Doubt and Belonging in Search of Truth

I could quote every paragraph of folio’s post on searching for truth in a time of modern secularity but I’ll leave this gem that resonated with me.

The desire to be a part of a movement or a community of the likeminded is a deceptive diversion from reality: it obscures what we are really called to, replacing personal ethical responsibility with group-think. In contrast to what is commonly taught amongst Muslims, the Qur’an cautions against following herd instinct: “If you obey most people on earth, they will take you away from the easy path of God.” [6:116] Belonging, really, is not what it is all about.

Sometimes I am surprised how little these friends of mine know me, as they bombard me with the ramblings of men linked to me only by a very generic profession of faith. We are not called upon to embrace what others say out of a sense of pious solidarity. The truth is just truth; it is founded on the argument, not on belonging to a particular group or ethnicity. None of this is new.

I’ve tried writing my own thoughts, but it all comes out as gibberish. Soon, God willing.

Rethinking How to Think and Act

“I want to do whatever it takes to make it possible for everyone, around the world, to enjoy a life worth living.” — Who Owns Tomorrow? by Chloe Watlington in Commune

It is May of 2010 and I’m back in California going through a range of emotions; leaving my university life in Oregon, understanding that a short, failed relationship I spent two years desiring was not reciprocated, and the uncertainty of committing to 27 months abroad before I return.

In a Borders Books next to my parents’ house, I play a game; only perusing the Penguin Classics, the spines uniformly with white text on a matte black. Hundreds of them scattered alphabetically over the store. One sticks out with the the title A Little Larger than the Entire Universe. Already deep into vague misreadings of quantum physics and squaring it with Islam, it sounded like something in my wheelhouse. Fernando Pessoa, an unfamiliar name of a famous 20th-century Portuguese poet. The translator and editor of the poetry anthropology in my hands wrote:

Instead of getting down to the practical business of living, he continued to wrestle with theoretical problems and the big questions: the existence of God, the meaning of life and the meaning of death, good vs. evil, reality vs. appearance, the idea (is it just an idea?) of love, the limits of consciousness, and so on. All of which was rich fodder for his poetry, thriving as it did on ideas more than on actual experience.

The intervening years since stumbling on his work have been full of migration, learning, love, faith, and adventure but also of ambiguity, uncertainty and difficulty. But editorial impression, of a life not fully lived but wholly examined and possibly being paralyzed by it, has served as a bizarre measuring stick to my own. I’m infatuated by the written word, of outside perspectives to better understand the world and my place in it. But how far does one accept outside stimuli to live a life?

My active, outside, rural years in Sierra Leone stand in sharp relief to the introspective and inside ones in Mauritania. I’m an extreme person.

I don’t envy Pessoa. He died an alcoholic having rarely left Lisbon after returning from Durban in his teenager years. I left Mauritania to win back my personal relationship with the Divine, away from the legalism and minutiae of a nominally Muslim society. Distance made the heart grow fonder, it seemed. In the wintry Andes and with a few entheogenic plant experiences, I felt reawakened and clear-eyed.

Now it is 2019. Now surrounded by the modern city life, I feel too tuned in to what is happening in the world. And it looks grim.

There are some who say we are doing much better than we ever have in human history. Then why does it feel so shitty?

Climate change, the normalization of racism and xenophobia, rising inequality and our potential responses are our generation’s World Wars or Paris Commune. Just as Rumi’s family anguished and migrated to escape the world-ending devastation of the Mongol invasion, we have our world-ending scenarios that we must face.

We must educate ourselves and others. We must reject false choices and centrism. And then we must organize ourselves accordingly in a way that respects and protects all life from the fevered egos that see the world as a zero-sum game.

I become more class conscious and eco-conscious by the day. I’m an extreme person. No longer does it seem right for me to travel around on planes as often as I did. Or buy everything wrapped in plastic, the micro-remnants of which are now in almost every living being, when a bit of planning and with the abundance of alternatives.

With time comes more understanding and responsibility.

“I take my desires for reality because I believe in the reality of my desires.” — Paris, May 1968

I add the words hope in the late anthropocene to the existing tagline at the top to reflect my desires in this reality. I commit myself to working on solutions and not adding to the despair.

Thanks for reading, seriously.

Six Seventy Four

It has been almost two years since leaving my life in Mauritania. Since then, my wife and I attended my brother’s wedding in California, backpacked for a year from Mexico to Peru, spent the summer visiting family and friends in the United States, took a road trip with a Prius and a tent from California to Oklahoma and back, wintered outside Madrid, bought and converted a campervan, and took two three-week trips before finally reaching in Cologne yesterday. We had been planning this move for months but we wanted to wait for the winter. And the extra months in Spain gave me the opportunity to really improve my Spanish comprehension.

And now, a new chapter emerges; living in a city, navigating life in a new language, project-based work with friends, and another region to explore.

Fanā

Laying down and ready
Strummed guitar strings slow,
Not even heard anymore.
The vision closes in and packs up
Runes, hieroglyphs, totems, masks,
Everything ancient collides into an single atom.

Of course, all this is the same,
Gifted from One Source.
Idols of the mind meet on an illusory Earth
And produce distance, distraction.
So much searching for something already here,
Closer to me than my jugular vein.
But who will listen?

Falling now,
Through the cushions, the floor
Underground and now,
Into deep, dark cosmos.
No mind, no body, no bother.
Melted into and meshed with something
Vast and Majestic.

Light on top of Light,
It is so crystal clear now.
A multiverse, rays of warmth
Reflected inward and outward
Like an empty house of mirrors.

No panic, only consuming Peace.
Reverberations of a single frequency hit
Where my head once was.
A silent whisper written onto my heart,
They need to remember.

Coming out
Bathed in the moonlight,
Awakened, fearless and ready.

A Rainy Week In Southwestern France

  • After leaving Spain we drove north, past French Basqueland and into the Parc Naturel Régional des Landes de Gascogne for a night outside of Sabres. In the morning, we drove into town and bumped into the twice-weekly farmers’ market, which was perfect because we needed veggies and cheese.
  • The weather was terrible so we kept driving, through Bordeaux and close to Angoulême to visit a second natural regional park, the Parc Naturel Régional Périgord-Limousin.
  • Regional natural parks in France are “inhabited rural areas recognized at a national level for the value of its heritage and landscapes which form part of a concerted sustainable development effort to protect and promote that heritage”, according to a brochure I got of activities and patrimonial sites in Brantôme. Périgord-Limousin has a five point action plan to work towards that:
    • Point I: improve water quality in the three heads of the drainage basins
    • Point II: preserve the diversity
    • Point III: encourage improvement of local resources as part of a sustainable development drive
    • Point IV: combat climate change
    • Point V: strengthen local identity and social networks
  • It’s inspiring to see local communities (network of villages, museums, nearby castles, restaurants, workshops and seasonal, holiday businesses) organize to promote economic good and environmental sustainability.
  • The problem for us is we’re passing through in March. It’s low season, so many things are closed or unavailable due to weather. It’s been raining off-and-on the whole week, with only a few moments of fleeting sun before being swallowed by the clouds. There aren’t as many hiking trails around these parks.
  • There hasn’t been much of an opportunity to meet French people this trip either. Everyone is at work, school, or inside and we haven’t visited any hotels, restaurants, or cafés.
  • In any case, we have a destination and we keep ourselves pointed that way. How is southwestern France? Beautiful, green, rainy, somnambulant, elusive.