What’s wrong with me?

Ego asks what. It wants to pinpoint the cause of inconvenience. The thorn in its side.

Love asks why. It wants to understand what disrupted the harmony. It wants to reconcile the opposites. It wants to return the thorn to its rose.


I’ve never asked myself why. It’s always been a resentful what, if even that. And it’d always be because things reached a dead end where the suffering was unbearable. I’d always seek insight and answers begrudgingly as a u-turn. But best believe that I wanted nothing to do with my vehicle. I was only focused on the dashboard and the road ahead. I didn’t want anything to hold me back from reaching my destination. The vehicle would break down, I’d get a towing truck, hitch a couple of rides that turned out nearly fatal. I tried to abandon the vehicle in protest. Didn’t have anyone or anything else to blame it on. I was imagining all the beautiful and marvelous things that I was missing out on by being stuck on the road, and it made me hate myself and the vehicle even more. Which would cause more trouble.

It started as a faint mumble. A question you ask under your breath, hoping no one would hear you. Why do you want to go to that destination so bad? When it causes you this much agony?

My inner voice grew stronger and firmer each time my vehicle coughed up soot and died. The inquiries took on more defined form, the question turned into soliloquies.

I hadn’t noticed the hassle it took to try to get there because I assumed it was due to my inability to navigate the road or my crappy vehicle. I assumed such because it seemed like every other car was zooming past me with no problem.

Why do you think your vehicle is a car?

Huh? It’s obviously…a…car? Wait, hold on. It has to be. What else could it be? I thought all vehicles were cars? Or all cars were vehicles? What? This make no sense at all. How come I’m on a highway if this vehicle belongs elsewhere?

Why do you think that where you are is where you are meant to be?

I guess because that’s the only thing I’ve been taught. If I were to take the alternative seriously, that’d be too daunting! At least now I have a direction and rules to follow. I wouldn’t know where to begin if I veered off this map!

Maybe the noncompliance of your vehicle and the constant breakdowns have been nonverbal cues from your soul to alert you to the fact that this road isn’t where you belong?

But why couldn’t there be a straightforward delineation of what vehicle belongs where? Or even where it doesn’t belong?!

Because the path where you belong is held by the awareness of why you don’t belong elsewhere. And that’s only something you can come to on your own. That’s the whole point. You thought you were on the road to a certain destination, but your soul brought you here to break the assumptions you’ve inherited.


Oh, so that‘s why

Free thy will

Enduring the tension of the paradox is the conductor of the transcendence to Jannah

Life consists of dualities that seemingly clash, a tug-of-war that we’re made to be suspended in the midst of by Divine decree. Giving in to either opposite dissipates the tension, but so does the self transcendence needed to purify one’s heart before the time is up.

حُفَّتِ الْجَنَّةُ بِالْمَكَارِهِ وَحُفَّتِ النَّارُ بِالشَّهَوَاتِ

“Jannah is surrounded by hardships and the Hell-Fire is surrounded by desires.”

[Muslim]

The ability to hold space for the opposites is what transforms conflict into faith. A paradox is a symbiosis through which our free will is nurtured by making the decision to endure the tension of being open to the truth, instead of collapsing into the mindless pull of unconscious forces.

About one of the fundamental rites in Islaam, the udxiya after Hajj that commemorates the symbolic sacrifice prophet Ibraahiim calayhissalaam made of his son:

لَن يَنَالَ اللَّهَ لُحُومُهَا وَلَا دِمَاؤُهَا وَلَٰكِن يَنَالُهُ التَّقْوَىٰ مِنكُمْ

{Their meat will not reach Allah, nor will their blood, but rather what reaches Him is piety from you.}

(Al-Hajj 22:37)

This to reiterate the meaning behind the original call for sacrifice being the detachment of what we love from our egos. Detachment doesn’t entail playing it cool or being indifferent, but it’s to leave controlling the outcomes or the desire to not lose it to Allaah. Thus, it’s a reminder that the heart must remain unblocked if one’s actions are to be of spiritual benefit.

If we say that all sincere action must stem from the action of the heart, then our only power is to either receive the impulses that are divinely inspired or to resist them. And if this may seem overly simplistic it’s only because the most difficult tasks in life are plain and simple in nature.


وَ اتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذي آتَيْناهُ آياتِنا فَانْسَلَخَ مِنْها فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطانُ فَکانَ مِنَ الْغاوينَ

{And recite to them the story of him to whom We gave Our Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.), but he threw them away, so Shaitaan followed him up, and he became of those who went astray.}

(Al-A’raf 7:175)

وَ لَوْ شِئْنا لَرَفَعْناهُ بِها وَ لکِنَّهُ أَخْلَدَ إِلَي الْأَرْضِ وَ اتَّبَعَ هَواهُ فَمَثَلُهُ کَمَثَلِ الْکَلْبِ إِنْ تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْهِ يَلْهَثْ أَوْ تَتْرُکْهُ يَلْهَثْ ذلِکَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذينَ کَذَّبُوا بِآياتِنا فَاقْصُصِ الْقَصَصَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَکَّرُونَ

{And had We willed, We would surely have elevated him therewith but he clung to the earth and followed his own vain desire. So his description is the description of a dog: if you drive him away, he lolls his tongue out, or if you leave him alone, he (still) lolls his tongue out. Such is the description of the people who reject Our Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.). So relate the stories, perhaps they may reflect.}

(Al-A’raf 7:176)


Allaah nudged this man towards a portal of enlightenment and all he had to do was to move towards it by being receptive to what his heart is guided to. But that was a too steep a price to pay and so difficult was it to endure the cognitive dissonance that he preferred to repress parts of himself in order to remain in his comfort zone. So he chose to forego transcendence in order to remain in the womb of unconsciousness. And it is through this self-inflicted blindspot that shaytaan has influence. The only realm of influence, may I add.


Allaah continues on by explaining the dire consequences of rejecting enlightenment :

ساءَ مَثَلاً الْقَوْمُ الَّذينَ کَذَّبُوا بِآياتِنا وَ أَنْفُسَهُمْ کانُوا يَظْلِمُونَ

{Evil is the likeness of the people who reject Our Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses and signs, etc.), and used to wrong their ownselves.}

(Al-A’raf 7:177)

مَنْ يَهْدِ اللَّهُ فَهُوَ الْمُهْتَدي وَ مَنْ يُضْلِلْ فَأُولئِك هُمُ الْخاسِرُونَ

{Whomsoever Allaah guides, he is the guided one, and whomsoever He sends astray, those! They are the losers.}

(Al-A’raf 7:178)

وَ لَقَدْ ذَرَأْنا لِجَهَنَّمَ کَثيراً مِنَ الْجِنِّ وَ الْإِنْسِ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ لا يَفْقَهُونَ بِها وَ لَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لا يُبْصِرُونَ بِها وَ لَهُمْ آذانٌ لا يَسْمَعُونَ بِها أُولئِکَ کَالْأَنْعامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ أُولئِکَ هُمُ الْغافِلُونَ

{And surely, We have created many of the jinns and mankind for Hell. They have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not, and they have ears wherewith they hear not (the truth). They are like cattle, nay even more astray; those! They are the heedless ones.}

(Al-A’raf 7:179)


What is the difference between a sin and evil? How impervious the heart is to its consequences. To feel the brunt of one’s actions is to assume responsibility for the only thing one has control over : perception. But to perceive reality correctly is to relinquish control, and that’s an illusion that seduced Adam in the garden with the forbidden tree that promised immortality and power. Allaah has put in place all the devices and stacked the odds in our favour to receive the guidance when it comes, and it’s only the most crude of hearts that still falls to the pull of base desires when transcending oneself is where ultimate meaning lies. When Allaah says that He sends them astray, it’s not because He forcibly blinds them but despite their resistance He does have the power to turn them around, but He wills not to. Because free will is something He decided to give us and He won’t transgress that by forcing something that we haven’t come to. Insight only comes when we receive it.

And those impervious to growth, of course they are worse than animals! Because animals don’t possess the faculty of free will and perception. All they have is instinct and their impulse and actions are congruent. You won’t find an animal defying its impulse.


So what to do when you want to transcend but you doubt yourself and leaving the herd seems too scary?

وَ لِلَّهِ الْأَسْماءُ الْحُسْني‏ فَادْعُوهُ بِها وَ ذَرُوا الَّذينَ يُلْحِدُونَ في‏ أَسْمائِهِ سَيُجْزَوْنَ ما کانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

{And (all) the Most Beautiful Names belong to Allaah, so call on Him by them, and leave the company of those who belie or deny (or utter impious speech against) His Names. They will be requited for what they used to do.}

(Al-A’raf 7:180)


Having integrity extends beyond just what you espouse ; you also have to be cognizant of whether your company is congruent with who you are. And if not, why do you hang out with people who’d choose their egos over the truth? You do know that when push comes to shove, they’ll throw you under the bus to save themselves?


وَ مِمَّنْ خَلَقْنا أُمَّةٌ يَهْدُونَ بِالْحَقِّ وَ بِهِ يَعْدِلُونَ

{And of those whom We have created, there is a community who guides (others) with the truth, and establishes justice therewith.}

(Al-A’raf 7:181)


No one is an island. No matter how ‘woke’ and independent you are, you are in need of a community that would support you in your quest and bring out the best in you.


وَ الَّذينَ کَذَّبُوا بِآياتِنا سَنَسْتَدْرِجُهُمْ مِنْ حَيْثُ لا يَعْلَمُونَ

{Those who reject Our Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.), We shall gradually seize them with punishment in ways they perceive not.}

(Al-A’raf 7:182)


The blind and detached choices that are only motivated extrinsically and for what serves the ego, IS the punishment. Not being able to gauge life properly gives rise to meaninglessness. And there’s nothing worse than meaninglessness.


The denial of death, by Ernest Becker

Mental health, in a word, is not typical, but ideal-typical. It is something far beyond man, something to be achieved, striven for, something that leads man beyond himself. The “healthy” person, the true individual, the self-realized soul, the “real” man, is the one who has transcended himself.
How does one transcend himself; how does he open himself to new possibility?

 

By realizing the truth of his situation, by dispelling the lie of his character, by breaking his spirit out of its conditioned prison.

 
The enemy, for Kierkegaard as for Freud, is the Oedipus complex. The child has built up strategies and techniques for keeping his self-esteem in the face of the terror of his situation. These techniques become an armor that hold the person prisoner. The very defenses that he needs in order to move about with self-confidence and self-esteem become his life-long trap. In order to transcend himself he must break down that which he needs in order to live.

Like Lear he must throw off all his “cultural lendings” and stand naked in the storm of life.

 
Kierkegaard had no illusions about man’s urge to freedom. He knew how comfortable people were inside the prison of their character defenses. Like many prisoners they are comfortable in their limited and protected routines, and the idea of a parole into the wide world of chance, accident, and choice terrifies them.

 
[…] In the prison of one’s character one can pretend and feel that he is somebody, that the world is manageable, that there is a reason for one’s life, a ready justification for one’s action. To live automatically and uncritically is to be assured of at least a minimum share of the programmed cultural heroics—what we might call “prison heroism”: the smugness of the insiders who “know.”

 
The prison of one’s character is painstakingly built to deny one thing and one thing alone: one’s creatureliness. The creatureliness is the terror. Once admit that you are a defecating creature and you invite the primeval ocean of creature anxiety to flood over you. But it is more than creature anxiety, it is also man’s anxiety, the anxiety that results from the human paradox that man is an animal who is conscious of his animal limitation.

 
Anxiety is the result of the perception of the truth of one’s condition. What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms. This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression—and with all this yet to die. It seems like a hoax, which is why one type of cultural man rebels openly against the idea of God.

 
[…] The flood of anxiety is not the end for man. It is, rather, a “school” that provides man with the ultimate education, the final maturity. It is a better teacher than reality, says Kierkegaard,

 
because reality can be lied about, twisted, and tamed by the tricks of cultural perception and repression. But anxiety cannot be lied about. Once you face up to it, it reveals the truth of your situation; and only by seeing that truth can you open a new possibility for yourself. He who is educated by dread [anxiety] is educated by possibility…. When such a person, therefore, goes out from the school of possibility, and knows more thoroughly than a child knows the alphabet that he demands of life absolutely nothing, and that terror, perdition, annihilation, dwell next door to every man, and has learned the profitable lesson that every dread which alarms may the next instant become a fact, he will then interpret reality differently.”

 
No mistake about it: the curriculum in the “school” of anxiety is the unlearning of repression, of everything that the child taught himself to deny so that he could move about with a minimal animal equanimity.

 
[…] What Kierkegaard is saying, in other words, is that the school of anxiety leads to possibility only by destroying the vital lie of character. It seems like the ultimate self-defeat, the one thing that one should not do, because then one will have truly nothing left. But rest assured, says Kierkegaard, “the direction is quite normal… the self must be broken in order to become a self….”

 
[…] One goes through it all to arrive at faith, the faith that one’s very creatureliness has some meaning to a Creator; that despite one’s true insignificance, weakness, death, one’s existence has meaning in some ultimate sense because it exists within an eternal and infinite scheme of things brought about and maintained to some kind of design by some creative force. Again and again throughout his writings Kierkegaard repeats the basic formula of faith: one is a creature who can do nothing, but one exists over against a living God for whom “everything is possible.”

 
Possibility leads nowhere if it does not lead to faith. It is an intermediate stage between cultural conditioning, the lie of character, and the opening out of infinitude to which one can be related by faith. But without the leap into faith the new helplessness of shedding one’s character armor holds one in sheer terror. It means that one lives unprotected by armor, exposed to his aloneness and helplessness,

 
[…] Now the dread of possibility holds him as its prey, until it can deliver him saved into the hands of faith. In no other place does he find repose… he who went through the curriculum of misfortune offered by possibility lost everything, absolutely everything, in a way that no one has lost it in reality. If in this situation he did not behave falsely towards possibility, if he did not attempt to talk around the dread which would save him, then he received everything back again, as in reality no one ever did even if he received everything tenfold, for the pupil of possibility received infinity.

wipe the slate clean

I’m a companion of my soul. I let it lead me blindly, on pure trust. I’m not afraid of drowning, of getting lost, of disintegrating, of losing control. Because I’ve gone to the edge of each of those fears, and the only thing that got lost was my fear. The only thing that drowned was my burden that I thought I couldn’t survive without. The only loss of control happened to my intellect which really, was a realization that I never had control to begin with. I was like Maggie Simpson with the steering wheel attached to her car seat, pretending she’s the one driving the car.

And maybe destruction lies ahead. Maybe this has all been a fluke. But even so, I’d rather go out with a bang than endure a slow death. I’ll drink that potion. And just because I know that my anxiety is unfounded doesn’t make it any less potent. It’s not something I can ever stifle or ‘fix’; I’ll just accept it as a price to pay for living fully.


“In actuality, no one ever sank so deep that he could not sink deeper, and there may be one or many who sank deeper. But he who sank in possibility — his eye became dizzy, his eye became confused… Whoever is educated by possibility is exposed to danger, not that of getting into bad company and going astray in various ways as are those educated by the finite, but in danger of a fall, namely, suicide. If at the beginning of education he misunderstands the anxiety, so that it does not lead him to faith but away from faith, then he is lost.
On the other hand, whoever is educated [by possibility] remains with anxiety; he does not permit himself to be deceived by its countless falsification and accurately remembers the past.
Then the assaults of anxiety, even though they be terrifying, will not be such that he flees from them. For him, anxiety becomes a serving spirit that against its will leads him where he wishes to go.”

– Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety


“We can understand Kierkegaard’s ideas on the relation between guilt

and anxiety only by emphasizing that he is always speaking of anxiety in its relation to creativity.

Because it is possible to create — creating one’s self, willing to be one’s self, as well as creating in all the innumerable daily activities (and these are two phases of the same process) — one has anxiety. One would have no anxiety if there were no possibility whatever.
Now creating, actualizing one’s possibilities, always involves negative as well as positive aspects. It always involves destroying the status quo, destroying old patterns within oneself, progressively destroying what one has clung to from childhood on, and creating new and original forms and ways of living.
If one does not do this, one is refusing to grow, refusing to avail himself of his possibilities; one is shirking his responsibility to himself. Hence refusal to actualize one’s possibilities brings guilt toward one’s self.
But creating also means destroying the status quo of one’s environment, breaking the old forms; it means producing something new and original in human relations as well as in cultural forms (e.g., the creativity of the artist).
Thus every experience of creativity has its potentiality of aggression or denial toward other persons in one’s environment or established patterns within one’s self.

To put the matter figuratively, in every experience of creativity something in the past is killed that something new in the present may be born.”

– Rollo May, The Meaning of Anxiety

Ramadan regressions {3}

What making du’aa does is that it frees you from the stalemate between the polarities that you’ve identified with, and in that surrender you are lifted above the battleground.

 
If you identify with a state of mind or a mood or outcome, that inevitably has a dark side, a yin. So you’ll forever be fighting and attempting to exclude the onslaught of the oscillating energy, the ebb.
But if you’re released from that, you inhabit your own natural rhythm where you’re not attached to any polarity or point.  Your focus is on being grounded in your consciousness where the moment flows in and out of.
So it’s not necessarily being detached, because there’s a resistance in identifying with detachment. You’re afraid of the disappointment of things floating away, so you may take to detachment as a way to bypass that.

 
It’s not about constructing a way to eliminate suffering or betrayal. You have to understand that inner peace isn’t a fluke, and suffering isn’t a flaw. They are both points on a spectrum measuring your well-being. Inner peace isn’t meant to make you comfortable, but to let you know when you’re aligned with yourself. And suffering comes about when you’re resisting pain, because you’re misconstruing what it’s teaching you. The reason why falls and failures are integral to life is because that’s how Allaah’s will is made manifest; through the contrast between what you perceive and the truth. Failure is simply when your perception has reached its end.

 
The ultimate goal of life is this: to be humble and reliant on the guidance of Allaah, and to be of  service​ to humanity by filtering everything through love.
What does that entail? It means that your intentions are rooted in truth and your efforts are directed towards a balanced interaction with the outside world.
So it’s not so much about being all positive, in fact if your supposed positivity is rooted in a nerdiness of validation or attachment to positivity, then you’re harming yourself by being inauthentic.

 

Doing good to others isn’t gauged by the arbitrary satisfaction of others, but by the transcendent truth. So you may criticize someone or in other ways do something that is seen as negative, but because it’s rooted in your authentic expression and fight against falsehood, it’ll inevitably have a good impact. Again, this is a process refined through mindful self-awareness and an openness to being proven wrong.

It’s a fluid process that forces you to be cognizant of your capacity to be false and evil, as well as bringing down the barriers we’ve erected to keep us safe.
When we internalize an incident ( usually negatively), we’re erecting a barrier.

When we identify with people based on how they make us feel, we’re erecting a barrier.

When we dismiss something out of hand because it doesn’t seem relative, we’re erecting a barrier.

We have to revise our world view if we categorize everything to “good vibes” and “bad vibes”.

Because how would you know a good vibe if the truth, your truth, makes you so uncomfortable that you run away from yourself? How reliable are your feelings if they are disconnected from your intuition?
When we’re disconnected from our intuition, we become blind and unable to navigate an increasingly complex world where so much is happening at once. To offset the anxiety, we barricade ourselves in, we look for “safe” people , which really means familiar even if familiar is toxic, and in general, cutting down the world to fit our limited scope of understanding.

 

The intuition is a tether that allows us to explore the universe in its vastness and the human experience in its depth because ultimately our trust doesn’t lie with what’s malleable and subject to change. Our trust is in our intuition, and that in turn is connected to Allaah who created everything seen and unseen, and Who alone can inform us of what is actually good for us in the long run.

 
حِيَ إِلَى نُوحٍ أَنَّهُ لَن يُؤْمِنَ مِن قَوْمِكَ إِلاَّ مَن قَدْ آمَنَ فَلاَ تَبْتَئِسْ بِمَا كَانُواْ يَفْعَلُونَ
And it was inspired to Nuh: “None of your people will believe except those who have believed already. So be not sad because of what they used to do.

 
وَاصْنَعِ الْفُلْكَ بِأَعْيُنِنَا وَوَحْيِنَا وَلاَ تُخَاطِبْنِي فِي الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ إِنَّهُم مُّغْرَقُونَ
And construct the ship under Our Eyes and with Our Inspiration, and address Me not on behalf of those who did wrong; they are surely to be drowned.”

 
وَيَصْنَعُ الْفُلْكَ وَكُلَّمَا مَرَّ عَلَيْهِ مَلأٌ مِّن قَوْمِهِ سَخِرُواْ مِنْهُ قَالَ إِن تَسْخَرُواْ مِنَّا فَإِنَّا نَسْخَرُ مِنكُمْ كَمَا تَسْخَرُونَ
And as he was constructing the ship, whenever the chiefs of his people passed by him, they made a mockery of him. He said: “If you mock at us, so do we mock at you likewise for your mocking.

 
{Hud 11:36-38}

[…]
وَقَالَ ارْكَبُواْ فِيهَا بِسْمِ اللَّهِ مَجْرَاهَا وَمُرْسَاهَا إِنَّ رَبِّي لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
And he [Nuh] said: “Embark therein, in the Name of Allaah will be its moving course and its resting anchorage. Surely, my Lord is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

 

 

وَهِيَ تَجْرِي بِهِمْ فِي مَوْجٍ كَالْجِبَالِ وَنَادَى نُوحٌ ابْنَهُ وَكَانَ فِي مَعْزِلٍ يَا بُنَيَّ ارْكَب مَّعَنَا وَلاَ تَكُن مَّعَ الْكَافِرِينَ

 

So it (the ship) sailed with them amidst the waves like mountains, and Nuh called out to his son, who had separated himself (apart), “O my son! Embark with us and be not with the disbelievers.”

 
قَالَ سَآوِي إِلَى جَبَلٍ يَعْصِمُنِي مِنَ الْمَاء قَالَ لاَ عَاصِمَ الْيَوْمَ مِنْ أَمْرِ اللَّهِ إِلاَّ مَن رَّحِمَ وَحَالَ بَيْنَهُمَا الْمَوْجُ فَكَانَ مِنَ الْمُغْرَقِينَ
The son replied: “I will betake myself to a mountain, it will save me from the water.” Nuh said: “This day there is no saviour from the Decree of Allaah except him on whom He has mercy.” And a wave came in between them, so he (the son) was among the drowned.

 

{Hud 11:41-43}

Comatose woke people


Power is never taken, always extracted.


I’m talking about authentic power. The power to move people’s hearts with words, the power to pierce through thick curtains of despondence – that can’t be achieved. It only follows from the mightiest battle one will ever witness, either as a debased loser or a weary hero: the battle for self-actualization.

Many try to achieve that power through inauthentic means. They are under the wrong impression that self-actualization manifests equally for everyone; outspoken, intellectual, activitist, fist in the air, a la Che Guevara/ Malcolm X aesthetics.

While that archetype is sure invigorating to witness or learn about, it’s not what self-actualization means, any more than someone who appears to be religious is necessarily truly pious.

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