Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Death Perspective

Death is not what we see in the movies. I know I’m stating an obvious truth, but the thing is that it struck me when I realized what death in real life is all about. In the movies we see people dying, bombs exploding, bodies flying and blood splatter. It’s horrific, it really is. It’s heartbreaking and it’s very intense. Sometimes we see the agony of people dying slowly and their loved ones surrounding them, and it’s also agonizing to watch. But the thing is, except if you’re in a war battle seeing all these things or walking in on someone who has fallen ill all of a sudden, death is not as direct as all that. Death is a piece of news and that is all. The most gruesome part of this piece of news is that you’re not provided with pictures and vision, you’re just given a piece of information. You are told that you will not see the person you love alive again and that sometime while you were doing something, this person’s life ended. The piece of news leaves you so void, void of knowing what happened exactly, void of imagination and the things that go on in your head are ghastly since they are left to your imagination. This piece of news left you void because you could not see it coming, it just happens and you cannot rewind and pay attention to the last time you spoke that person. You cannot rewind and do things differently; you cannot rewind and appreciate things differently.

Death in the end is a piece of news, that’s what it really is. It doesn’t go like the movies where you see what happens and hope for things not to take a worse turn. You’re provided with the end first, that the person is dead, and all you can do is flashback to what might have happened because you cannot change a thing that has passed.

I would change the famous saying by John Lennon to, “Death is what happens to you while making other plans.” It is just so invasive and so unreal. Sometimes you can just hear a piece of news and not want to believe it, and yet it is so real in our hearts. How can words without any sort of vision cause such great sorrow? Death as we experience it is just words, just news, and yet when it’s a loved one, it strikes us more powerfully than any other vision could.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cultural Demands

Some of our views about culture have been skewed. Culture isn't always a good thing, not old culture anyway, it is only a reflection of times that certain communities lived in. So if we're talking about promoting our culture and all that then we have to be very clear on what we're promoting and why we're promoting it.

The skewed view of culture is that we have to promote it and adhere to it and find ourselves in it. We have to fight the world we're living in that will take away our culture from us, but that's not true. I simply disagree with getting out of our way to live inside a dying culture. Remember it... certainly, but fight change and live it? That doesn't sound right. The problem is globalisation and we're not okay with mean beastly western countries infiltrating our lives, but I guess they already have, and they have integrated their new cultures with ours. You see it's new for them as well, but they're the ones that have created it and spread it, our resentment comes from the fact that we are unable to spread our culture in a manner that everyone adheres to.

So you say, that's the whole point, spreading our culture, and I'll repeat my definition, culture is but a reflection, and we have not had a great enough effect on the world for culture to reflect our contributions. We're like people who have had good memories in a certain place and revisit it to relive it. It fails because times are changing, and reality is what it is. We cannot reincarnate the mood we felt in a certain cafe down a certain street if that mood has changed, we can only remember it, describe it and love it.

We must remember that we are creating a culture that is shaped by our reactions to the world we live in. I don’t think that the world of today can live by yesterday’s culture, and whether we choose to admit it or not, our culture has changed, because our world has changed.

Now language is a very good example, and you cannot blame parents for wanting to give their children a real edge in this world rather than patriotically holding on to ways of old. I mean I don’t mind people knowing Arabic very well, but if you think about the world these days, more information is accessible via the English language. More people who contribute to the world use English as a means of communicating their contributions.

The primary aim of a language is communication with the other, right? Well it has several other functions, but what I mean to say is that sometimes better communication is desirable. We can see many English and foreign words making their way to Arabic, and the opposite is true, foreign words in English and Arabic words in English. Like the word “Malesh”, added as oxford's word of the day, it’s expressive.

I know that this may seem like an over simplification, but it’s not, it’s just a different perspective. Some people think of language as an identity. Well there are those who have not been raised in Egypt and speak Arabic as their second language. Is their identity lost due to their weak Arabic? I personally believe that searching for your identity within a set of predefined moulds is highly over-rated. People search for an identity for a whole lifetime and they try to find it in language, country or culture, and while all these are factors involved in an identity, they are all involved but they’re not defining, they all must revolve around one major element that harnesses their power… values.

An English speaking Egyptian with an Egyptian sense of humor, does it change his identity? That’s who he is. You define who you are, your circumstances, your values, your choices; I think that people way often search for what their identity should be like rather than find out what it is.

To make a long story longer, it’s good to be proud of our heritage, it’s good to be proud of our language, but let’s not lie about the influence of things in our life. Our culture is a reflection of how we handle things in today’s world, how we balance out our values. So when a child speaks in English, it’s not debasing our culture, he’s just responding to a cultural demand, if we really want our culture to be spread, it must be necessary and if we want it to be necessary we need to contribute more to the world.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Who's Bigger

Once upon a time John Lennon said, "We're more popular than Jesus now."

Well these days everything's bigger than Jesus. I mean John Lennon could have meant it in more ways than one, but it seems to remain true in one form or the other. It's not that anything will outlast religion or God really, it's just that in the simple choices we have to make in our everyday life, many things will outweigh God. Religion is big in most ways, but perhaps for most people it fails the size test in the most critical application, the application of religion for choice.

Jesus taught people to love their enemies, forgive those who harm them, love their neighbors as they love themselves, to be humble, to be concerned with the salvation of their soul rather than their body.. and so on ... and so on.. But I won’t discuss all what Jesus taught. I will support my case (and Lennon’s too) by showing how many things are bigger than Jesus.

When you have an enemy, do you love them or is hate bigger? When you’ve been wronged do you forgive or is revenge bigger? When someone needs something, do you give or is your self bigger? When you can gain something do you take the straightest path or is your need bigger? When you have a choice between charity and a Beatles concert, do you donate the money or are the Beatles bigger?

Yes for most of the people living these days the Beatles are bigger. It’s good to know about God and all that but when you’re running a country, politics is bigger. It’s good to sympathize with the other and love them as yourself, but when it’s about laws and politics.. need I say more?

A few decades ago John Lennon stirred the whole world but today could anyone stir it in the same way with such a comment? (Well of course it is possible and a lively example would be Moses these days rather than Jesus, cause it will be claimed anti-Semitic) My point is simple, most of the world kicks religion out of their schools, it’s okay to believe but just don’t have it mixed up with the things that matter. Jesus is big, but don’t compare him to anything in the practical world.

So where do love, forgiveness, charity, selflessness, humility and patience go? They disappear in the practical realm. Sometimes it’s just natural to put all good things aside when bad things happen. When we see Lebanese children dying, how can we love an enemy? Hate is bigger. When we see tyranny how can we have patience and faith? Vengeance is bigger. When we can hurt our enemies how can we have mercy? Justice is bigger. Yes ladies and gentlemen, it’s sad and it hurts, but in the practical realm the Beatles are bigger.

Tony Blair was criticized for saying that he believes in God and that he prayed, why? Because God has become smaller in the eyes of the world. But things seem small from a distance, don’t they?