in all walks of life, in offices, businesses, in community governance and also in leading nations.

Withholding information or being kept in ignorance of procedures or terms of engagement are tools that governors use to keep themselves apart from the governed. And so keeping people in ignorance is the key tool that keeps up this distance which the culture of governing has come to espouse as one of its most powerful strategies to keep this gulf intact. Education has in modern times forced to bridge this gap somewhat, and democracy when practiced within its essential principles of consultation, tolerance, inclusiveness and responsibility, can allay this fear that keeps us from being the masters of ourselves. It will take leaders of another caliber - immune to the vestiges of the past to make the delight of democracy emerge. Otherwise life will continue to be "old wine in new bottles" so to say.

October 17, 2012

Self-Belief can move mountains

 One of the greatest powers of an individual is that of self-belief. Self belief comes from the confidence that one has within oneself. What it means is that through the complete awareness that one has within oneself of the ability to do anything, one is able to achieve objectives unimaginable otherwise. To what end one would use such harnessed power of self-belief is up to the individual and that is where the notion of choice comes in.

Whether used for good or bad, the universe will show the consequences - nothing that one does goes "unnoticed". Everything is accounted for and the law of cause and effect sets the table right ultimately. But my point in this discussion is not about how one uses this power for good or bad - I would personally advocate for the good of course – and that is up to the individual, but to convey to parents the need to nurture their children in self confidence and self-belief to use this power discovered within themselves to build a better society for tomorrow.

Generating self confidence in a child is not an easy thing when many of us parents are ourselves full of insecurities in the first place, and one may argue also that these stem from the insecurities of our parents and our grandparents; this delving into the past can be in fact bottomless. And so, to embark on doing something about it, we have to break this chain of causation and begin our attempts today. And so, today's parents must realize that the chain can only be broken if we do some selfless deeds we call sacrifice - to making our children not be subjected to the abuse and neglect that make them insecure. Difficult as this might sound – and as they say, “no pain, no gain”, we will need to re-evaluate our use of parental leisure; to go with friends and haunt restaurants, resorts, coffee shops or give no respite to business engagements which present no end at the expense of quality time with family. Be immersed in the daily routine of our nine to five office responsibilities, while a foreign aya takes care of the baby, or attempt to glean the benefits of after office overtime that eat away into daily free time with family, or give weekends to business engagements. All these take away time that could be used to build family relationships that will ultimately be the thing that we will yearn for as we grow in age.

Soon our children will have grown up and then we are upset or can’t understand why our children don’t love us after all what we have done for them (by the showering of designer toys, clothes, shoes and other material glitter). Nature does not wait for us to wake up, and unless we are tuned to its timings of human growth and evolution, we miss the boat. That moment in our life of nurturing the young minds to be bonded with us as parents would then be gone. No amount of lament will bring back those moments. Such torments in our heart would manifest in us later as health issues such as depression, vascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes and such others when we least need these, and then have to be spending our hard earned savings on taking care of ourselves in the midst of children who have no love for us.

There is no better gift we can give to our children than love; no video game, or mobile phone or lavish birthday party can give them that value of selfless love. In fact these material delights of the moment wane as fast as they come and children are left with the same insecurities that made the parent give this stuff to the child in the first place; it is only the neighborhood merchant that benefits by our folly as we ring up his cash counter with the expenses we make to buy such gadgetry for our children to allay our guilt of their neglect, or our competitiveness with our neighbor or associate, just to be one up on them. By doing so, we continue to perpetuate our insecurities through our children. 

Love and attention and kind words are all they need to have in this formative period of their lives. Their self confidence is built on helping them discover their latent capacities. Parents have a role in helping them discover these by searching out the leaning of their passions - their element. But this delving into the recesses of these young minds cannot happen without engaging with them, discussing with them their problems and making them feel you are always there for them. And giving them the encouragement on work well done, not necessarily for them to do what we think are good for them but encourage them along the path that would liberate them from the bondage of inadequacy. But all this requires time with them, and engaging with them.

Liberated and self confident children don't do bad things. On the contrary it is those who are insecure and not sure of themselves that contribute to disharmony in family, community and society. They are in fact rebelling against the hold we have on them and demonstrating their desire to be noticed -- a state of attention seeking so to say. As a parent, to wait for later will be too late to harness the positive forces that are working within that young self called our child. In our Maldivian context, we had let go the noble edicts of life we used to hold onto in the past and let that situation prevail for too long as the glitter of materialism kept us blind Рthinking that wealth will make us a better nation. But that thinking is pass̩ now even as the developed countries are witnessing where human life is not revered, but wealth is.

Our actions for building a better society has to begin now. Building loving and nurturing environments in schools and in homes are the hallmarks of steps we can take immediately to build a safer and joyous society of Maldivians for tomorrow. Let's put materialism on the back burner for now, and put the agenda of social upliftment on the front ones. Parents of today, please believe me, this step will be much better for us in the long run. I give you this in writing, so if you think you cannot believe me, please keep this blog preserved for the next twenty years!

October 11, 2012

The power of good intention

In Maldives nowadays, we seldom have the space or hear voices for moderation. We are all so divided as a community. We find no TV programs or social forums by independently thinking people; sadly airtime is for political voices. Where have all these middle-of-the-path people gone? It’s the party political voices that seem to occupy all the social space -- office, family and the third-place time is all occupied by divided voices. So much so that, the moment a political party attempts now, even in sincerity, to advocate the goodness of a loving society, there is no trust to mindfully listen. No one seems to trust the other person - even within the same party!

How can we reduce this selfishness and bring in some love? Our NGOs, our middle of the path hopes for advocating social upliftment, are also money seeking entities. Actually, NGOs must be built on service to society, not with the objective of seeking a livelihood. Noble intentions are what drive the NGO cause and make them successful. There has to be something that we attempt to give to society. Not always seek to take. This positive mental alignment has a great bearing on what makes a good life happen -- that makes the universe tick and make what you wish for happen. We have heard of the law of attraction. It says that the universe cooperates with us to give us what we intend. Sadly this works for bad intentions also. That is why we have sad things happening to us as families, communities and as nations. Perhaps the confluence of negative thoughts, avarice, greed, hate and resentment magnify our national intention and manifest as the chaos we witness daily.

The only way out of this is to generate enough good intentions that can neutralize this wave of negative emotions that have pervaded our midst. How do we do this? The simple answer is that we need to build our relationships based on love and sharing rather than on fear, envy, and competition, and that can happen only if we can lose our ego. That intention must be like a skin that sticks to us. Have ourselves be constantly reminded of our role of goodness to our society and seek to see ourselves in others. But to get to this level of sublime thinking, we must make that categorical decision to move out of the chaos, and experience dedicated moments of silence, aloneness and prayer. We have to use our five moments in the day to get on that mat and think of our Creator and implore of Him to strengthen the conviction of this intention.

Then, when many individual sincere (Ihsaantheri) intentions coalesce into a mass movement of spiritual awakening, things will begin to improve. In a nation that is 100 percent Muslim and our Constitution based on the noble edicts of Islamic jurisprudence, there cannot be any holding back if only we take that step of steadfast intention. That power to ask is within us. May Allah bless us all and lift us out of this torrid dream of selfishness and help us build a loving society for our coming generations!  

October 8, 2012

Don’t forget the citizen of tomorrow

When I ask parents why they accompany their children to the school gate they mention that Male is not safe to send them alone. This is logically so for the small child may lose its way or be distracted, or even be injured by passing vehicles or motorcycles that throng our Male streets. But when parents have to accompany even just about teenage kids to the school gate clearly says that the Male environment is toxic. No parent would like to take that chance of their child being led astray. But there seems to be another angle to this too a friend tells me, for even in the other islands – our Raajjethere, this is becoming a common sight. Is it because parents fear their child might be in an accident? Or some bad person will lure them away? Our Island culture unfortunately is a replica of our Male culture, and behaviors tend to be passed on. But perhaps not so quickly, and thus my other reason why parents accompany children to school is to carry their heavy bags. But of course they don’t have to be that heavy if the school can organize the classroom learning process in a different way. But the real issue I ferret out is that parents don’t want to burden their children. Some parents even go to the extent of displeased retort to indicate that ‘they work so hard to make life for their children easy’. Does this observation seem too far fetched? Perhaps many parents do this in the sincerity of their love for their children. Sometimes, love can be blind. Life’s experiences show however that a child’s character is developed with the presence of some hardships in their lives. Parents in their mistaken notion of love for the child may be overdoing their doting on their young children. Certainly in the island that I saw this happen was not because of the fear of road traffic accidents or bad people stalking minors. I am wont to think that these are mistaken views of confused parents who do this to show they care. But who is there to show a better way? The Male culture is the vogue and the islands follow. And Male follows that modernization model of the West. Ultimately, materialism pervades our societies without us even being aware of how materialism insidiously takes the humanity away from us humans.   

Given such scenarios in our midst, we have ourselves become the manifestations of our mental insecurities -- thinking that our mimicking of global culture will make us modern. This is a fast track to our social destruction. Our sense of balance is lost and soon we are in alien territory where we have to follow those who will dictate terms to us. In our oblivion to the mesmerizing we are subject to, we are in fact in a drunken state, not knowing right from wrong for the glitter has dazzled us too much. Thus, aren't we the ones that create the insecurity that necessitates us to want our children to be safe. So we buy motor cycles and cars to ferry them to school to show our love for them but at home we don't do half of what we should do to make our children’s minds secure. We don't spend quality time with our kids or eat with them at mealtimes. We give out excuses that we have to earn our living so that our children can eat? Is it really that for which you are earning or is it just to get rich that is the paradigm our leaders’ lure. In the process, we continue to fill our streets with cars that make us feel important and rich, while our children feel neglected and join the street gangs that give them that security and the sense of belonging which their homes couldn’t give.  

Why do we not encourage our children to get into the marketplace of work? Idle minds will always find something to do, and it may not be what parents would want. But unvigilant parents will have tears to shed. Why do we say that as an excuse that we work so hard to make life easy for our children? Parents! Please be aware! Children of good character are not built on a comfortable life but a life of difficulties and hardship. Putting a child to situations of learning lessons (in test of hardship) doesn’t diminish our love for them. In fact, when done in good intention, is an expression of love. Rich parents should not forfeit the goodness of a tomorrow based on your egos. Your tears in old age will be too difficult to bear when you will have brought up children who will not care about you when you are old. Young parents may not know this as you struggle through the stress of each day. But that twilight day will inevitably come. Let's learn from these experiences of what is happening around you. How many old parents are left neglected? Otherwise there is no reason for the government to give a 2000 rupee old age allowance to them if there were loving children to care for them. It would in fact be a shame on a loving child to accept this money on account of government charity. In a democracy, the Government is merely recycling our own financial contributions back to us. Let's wake up to our world of democracy. Nobody is giving us charity – as in times of the kings and despots. Now we get back what we give. Democracy is an edict that calls on us as nation to strengthen our independent resolve to stand on our own feet. Democracy is about nurturing responsibility and a responsible future is built on breeding and nurturing responsible children - the citizens of tomorrow. Parents please wake up! 

October 3, 2012

Loss of a candle adds to the darkness

My heartfelt condolences to Dr Afraashim's family! A brightly burning candle is lost! The second of October will be marked as yet another dark day in the history of Maldives when we observe the innocence of our nation whither away as mindless and inhuman actions become ever more common. Wise minds help to build a resilient nation, and without the human experience of social and intellectual interaction and communication, such wisdom cannot flower and resilience cannot emerge --we cease to be a nation worth its salt; some people call these "failed states". Failed even before we have begun? Is this the vote of confidence we give to democracy? I cry for our nation today yet again as we see lives being lost -- lives that can make a difference in our society for the intellectual and moral contributions they can make. Devoid of the presence of such inputs, national development through mere accumulation of material wealth will be but like a line drawn on water --fleeting and transient --lost in a moment.
I pray we learn from these instances, to wake up and reflect on the heinousness of such actions that bring sustained sorrow and bereavement to whole families and communities. Our hope for a harmonious nation lies in the degree of our tolerance. Our Islam teaches us about tolerance and surrender. Do we want to let go of that wonderful hand-hold we have? Perhaps we may never know its wonder until we hit rock-bottom and have no life line left. Then it maybe too late. I would implore our leaders to take decisive action to pull us out of this shameful pit we are in as a nation.