On why we need to love The Other

Dear quarter lives,

Some argue it is a basic human liberty to have faith in whatever knowledge we want, even if it has been proven to be false or heresy. Others argue that we live in society, therefore, every human action or liberty ought to be considered not only from the perspective of the individual but from the perspective of the collective as well. I cannot say which side I lean towards. I know that there are very valid arguments for both. There are beliefs that have very real consequences to the collective and so should not be considered lightly, for example, if a person believes there is nothing wrong with having sex with a minor, this belief doesn’t only affect the individual who believes this but is one that has real costs and consequences to the collective. So it is important to ask ourselves: When is the diversity of truth beneficial and when can it be harmful? Like everything, I suppose it is a matter of balance. We need there to be some people always who believe or who claim to know for certain something contrary to the rest of us; it allows us to know the boundaries of our own beliefs, of what we deem to be true, of where the borders of our morality lie.

For any society to be healthy and for the people and other living beings in it to coexist safely together, there must be a balance between freedom and truth because even the best of virtues in excess can be poisonous. Too much unchallenged truth turns into doctrine, and too much unchallenged freedom turns into chaos. We need the forces outside of us to constantly be in perfect tension with each other, just like a guitar string needs to be to produce the perfect melody. It is that constant tension between things that keeps everything in the universe working perfectly. It is that constant ebb and flow of forces that allows for balance to occur. Here tension acts as a peace keeper. And this is true even with the forces shaping our own internal experiences. If there is no back and forth between the voices within us, we would be too certain of ourselves, of our decisions, of who we are, of where we are. It is that little bit of doubt that creates the tiniest wiggle room necessary for transformation. We wouldn’t change or evolve if everything was so fixed in its way. It is the other that challenges, it is the other that helps us realise ourselves. It is the other too that invites us closer to balance. So why are we always trying so hard to eradicate the other?

Difference is beautiful and should be celebrated. And when it scares us, we should approach it with caution instead of immediately trying to extinguish it.

“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.”

Rollo May

I will leave you here on this note to contemplate your own personal Others, maybe even say thank you to them for challenging you.

Till next time!

With love and always for peace,

S.A.

On our Relationship to Information

Dear quarter lives, 

This topic was inspired by a recent and very long conversation with friends, so I dedicate this one to my beloved friends who challenge me and to the spirit of debate that keeps our minds healthy and our hearts open. 

To begin this contemplation, let’s start by defining the term information.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, information is defined as facts told or discovered. In searching the internet for other definitions, I found that all lead to similar conclusions that information is knowledge obtained from some sort of investigation or study. It is not opinion. It is fact. And its purpose is to resolve uncertainty and to make more of the unknown knowable. 

In the world we are currently living in, I would argue that information has lost its closeness to certainty. Knowledge that is communicated is not always fact; neither is it opinion. We live in a very rich and diverse world of beliefs where there are abundant schools of thought for literally everything, so fact is only fact as deemed so by its proponents. Some see a problem in this as they deem it the cause for misinformation and the threat to progress in our societies. While others find such diversity in information to be a great sign of humanity’s progress in tolerance and acceptance. I can see the tension between both rising, but I can also see that it is that tension between these multiple truths that will keep our societies healthy and in balance. Once you have too much of the same of anything in any ecosystem, whether it’s our own bodies or a forest or coral reef, the system is in danger. It is out of balance, and thus, vulnerable to attack or disease. 

And as much as I know deep down that having some wiggle room for debate and questioning is what brings about inventions and innovations, I cannot help but wonder too about the consequences too much doubt can have on us and our relationship to information. I have been thinking a lot about what my relationship to information is — do I trust information or have I due to a habit of constant questioning developed a deep mistrust in it? Moreover, I had always thought that I (like every other human) should be free to believe and express what I want. I had never thought that my beliefs have consequences. I never considered the impact of what I express. I never considered that, like there are benefits to freedom of expression, there are costs too. It made me rethink my power as a writer. It made me reconsider the value of what I put out there. Does everything need to be said and at whose cost are we speaking? But equally, when I deem someone else’s expression of their truth invalid simply because it is not factual according to the scientific method, what am I doing to the emotional and more felt and experiential part of being human? What am I doing to society if I say that Love cannot be because science has not proven that there is a particle called Love? What am I doing if I prevent people from venturing into different realms of certainty? It is not that love is an unknown, neither is it opinion, it is merely that love is the kind of fact that is only provable through felt experience. 

What is the cost of not being able to navigate an uncertain kind of certainty? Why can’t we live in a world where different kinds of facts exist? I am not saying if we needed to build a spaceship to just say a bunch of affirmations for an entire month and expect to have a spaceship as a result. But what if we can entertain that saying a bunch of affirmations can have an impact on our physical health even if science cannot yet prove it? Why can’t science and other forms of truth coexist? I would argue strongly that it is largely because of our own relationship to information. Just like being in relationship with a person, there are certain expectations we have from information. One big one is reliability. We rely completely on information to tell us the truth, and so the idea of having multiple pieces of information that tell different stories is immediately assumed to threaten that reliability of information which is at the very foundation of our relationship to it. But someone who is in a polyamorous relationship will tell you being in relationship with two different people, experiencing two different kinds of love (like two different kinds of information) does not change the reliability factor at all. Every love is its own kind of love and does not diminish or compare to the other; in fact each one only enhances the other and both work together in unison to create a third completely new experience of love. 

The problem isn’t that there’s so much conflicting information out there, the problem is that we are looking for information to provide us with safety and security. We are looking to information to relieve us of our anxiety of the unknown, so when information stops doing that, we want to condemn it for not being really information. We want certainty and we expect it from every fact and we blame information for being broken if it fails to give us that certainty. But it is not information that is the problem, it is our relationship to information. I will say it one more time — it is our relationship to information that requires recalibration and not information itself. We as a collective society have become too dependent, too reliant on fact and certainty. We do not have to explain the world away only in one way; there can be the scientific narrative; there can be the energetic narrative; there can be as many kinds of narratives as there are people.  

What I’d just like to ask of you as we end this beautiful contemplation together — consider if you had a completely new sense; one that is only unique to you and allows you to perceive the world in a way that when you try to explain it to someone else, it conflicts with the story of the world that we experience together with the rest of our senses. How would you feel if you expressed it to someone and they told you you’re a liar or you’re a lunatic? How would you feel if you are shunned from a collective right not only to experience the world differently but to contribute to it as well? What we’re experiencing in the world today is a consequence of such isolation and alienation. All any one of us wants to feel is like we belong, and all any one of us needs to be able to feel like we belong is to express our truth without fearing condemnation because of it. We once lived in a world where it was perceived as a fact from god that being anything but heterosexual should be punished and shunned. Today, we live in a world where people use the word of science like they used to use that of god, it is neither the word of god that is at fault here nor the word of science, it is always the fault of people who want to use information to wield power by manipulating people. Let us not condemn people’s individual rights to self-expression, when it is our collective wounded relationship to information that needs healing. We should certainly all reflect and reconsider our own relationship to information as well as the consequences of how we use and communicate information and the intention behind our own expressions of the truth. But what I fear happens when we deem some views invalid is to create further segregation in a society that is hungry for unity. Not unity in views, but in acceptance. We must be able to live in a world where we can be different and still be accepted to be who we are without having to change to fit in someone else’s view of the world. Like almost everything in life, even love, information is a double-edged sword that can be used for good or for evil, so we must be wise, careful and mindful of how we use our swords of information. Perhaps we cannot strive to control information, the only thing we can control is our own selves. It is not up to information to get rid of its evil consequences. It is always up to us, up to the carrier to pick which end of the sword they will use. I cannot force you to use information my way, the same way I cannot force you to eat a certain way just because we all endure the consequences of a collective health burden on our societies and economies together. 

I hope this has left you with sufficient food for thought to keep you going for a while. May we all have the ability to discern for ourselves what is true in any given moment. 

With love and always for peace, 

S.A. 

A Prisoner named Anger

Dear quarter lives,

This might be the story of my prisoner, but there are many similar stories out there where one captures an emotion, a memory, a person, and hides them deep in the dungeons within. There is no man, no woman, no human without a dungeon. They form inside of us when we are children. They are as old as our breaths. They help us feel safe, like an army of sorts. As children, it was how we dealt with what we didn’t know how to deal with. We felt safer knowing that all that was dangerous, all that was unwanted was locked up inside, deep within us, in a room far far away. We tied these rejected emotions to heavy iron chains so that they would sink forever with no way to escape or surprise us.

But something happens when they have lived there long enough — we get attached to them. It is ironic indeed that what we have chosen to hide away because we were afraid of, we now become so attached to and dependent on that we might actually only feel safe when they are with us, a Stockholm syndrome of sorts. And so at this point of attachment, when you can no longer separate your sense of self from your prisoner’s sense of self. Your identities now intertwined, you have now merged. A new symbiotic relationship now exists, you become each other’s hosts. Your prisoner resides in you, and you reside in it. And so it was, after many many years of holding Anger captive, I realised that I am as much a prisoner to him as he is to me.

And for all prisoners, the goal is always freedom. But not all prisoners are created equal, some become vengeful, others are more forgiving and spare your neck. And those prisoners are the wisest because they remember, unlike us, who they really are. No matter how blurry the lines get, they remember that they are not us. That we are not the fear we hold within. That we are not the anger we have suppressed. They remember that their purpose is to express our experience but they are not us and we are not them. The danger comes when the prisoner is angry. Angry at us because we have not allowed them to speak, to express themselves. Instead we have blindfolded them and hid them in places so deep and so dark that they became so sensitive to the light that it becomes dangerous for them to leave even if they wanted to without getting us a little sick first.

And so with Anger, especially with Anger, when we come to make peace with it, we must show up ready to surrender, ready to assume responsibility for the abuse we have inflicted on ourselves by holding back our anger. We must acknowledge the abuse we have allowed our prisoner to endure by hiding them away so absolutely that we forgot they even existed. In those cases, where the attachment is not even acknowledged, the prisoner’s pursuit to freedom becomes even more complex, even more dangerous, to us and to them. They begin to plan for our death. They decide that if they cannot see the light through merging with us, they must seek desperate measures, they must seek the light by removing the physical barriers of us, by removing our bodies, by destroying them, by killing us. Only then is all energy within us released back into the Universe, and when that happens, Anger can finally be free.

And so when we refuse to communicate with our prisoners, they have no way of even warning us, or threatening us. Sadly, we have cut our own ears. We have refused to listen. And now, we must bear the consequences of seeing the storm only when it is too late. We must too realise that who and what we decide to lock away in our dungeons is always our choice, even though our choice could’ve been the result of serious hardship. Often it is due to a heightened sense of the perceived threat from that particular thing, be it an emotion or memory. We might’ve witnessed an unpleasant expression of Anger growing up and vowed to avoid it at all costs. And so within us lives this exaggerated fear of expressing our anger thinking it might injure or even kill us. Ironically, that is exactly what it does when we cut off all contact with it. And so the only way to approach Anger, I believe, is with love and with a lot of trust. We must trust that our anger does not exist to hurt us. We must communicate with it. We must listen to it. And when we do, we will realise that Anger actually came to protect us. Like a house alarm, Anger acts as a signaling tool when our boundaries have been crossed. Anger alerts us to take action. To speak up. To better assert our space.

Anger has long been misunderstood. It has a bad rep because it often presents itself as aggression and violence. But it is not the anger that does this, it is what we do with the anger. It is our reaction to Anger that has been aggressive. But we have instead pointed the finger at him, deeming him the unwanted/unpleasant emotion and locking him away as if to punish him for his bad behaviour when in fact it is our behaviour that has been bad. So to heal this complicated relationship we have with Anger, we must first open our hearts and go deep deep within until we reach the dungeon, and then we must consciously and intentionally choose to unlock it. We must choose to free our prisoners. We must choose to set Anger free. And as we do so, we must apologise. We must open our entire body to listen. And as we listen to the wounded within us speak, we must give them our love for they have given us theirs all these years.

Before I go, let me just remind you of one final thing — our prisoners’ pursuit to freedom is also our pursuit to freedom. For when they are free, we become free. It is always us who are the captors, the torturers, the unreasonable tyrants, never the victims. It is us who hold prisoners, not us who are held prisoner. So let us never forget the fact, for it is a fact worthy of our memory. It is fact through which our power can be realised once again, and our choice recognised. It is always up to us! Remember that, always, if you are ever to be free. 

May you be free forever,

Shahinda