Man alone measures time

As with an insanely good book, I feel this overwhelming, mad rush to write about it, for if I didn’t, my thoughts inside my head will just consume me wholly.

Try to imagine life without timekeeping.

You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie.

Yet, all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays.

Man alone measures time.

Man alone chimes the hour.

And because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures.

A fear of time running out.

Have you ever felt so lost after reading a good book? You spend your night reading, being immersed in Dor’s, Victor’s and Sarah’s life, as though they are your friends. And when you’ve flipped over the last page, you know that’s the end, and in that moment, you’ve ended your relationship with them too, like a dear friend you’ve lost.

I was so inspired by Mitch Albom’s Time Keeper. The man who created time can be punished for it, but he can also be redeemed if he saves others. We’re so consumed by the prospect of time, we wish for our years to be longer, to be limitless, or we wish to end it too fast, too soon. But we fail to realize that in trying to realize such goals, we don’t appreciate our present, the time now. We don’t cherish it. We don’t regard it to be precious, like a gemstone in a museum that can easily be stolen. We are always chasing after something that’s lacking in our lives, that we don’t fully stop to appreciate the things and the love that we already have now, the people in our lives right now who love us. And what happens when we’re so selfish to only think about our own well-being, without giving a thought about how our lives have impacted others around us?

It is only when we are made to see our very impacts we have made in other people’s lives, or have something so very precious taken away from us that we fully begin to comprehend that every moment is precious. Instead of spending our whole lives constantly trying to pursue what is lacking, this book is a sweet reminder to just stop, cherish and treat each moment as precious. Afterall, only Sarah and Victor are privileged enough to be able to see their futures, and the consequences of their actions. The rest of us aren’t as lucky as them.

Celebrating the middle class.

Hello World!

Before torturous semester 2 starts, on Tuesday (heh heh benefits of being an FASS kid is having the power to avoid Monday blues altogether by eliminating the source of the problem; lessons on devilish Mondays), here’s one last ditch attempt at a book review. Mind you, when I read an extremely well-written and inspiring novel, I have a lot of feels and opinions, which need to be quelled when I write them down into coherent sentences and paragraphs.

So this semester break, I embarked on an Orwellian journey again (seriously, NUS has to consider putting a module where we just read and analyze George Orwell’s books). I embarked on his road less travelled, on a book not many has heard/read before – Keep The Aspidistra Flying.

Ok so from what I’ve heard, he hated this work of his so much because he felt it was too flawed and the symbolism was too strong, so much so that he didn’t want to get it published initially. But I’m glad things didn’t go according to his wishes because this book was truly a remarkable read, regardless of the strong and heavy symbolism of aspidistras (maybe I’m just biased towards him but try to write like him la then we see kay.)

To start things off, I hate Gordon Comstock – the protagonist. I simply loathe, despise, detest, abhor him. I hate the fact that he despises the middle class men. I think he’s just stupid to declare “war against money” and renounce the whole pursuit of money altogether. Perhaps political science has made me very pragmatic/practical but I am in favour of the middle class men with their pursuit of money, albeit not to the point that it borders on excessive. Gordon Comstock just doesn’t buy the fact that an individual wants to lead a normal, mundane but decent lifestyle. He wants to be on the edge of poverty, he wants to abandon the money-grubbing world and just doesn’t want to lead a financially stable life by having a “good” job to put it simply.

He thinks that if one goes on a quest with money, they’ll surrender themselves to worshipping the money-god, and then they’ll become stripped of their individualism; their creativity; their accomplishments. They’ll become void of a person, so to speak. So he abandons his “good job” at an advertising company to work as a book assistant in a local bookstore, which earns just enough for him to scarcely get by.

However, here’s the genius plot twist – in a bid to escape the money world and lead life on scarce minimum wage – he ends up wishing for more money. He ends up worshipping money. He ends up being tormented by the prospect of not having enough money to meet his basic needs. In retrospect, it is deeply ironic and paradoxical that the very thing he chose to avoid now comes back to haunt him when he attempts to escape from what most desire to achieve. He falls into a self-inducing poverty cycle that just destroys his creativity, his enthusiasm and zest for life. He becomes “moth-eaten” and accomplishes close to nothing. He succumbs to the money-grubbing world when he doesn’t have enough of them to even get by decently.

I won’t tell you what happened in the end but I think one can guess the ending of the novel. One thing I find amazingly unique about George Orwell’s books is that he doesn’t give a happy ending to his stories (ok maybe that’s a little sadistic of me). He shows the protagonist succumbing to the norm; to the everyday social conventions that the society prescribed to them. They wanted to stand out, to be an unconforming member of the community, but they bitterly fail. And as the realities of the world have it, they become the very thing they desired to avoid, or the very person they used to hate so much, vowed to never become, in the end. I guess that’s why I feel he’s such an amazing writer; he doesn’t attempt to sugar-coat his readers with forced happy endings, he shows the reality of the world today. He shows how one individual cannot change generations of social conventions and norms. It takes everybody to bring about significant reforms to unspoken norms. An individual must be pragmatic to survive. They can’t live outside the norm to survive. They have to swallow it all in and learn how to live with it, coz that’s just the harsh reality of the world.

(Ok maybe now I know why I’m so critical and sometimes a bit grim at how I view things LOL)

But yes, I’ve read 3 books of his now (and counting, hopefully), and I’ve realized this pattern emerges in his books. It is both harrowing and a bit depressing, but that’s what I like about it. Because life is not always filled with happy endings. It also serves as a warning about a dystopian future looming over us if we continue on a downward spiral.

To encapsulate, this book celebrates the middle class and their moderate, non-excessive pursuit of money. Capitalism and socialism are both discussed in this novel. Money is the very thing that enables them to survive, and if they’re able to provide for themselves and their families, as well as lead a decent lifestyle with it, then it’s ok. And you should be ok with that. Your beliefs, principles and religion don’t necessarily have to be compromised to give way to the money-god.

“The money-code as they interpreted it was not merely cynical and hoggish. They had their standards, their inviolable points of honour. They ‘kept themselves respectable’ – kept the aspidistra flying. Besides, they were alive. They were bound up in the bundle of life. They begot children, which is what the saints and the soul-savers never by any chance do.”

Have a great 2016 everybody! Be kind, pragmatic and learn how to survive.

xoxo,

ShabiraBasheer 🙂

Revelator Eyes

the title is completely a juxtaposition of what I’m going to be saying, atleast I think. (just so you know, the title is the name of a song from a melbourne-based indie group, The Paper Kites)

my goal for 2016 is to not care so much. I feel like I should adopt this nonchalant, stoic attitude towards issues; towards people; towards stuff. I realized that I should focus my energy on stuff that really matter, on people who really mean the world to me. This includes building ever stronger ties with my family members; to not be so detached towards them, and to maintain long-lasting relationships with friends who deserve my energy and time. The rest, I’ll leave it up to God. 

I should learn to not care so much, to not fret over people/issues that are not worth fretting over. coz this social anxiety, it’s tiring. I want to be rid of this social anxiety. I do not want to give my all to people who don’t deserve it, who won’t be with me when I’m low and tired and impatient, when my bad and ugly side is showing. I want to give my all to people who will stick around and who will make an effort to continue to want to be my friend (does that last bit make sense HAHA). That includes boys, oh it so includes boys. 

I want to learn how to leave everything to Allah S.A.W. Who He decides to put me in my life permanently, (I hope I will know who you are), I will give you my 100%. But those who are in my life for only a short period of time, don’t get me wrong, I will still be nice to you because everybody deserves to be treated kindly and justly, but just don’t expect me to give me my 100% from the start. It takes me a very long time to get very very close and comfortable to a person, because I’m not sure if you’re going to stick around with me. Just yeah, it’s just very tiring to do so, to give 100% to everybody. 

so i’m learning to not care so much. 

 

2015 was a wild ride.

While everyone is busy typing long captions in their Instagram posts which I’m too lazy to read, I, on the other hand, resort to the conventional and traditional way of writing this year’s reflections. For the record, I do this every single New Year’s Eve. It’s like a tradition for me.

2015, as the title suggests, has been a wild one for me. I started off the year with not having any school (can you imagine how happy I was bcoz I didn’t have to wake up at 6am anymore). Instead, I had 2 jobs for the first 8 months. I worked as a retail shop assistant and met so many different kinds of people. I had a fresh outlook on respect and gratitude while working as a retail assistant. And then I worked as a specialist clinic assistant at KK Hospital for 3 months.

Working in a hospital was an eye-opening experience for me. A whole, different-in-a-g00d-way experience. The things I saw there, I can never un-see them. The drama, the held back tears, the worry. They felt so real, and they gave me a new perspective on life. I had a fresh outlook on the treatment of others. Granted, I didn’t get the chance to intern in a newsbroadcasting agency or in a magazine company, but I never once regretted taking on these jobs because they allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, interact with people who are much older than me and who have tons of worldly experience and advice. I took away so many life lessons, more than what was being taught to me in classrooms. And for that, I am so so grateful for being lucky enough to have a job that can keep me occupied for the long 8 months of vacation after my As and to be able to earn some money.

Halfway through working I got back my A level results and that was one of my proudest milestones in life. I knew I deserved my grades, but at that moment, I felt like not only did I make myself proud, I made my teachers, friends and family proud as well, for their belief in me was justified. I proved them right. Still, I know I can’t take all the credit for myself. Every A and B I got was because of their unwavering and unshakeable faith in me.

I managed to get into the dream school I’ve always wanted to go – NUS FASS. But there, I am slowly realizing that everyone just might be smarter than me, and now I have to cope with how to fail. One of my biggest flaws, in my opinion, is not knowing how to cope with failure and rejection, especially when it concerns academics. When I entered uni, I felt that everyone was smarter than me, everyone was out to kill me. I didn’t know who to trust, who to turn to to help me out. Fortunately, as the months passed by, I figured out that there are equally friendly and nice people who genuinely want to make friends with you and study with you so that both of us can celebrate success together, and I thank them for that 🙂 But I can safely say that 2015 is ending, yet I still need to learn how to fail and be rejected, and at the same time be okay with that. University is a whole different ball game to play, with new courts, new terrain, new people. I believe I will make it in the end, but for now, I still need to learn.

2015 was the year I went to Europe too and by golly I loved every moment of that trip. I went without my parents, so it was a whole new experience for me wow. Travelling with my sister, meeting what used to be strangers in the tour group, making an effort to maintain the ties forged with my Europe friends long after we came back.

It has been one heck of a journey la 2015. I live on campus, in a single room, so I learn how to spend my nights alone (dont get me wrong I do have hall friends whom I eat dinner with). Some days, I yearn for company as my nights become very long due to all the late-night mugging. And sometimes, I would have lunch alone in my school. I have to be comfortable with being by myself and not having the need to surround myself with people all the time in 2016 because even though I’m surrounded by people, I’ll feel alone. And I have to be ok with that. I have to understand what it means to be alone and lonely; because I’m not lonely. I’m alone. And alone can be the most peaceful thing ever.

Most importantly, my biggest takeaway of 2015 is that I finally realized that I am now an adult. Nobody is going to make my decisions for me now, I have to make them myself, and I have to live with the consequences and effects of every choice I make. I will only have myself to blame for every irresponsible and hasty act. It scares me, this revelation, this epiphany. And I have not come to terms with it fully. I need to in 2016. I have to adjust. I need to adapt. I need to familiarize. I need to learn how to cope with becoming an adult in 2016.

keep your head up, keep your heart strong, keep your mind set. 

xoxo,

ShabiraBasheer 🙂

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My heart is with yours.

There’s been so much coverage of the Paris Attacks everywhere, on social media, on local news television broadcasts. And with a worldwide tragedy and show of violence like this, there is also an abundance of opinions everywhere being displayed on twitter, on facebook, on editorials. People are instagramming their thoughts as captions, people are putting what they think in less than 140 characters, survivors are sharing their chilling stories on facebook. I have some thoughts of my own too where the urge to write them all down into coherent sentences is real, and I feel a blogpost does the trick.

I don’t need to recap the chilling and horrific events that took place, I’ll leave that to the likes of BBC, The Economist, CNN, Channel NewsAsia and all the other news companies.

I am equally horrified and appalled by the developments that took place, I am still trying to comprehend how one Friday night could transform a peaceful, somewhat mundane city into that under a siege, into a war-zone with soldiers wearing their full gear and forensic investigators everywhere, into a city which is being forced to close off all its borders. And most importantly, I am praying for all those who are affected by the violence and tragedy; no innocent human being deserves to be ruthlessly killed by an extremist in cold-blood.

However, this tragedy just reveals to me how hard it is to eradicate terrorism, and how hard it is to get rid of the stereotypes and prejudices of religions. Horrific acts such as these may never truly end as these acts of terrorism demonstrate how terrorists can easily adapt, can easily increase their intelligence, and extremist ideologies continue to attract lone wolves. The wars between states may have ended; but a new form of wars is emerging; a new type of war is forming. One that involves fundamentalism; radicalism; extremism. I still don’t understand how one can be so easily manipulated by the doctrines of extremism. They only preach violence and horror, masked behind twisted religious doctrines.

And the stereotypes of Islam will continue. Yes, I’ve read thousands of tweets imploring one to separate extremism and Islam, to not associate one with the another, and that if you think both are the same thing, you ought to think hard about yourself. It is true; Islam and extremism – they are not the same thing. Islam does not preach killings, does not preach the things terrorists do. They are only using the religion as a convenient tool to attract people of the faith to their cause. While most have successfully made that distinction, alas there are many others who have not. And these acts of terror will continue to fuel Islamophobia, they will continue to strengthen the anti-Muslim sentiments that are buried deep in the hearts of Europeans. And then, it’ll truly become a war between Islam and the West. The extremists’ rhetoric of uniting individuals of common faith to fight against the West – the “enemy” – will be strengthened.

Sooner or later, the Islamophobia in them will lead them to blame it all on the refugees who are flooding Europe. But the thing is, these refugees are trying to escape from the very same thing terrorizing them. They are innocent victims too, trapped in a world where extremists have taken over their hometown. I guess deep down, these Westerners know that refugees are not to be blamed, but for now it gives them an outlet to express their anger, their feeling of helplessness.

These are acts of terror and it is so heartbreaking to read about them. It is hard to totally get rid of them, they are making use of the phenomenons of the 21st century to their advantage, and they are making use of these acts of terror to polarize nations and to break, rather than unite city states. However, I feel that to truly combat terrorism, we should not let these tragedies divide us; polarize us; break us. This is exactly what they want, this will fuel them, embolden them. Instead of pointing fingers, figuring out who to blame, we need to all unite together, to look forward and present a strong front to break terrorism so that such mindless acts don’t happen to our future generations, so that our world becomes a safer place for us to live in.

It may be difficult, it is definitely easier to blame it all on Islam and the refugees and to maintain hostile relations with Muslims, but we must try. We need to unite together in these times of tragedy, for now the world is deeply polarized.

My heart goes out to all those affected in Paris, in Palestine, in Beirut, in Syria. I dunno, I might not be in the best position to offer any analysis or whatsoever, but I just feel like writing down my thoughts into concrete sentences to comprehend what’s going on in the world today. You may not agree with it, but that’s ok because this is totally my opinion, and opinions differ. But in this way, my mind becomes clearer.

I just find this quote simply beautiful

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

~Haruki Murakami, Kafka On The Shore