On Deleting Instagram

A couple of friends of mine have, since my having deleted Instagram earlier this year (after having had it for approximately seven years!) asked me whether or not this decision has ‘changed [my] life’, and if so, how. And I wanted to write out – or, type out – the relative completeness of my thoughts surrounding this.

I think that, the truth is, so many of us feel quite ‘existentially isolated’. [After all, why wouldn’t we? Just look at the norms, the ways, of this world, today…] And Netflix’s ‘Social Dilemma’ documentary summarises it aptly when it refers to how we are prone to using our smartphones – and the colourful social media apps that dwell within them – as “digital pacifiers”. We feel something; we must purge our emotions on social media. Lonely, bored, happy, sad, confused. We are known to turn instinctively to social media in order to assist us in ‘processing’ our emotions, or in blunting them altogether.

I believe that social media – the ‘newsfeed’ apps, that is (and this is less so the case with the private messaging ones, like WhatsApp) – facilitates and normalises ‘quasi-social-relationships’. We ‘connect’ with others virtually, but in doing so, it seems the majority of us have lost the art[s] of real, complete, human connection.

I find it rather tragic indeed that, when close friends, for example, get together these days (or, at least, in those golden pre-Corona days) silences and less ‘exciting’ moments are filled by everybody turning to their digital pacifying devices. Instinctively. The same phenomenon can be witnessed within families, too. In those ‘quality moments’ that young children in particular are meant to remember fondly throughout their lives, parents are obsessively checking FaceBook, or WhatsApp stories, or Instagram. Being made to feel inadequate, in this way, that way, or the other, as a result of all these engineered images of ‘good times’, ‘perfection’. And then, they generally contribute to said phenomenon, by engineering and posting some images of their own.

Distracted from (the completeness, the truths of) one another, we find we are; sucked into digital vortexes. Scrolling, scrolling. And the sheer amount of information that one is made to come across, on a daily basis, and to process. Over-stimulation, with mere glitter, and not with media and information that always necessarily nourish us. Often, we find, our minds are, at once, being put under so much stress and pressure (you must do this and do that and buy this and be that!) and that they are being chronically… numbed down.

I admit, Instagram had been quite fun to use, at least at times. Aesthetic pictures, wonderful filters, funny people, interesting knowledge, a way of knowing about fellow human beings; a way through which to observe humanity. But the app is also, by nature, addictive. Image after image, post after post. The things we consume through our eyes and ears do ultimately have effects upon our minds and our hearts. Islamic teachings make us well-aware of this fact.

I do feel less… suffocated by the presence (now, absence) of a burgeoning bright-light world of hundreds of people that sits on my phone and sends me daily notifications. [I have also, this year, realised how unfavourable it really is to be so readily and easily accessible, all of the time. Slews of notifications, from Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp… nay, sir. It is not for me, thanks]. A world that had held hegemony over my attention, and thus, over my mind. One I would escape to, but also, paradoxically, needed escaping from, and one whose norms are actually quite scary: all these ills that are known to be promoted, so very easily, through this app.

To have such a frenetic world at my very finger-tips. Sometimes, these days, I do feel I may be ‘missing out’. But, on what? There are so many people I have met, known, briefly crossed paths with, whom I used to have on Instagram. But if we are to maintain (real) social relationships with one another, even small ones that involve an occasional conversation a couple of times a year, I would much prefer that we have an actual conversation. Not based on curated images; not based on fragments of information we each send out to large audiences. Real conversations, one-to-one, maybe over WhatsApp, and then (post-lockdown, perhaps) over coffee [Hello Poli, you get a shout-out here, my dude]

I do wonder sometimes, by being off of Instagram, am I ‘missing out’, somehow? The truth is, I do not think I am. I now have a mind less burdened, (less… intoxicated by incessant and on the whole uncontrollable inputs) and I want to invest my time and energy into my truer connections. Beginning with religion. A good relationship with Allah, I feel, necessitates a cleaner mental space, as well as diminished valueless-media consumption. Snapshots, images: that make you idealise; that are designed to make you feel, in some way or another, dissatisfied; that give you false impressions; that eventually lead to your living this life of yours more vicariously than individually.

This is my life. Its peaks, its troughs, its sometimes-rocky roads. I want to experience it, in its truth and in its wholeness, and firsthand. I need not ‘escape’ from it, through (over-)using Instagram, which is often (if I am to indulge in a bit of bitterness, here) merely a marketplace of delusion.

A good relationship with Allah (SWT) and good, healthy, nurturing relationships with my loved ones. I hope each of us can truly be here for, and take care of, one another. The hyper-individualistic, deluding, isolating, often-quite-detrimental ways of ‘modernity’… they are not for us. These ‘toxic’ cycles that Instagram often gives rise to, and facilitates: making people feel lonelier, and increasingly inadequate. And then, where humans are wired to look to established and true social groups for comfort, support, and belonging… instead, we look to these quasi-relationships. Everyone is entrapped. Real friendships, deep bonds, are in major crisis.

How awful is it that, in order to nurture a good social bond with someone, these days, we feel we must schedule little appointments with them roughly a month in advance?! I know, I know… life gets busy. But if we are putting our ‘busy-ness’ way before the connections of our souls, really and truly, we are doing things wrong. What is the point of ‘busy’, if it means losing out on so much true goodness? Priorities, sister!

Deleting Instagram has certainly been ‘worth it’, I think. Perhaps it is true that I now know less about two thousand people I have once known; that they now know less about me. It is also true that it is no longer ‘normal’ for me to continuously consume so much pointless and/or obviously detrimental media. Also, feelings of ‘boredom’ and such, when faced, can be quite useful: they allow us to truly, meaningfully, reflect. On the things that are actually important. Seven real friends, in lieu of two thousand not-so-real ones [And whose approvals are more important? Higher quantities of surface/image-based approvals, or deeper ones from those who know you and love you most deeply?] And the ability to face our feelings head on – including ‘awkward silences’ in our face-to-face interactions… This is far more conducive to a better holistically-human experience than… compulsively quelling or purging our feelings by plunging our minds into a virtual world that actually ends up making us feel more restless, dissatisfied, and overburdened with information. A conveyor belt of images, to which we are known to turn in order to escape truth[s].

See, between states of boredom (‘under-stimulation’) and those of anxiety (‘over-stimulation’) there is a place. A ‘middle way’, call it, which is centred on order and routine, and is also decently challenging and exciting. Constancy, with some much-needed interspersed novelties. This is a worthy state of being to strive towards, methinks. However, the issue with Instagram is that it exploits states of ‘boredom’ and then propels us, whether we are, at the time, conscious of this or not: into hyper-stimulation

Even months on, from my having deleted Instagram, I am still working on this: I am known to think, from time to time, about pretty much everyone, and everything. I think I absorb others’ emotions and such like a sponge. I need to normalise, within myself, concerning myself only with that which truly concerns me. And if a true social connection between I and another is meant to be, then, quite simply, Bi’ithnillah, it shall be.

Mine to be concerned about is this: my own ‘small world’. With these people, in it. A world that truly concerns me, and which does not dizzy, deafen, or delude me, as a result of my engaging with it. Purpose, validation, motivation, comfort, belonging: surely I can obtain fulfilment, within these particular things, from more substantial and true avenues than… Instagram.

My Rabb; nature; interpersonal connections of the soul. These, I find, are all I really have, here, and these are all I really need.


Sadia Ahmed J., 2020

What is The Good Life?

[Allahummabārik. May Allah bless my writing endeavours, as well as you, the reader. Ameen]

A few days ago my best [is it childish to constantly point out that she’s my best friend? Perhaps] – best – friend and I sat down to record an episode for my podcast, which we had decided to entitle, ‘The Good Life’. It is made extremely evident, simply by taking a look at the world around us, and by having a couple of sincere conversations with people, that many people are simply not living ‘good’ lives, for the most part: many of us live in metropolises – human zoos, if you will – in which our lives are characterised by confusion, stress, dissatisfaction, and the endless endeavours we commit to, so as to distract ourselves. 

Now, there was a slight issue with the podcast app that I use; this episode has been ‘uploading’ for days now. It is likely that the end result will never actually end up coming into publication. So, and while I am still able to recall some of the unexpected but meaningful things that Tamanna and I spoke about, I present to you a blog article on the topic of ‘The Good Life’.

For this episode-which-is-now-an-article, I decided to conduct some (qualitative) research: I carried out some interviews – some face-to-face, and some via online platforms. I amassed a sample that was (hopefully) as representative as I could make it. It contained some Muslims; some atheists; some agnostics; some Christians. Men and women; some little children. Working-class individuals; middle-class individuals. White Brits; immigrants. People who identify as ‘genderqueer’ and such; people who do not. Introverts; extroverts. Students; professionals… I posed four specific questions to each of them, and examined their answers. Their responses were rather interesting… in particular as a result of how similar they were, between these individuals who are rather different to one another on the surface level.

1) What is a good life? 

I think that, although the interrogation of people’s minds with this particular question tends to give rise to a lot of deep-in-thought “I’m-going-to-need-a-moment…or-a-hundred” expressions, the answer to this highly pressing, pretty much universally asked question, is already within us.

Most of the respondents agreed that a ‘good’ life is not one that would be rooted in idealism. Rather, it is more about sustenance and contentment: having enough money to get by, a satisfactory amount of love around you, and being in a content-enough state so as to not find oneself excessively comparing oneself and one’s life to others and their lives; being exceptionally okay with oneself, irrespective of external considerations like salaries or relationship statuses, at any given point in time. Almost everyone who took part in this survey also spoke about the pursuit of knowledge, and learning, as being crucial to the Good Life.

After gathering and analysing the responses I had been given, I realised I did not have any respondents, in my sample, who were over the age of seventy. But I came across a video online in which an 105-year-old woman, Jessie Jordan, shares her views on the ingredients needed for a long and happy life. “I think peace is more happiness. Peace. Having peace in your heart,” she tells us all.

So what is it that we all find ourselves chasing: peace or pleasure?

2) What would the ideal life entail? And how would it differ to the ‘good’ life? 

People tackled this question from a number of different angles. The more religious respondents were inclined towards talking about Heaven. I, personally, would agree with them: in the temporal, highly physically limited states we currently find ourselves in, in this world, although we may have the faculties to be able to think idealistically, in reality, we are simply not suited towards living such lifestyles, right now.

Right now, in this temporal world – in the Dunya – problems are pretty much ever-present; everywhere. But this is how we work, and this is how the societies that we each find ourselves part of work: we experience problems, and we discover great meaning and purpose in the pursuit of solutions. The role of a doctor would have been utterly pointless if human illnesses did not exist. The role of a teacher would have been futile if all possible knowledge had simply been pre-ingrained into our minds; if we were born in a state of omniscience, as opposed to one of utter ignorance.

People’s idealistic fantasies tend to revolve around things that are plentiful, luxurious, unearthly and fantastical. Heaven. Paradise. Right now, we are able to fantasise about such things, but these things would do little to bring us long-lasting peace and happiness in the (earthly, impermanent) here and now. If we were all to achieve all our idealistic fancies here in this life, there would be an evident incongruity between our human conditions, and the lifestyles we would be living: we could accumulate as many supercars, castles (etc.) as we could fathom, but human nature would surely, quickly, catch up with us. We would get bored and restless.

Some people did approach this question from a quite ‘down-to-earth’ perspective: quite a few of the respondents said that their ideal lives would comprise things like having a widespread, meaningful, truly noticeable impact on the world; the ability to go on long bike rides in the countryside…

3. When do you reckon, over the course of your life thus far, were you the most happy? Why? 

Unsurprisingly, most respondents said that they were happiest during their childhoods. Some pointed to specific memories that contributed to this being their truth: memories of waking up early solely in order to watch Disney Channel shows; being given glasses of milk by their mother before going to bed; being, for the most part, stress- and responsibility-free. Another thing that was evident, from a number of these responses, was that a significant factor that contributed to this childhood state of happiness was the fact that back then, we did not care what others thought about us. We were so blissfully unaware of things like our own physicality, while we were playing; so heedless of negative social judgement.

One respondent made a particularly interesting point: she said she thinks that “happiness can exist only when you know sadness”; that it is all a game of relativity. Thus, according to this view, because we may be sad now, or have come to know deep sadnesses since childhood, we have come to see our childhoods as having been the ‘happiest’ times in our lives.

4. What do you think most people dislike about themselves [and that acts as a barrier to their acquisition of the Good Life]? 

The most popular theme that respondents touched upon, in response to this final question, was this one: people’s looks. Most people are insecure about certain aspects of their (or about their entire) appearances. This can have several secondary unfavourable effects: insecurities with one’s looks can affect one’s self-identity, as well as one’s behaviour around other people, and in the classroom or the workplace, and it can all take up a great deal of time and mental energy: how we feel about our appearances has the power to mould our entire realities. And sadly, we are living in an extremely visual and consumerist world, and the combination of these aspects tends to be particularly noxious for those of us who look like, you know, human beings. Stretch marks, chubbiness, skinniness, large birthmarks, uneven facial complexions. We want to air-brush these things away; look like the people we see in magazines, and on Instagram. It would appear as though we have collectively fallen in love with illusory cyborg appearances. We delude ourselves, by our own volition, with all this – once again: we know that ‘natural makeup’ is not natural at all; that, after a certain point, enlarged biceps stop serving a functional purpose in the real world [um…how many crates of apples do you intend to carry with those arms?] and yet we blindly consume from the funnels of all these outlets – these outlets whose job it is to create an evident separation between the ordinary (and real) and what is extremely elusive and difficult to attain: the stuff of Übermenschen. 

The second most popular topic that was touched upon, in response to this fourth question, was about individual talents: discontentment with one’s abilities – academic, creative, professional – and a consequent ongoing feeling of being inadequate in comparison to others – leads to many being unable to taste the sweetness of their own lives, unfortunately. But it really does come down to that thing that we tell young children when they come to us and tell us why Maths could never be their favourite subject: “I’m no good at it”. But what is the point of being good at something, if you do not enjoy doing the thing in the first place? Personal enjoyment is far more joy-inducing and desirable, surely, than the knowledge that you have outshined others at what you are doing? Self-comparison truly is a notorious thief of joy, and it turns otherwise nice things – like the process of learning, or the arts of writing or painting – into mere competitions and boasting festivals…

The question of the Good Life has perplexed, fascinated, and inspired philosophers, poets, writers, artists, and humanity in general, alike, for centuries. What might a good human life look like? What are the barriers that prevent us from getting there? And how can we satisfactorily deal with said barriers?

We are, each of us, living on borrowed time; we are mere walking compilations of breaths – finite, and yet powerful. So small, and yet so inherently magical. And it is strange, really, how we all seem to know what decent and happy personal lives may comprise, but we still find ourselves rather stuck in our ways, stubbornly pursuing what brings us restlessness – in the absence of peace. These things, these ideas, may grant us some momentary kicks, perhaps, but they appear to leave behind them a lasting sense of discontentment.

It is truly peculiar, as aforementioned, how almost all of us know what the Good Life looks like, deep down. And yet we continue to romanticise and idealise the lives of YouTubers; music artists; athletes; models; extremely wealthy individuals… We hear all their emotional testimonies that perceptively bring them back down to the ordinary human plane: how sad they are, and dissatisfied, and confused. But yet, we continue to see their lives as the great ideal.

Celebrities buy flocks of super-cars (often) to compensate for erstwhile feelings of low self-worth. Cheap sex, cigarettes, drowning out unpleasant thoughts in alcohol and wild partying. The ‘Rich Kids of Instagram’ run out of even minutely meaningful things to do with their money; they come to realise that money actually exists as a means to an end, and not as an end in itself. It is just paper. Models obsessively pander to seasonal beauty trends; undergo various surgeries and learn numerous makeup practices. Many of them, in spite of the millions of positive comments and such they receive on their pictures, still feel like they are ugly. The goal that we are injected with, constantly, is to always aspire to be richer, prettier, smarter, faster: to amass as many roses as possible, without giving ourselves adequate time and space to actually smell the ones in our possession.

A good life, as we can all fairly unanimously agree, involves the following:

  • Spirituality. This can generally be defined as the possession and maintenance of a positive connection with one’s soul, in conjunction with a sense of connectivity with the universe around us – and which we are a part of – as well as everything else it inhabits, including our fellow human beings, and animals. From all this, we benefit from an enduringly enriching sense of peace and purpose.

Although, in recent times, many have attempted to wholly secularise the concept of spirituality, presenting it and the notion of religion (i.e. the worship of our Creator) as  being two centrally separable things, I think – and psychologists know – that the instinct to worship, in humans, is an innate one. Atheists have actively unlearnt – subverted and re-channelled this instinct (mainly into following liberal ideologies, in tandem with these newly engineered notions of ‘secular spirituality’); meanwhile, theists are acting upon an in-built human desire.

I think that religion itself is a sort of ‘organised spirituality’. But, of course, within organised religion, spirituality can often be (counterproductively, and antithetically to the aim of religion, which seeks to connect humans with our Creator, and with the rest of His creation) taken out of the equation. Religion sans spirituality is like a body without a soul: lacking animation. Or like knowledge without wisdom: lacking purpose.

 

  • Tending, with great care, to our mental landscapes. To a great extent, life is what we each make of it: every experience we will ever have will be filtered through our mental landscapes. We must train ourselves to be more grateful; more able to see the good in things; more resistant to being susceptible to image-based and ideological deceit and delusion.

 

  • Also nurturing our physical wellbeing; acknowledging that our bodies, minds and souls are inextricably linked. This means eating what is Tayyib (pure, good) and Halāl. Doing what humans need to do: drinking water. Exercising. Sleeping. [Playing!] In this temporal world, we are, like everything else that is physical, a system of parts. Overall physical health relies on the health of individual systems – cardiovascular, ocular, respiratory… all of it.

 

  • Being content with who we are, at our cores. And [thus] embracing authenticity. Truly realising that comparing ourselves to our perceptions of others and their lives; trying to be other than what we are is unbelievably futile, and a waste of our (finite, precious) time on this planet. Everybody is made up of darkness (flaws, faults, past mistakes, and more) as well as light (talents, skills, merits, etc.). Perhaps true self-contentment  would rely on our acceptance of the darknesses; our ventures towards self-improvement (and not perfection); our consciously choosing to focus on the good, thus forcing it to grow.

The achievement of a true, deep sense of self-contentment naturally results in the enrichment of our social connections – which we can healthily, meaningfully, take from and give to.

 

  • Living a life of Mediums. The Qur’an and various Hadiths tell us that we Muslims are to be a nation of middles; that we should not commit excess in anything. No excess in food, nor in worship, nor sleep, exercise, consumption of news and information, studying… All this – this being given to excesses – disrupts the crucial balances that are needed for goodness. The Good Life is one that is not too quiet, nor too loud. Not too busy, nor too still. Not too routine-centric, nor too unpredictable. You get the picture.

 

  • Personal pursuits. Creative outlets; personal projects; businesses; our career-related pursuits. It is an innate human need to have to feel at once connected and communal, and like individuals, at precisely the same time. In conjunction with spirituality, our personal pursuits imbue our lives with a sense of purpose.

 

  • Reflection. Silence. Slowness. At least some time and space in our weeks – our days – for these necessary things. The world around us, in modern times, is just too frenetic, and too loud. Silence is one of the most beautiful melodies; it allows us to hear ourselves.

 

So many of us have been living in perpetual states of dissatisfaction, denial, delusion, and distraction, for so long. I think it is time for an awakening – a quiet but profound one,  and one that thrusts us back into the sorts of lifestyles we should have been living all along: the Tayyib life – the ‘good’, human one. We are due for a good, deep spring clean – of our minds, bodies, (living spaces,) and souls. We can all find our ways to the truly Good life, but first, we may require a slight reminder of what it actually means to be (and live in accordance with our being) human… 

Less: Materialism [“Things are just things; they don’t make you who you are,” – Macklemore. It is not about what we have, but about their functionality, and about what good we are able to (make ourselves) gain from them]. Jealousy. Restlessness. Exhaustion. Monotony. Over-thinking. Stress. Doing things for external approval or validation, rather than for the contentment of our own souls. Anger. Self-criticism; gratuitous criticism of others. Blind consumption of things that do not bring us peace [and this might include ‘muting’ certain people online; resisting the urge to check the news before bed; cutting down drastically on junk food].

More: Purpose. Helping others [“The best among you is the one who benefits others most.” – Prophet Muhammad (SAW)]. Intelligence: spiritual, emotional, worldly, historical, linguistic… Connection with nature [which we habitually forget that we are a part of. Caught between the terrestrial and the celestial, we human beings are…]. Positive experiences [after all, people don’t really want Lamborghinis: they want the experience of owning and driving one]. Learning. Love. Gratitude. Romanticisation of our lives [that cup of coffee in your hand is the best. Your train commutes in Spring are gorgeous, serene, like a cut-out scene from a Studio Ghibli movie. Romanticisation is not an identical concept to delusion. It is simply about taking heed of the fact that all human reality is experienced subjectively; through the vessels of our individual minds. Therefore, if you say to yourself that who you are, where you are – this very moment in time, and this point in space – and what you have are wonderful, and that it does not get better than this, this will become your personal truth – your reality]. A sense of connectedness. Self-comfort and -confidence. Making feelings of contentment far less conditional – whether on future periods of our lives, other people, or other places. Reflection. Becoming excellent – masters – of our personal pursuits. Hope. Īman. Excitement. Laughter. The goodness of life is to be found in all the intangible things.

It is, at once, entirely understandable, and yet quite surprising, just how many reverts to Islam – ex-avid partygoers, celebrities, people who had previously truly indulged in the adornments of this world (drugs, alcohol, sex…) without limit – have commented on how much peace the decision to accept Islam brought to their hearts and lives. The ‘sweetness of Īman’, they say, is worth more than all the pleasures of the world, put together.

“Alhamdulillah (thanking God) means everything. Drinking a glass of water – Alhamdulillah. Having an opportunity to speak to you – Alhamdulillah. Seeing my wife and kids – Alhamdulillah. I always have my creator in the front of my mind.

Look, I chased girls. I drank alcohol, spent lavishly and thought I was someone that I wasn’t. I lived that life and, in my experience, what did it give me? Hollowness and emptiness in my heart.”

– Sonny Bill Williams, New Zealand Professional Rugby Player 

This is who we are: these are what our faces and bodies look like [Alhamdulillah]; these are our interests and hobbies; these are our financial situations; these are our histories; our ethnic cultures; our homes; these are our merits and talents. These are what our lives look like. The question is not about how much we can fantasise about being other people, about living different lives. The real question – the one whose answers can be conducive to us actually living Good Lives – is this one: how are we going to make the most of it all? 

“Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children, as the likeness of vegetation after rain, thereof the growth is pleasing to the tiller; afterwards it dries up and you see it turning yellow; then it becomes straw. But in the Hereafter (there is) a severe torment (for the disbelievers, evil-doers), and (there is) Forgiveness from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure (for the believers, good-doers), whereas the life of this world is only a deceiving enjoyment”

– Holy Qur’an (57:20)

Please share with others, if you found this post beneficial / think others might!

Sadia Ahmed, 2020 

You’re Weird.

According to the OED, the term ‘weird’ refers to something “very strange; bizarre”. This is its informal definition. The definition of ‘strange’ is as follows: “unusual or surprising; difficult to understand or explain.” Now, with regard to a more formal definition of the adjective ‘weird’, it actually means “suggesting something supernatural or unearthly”. Thus, if you are weird, the chances are that you are, a) different from the norm – and that you are therefore rare; b) as a result of your numerical rarity, you are also difficult to understand, by the general populace. Finally, c) there is a high chance that you also have about you a ‘supernatural’ quality; some sort of ‘unearthly’ mystique. 

In general, human beings tend to seek out a stable sense of belonging, via validation from those around us. Firstly, we need to feel like we belong within our nuclear family units, and then, in our extended family units; our workplaces, our schools. And, of course, we yearn for a sense of belonging within the wider construct of society. Without these feelings of authentic belonging, we become susceptible to some of the most unpleasant and unfavourable sentiments – those of feeling like societal rejects; like abnormalities; like weirdos. 

And we try, so desperately hard, to run away from this label. “You’re weird“. “Freak!” is what we hear. “Societal mistake”; “cultural anomaly”; “reject”. We crave not to be outcast in such a way; we need to feel like we belong. And we often find ourselves under the impression that to belong is to be exactly like those around us. 

This is a valid idea: many of the values, ways of doing things (etc.) that we acquire over the courses of our lives do come from the people around us – in particular, from those in senior authority positions, relative to ourselves. Parents, teachers, bosses at work, the ‘role models’ we place upon perceptive idealistic planes…

But who decides what is normal, and what is not? Is it merely a game of numbers? The majority of the population does this, and is like this, therefore this is the norm, i.e. what is normal. Does that mean that everyone and everything that strays from what is numerically most popular is to be deemed weird? 

What if the majority of the world’s inhabitants were to suddenly find themselves plagued by some sort of neurodegenerative disease that rendered them all prone to seeing hallucinations? What if they all were to start walking around barefoot, and hugging every tree they saw, and poking each other’s noses by way of greeting one another? According to our earlier definitions of normal and weird, this would all, by default, become the new normal. And anything and anyone who were to stray from this – what has become the most popular way of doing things – would be labelled as weird. 

The fact of the matter is, most of us fear being weird. We think the concept of being different naturally means that we are like science experiments gone wrong; like physical abnormalities in abstract cages, self-criticising, while the rest of the world gawks at and laughs at us.

But, and in reality, people laugh at what is different; at what causes them some discomfort. And what causes discomfort tends to be what is unfamiliar. This is why people often laugh at politically incorrect jokes; these jokes cause some degree of discomfort in people, which can be released via the outlet of laughter. Furthermore, with regard to criticism, people always display inclinations towards commenting on what is different; unfamiliar; discomfort-inducing.

If you were to walk along beside a line of pine trees, and if you then came across a single cherry blossom tree, the cherry blossom tree is likely to immediately catch your attention. And, whether or not you choose to acknowledge it, the cherry blossom tree remains objectively beautiful. Her beauty is only accentuated by the fact that there are few like her, in her vicinity. Few pine trees could ever possibly understand her. But she is there, and she is weird. And ‘weird’ is not an inherently bad thing; this is surely all a matter of perspective.

And, besides, what are we, all of us, but grown-up children? Do we not all trip up sometimes on pavements; spill food; go to use the potty? We still have tantrums – whether we choose to show these to the world or not. We feel unmitigated rage; we feel jealous; we show off. Pretty much all of the things that children – these beings that hold mirrors up to our true core selves – do, adults do, too. Adulthood is but a game of seasoned childhood, with some additional moral frameworks in the mix…

All the things you do; all the things you perhaps dislike about yourself are probably pretty normal. It’s just that some things, as we have all implicitly decided within greater society, can be shown. Other things must be kept hidden.

Interestingly, and in light of the fact that we are all merely overgrown children, human babies are born having only two ‘built-in’ fears: that of falling, and that of loud noises. Every other fear and insecurity that we may have is gained along the way, via ‘nurture’ – via experience.

We have learnt (from the adults who were in charge of our care back then) what is to be seen as normal, and what is to be regarded – dismissed – as being weird. See, if you were to give a young child the chance to dress him- or herself, chances are, they will appear before you, minutes later, clad in wellington boots in the middle of the summer; animal-print tops that do not match their tracksuit trousers; raincoats on days where rain does not look like a probable occurrence at all…

Children are the weirdest of creatures. And this is what makes them so intrinsically wonderful. Their intrinsic human creative faculties have not yet been curbed; rather, these are nurtured every single day by a general fearlessness of being labelled as strange.

Children see almost every fellow child in the entire world as a potential fellow playmate. They point at random squirrels, name them ‘Alison’ or ‘Percy’, and call them their “pets”. They get tubs of face cream and smear it all over their hair. They invent weird languages, and handshakes, and make pointless devices out of cardboard. Weird is precisely how they learn. 

And if you were to force a young child into modern accepted brackets of normality (e.g. forcing them to sit on a swivel chair in a sparsely-decorated office, filling out piles of paperwork, with a twenty-minute coffee break in between all their hours) they would, to put it succinctly, freak out. Such things – such notions that we gradually imbue children with as they grow up – that this is how you are meant to end up – are wholly unnatural to the unaffected child. These things run antithetical to the weird essence of the young human.

Do we truly outgrow our own selves, after childhood? Is that truly the case? Or is it more so a case of plastering atop our essential selves affectations of ‘adulthood’, and of ‘propriety’, and of blunted weirdness, and curbed creativity?

Weird is necessary for progress. If you try the same things over and over again, you will end up with the very same results, over and over again. This is true both on an individual, and on a wider societal, scale. The iPhone was invented because a certain man decided to be a bit weird. Frida Kahlo’s legendary works of art are intrinsically weird. “Only one mountain can know the core of another mountain,” she once said. Only one weird person can know the wonderful core of another weird person. 

How else did Barack Obama become the first black president of the USA? Was it a normal decision that he made – to run in the election? No – it was weird – it was unheard of to have an African-American person in such a noble and important position, back then. But weird is necessary for change, until the virtuous elements of weird become the new normal. Marie Curie; Prophet Muhammad (SAW); Virginia Woolf; the Buddha. Though widely celebrated individuals now, back then, they were utter weirdos. And this was precisely their collective superpower: they could be weird, and they could thus see things differently. This allowed them to do things differently – weirdly, albeit, in the direction of much good.

If you are weird, congratulations! Though you may be acutely self-conscious, self-critical, and numerically few, you are of extremely high value. And almost every single thing you frown upon yourself for doing or being can be either flipped or neutralised; it is all a matter of mindset and interpretation.

“I’m awkward.” No – you’re adorable, and your actions are so very endearing. 

“I’m too much of an introvert.” Your mind must be beautiful; you actively nurture it by being outwardly silent. Your words have more weight – more value – whenever you do speak. 

“I do x and y. I’m such a freak.” Millions of other human beings probably do – and have, throughout history done – exactly whatever you do. You’re not a freak at all. Every human action is borne from a universal human motivation… whether this be the motivation to play and to enjoy the world; to learn and explore; to experience platonic and romantic love… 

“I embarrass myself, over and over again.” Good. That means you are alive and human. And it means you are tryingKeep trying, please! 

Some of my most favourite fictional characters are ‘weird’, and, for the most part, this is exactly why I love them. Rudy from ‘the Book Thief’. How adorable and endearing is he? It is safe to say, I had the biggest crush on him when I was younger. Sadly, he does not exist.

Jessica Day from ‘New Girl’. Polka dots, wide-frame glasses, saying weird things, and at all the wrong times. Sweet, funny, super unique, interesting, unpredictable. Who wouldn’t want her as a friend?!

Riley from ‘Girl Meets World’. What a weirdo. She has stars in her eyes; gets excited at the smallest of things. She is a tad naive, but, and like Jessica Day, who wouldn’t want her as a friend?!

Farkle from ‘GMW’, too. Initially, he sported a bowl-cut hairstyle. He would wear turtlenecks, and he had a whole host of strange idiosyncratic behaviours. He was funny, and very strange, and such a sensitive and loyal friend. Fictional crush the second, who unfortunately does not exist.

Then, there’s Topanga from ‘Boy Meets World’, and, later, ‘Girl Meets World’. One of my (fictional) role models. Topanga starts out as the definition of ‘weird’. She is… a hippie. ‘Child of the universe’, glassy eyes that just gaze into distances. She spontaneously performs rain dances and applies lipstick, as warpaint, to her face. When she is younger, she is one of the most sensitive, intelligent, loyal, and beautifully different souls out there. And she grows up to be a lawyer and a cafe-owner, with a wonderful (rather weird) family. Adulthood catches up with the great Topanga in the end, sure, but the beauty of her weirdness remains.

Hermione from Harry Potter. “Mental, that one,” Ron (ironically, her future husband) remarks, upon watching her sit beneath the Sorting Hat. Hermione is proudly weird; Luna Lovegood, too. Sometimes they are both mocked by those around them. But people throw rocks at things that shine. And, oh, how Hermione and Luna shine. 

And, finally, one of the best (fictional, unfortunately) couples in existence: the legendary Jake and Amy from ‘Brooklyn-99’What utter weirdos! Jake, the joker: jumps on grown men, is forever making childish jokes, always embarrasses himself. And, Amy, whom Rosa and Gina initially deem “a loser”. Stationery advocate; crossword aficionado; she has one friend outside of the precinct. But – nay, and – she is so very loved, and she is one of the greatest sergeants of her time.

Of course, fiction does not wholly represent human reality. But, often, it can give an acceptably good indication of it. Both in fictional worlds and in the real world, weird is what gives rise to adventure, and to greatness, and to fun. So here’s to your weirdnesses, dear reader – to all of them, even to the ones you cannot bring yourself to love, just yet.

See, weird is the very thing that makes small children fall in love with the world, in the first place. And weird might just be what it may take for us to stay there, in that childishly blissful state we have all, at some point, had the pleasure of experiencing.

On Vessels and Causation

What is a ’cause’? According to the OED, this term refers to “a person or thing that gives rise to an action, phenomenon, or condition”. It must be noted that something [thing A] preceding something else [thing B] does not render A the (ultimate, first) cause of B. For example, at train stations in London, the tannoys blare out the words, “Mind the gap” before swathes of passengers exit the carriages. Does this mean that the tannoy’s repetitive words have caused the passengers to depart the train? No. These are just different components of a certain chain of causation: the respective thoughts in the passengers’ heads (e.g. “This is my stop”, “If I don’t get off here, I won’t get to work on time”, etc) give rise to certain actions – like preparatorily getting up from their seats, and gathering near the doors. The ultimate cause of the passengers’ collective departure is intentionality. But what is the cause of this ability to funnel thoughts into intentions, and later into actions?

Well, one could argue that the physiology of the human brain gives way to the functionings of the human mind – rather like technological hardware being a point of projection for technological software – like, say, apps on iPhones. What can we narrow such functionings down to? Decision-making arguably takes place in the human frontal lobe. So can we point to this segment of the brain and say that it is the cause of certain actions? But we can delve deeper: what is the cause of our decision-making capacities arguably dwelling in this part of our brains? The interactions between certain cells? The brain’s inner electrical happenings? Can we magnify this all and state that the atoms that form certain cells, which consequently form this part of our brains, is the cause of intention-fuelled human actions? What about considerations of the sub-atomic level? What about the level on which everything can arguably just be reduced to energy? Can we look at any individual human being’s intentional actions, and say, “energy, man. Energy was the cause“. 

And what was the cause of this energy? The process of creation requires a sense of will – whether this is a direct and calculated will or not. Something needs some sort of motivation in order to do something else. Should we go on to say that base-level energy is the ultimate creative force; the Cause; the Cause with a Will, which translated into the materialisation and fruition of everything? 

The universe – and all the caused processes it accommodates (from the gestation of mammals in wombs, to the controlling of the tide by the moon, to gravity, to… [and so on]) had a beginning. This is undeniable. Things do not give birth to themselves: this is a logical fallacy. The Big Bang [Sheldon says “Bazinga!” here] had a cause; otherwise, it would not have occurred. But was energy the cause, or was God the cause? But energy does not do anything unless it is made to do something – by some external force. It is not conscious; it does not have a will.

Surely, then, God is the most logical explanation – the Islamic, Qur’anic conceptualisation of Him? A Rabb [a complex and multifaceted Arabic term that describes the Creator]? Self-sufficient; He does not require a cause. In fact, He is not in need of anything [and this is truly difficult for we extremely needy beings to ever comprehend]. Eternal. The Cause. The Unmoved Mover. The One who is totally unlike His creation.

Does energy have a brain, in order to make these decisions in the first place? But then again, we must bring the following into question: is the brain the cause of human thought and intentionality, or is it merely a vessel? Uniquely human traits – like the ability to make art; the ability to love so deeply; the ability to write; the ability to create; to think – can we not see all our abilities (so boundless and yet so limited) as diluted subsets of Divine qualities? What is the cause of love? Mere neuro-chemical cocktails? But what if these, too, are just vessels – the ways, vehicles, through which Divine qualities pass through, and into the material realm? And eyesight? At which level can we look at our eyes beneath microscopes, and say, “Aha! The ultimate cause of eyesight!”

We find letters in letterboxes. This does not render the letterbox the cause of the letter. Likewise, we find the ostensible ‘origins’ of certain functions within certain bodily organs (etc). Are these organs the (unguidedcauses of said functions? This is all just something to think about; something through which one may cause oneself to have an existential crisis, on the spot…

 

On Social Media

Social media: online platforms that supposedly enhance our social lives, making us feel more connected to other people and places. I know that the virtual world certainly has its benefits; it lets us keep in touch with people, and to come across new people (I was lucky enough to first meet one of my closest friends through Tumblr) and new perspectives. Through online networks, we can also come by inspiration for various things (a word of advice here: Pinterest is indisputably the one for room decor inspo).

That being said, however, personally, I have found that whenever I am feeling particularly dissatisfied or mentally uneasy, I notice that there has been a spike in my social media activity (or, rather, inactivity, when I am scrolling aimlessly through my Instagram newsfeed). Granted, the direction of causation is unclear here: do I attempt to purge my sorrows by looking at aesthetically pleasing pictures of books, buildings, and beautiful things … or does the virtual realm actively contribute to my sense of sadness? Perhaps the answer to this is a more circular one, and an increasing number of us find ourselves trapped in the vicious cycle of the lofty expectations and subsequent dissatisfaction that social apps can impose on us.

You may have already heard about the shocking finding that receiving ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ on social media typically has psychological and physiological effects that parallel those of heroin consumption. Social media, our digital drug, has utterly consumed us. Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr… the logos of these social media giants are plastered all over shop windows and tourist attractions. Many of us use them for hours on end, every single day.

Recently, numerous celebrities and other avid social media users have posted about their love-hate struggles with their digital lives. Many have taken the decision to dispose of their accounts altogether; many others have resorted to undertaking lengthy social media hiatuses.

As well as the plethora of mental health issues that can arise from or be worsened by the overconsumption of digital content, it could be argued that the epidemic of social media warps our reality, and replaces it with a falsified ‘Insta-reality’: our experiences are commodified, made as ‘picture-perfect’ as possible, in order to be shared online. It could also be argued that the online element only adds to our perceptions of reality: we naturally enjoy relaying our thoughts and experiences to others (often in a rather filtered way). Does it really matter if what is being said is conveyed through our screens in lieu of our facial expressions, voices, and physical proximity?

When analysing the effects of social media, it is easy to fall into the trap – that great human bias of ours – of looking at the past through rose-tinted spectacles, and at the present through a lens of mistrust. Life must have been sweeter back then – and interpersonal relationships more soulful or romantic – when our means of communication were limited to face-to-face interactions, and beautifully handwritten letters. In truth, this probably wasn’t the case: humans have always been great narcissists, nosy parkers, perfectionists, procrastinators, and so on. Social media simply provides a digital stage onto which the best (and worst) elements of the human condition can be projected.

Another crucial question to be asked: is there really a solid line that delineates between our ‘in-real-life’ and online selves? The postmodernist view is that the distinction between media and reality has become (irreversibly) blurred. ‘Real life’, surely, is a product of our experiences – whatever we see, touch, feel, smell, taste, and, most crucially, think. Our realities depend on the manner in which we process the things around us – including the things we see online. But what detracts from whatever claims to authenticity social media might have is its often very ‘filtered’ nature. People are very particular with what they post online: streams of glamorous and ‘aesthetic’ posts can lead to – and has led to – the development of the view that anything that is ‘ordinary’, mundane, commonplace, and messy, is substandard.

However, it is true that the issue of the selective presentation of ourselves exists offline too: people are also rather selective with which thoughts they allow themselves to translate into physical behaviour and speech. We are inherently prone to filtering ourselves – so perhaps, instead of being a threat to our fundamental collective human nature, social media is a direct product of it.

Ultimately, it would be rather ignorant and small-minded of me to claim that the effect of social media is only detrimental to us: there are certainly benefits to increased connectivity. But these online platforms have exacerbated certain negative conditions – FOMO (fear of missing out), jealousy, feelings of dissatisfaction and inadequacy, issues with body image, and more. Social media exposes us more to the world – both its good sides, and its darker sides.

But the most alarming aspect of the whole debate, in my view, is the fact that social media has become a drug to which many of us find ourselves helpelessly addicted. And, just like any other drug, people need increasingly large doses of social media to sustain their addictions. In fact, withdrawal symptoms are often experienced in its absence. And often, instead of ‘living in the moment’, we find ourselves responding to cognitive itches by obsessively and anxiously picking up our phones, unfathomably desperate to know what others are doing, or how we are being perceived by them, or which shade of lipstick Kylie Jenner has chosen to wear today.

My ambivalent ramblings towards social media conclude themselves here: everything that is good, is good in moderation. And sometimes, in order to recharge yourself, you must first unplug yourself from the often deceptive and all-consuming world of social media.


Sadia Ahmed, 2018

To our future selves,

Trigger warning: this article features a lot of sentences that begin with the words “I hope…”

We probably don’t have everything figured out yet. When we were younger, we were always under the impression that the messiness of our minds would somehow morph into the butterfly of ‘adulthood’ someday. But adulthood doesn’t suddenly appear as a messianic figure or a profound realisation: we will never have everything figured out, and life will always be a little bit messy. 

I hope we have developed the strength and courage to accept and be ourselves, even in the face of intolerance or adversity. As the cliche saying goes, happiness comes from within. I hope that we have finally come to accept our flaws, and to understand that we are not any more flawed than anybody else: we are simply more exposed to our own faults and perceived inadequacies. Confidence is key in life, even if we ‘fake it’ at first. We lay out the foundations for how other people perceive us and treat us, and when we truly accept and love ourselves, beautiful things happen, and life feels more ‘right’.

I cannot hope that our lives are now problem-free; problems are an integral part of the human condition. But I hope that we take the time to realise that we can overcome these obstacles, just as we have overcome every other obstacle we have faced. But even when life is riddled with problems and stress, things can still be framed in a positive manner. Excessive ‘positivity’ isn’t helpful nor maintanable, but the ability to reframe our circumstances certainly is. I know that we will still have our bad days, but I hope that even on these days, we give ourselves the patience and care that we deserve. 

I hope that we are free to fully embrace our own styles – that our clothes are comfortable and (mostly) reflective of who we are, and that our homes are truly our ‘homes’, where we feel most at ease. I hope that we are surrounded by mutual love – oceans of it. 

I hope we never give in to the pressure of being ‘cool’, especially at the expense of being our true selves. We are messy, imperfect, a bit crap at times, but that is okay. It is better to be real than to be popular, and the loudest voices are not necessarily the best ones. I hope that we don’t base our self-worth on the approval of others or our abilities to conform to their expectations and stereotypes, moulding ourselves to fit into boxes for others’ comfort. I hope that we are living for ourselves, instead. I hope that we accept help and advice from others, but not to the extent where others’ opinions of ourselves supersede and dictate our own.

I hope that, as adults, we are grateful for the blessings in our lives – for our journeys to wherever we may be now, for the people who are currently in our lives, the people we once knew and perhaps still love, and for the people we are yet to meet. I hope we are grateful for the smaller things, like the smell of coffee in the morning, the splendour of the city at night, and the laughter of our children (or of our friends’ children, depending on the paths we choose to take).

I hope that life is full of travel, little (and big) spontaneous adventures, and beautiful moments that we try to capture in photographs and pictures, but find that we simply can’t. I hope that these moments take us by surprise and that we find ourselves lost in different places and with different people, as we try to find ourselves.

Most of all, I hope that we are living fulfilling lives – not necessarily the most lavish or ‘Instagrammable’ ones. I hope that our own small worlds are filled with both structure and unpredictability – and with love, laughter, and, of course, good food. I hope that we accept that we are just as deserving of peace, contentment and joy as anybody else and that we have the same right as anybody else to exist just as we are, wherever we may be. I hope we’re not too harsh on ourselves, and don’t feel the need to prove anything to anybody but ourselves, and that we don’t compare ourselves to (our perceptions of) others.

Finally, I hope that we make peace with ourselves and our pasts, and accept that aiming for perfection will always be futile. I hope that we are living medium lives (not too ‘small’ and private or idle, nor too ‘big’ and public or robot-workaholic-y) and ‘in the moment’ more. I hope we know that we are doing just fine, and that our past selves would be proud of us. 

From,

17-year-old me.

One day, They say

One day, they say,

A man will sweep me off my feet,

And catch me in his loving arms, just milliseconds before

I hit the ground.

He will tell me that I am beautiful, and that there is no other girl like me-

No better woman to devote himself to,

 

No better prey to feast on.

 

One day, they say,

A man will save me.

He will swoop down from the heavens, in a tuxedo, no less,

His perfect hair complementing his perfect face,

He will swoop down and rescue me.

With muscular arms,

He will extricate me from the dirt of this life,

This ditch that I seem to have dug for myself,

And then he will ask me to marry him.

 

One day, they say,

I will lead a perfect life as a trophy wife,

Raising children on a diet of love and picket fences,

While the demons are kept at bay

By my brave, brave soldier.

He will take the broken glass of my soul,

And embrace me so tightly that somehow

The pieces will all come back together.

 

Sometimes I wonder if he will realise that broken glass, even when fixed, is still

Broken glass.

 

The abyss will be filled with red roses and

Teddy bears, stuffed to the gills with love,

Expensive meals at restaurants, spontaneous adventures,

Cute couple pictures, movies and laughter,

Piles of unwashed clothes to take care of,

A life of servitude and sadness,

Remnants of what once was and what could have been,

Constant feelings of inadequacy,

Until every silence becomes awkward

And every conversation becomes an argument.

 

Until the diamond ring on your left hand becomes

A noose around your neck,

As you plunge deeper into eternity.

 

You have not grown your love- your life from seed,

Just to let it be stolen by someone who is hungry for it.

You are your own woman,

Not an empty shell that exists to be filled

By some man’s oversized ego.

 

Save yourself.

 


Sadia Ahmed, 2017

Ruminations on running a political campaign

Recently, following a rigorous training process and campaign period, I was elected as Deputy Young Mayor of my borough (Tower Hamlets) for the term 2017 to 2019. As cliche as this may sound, this entire experience has been wonderful; I have learnt so much, about different people and their cultures, about who I am, and about politics in general. 

I will not lie by attempting to claim that this process has been easy for me: following a training period that spanned over the course of three months and consisted of various meetings, interviews and training sessions, the number of candidates was narrowed from an initial cohort to approximately fifty, down to ten final candidates. Promptly after this, we were left to our own campaigns for over a month- from mid-December 2016 to late January 2017. This allowed me to develop my organisational skills, as I needed to create a necessary balance in my life, what with my political campaign, alongside preparation for imperative mock exams, as well as preparation for my entrance exams to get accepted into my desired sixth form.

Below are some of the lessons I have been taught during my campaign, which I would have given to my former self prior to my campaign. I have decided to share these words of advice in order to assist anyone who may be going through a particularly challenging stage in their lives:

1) Some people will hate you for no apparent reason. 

The unfortunate reality of the world is that some people will find a reason to detest you, without even knowing you. Perhaps they are members of an opposition party’s campaign team, or even a random person from a different school. They may dislike you based on something as trivial as your accent or facial structure, but the key thing to remember is that they do not know you; they are simply attempting to fill an unfillable  void in their lives. So keep your head up and shrug off any negativity.

2) The support you receive will be overwhelmingly heartwarming.

This process will reveal to you who your true friends are. They will rush to the streets to campaign with you, attend meetings with you and relentlessly update your social media feeds for you. However, most importantly, these friends will (metaphorically) hold their hands out beneath you, ready to catch you if you fall, and catapult you back on track.

But the support you receive will not solely come from the people you know and love: you will receive an overwhelming amount of support from people you have never even met before, and new friendships will undoubtedly be forged.

3) This will be tough. 

But you are tougher. These months will drain you- mentally, physically and spiritually, but eventually you will respond to the strenuous nature of your situation, and you will adapt to it accordingly. It takes courage and determination, but most of all, it takes a high degree of organisation. Sometimes I was forced to endure days that comprised of meetings, followed by lengthy revision sessions, followed by family gatherings, followed by an hour or so of outdoor campaigning. Thankfully, this allowed me to develop my skills (especially those pertaining to communication and organisation) and have fun with my friends.

4) Some may start to view you as nothing more than a vessel. 

Through this comparatively small-scale political campaign, I have realised that people are quick to perceive political candidates as mere political vessels, rather than human beings with true emotions. The amount of hostility one can receive simply by running for a political position is absolutely atrocious. Despite this, it is important to focus on the positive rather than the negative aspects of life, for we become whatever we ponder upon constantly.

5) Hold on to who you are, but be open to positive changes. 

Ultimately, the best possible advice I can impart is as follows: know yourself, accept yourself, and seize every opportunity made available to you. Success lies not in winning, but in taking a chance, and in being the very best version of yourself that you can possibly be.

I am extremely grateful to everyone who voted for me, and I look forward to working alongside my friends Fahimul and Shaiam over the next two years to make a positive impact on our borough.

And finally, good luck to anyone considering running for the role of young mayor in two years’ time!

The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect refers to the idea that minuscule, seemingly insignificant, actions can lead to significant reactions- a ripple effect, if you like. This term is typically used in meteorology, to describe how even a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world can cause a tornado on the other. The phrase can also be seen as a metaphor. The fragility of the atmosphere can be compared to that of human emotions: the little things we do can have remarkable consequences. A simple smile or a hug can illuminate a person’s otherwise miserable day. A ten-minute conversation over coffee can be the thing that dissuades a person from committing suicide.

We must acknowledge, firstly, that we are all in need of each other, and we should be more reflective upon our actions.

The Human Condition

Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error. These were wise words, spoken by Marcus Tullius Cierco. Based on these words, every man is an idiot. In fact, humanity itself is characterised by idiocy, for after centuries of opportunities to learn from our endless mistakes, we find ourselves in a new age, continuing to make the exact same errors as our long-deceased ancestors. 

John Keats, Simone de Beauvoir, William Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath…All literary legends have one thing in common: they write about the Plight and Pain of humanity- about the dangers of greed, power, jealousy and love. Every book that has ever been published since the beginning of our existence as a species has sought to teach us at least something, but we persist in repeating these errors. How many more books must be published in order for us to comprehend that pain is an intrinsic component of certain pursuits?

We are a rebellious kind- we are willing to risk everything for certain things, and certain people. That is the unalterable flaw that we all share- it is the nature of the human condition. We make a mistake, and then

We make it again.


Sadia Ahmed, 2016