A Story about Donkeys, Humans & Panic

Dear quarter lives,

Once upon a time on a planet right here called Earth, there was a disease called Panic that infected and killed everyone except for the Donkeys. Panic spread very fast. No one knew exactly what caused this kind of disease or how it spread so fast, but everyone knew that the Donkeys were immune to it. So the Humans began to kidnap the Donkeys and lock them up in laboratories, carrying out all sorts of experiments on them. So much new fancy equipment was built especially for these experiments, but unfortunately it didn’t help the Humans understand why the Donkeys weren’t getting infected by Panic. So instead the Humans started to hunt the Donkeys and eat them. Many Donkeys were orphaned, and many others widowed. But the Humans didn’t care. They were so afraid of dying that they were blindly killing other innocent creatures. Rumours began to spread speculating why the Humans were engaging in such brutalities. Some declared that the Humans didn’t even carry out experiments on the Donkeys, they were just so angry at God for not killing the Donkeys as well they decided to even out the scales themselves. Others dismissed such claims suggesting more believable ones such as it was the disease that was doing that to them, that the Humans have gone mad. You see not everyone died from Panic, many more people in fact stayed alive but the fear of death would never leave them. Panic, you see, was an incurable disease because it went right to the mind and there was no coming back from an infected mind. That’s why the Donkeys didn’t get it. They had no minds because what was the point. They didn’t have any use for them since they were always keen on remaining exactly where they were, just here in one place at one time. They had no desire for time travel like the Humans did. The Donkeys couldn’t understand why the Humans put in so much effort to plan to go somewhere that didn’t exist. For The Donkeys relaxing and having a good time was all that really mattered so they had no use for worry because everything that mattered was already here and happening. They weren’t an ambitious bunch like the Humans. They were happy exactly as they were and that self-satisfaction and contentedness is exactly what saved them from Panic. Panic tormented the Humans for centuries. Now because of Panic, the Humans are going extinct. If only a Donkey would tell them to relax, the Panic would all just come to an end. But the Humans burnt all their bridges with the Donkeys. And the Donkeys aren’t a resentful bunch, they’re just keen on staying alive so staying away from the Humans who butchered them was one way they made sure of it. But the Humans still had one last hope. They too had burnt that bridge but since God isn’t worried about being killed then He might just be the One to call on. So the Humans began to do just that. They started calling God. At first, He didn’t answer. He wanted to be sure this was a genuine call. He wanted to see if the Humans really cherished Life, if they were so grateful for it that they were prepared to surrender their egos for Life’s sake and beg. And beg, the Humans did. They began to beg God to answer their prayers. They would even wake up in the middle of the night to pray. Finally, the Humans were so desperate and felt so powerless that they all began to cry. They cried so much that all the rivers that had dried up were filling up and returning to the planet once again. The air that was so dry and hoarse began to soften and feel wet again. The earth they stood on was quenching her thirst and drinking once again. The hot fires raging in the Humans’ bellies for centuries were finally put out by the their tears. They began to cool down. And as they cooled down, their fevers began to disappear. And as their fevers began to disappear, their minds began to settle, and as their minds began to settle, their eyes slowly opened. And as their eyes opened and light came rushing into them, they realised they had been blinded by Panic and that they were finally cured. They had survived the plague that had devoured their species for centuries. And all they had to do was cry. It wasn’t God that saved them, it was the crying for Life that did. You see for the Humans to be able to cry, they had to surrender their power over to something they believed was more powerful than them. That’s why they called for God. And since then, the Humans on Earth have had crying ceremonies to celebrate Life and to make sure they regularly surrender to God.

So dear quarter lives, the morale of the story is that the remedy for panic is to cry a little. Tears are a great way to release some of those pent up sensations and emotions that we lock into our bodies, dangerously so, to the point that they begin to leak into our minds. So for the sake of both your physical health and mental health, give permission to yourself to cry whenever you need to. No one is too strong to cry; in fact, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to cry. So be brave today and let it all out.

With love, 

S.A. 

On Why We Need To Declutter Our Memories

Remember not that which has passed. Remember not the memories. But the lessons. It is only for that purpose that we remember, that we have memories, to understand what we need to learn, to then go ahead and learn it, and when we have learnt it, we must forget now. To forgive is not to forget the memory itself. To forgive is to forego any further action in reaction to that memory. It is to forget the need to respond. And if a memory no longer warrants an action or emotion from you, it no longer belongs to you anymore. You must give it back. You must create space for new memories by emptying out the old. If your closet is full, it cannot take on any new clothes. And it is the new garments that nourish, that allow for change, that bring a sense of excitement and newness in our lives. If we don’t actively pursue changing the contents of our closets, upgrading them, assessing and reassessing to see what we still need, what we no longer need, and what we are struggling to throw out, we won’t be able to see what has gone bad and is infesting the rest of our closet. We must always revisit our closets, and clean them out, just like we would our home. We must regularly declutter our souls to create space before we add new furniture.

Clearing our souls is no different than clearing our homes. Can you redecorate a house full of its original contents or must you take everything out first and start fresh? Then after you have decluttered and cleaned out your house, it is then that one can start to paint the walls and add picture frames and a coffee table. If one’s house is full to the point it compromises your movement, you risk getting stuck inside. You grow isolated and lonely because you can’t visit anyone and no one can visit you. There’s no space to move just like in a hoarder’s home. This is how people get sick, how they begin to feel at dis-ease within their own bodies all because there’s no space for their soul to move. And to move, one needs to create space for movement. So creativity is key to maintaining a healthy home for your soul. Our bodies are the homes that our souls inhabit and our souls can only endure a dirty home for so long. Many have died because they have resisted change. Many have died because they held on to too many memories, to too many emotions, to too much pain. They refused to let it out. To let it go. And that I believe is what suicide is. Our soul choosing to leave the dirty and congested house. The house where so much space is taken up by the past, by pain, that there is no more room for our soul to move. Our souls fall to overwhelm. They become tense, stunted, and unable to grow. And soon our soul chooses to open the door, or perhaps if it can’t reach the door it will opt for the closest window to leave. It is a choice yes. But it is one out of desperation. So let us clean our houses regularly, let us make a celebration out of it, let us set an example for our neighbours, for our children and our friends. Let us show that it is fun to declutter, that it is spiritual to forget, that it is an act of love for our souls to forgive.

It is for all those souls that have died because their houses were too full, their bodies too suffocating that I write this. It is for all those souls looking for the window to leave, I write this. It is for you that I say: Hold on just a moment longer. I had almost left my home through the window too, but someone had knocked on my door at the right time, and said, “Hold on. Wait a second. Do you need a hand cleaning up?”. And that saved my life. It is a moment of kindness that saved my life. A moment of mercy from the Universe. A second chance at cleaning my home. But I needed help. And I had to ask for it. So I would like to emphasise this point particularly that it is not enough for us to recognise we need help, but we must be intentional in our desire to receive help and actively pursue it. Help isn’t just therapy. Help comes in many shapes and sizes. Help can be admitting to a friend that you are not as okay as you might seem. It could be going on a hiking trip. It could be a dance class or a cooking one. It could be just writing in your journal. For me, writing helps me create space. Without it, I couldn’t move. It was writing that knocked on my door and said, “Wait a minute…we’re not done here. I think you could use me as you clear your house.” And indeed I used it to clear out so much. I will forever be grateful for that knock. Today, I would like to give back the knock that was once so kindly handed to me. As it is with our breaths, we must always exhale what we inhale, we must give back tomorrow what we receive today. And so let go of the love of yesterday, let go of the happiness of your childhood, and the sadness too. Make space for new emotions, new memories, new people. Even the most wonderful of memories held for too long will ferment, grow mold and eventually go bad. So let go and begin this new year clean, clear and light. It’s time for you to redecorate.

With Love,

S.A.

Believe in nothing and Ignite the Joker within

I have yet to find words that can articulate the marvel and genius that is this piece of art. I’ve seen the film 3 times in 4 days, and I still haven’t had enough. And I don’t think it’s just about the story, but about wanting to be in close proximity to magic. The thing about this movie is that it is exactly the kind of movie that has the power to change the world, and to be in the presence of that power is extremely nourishing. You see, it is a story about all of us. About the darkness that has befallen our world because of our need to other. Take today, for example, it is a day like any other, as are we, each one of us, a human like any other. And to that extent, it means we have all othered and been othered. We are all an other in some way to some one. It is the natural product of the language we use. As each word has an opposite, each idea too. Good the opposite of evil, and god the opposite of devil.

The reason this film is so important today is because our humanity is at a crossroads. Change is here, and it is now up to us to listen closely to the aids that come our way, the mirrors that are reflecting us back to us, warning us of our demise, the mirrors offering us an out, an escape. But listen we must. Open our eyes, we must. It is not enough to just observe anymore, for we have observed for too long. We have given power to a select few to take action on our behalf and forgotten that each one of us can take action too. It is no longer sufficient to point fingers at those representatives of state whom we’ve elected or doctors we’ve trusted or teachers we’ve surrendered our minds to. It is up to us now. It is up to us to reclaim our power. That is what Joker is about in my view. It is about re-empowering our selves. Reclaiming what is ours. Not taking back what others have taken from us. But taking back the otherness we have imposed on others and on the world. It is not about being anti-state or anti-rich or anti-corporations, it is about embracing the anti. Whomever and whatever we’ve anti-ed. The world, politics, history — all narratives told of one side versus another. It is time we come together and relinquish the need to tell our story versus anything at all, for it has all in fact been versus ourselves. It starts with embracing the other gender, the other race, the other human. It all begins with us, and it will all end with us. The question is do we want it to end by us now?

Whatever views and whatever beliefs you hold so tight and so dear to your identity, this film is inviting you to un-identify, for it is the identifying in the first place that has caused this otherness. It is when we so rigidly subscribe ourselves to a belief that we exclude ourselves from others, thereby othering ourselves. It is not the otherness that is done unto us, it is in fact the otherness we do unto ourselves. The whole point of the film, in my view, can be summed up in a single line where Joker expressed his lack of belief, “I don’t believe in anything”. That is exactly what transformed Arthur Fleck into Joker. And that is exactly what he’s inviting us to do to ignite the Joker within us. It is precisely the I don’t believe in any(particular)thing that is inclusive of everyone. It is that lack of attachment to beliefs, that lack of particularity about what you do and don’t believe that brings people together. It is what unifies us into an “us” rather than splitting us into a “they and them”. I know this might be a little too philosophical, but the state of the world, of nature, of our internal lives is in dire need of deep reflection. We cannot ignore what is right in front of us. Like it is a crime to watch another kill another without doing anything, it is too a crime to watch our societies kill each other, kill nature, kill our minds without doing anything. It is an action too to chose to do nothing. But it isn’t nothing we should do, rather nothing we should believe in. It is our belief in no(particular)thing that will save our humanity, that will fill our hearts once more with compassion and our faces with kindness.

I hope that love finds our world once more, for it has been gone too long. And not because it has been taken from us, but because we have been choosing to give it to particular people and refusing to give it to others. By discriminating with our love, we have chosen to only love some(particular)things and refused to love every(particular)thing. And to love everything, we must be inclusive with our love and not love any(particular)thing. And you see the only way to be open to not love any(particular)thing is to be open too with our beliefs and not believe in any(particular)thing.

One last important takeaway from this film – which I think has been gravely misunderstood and the reason too it is so controversial – is that we need not set actual fires or fire bullets to ignite change, the destructive power of creativity is more than enough to transform anything. And the film itself is exactly that — it is the creative bullet that has ignited a fire within all of us and threatens to destroy our belief systems more than any actual bullet or fire can ever do. The story is about the internal life of a person, and so the violence too is metaphorical and reflects the destruction and the movement that creativity ignites within all of us. This film is about waking up the Joker within all of us, and the power and unity that comes when we break free from our deep need to associate with anything, that is how we all become the clown, one human indistinguishable from another, united! Isn’t that what shedding our egos is all about?

Thank you for reading! And please share and help spread the love.

S.A.

Our Polluted Education

Dear quarter lives,

In recent decades, there has been an emphasis in education on high performance, and in doing so, people have made the assumption that a more learned person is a person with higher grades. There cannot be a more untrue statement. Perhaps it is the way tests are standardised and how the grading system works, but learning is not the same as going to school. Learning is a life-long skill, and for most of our lives, it is self-initiated learning, there is no classroom, no teacher in the conventional sense, no one to tell you you must learn, or acquire an end result. Often times we do not know exactly where this learning is taking us, but we must go with it anyway. But schools have forgotten and teachers with them that schools are not merely there to produce good workers, but to produce resilient humans, ones that can endure life, for there is no tougher boss, and no tougher teacher. And unfortunately the skills taught in school today equip you in no way at all for this continuous independent-learning called life. And because we have forgotten that the goal is not to survive till retirement, but to survive till death comes for us, we have not prepared people for life. It is the ethical duty not only of parents but of educators to teach children how to acquire knowledge. Not all knowledge is in classrooms and not all knowledge comes from books. For some of the greatest teachers can be in our backyards, a tree is a great teacher, but we need to be told that it is okay to access alternative forms of learning, ones maybe that can’t be tested, ones where students cannot be shown a right or wrong answer. By ignoring the needs of a human life, and focusing on the needs of corporations, we have neglected millions of souls on the way and polluted many others, and like it is our responsibility to clean up the environment, it is our ethical duty to clean up our souls and the souls of the communities we live amongst. 

Always with love,

S.A.

Some advice from a Clown…

” It is true. It is always the most fun when it is without purpose. To write these words, to observe these faces, and to breathe in these smells. It is with humour that we must take it all in. This is the best advice I can give you on how to be a clown. And there is no better advice than that for how to be human.

A clown must always be colourful, silly, and in costume. A clown should never take himself too seriously. He must always remember he is in character and not the character. A clown must be clear to be funny. A clown must always direct the crowd. It is this that is the most difficult task. For a clown cannot see oneself as he acts. He can only see himself through his observers, their reactions, their eyes and giggles. So to be a clown, one must learn to read oneself from the crowd, one must learn to see oneself in others without judgement, without prejudice, for any judgement and any prejudices will be made in fact against ourself. It is an attack upon ourselves when we attack another with judgements. And so, one must always observe with humour. Humour is not only the product of a clown’s presence, it is the process by which they attain presence. Humour is the guide. It is the light. Follow it like a clown, and a crowd pleaser you will be. A crowd pleaser is not one that fulfills the expectations of the crowd. A clown, a true crowd-pleaser, is one that fulfills desires unknown to the crowd, it is a clown that fills the space with laughter, spaces thought of as absent before, but now with laughter they are present, they have been brought into the light. It is humour with which we can truly engage with what we lack, with empty vessels, empty people, for they are not lacking because something is wrong with them, they are just absent, they have less energy than is required to be present, and what better way to refuel your body, your soul than with laughter.

Laughter is the grandest of all energies. It vibrates, produces sound and even movement. It lights a fire in the belly, producing a light within. Humour is the air that keeps the candle burning inside, for otherwise it would be too dark, too dark to see anything, so everything falls into nothingness, into absence, so laugh your way through it all. Learn from the mighty clown, and laugh a little. Laugh a little and laugh always. For there is no issue too important, no issue too serious that it cannot be brought into the light with some humour. All wants to be funny. All wants to induce laughter. All wants to make light. So do not resist it, let it be what it wants to be. Let it make you laugh, and cry tears of joy. Let it shake your belly like an earthquake. Let it burn through the darkness within, and bring a lightness to your heart. Let Humour carry you. She would love to. “

With laughter,

A (fellow) Clown

A story about mothers and dinner tables

“ They always told us to eat slowly at dinner, to eat with our mouths closed, no elbows at the table, and finally they told us not to eat too much. But they never told us about emotions, what do we do with them at the dinner table? Do we share our tears or conceal them, if we show up with sadness tonight? Or do we tell the jokes exploding in our brain with laughter making us grin ever so slyly at the dinner table? Or do we remove ourselves from the table ever so absolutely when fury paints our cheeks red radiating colour and heat across the dinner table tonight? What should we do with our emotions at the dinner table? You never told us. But if we were to infer the rules from observing your behaviour than I suppose we must conceal it all, the sadness, the laughter and the anger. But mother, did you know that we could see through it all? All of us, father, sister, and brother. Perhaps it wasn’t us you were concealing it from, but yourself. I suppose it is hard to see oneself sad, foolish, or angry. I wonder if you succeeded. Because if you failed to hide your feelings away, if you still felt that you were all those things, sad, foolish and angry, sometimes even simultaneously, we would have loved it if you had shared it with us. Isn’t that after all what dinner tables are for? For sharing things? Both tangible and intangible? Perhaps that is why we never left the dinner table satiated, and not because you told us not to eat too much, but because we were never fed the intangible, we were always hungry but never knew why, for after all it was your responsibility to make sure we left the dinner table feeling full, feeling satisfied. Instead you watched us starve, knowing that there was something else you needed to offer us. All dinner table menus are the responsibility of the mother. Or did you not know that? Did your mother not tell you what to do at the dinner table as you have so clearly outlined for us what not to do at the dinner table, restricting our diet to mere food? Or was she like you too? Do you know it today at least? After all those years? Or are you still hiding things from yourself? Is it not a difficult endeavor to pretend oneself is blind forever? Do you not miss seeing how you look in the mirror? Do you not miss running? Are you not tired of tiptoeing making sure you do not trip or walk straight into a wall? What if you opened only one eye today? If only you could see that the light is not too bright, but just right. If only you could see my face, do you not miss it? Or are you so scared of seeing anything else, that you have chosen to sacrifice our faces too? Remember though we still have our eyes mother, have you not thought that we can see you? Have you not thought how painful it must be to watch you try to hide from yourself, to hide from us, your children, to hide from the world all together? Do you know the pain of mourning a mother that is still alive? Have you not thought that our pain might be great too? Have you not thought you could spare us it? Do you ever think of us? Do you love us? Have you ever loved us? Tell me, mother, do you even know how to love?”

It is true that mothers face the great pressure of obligatory love. Why is it that a mother must love her child? Why is it assumed? Why compulsory? Why if a mother is strong enough and honest enough to recognise that perhaps her heart is too broken to love another, even herself, is she deemed a monster, unworthy of any goodness or kindness to come her way? It is for that reason that mothers all over feel such shame to seek help when they realise they do not love their kids. It is not their fault, and neither is it the fault of their kids, but we must help them repair their hearts, repair themselves, only then can they love again, only then can the children of the world again feel love. Children know unconsciously the truth; there are superficial actions of love, but they cannot mask the real thing, no matter how well the mother tries to hide it. This piece of writing was written for the mothers of the world whose hearts are too broken to even love their children, and for all those children of the broken-hearted mothers who are starving for love and affection. If we do not have these kinds of conversations, things will never get better, things will never change. Society too likes to hide from its own shortcomings, but today perhaps we can face them together. We can offer an ear or lend a hand to a mother or a child in need of love. There is no shame in being unable to love. There is no shame either in needing love. It is often difficult for us to ask for love or help, so if you recognise someone in your life who could use some compassion, do not shy away from giving it to them. Give the gift of love and compassion to those mothers and children once more. It is for our children now who will become mothers and fathers for their children in the future, that we must have these bold conversations. 

S.A.

Fix your Gaze

Dear quarter lives,

Fix your gaze — a meditation practice. They tell you to fix your gaze on something and sit still and observe. But what does it really mean to fix your gaze? Is it simply a practice in focus or is there much more to it than meets the eye? Let us take the phrase and break it down. To fix means to correct. And to correct your gaze, to correct where you were looking implies you were looking wrong. But is it looking in the wrong place or the wrong way? Or is it that you were looking in the first place? Is it transforming our unconscious looking into a conscious act that transforms it from mere looking into deliberate sight. Seeing is choosing to look. And by choosing to look you make a deliberate choice to direct your attention to a specific object of your sight. It is that which we must correct when they say fix your gaze. The practice indeed requires focus, but it is because you are “focusing” i.e. directing your attention to a specific point. It is training you to consciously choose to look, i.e. to see.

Many of us walk through life without seeing much. Our eyes collect information constantly, but how much of it do we choose to see, how much of it do we choose to experience? It is only when we use our senses consciously that we fully experience them. Otherwise, they just exist. And by extension, we just exist. But when you choose to see, to hear, to feel, that is when your senses come to life. And by extension, you become alive.

In his essay The Soul of Man under Socialism, Oscar Wilde wrote, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” These two short sentences stuck with me ever since I first read them over a decade ago. Though their meaning for me has changed over the years as I have changed and grown. It might seem like a self-explanatory statement. But the more I contemplated it, the more obscure it grew. It had so many layers, and the more layers I peeled, the more I found. Is it simply that a few of us choose to live, and others let life happen to them? But what is the nature of that choice? I mean no one wants to go through life sleepwalking. Most of us want to live, but why don’t we? If it is a choice, why aren’t people choosing what they want? Or can they not find the choice, is it hidden somewhere — a puzzle, only a few can solve? And if so, what is the best hiding place for choice? What is the best hiding place for anything? In plain sight!

It is that obvious that we miss it. The best place to hide anything is in plain sight. It is in our sight, literally. We just need to fix it. The choice is in our sight. It is in how we see the world, that is how we come to life. The choice to live, the ability to live rather than exist, comes from the choice to see rather than to look. We must choose our eyes. Which eye am I going to see the world with today? What kind of eyes am I willing to use? Am I going to use my looking eyes or seeing eyes? That is the choice we must make to live or exist. Practices like meditation are also like the statement I shared above, they might seem simple, but once you contemplate them, and sit with them, they reveal their layers to you, and the more you peel, the more you will find. It is not just about breathing, or focus, or observation, it is about much more. The thing is about these layers is that they are person specific, they reveal themselves to you in the order you need to learn them, in the order that you are ready to become aware of them. What I have shared here is only one of my insights, but it might not sit with you or stick like it has with me, not because it is incorrect or correct, but because it is not time for you yet. There is always a time for each one of us to receive insights from the universe that will guide us along our path. And because my path is unique to me, and your path is unique to you, the lampposts for all of us are unique, our crossroads are unique, so I am sharing my specific learning with you not to tell you that this is what you should do now, I am sharing it with you because I want to illustrate to you the great potential there is for discovery in contemplation. It is only a possibility that I share with you, and I hope that you take it as a token of my appreciation for your life, and find your own.

All that I hope to do with this work is to start an open conversation into our potential. We are at the beginning of our lives, dear and fellow quarter lives, and I believe we have so much potential for life, and so much possibility lies ahead of us but it is only if we believe in the impossible that all becomes possible. And perhaps I have shared here much of my contemplations into the absurd, but I have chosen the absurd to contemplate, because I believe that the absurd is a great teacher in humility and grace. It does not mean that if our human minds have not explained it, then it cannot be. If the history of scientific discovery has illustrated anything, is that it all already existed before we made theories of it. So the absurd is a magnificent teacher in that it allows you to approach everything with a sense of “I know nothing, but I am ready to learn”. And what a great place to be as a student of life, than a place of “I don’t know everything”. It is that specific place that creates space in your mind, in your senses, in your soul for more. For if you already claim you are full, if you already claim that you know all, then there will be no room in you to know more. So I have chosen the absurd, because I have chosen a path of learning. But this is my teacher, at least for now. Find your own. It is a wondrous experience to be shown the way. When visiting a historic site or monument, do you not seek a tour guide to show you the way, to tell you about the magnificent wonders of the site. Life is no different. There are many guides, who speak many languages. Find your language. Find your guide. Choose to see, and you will discover a whole new world. Just fix your gaze, and you will find grace along the way. 

Always with love,

S.A.

On Accidental Love & Articulation

Dear quarter lives,

We often think we need to articulate ideas clearly so that others can understand us. We articulate to communicate with others. Language is what we use to articulate complex ideas in complex ways to other complex minds. That’s what we’re taught, even if not so explicitly but through all those years of school and all that emphasis on presentations, sentence structure and grammar. But what we are never taught implicitly or explicitly is the importance of articulating ideas to ourselves. I mean don’t you think if we can’t communicate with our own selves clearly, how on earth are we supposed to communicate with others effectively. Articulation is and will always be about communication, but we forgot that it is us who we most need to communicate with, and then comes everyone else after that.

It comes as no surprise that once we have mastered the art of articulation with our own selves, once we have spent our 10,000 hours speaking to ourselves not just randomly, but intentionally, transforming fragments of thoughts into coherent elaborate conversations, we are then able to articulate anything and everything to the world. It is only sane to speak to ourselves. It is only sane to have spent the most time with ourselves. It is only sane to know HOW to speak to ourselves after all those hours or else what a huge waste of time being us would be. A mastery of articulation of oneself is a mastery of communication with oneself and a mastery of communication means a mastery of connection. And to master the art of connecting to oneself is to master oneself. So as you can see, we don’t need to learn to finish our sentences so we can communicate with other humans more effectively, we finish sentences for our own understanding of ourselves. Let me stretch this concept of articulation a little further. As we now have made the connection between articulation and mastery of oneself, can we not make the connection between a fear of articulation and a fear of mastery of oneself. For what is mastery of oneself, but to become the truth of oneself, and so can we not say that as attractive a proposition as knowing the truth is, it can often be a very scary one, for it means facing all of our Self; shadows, dungeons and all. It is through getting to know our Self that we find Self again. It is how we become our true authentic Self, and it is then that we can finally articulate our truth. But not all people care to venture into the dark forest, for their little island is just fine, they have no aspirations for an all-becoming truth, for an omnipresent light within, they are just fine as they are with their fears of public speaking and fears of communicating with themselves. They do not care to know themselves, not because they are careless human beings, but because it is hard. 

Think about it for a moment. How many people in this world are afraid of public speaking? And how many of those do you think are able to truly be themselves, even alone in a room with no one around? It is not the discomfort of articulating a thought in public that they are afraid of, it is the discomfort of articulating themselves, not only to others in public, but to themselves. They can hear themselves attempt an articulation after all, and it is often this fear that a truth they might not have prepared for will show itself. It is this fear that articulation will betray them, and that is because they have not mastered it. To master articulation is not to control it, but rather to flow with it. It will always remain its own creature and will move to its own rhythm, but to master it is to be familiar with its unpredictability, to be comfortable when it takes a sharp turn right or plunges 100ft deep. To master articulation is to build trust with it and it with you. And so you see, to master articulation, you must trust yourself. And to trust yourself, you must love it dearly.

So if you are like me, and have a fear of public speaking, think again! It is not public speaking that you are afraid of, it is yourself that you fear and have yet to get comfortable with. So as I observe my own articulation improve the more I get comfortable with the most uncomfortable parts of myself, I can tell you that the key to better public speaking is not more voice coaching or acting classes, the key to better public speaking is getting to know yourself, overcoming the fear of what you might find out, and loving it anyway. It is this accidental love that we fall into with ourselves that allows us to articulate ourselves anywhere in front of anyone with the pride and joy of a mother watching her son graduate, for anyone that has been on this journey of self-discovery knows that if you have survived it, there is nothing in the world you can’t endure, not even a talk on a stage in front of thousands of people, and not because you are fearless now, but because in knowing ourselves, in getting comfortable with ourselves, we accidentally end up falling in love with ourselves, all of ourselves, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And anyone who’s been in love will tell you, it makes absolutely no sense at all that when you fall in love with a person it is the things that annoyed you about them at first that you end up loving most, that you miss most.

So to all those people taking voice classes, I say fuck the classes, fuck the intonations, inflections and enunciations, and accidentally fall in love with yourself — for there will be no better articulation than when you do! 

S.A.

Who Am I?

Who am I? It is one of the first questions we ask as children. It is the question parents dread and seldom know how to answer. For many of us, the answers offered to this question were far from satisfactory, and if anything, derailed us from finding our truth. Parents often assume that what they say to a little child with such a big question isn’t that important; that they should keep it simple for our sake, for the child’s sake, for surely a child cannot grasp a complicated answer like “I do not know. Only you know.”

Instead of being encouraged to explore our questions further, our curiosity is stunted by our parents’ own fears of that question. Parents often think they cannot answer a question with “I do not know”, because they think it would scare the child, but the truth is, it scares them. It scares them that they don’t know, so they hold on tightly to what they do know and that is that we are their children. But we are much more than that. They think by telling us they do not know something, they will rattle our sense of security, our trust in them. On the contrary, by pretending they always know, parents unconsciously create this expectation from us that they know everything, that everything they do is right, that they couldn’t possibly make any mistakes because they know. And so, when they do make mistakes, it traumatises us and shatters our world, because we were not warned of this possibility that they might not know everything. We find it hard to trust them afterwards because they unintentionally lied to us about their knowing everything. They didn’t give us a heads up that they are human, that they are imperfect, just like everyone is, just like we would grow up to be. And so, they instill this expectation in us that when we are adults, we will know everything too. But we quite quickly reach adulthood and realise we know very little, and then we panic. We feel like failures, like inadequate people who do not know everything but should know everything according to what we were told directly or indirectly by our parents, and then we grow grievances towards our parents, disappointed that they let us down, that they lied and made the world seem simple, that they refused to expose us to its complexity because they thought we couldn’t handle it, that they sheltered us and never taught us how to swim through life then expected us to be able to navigate its storms.

And so, to all parents, to all prospective parents, and to all quarter lives soon to become parents, I ask of you for the sake of your child’s survival to always speak the truth, the complex truth, the truth that we do not know everything, and that we must get comfortable with not knowing, that until the day we die we will not have known everything and that that is absolutely okay. To make your child comfortable with the unknown, to teach them how to surf its waves rather than fear them, is the greatest gift you can give your child. 

So let us discard the answers that attach our children to false identities that they must later work very hard to unlearn. Let us not answer them when they ask “Who am I?” with “You are my little genius.”, “You are my happy child.”, “You are my beautiful girl.”, “You are my funny boy.”. Because they are more than that. They are much much more. So do not let them believe that their worth depends on these labels. For it does not. For their worth is infinite, it is eternal. And they should know that. They should know that they are love. That they are light. That they are the sun, the moon and the stars. That they are everything and anything they want to be. And leave it to them to realise what it is they are, what it is they want to be, what it is they are not. Like you expect your children to trust you, the parents, you must trust them too. You must have faith that they can find themselves. You must allow them to discover their own answer, not what you think the answer should be, or what you think the safest answer is. You must trust that deep inside they have a knowing that will guide them to it. All you need to do as a parent is to encourage them to listen to themselves, to hone that skill of listening so that they can discern the answer from all the noise. It is that connection to their inner voice that will guide them through life. You, as a parent, are there to hold space for your child to grow. You are there to witness their growth; you are not there to grow for them. And so, it is this deep knowing that we all have inside of us that eventually screams to us from the deep depths within, that alerts us to the inadequacy of the answers we were given. It is this knowing that always brings us back to this question. Whichever phase of life you find yourself in, whichever age you are, you will always ask yourself this question — Who Am I?. And I believe that we never truly stop seeking answers to this question. It is our guiding light. It is the question from which all other questions come. It is no ordinary question, and neither shall its answer be.

As the question extends the span of our lifetime, so does the answer. It is always formulating itself, showing us just a little more every step of the way. And so, we should never stop asking it. What we should stop doing is expecting an answer so finite, so limited that it must be expressed in words. For there are no words that can begin to express this answer. The part of us that asks this question does not speak the language of words. It is that part of us that is infinite, and so lacks the capacity to fit into words, for they are too tight, too small, too two dimensional. Just take a moment and imagine all the words that exist, all those words that have been invented to describe and communicate all the things that these words represent. And then imagine all the words that don’t exist, that have never been invented, the words that could not have been invented because they could not represent the things they would represent in just words. And so for these things, there are no words. No words with definitions adequate enough to describe them. For words themselves need to be as limited as possible in order to serve their function. Every word must be so limited, so precise in its definition, that it excludes all other definitions, all other possibilities of things it could represent so that it only represents one thing. And so, given the natural limited nature of words, do you think it’s even possible to try to answer the question of Who am I using them?

I continue to ask myself this question Who am I? everyday, not as a luxury, for it is who I am. It is no small feat. There is a reason it is one of the first things we ask as soon as we are able to ask. It is why we are here. It is how we grow our connection to Self. It is how we find our own voices, our unique vibrations. For this connection to our Selves is the most vital of all connections. It is the connection of a lifetime. It is why people who are disconnected feel so isolated. It is why those who spend time alone, but are connected do not feel alone. It is not solitude that is lonely; it is disconnection from one’s Self. 

Leo Tolstoy once proclaimed in the diaries of his youth that the entire essence of life can be encapsulated by two questions: “Who are you? What are you?”

Till next time,

S.A.

It is always hardest on the first day.

Dear quarter lives,

It is always hardest on the first day. It is always easiest too. It is a matter of Expectation. And it is always on the first day that Expectation is most deceiving. It arrives prepared with a map to an outcome illuding us into trusting it, into trusting that Expectation knows the way; that it will take us to where it said it would. But little do we know, especially on the first day. We are scared, so we follow. We forget that we have our own map imprinted inside of us, so we trust another. We cannot seem to access our inner voice, so we deem it inexistent. And suddenly, and so effortlessly, we find ourselves trapped in a room of Expectation without a door in sight, trapped to stay, trapped to be disappointed. And we soon realise, that it is only the first day, and somehow that makes it a little easier because we still have Time on our side. So confronted with Expectation and aided by Time, it is always hardest and easiest on the first day. 

And it is on the first day, too, trapped in a room of Expectation and sheltered by a ceiling of Time, that we realise there is very little we can do. We realise that all we can do is be still and do nothing. And that, too, is always hardest and easiest on the first day. And it is then that we realise, too, that someone else is in the driving seat, and that we are in fact just observers to this journey narrating a story created by someone else. And like all observers and all narrators, we cannot control what happens. We can only watch it happen and tell the story from our perspective. All we can really control is how we observe. And then a day will come when the driver will arrive at a crossroads and ask, “Which road should we take?”, to remind you of the map you seem to have forgotten inside. And it is then that we must consult our innermost selves and listen carefully for the directions advised by our inner voice. And to be able to choose wisely, dear quarter lives, one must learn to listen well. We need not choose often. We need not act often, but we must listen always. And listening, too, is always hardest and easiest on the first day.

It is always the first day. 

S.A.