November 29, 2014

Elusive responsibility

Whose responsibility is it to take care of the child that is born? This question needs serous thought in modern society even more than in the past. Crime, delinquency and abuse are issues that we face in society as it "progresses" towards what we call progress.

How do we deal with this - in a way that is sustainable? The way we dealt with this in the past was by having the child's community deal with this as its social responsibility. While in small societies this is still possible but later with more urbanization and the social and ethnic complexity that this brought in, it began to be seen as a centralized responsibility of the larger political city-systems with its formal and impersonal institutions. Children too as they grow up then imbibe these same cold and impersonal qualities that divide society rather than coalesce it. As affluence grows as is expected of in the context of cities, which are called the engines of economic growth, competitiveness and selfishness too grow with this affluence. Soon, as parents, perhaps unawares, sink into the hedonistic culture often signified by wealth accumulation, leave disdained the sometimes only child they may have. Yes, in this context, having fewer children is also seen as good because the calculus is always driven by the left brain, even though for many of us Muslims this calculus should be right-brained and imbued with the wisdom of our Maker who does not profess children as a liability, but an asset in this life.

Then, when our man-made laws don't seem to hold, the government happily comes to the rescue by doling out the funds amassed by our taxes -- building reformatories that takes ever larger chunks of public finance to address these -- democracy fuels a welfare society where the public don't have to work and just be happy being taken care of. So ultimately, bringing up responsible citizens of tomorrow becomes the responsibility of the government, not the parents and the community. Can we examine the predicament this will land us in the future? Please, we must look another way; we cannot go the way of the present development set so blind to the fact that those who brought on to vogue this development paradigm is but questioning its validity as the solution to humanity's woes. When will we in our cocooned developing countries wake up, and not be led as did the pied piper?!

November 16, 2014

Losing weight

A friend of mine approached me for some advice on how to curb his increasing girth. Yes, he needed serious advice because his waist to hip measure was showing whale-like proportions and his bulging belly looked like he was carrying a large Thoddoo watermelon under his shirt permanently.

I told him that losing weight was one of arithmetic or one of book-keeping - one of addition and subtraction. What you add will remain if you don't take it out. Translating this into what we eat, it's a matter of the calories (energy content or fat potential) we put into our bodies versus that we expend. What we don't spend (or burn of) will remain in our body as adipose tissue (the technical word for FAT).

True, our body is a very efficient machine. A little food goes a long way, but what happens is that our brain doesn't act according to our body's requirements. Neither do our eyes which many a time act not according to what our body is crying out. When we see delectable food items, our brain goes wild and pushes us to go have it -- consume with little consideration of how much of it we will need for sustaining ourselves which is the real purpose of food. Our affluence has turned this around from food being a NEED to one of WANT. So we gorge on delectable spreads or whatever we see as enticing -- fueled by the power of adverts on TV, billboards and news magazines, or even narrations from trendy friends – to want ever more than we need.

So I told my friend that he has two choices for losing weight; in fact three. One is to eat less, the other is to burn off what is eaten in the form of heavy duty exercise - for it is not easy to burn off those heavy calories we dump in, and yet the third is to do both. I told him that the small piece of frosted cake he eats needed half an hour of walking in the least to burn those calories it contains. So would it not be better to keep away from that piece of cake or if your brain got the better of you, at least choose to have half a serving instead of the full; to avoid drowning in those fizzy and energy intensive drinks that will accumulate toxins inside us (don’t listen to the food Incs. of the world enticing its citizens) and the burgers and doughnuts dripping with calories. The choice really was his, for it is the seriousness with which he exercised this arithmetic that his success on the bathroom scales will show.

He seemed very happy to hear what I said which must mean he was truly serious about losing weight. Not to let down on his enthusiasm, I further filled him in with some understanding of the basic mechanics of calorie metabolism. On hearing this alas, I detected a momentary face-fall; he told me he was sad to know that this challenge of losing weight entailed a lot of sacrifice. I told him that in life nothing worthy is gained without some toil. Achieving a lighter body is not without some effort (again, don’t believe those adverts that say ‘lose weight as you sleep’); but that the rewards of the effort would be substantial in the way he would feel – from outside to the inside, including the praises of his ego that gets its bloating from other people’s admiration – isn't it what we all crave most times anyway, and thus the greatest puller of all to the gyms of the world after all!? But of course, in losing weight, it can’t all be vain musings of insecure minds. As we achieve it, our bodies will indeed sing the grateful praises of having many more years of healthy lives; and we can double that wellness if we throw away those cigarettes. That will be the best present anyone can ask for in life. 

November 8, 2014

The power of intention

Several years ago, I read from the writings of a spiritual teacher the following axiom of life, "attention energizes, and intention transforms". The meaning in this statement is profound. It means that just by directing one's attention on something is not enough to have it, there must be a deeper desire working in us that makes that quantum leap of connecting with the pure potentiality that is the source of all creation.

If mere attention was all we needed to have anything we wanted then there would not be any value to anything. Everyone would have the diamonds and the big cars and airplanes and villas in exotic corners of the world if that were the case. But then there will not be any value in it, and we would not desire these, for the ego desires what others don't have or that which is hard to get. Not because of the hardship but because that ownership will set us apart from the rest of the ordinary humanity. That gives us the momentary elevation of spirit that makes us both proud and arrogant also. My high-school autograph book adorned axioms come to mind. One of these read, "if wishes were horses beggars would ride". I did not know the depth of that thought then, but it kept me in tag, and a few years later, I fathomed its insight.

So it's not mere attention that will give us what we want. It is the strength of our intention that will transform or help materialize the dreams we have in our minds into the substance of our world of form. Intention is also related to making a decision. Making a categorical decision is the act of intending and such decision makers are the ones to whom Providence shows the Path to achievement. A decision may be made for good or for bad, but the very act of intending makes having possible. That is why there are both good and evil people known for these qualities and achievements. What sets them apart from us ordinary people is that they all make powerful decisions to push forth their lives. On the other hand, there are those of us who wish to be this or that or wish to have this or that. But that is as far as we go and so we live in despair of not achieving these when actually what happened is that we had not intended on these wishes strongly enough by making that sacrificial decision to go ahead with the challenges that are before us to get to our goal. And, when things don't happen as wished, our ego uses that readily available human quality of blame to come to the rescue. The excuses then flow in unending streams for rationalizing as to why we could not achieve such and such. These excuses then go on to wreak the attendant havoc of consequences that seem the bane of our society today. The blame game is like an infectious diseases that soon encompasses the whole society. Perhaps we can understand in this way, the plight of our society today, whether in Maldives or elsewhere. 

Yes, we have the choice to decide, and when we do so strongly enough and in attendant sincerity, the whole universe works to let us achieve what we desire. But mind you, the consequences of our action will have to be dealt with by us later on, for as it is said, nothing of the good or bad that we do – allegorically that even the size of an atom -- is ever lost in the universe. These are preserved or recorded for us to pay for these or be rewarded as the case may be, now or in the hereafter. The above is also the truth of the saying "ask and you will be given" -- if the power of your asking is at that level of a powerful intention, you will have it. God is merciful indeed!

Thus to make our Nation good or bad is our choice. When the collective intention of our nation is veered towards a certain path, Providence makes it happen. The way to get out of this is to make the collective vibes positive and we will have a more loving and harmonious Nation. That Allah doesn't change the plight of a people unless they will it, is an axiom from Islam’s wonderfully enlightening Book. As we approach our Nation's Republic day on 11 November, these are thoughts we can ponder upon. May Allah (SWA) Bless us all as a sustaining beautiful nation where we all live in harmony and be a beacon of such an example to all those nations around us. 

November 1, 2014

Caring in captivity

On my morning walks I encounter things in our surrounds to which i can give some deserved attention as opposed to its impossibility later in the day given the chaotic madness I observe on the streets of Male.

Today was one of seeing the plight of our garbage-lifters. The stink that accompanies their truck is unforgettable - for the wrong reasons. Then there is their physical condition. At best, with  slippery slipper to protect their feet in the grime of garbage beneath their feet in the lorry,  their hands have no gloves nor are their faces protected by masks.  At every curb-side stop they manually pick each garbage bag out of overflowing trash bins that now populate Male’s side-walks, and when the bin's burden is a bit lightened, heave the rest into the truck that is shamefully uncovered and whose edges are sided loosely with ply-wood board which to me is only too temporary and careless to the respect Male’s residents deserve. 

At the tetrapods - when the text stares you in the face!
Now onto my pet peev of Male trash, I observe that the new bins don’t hold what it was intended to hold – the trash generated by pedestrians. Given that this objective is hardly achieved – for even now such careless tosses of pet bottles, cigarette carton, and supari sachets are still lobbed onto the pavement, onto the drain covers (whether one is there or not is another matter), into crevices between the tetra-pods along Male's southern seawall, the tree-bases along the Banks stretch, or into the waters of the inner harbor, I witness much more than that. The waterfront-moored tourist ferry boats, and the large fishing vessels across form the fish market too now stuff their trash into these bins.  And, perhaps our seaside avenue-lined restaurants may also be dumping their trash in and around these bins.  To me, it is a continuing contradiction that the users of carbonated drinks, packaged water, supari, cigarettes and chocolates still prefer to drop their wrappings where they begin or finish the task as the case maybe, rather than into the trash bins in the vicinity for which purpose these were placed there in the first place. 

These pervasive hygiene behavior concerns seem far away from the public official's sight as many perhaps don't wake up early to see this plight nor observe these happenings first hand;  even during the day little can they see with scrutiny as they drive by in their darkened too-large-for-our-Male-streets vehicles. If they truly wanted to see the plight of their duty-beholden constituencies, they could do so. I can only conclude that they are taking sad advantage of a hapless population that has little power to wield much of a public complaint in a situation of pervasive fear that shouldn't be in a democracy.

These guest workers may not complain about these difficult conditions because what they have here may be so much better than what they left behind. However,  Islam implores us to look at others as our brothers and sisters even though they are for this moment in the subordinate role in a world of form where wealth and poverty go hand in hand. What tomorrow may bring we don’t know.

I would implore those who assume the mantle of caring in the lead roles they occupy in our society to get out of the bed early in the morning, give the compulsory obeisance to Allah and also take the effort to get out of their costly vehicles to witness the terrain their true bosses -- the ordinary people -- have to tread daily. Some humility may come of it. In our democracy, don’t attempt to fool the constituency all the time. We may not be as glib and nefariously tilted in mind, so craftiness comes with some difficulty for most of us. Please be true to the mandate we elected you for.

Certainly, humility and decisiveness are both necessary qualities of leaders to be truly able to lead people. So let’s not just focus on harsh decisiveness only. We need to exercise humility in balance with decisiveness and fairness to enable us, the citizens and our guests, the good taste of life here, for otherwise Allah (SWA) may turn the table on us. Nothing here is ours for the taking. We are here mere caretakers -- of a nation our children will inherit. What physical and moral legacy do we want to leave behind?