Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Faith (or) The God?

An American friend is about to convert to Judaism. She’s almost through with the classes, and is excitedly awaiting the conversion rituals which she described to me in detail. I could not help but listen to her description of Mikveh while distracted by the light radiating from her.

She was happy. Life in her heart was coming back to its elemental state of water, wood and fire. She looked light, so light that she could fly beyond her own heritage and upbringing into that of fairytales.

“I have to remove any makeup, nail polish and bandages, before I enter the water,” she said. “I have to immerse my entire body in it, untie my hair, while the rabbi recites things from behind a screen.”

Throughout her description of Mikveh, I tried relating it (in my mind) to the purifying procedure that goes on in Islam:
Ghusl. I wouldn’t change from a religion to another to do the same thing, I thought to myself. But then I had to stop and wonder why I was contemplating the idea of conversion in the first place!

“How’s your family reacting to that?” I asked her to get myself to focus.
“Surprisingly, my mom though a practicing catholic is very excited. She insisted on throwing me a party that day!”
My eyes must’ve darted out or something because she explained immediately.
“I think because I’ve never believed in anything while growing up, she’s happy that I now have a faith and that I’ve become a believer.”

A believer. That word sounded so beautiful to me. A believer. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing in-between. So big a word, that it needed no fillers. A Catholic mom was happy that her daughter is becoming a Jew because she will finally become a believer.

We were at a party, but nothing could distract me from my thoughts after that point of the conversation. While many religions divide the land of God to countries, cities, and maps, streets and street regulations. While some religions place penalties as high as death to those who are leaving, and other religions place hardships as much as rejection to those who knock-a mom was clear enough in the eye to see the light radiating through her daughter and embracing the boundless God.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Angry Cat

After the Attacked by Cats post, my stats increased by 30%. People are googling “Angry Cat” from all over! I am very curious as to why. Are people strictly concerned about their cats, or is the term associated with other things?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Daughter Killed For Text Messaging Boy

YORK -- A Bronx building superintendent has been charged with killing his
teenage daughter and stuffing her body in a boiler, New York City police said.

Police said they received a 911 call from Miguel Matias, 34, on
Saturday morning, saying he had killed his 14-year-old daughter, reported
WNBC-TV in New York.

Officers found the girl's partially burned body in the boiler of
the Matias' building, police said.

told detectives that he strangled the girl Friday night, after he found her
text-messaging a boy.”

Just watched the story on Fox12 Oregon, and once again questioned local media vs. world news.

In sub context, the father is excused as a man who has a history of violence and emotional problems. His religious and cultural associations aren’t mentioned, as if getting upset at his daughter for texting a boy is common in New York, but killing her is way off board.

Had the killer been a delicious Arab or Muslim, the story would have taken a completely different turn. The man would have been described as an extremist blah blah blah. And instead of examining his disturbed psychological history, his religious and cultural background would’ve been held accountable. The story would be used for discussing political issues.

But aren’t they all the same? People who kill.

Update 4/3/08:
Daughter Killed for Logging into Facebook.
Another take on local media (original post) vs. world news (the update link).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

To Quit or not to Quit?

My name is Aysha, and I’m a coffee-holic.

When I first arrived in the States I couldn’t understand what it was with Americans and cutting down on caffeine. It seemed wherever I went, somebody looked guiltily at their cup and initiated a group confession.

Two years, two months, a master's, and a toddler later, I am experiencing some “withdrawal symptoms”; irritability, headache, sleepiness, and depression whenever I am late to get my morning fix. However, what really pulled me by the collar is that I started craving coffee at night too.

I realized with some horror that this habit I’ve gotten into because it soothed my body, broke up the tension of my schedule, gave me something to wake up for in the morning (besides a toddler’s poop diaper, wet bed, and naggings,) might become yet another cause for tension.

Do addictions ever settle for a deal, or are they all naturally driven to demand more and more out of us?

As much as I am a habit-breaker type o’ gal, I’ve always thought it necessary to keep an innocent addiction on the side. Humans are natural addicts. They have the addiction software installed in them, and it is better to keep it busy with something mild than fall without realizing it for something that would interfere with personal safety or that of others. Now, the theory does not sound as reassuring as it once did...

“There are more coffee drug addicts in the US than drug addicts of any other kind.” Claims Charles F. Withal. And baby, today I have become yet another one to look shamefully at my cup wondering: To quit or not to quit?

Check out:
Freedomyou. I absolutely love how they mention how caffeine is given easy religious access, whereas a glass of wine is highly scrutinized.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Dangers of Getting Together

Yesterday I was at a birthday party in a Mexican restaurant. We were 25, seated on a long table which brought together Fiji, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, India, Korea, East and West of the United States.

We were Muslims, Jewish, Christians, Hindus, Buddhist, and Atheists. Meetings like this should not happen, especially when conversation drifts from food to lefties. Left-handed people that is.

As the food arrived, tantalizing our nostrils with its magical fingers, bringing our basic human instinct to the open, we pulled the forks and knives and started noticing the lefties.

Amazingly, lefties turned out to be satins, devils and witches all over the world. They were people who had to be taught to eat with their right hand, and write with their right hand, because the left hand is bad. It is the dirty hand. It is the hand of the devil.

The Hindu/Fiji girl was very hungry. She stuck a fork in the meat with her left hand. “Sorry devil,” she said, “I know you have pride issues and all-but I don’t believe in you.” She started chewing.

“Yeah,” the Jewish/East American girl agreed while eyeing her plate. “We’ve got too many lefties in my family we wouldn’t know which one is a devil.”

“Dude,” said the Catholic Philipino, “we’ve got soaps and anti-bacterial stuff in our handbags now a days.”

“Yeah,” said Fiji. “Trust me, we've got tissue papers to wipe our ass. And even if we needed the hand, its clean already.”

The food was good. The angels were high. The devil was dripping down the drain.

Clicking and clucking, we stuffed our mouths, realizing how tables like ours should not exist. They are too threatening to grandmas & grandpas; to all the bedtime stories which were ours alone…

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Attacked by Cats

I had a cat nightmare, again! Fifth time in less than a year that I dream the same thing. I am in my family’s house in Riyadh, trying to shut the kitchen door, the ladies’ entrance, and the main entrance before the cats get in. (Cats were an issue at my family’s house, since my brothers were generous, and the neighborhood swamped by hungry cats.)

I am working hard, gasping for air, but the cats slip in. With the doors closed, I’m left to fight the cats indoors. They are small, and large. They are fierce mothers, scared kittens, and wild, square-faced males. Just when I raise a stick, thinking that I am driving them away, they close up on me. Jumping in my face, scratching, biting, and meowing with the eyes of creatures inhibited by dark spirits.
People interpret dreams differently. Some rely on outer sources for understanding a dream, or simply brush them away relating them to stress or coincidence. I can neither rely on outer sources for interpretation, nor take dreams lightly. Just the same way I can't take paink killers or spray air fresheners, knowing that pain and smell are there for a reason. They are an indication. A message.

Dreams as I seem them are unresolved issues in the united state of: mind, body, spirit, emotions. Things that need to be sorted out in a round table, without one side having more of a say than the other. This very fair distribution of powers is a reason why dreams allow us to see and connect with things happening to people beyond our immediate reach.

Why am I being attacked by cats? Is it because the last time I’ve been to my family’s house, they were on holidays, and a kitten was dead in the front yard, and three locked up in the house? Was it because the house which held so many warm and comforting memories was empty, dusty, and dark? It makes sense that I would still be uncomfortable with that image, because it was horrifying. I got a panic attack that day, grew aggressive with people around me, and could not spill a cry out of my chest.

But what do we do with scarry memories? Do they ever go away on their own, or do we have to work on erasing them? Does intentional erasing work exactly on the picture we wish to forget, or does it do a dangerous job of diluting our overall recollection of the past?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Using the Mind to Accuse the Mind

While visiting home last summer, my dad told me “Be careful of the mind, it is often our greatest enemy.” His words still echo, like an unresolved equation. Coming form an intellect, thinker, and retired professor of Physics, such an equation might take me years equal or greater than his age. The catch is, using the mind to accuse the mind.

I have always admired people who did that. People who communicated on a “root” level, without branching out and rallying with “leaves”. To me, they are immortal. An example close to heart is a math professor who taught me in high school. I could not figure out why he was teaching us brats, until I fell in love with math.

He never answered my questions except with a seemingly irrelative question. It always worked. Unplugging many channels in my brain, and filling me with the desire to kneel to his genius. He didn’t answer to all students the same way. He gave some of them straightforward answers. A genius teacher. I wonder where I would be today, if I had more teachers like him.

It took graduating out of high school, finishing up college, for me to admit this:
I am intimidated by details. Details scare me. Little issues scare me. Small talks scare me. History scares me. Dates. Country names. Cities. Family trees. Terms. Linguistics. Biology. Names. Rabbit breeding that occurs within families you haven’t seen for too long, and requires you to catch up on all those names, birthdates, and “who belongs to who”.

Details stalk me. They corner me. Bully me. Make me feel dependent on outer sources that are capable of betrayal. The friends I still have are still talking to me because our conversation can smoothly transition from the detail to the general. From the story to the philosophy and wisdom behind it.

I was reminded by all of that when my younger brother sent me a message, “What’s the worst thing one can do to a friend?”
“Depends on what type of a friend they are.” I wrote back.
“A normal friend.” He prompted.
“There’s no such thing as normal. People are just different in their expectation and their chemistry.”
Giving up, he sent a big smile and a request for me to befriend Aristotle.

While I tend to be inspired and guided by the doubt, many are assured and comforted by the knowing. This has lead me many times to go back and read
The Cow story in the Quran (chapter 2, verse 67-71), finding it hard to be so judgmental over the people who asked so many questions before slaughtering the cow…