I find that dealing with betrayal or abandonment of trust is very different now compared to a few years ago. My efforts to live mindfully have been beneficial. What previously would have resulted in a derailment of my train of thought, or my focus, now simply nudges me slightly from time to time when I consider the fickleness of relationships that have always been one-sided. The awkward silences, the abhorrent attempts at arrogance to feign confidence, the pretense of composure. It all seems so superficially desperate to prove that the betrayal was not in fact betrayal, but instead it was a statement. A statement of futility in the hope that the world will be convinced while those that peer too closely can be dismissed.

There is a part of the old me that wants to extend myself yet again to smooth ripples before they become waves. But I like the waves. I like the disruption and the provocation that drives people to follow through on that fakeness until they’re faced with the cold reality of who they are and what they’ve abandoned about themselves. I like the side of me that feels no need to apologise or appease. It’s the rebel of my youth that I have not abandoned, yet. But I’ve come close, far too close too often in recent times.

The toxic appeal of acceptance easily distracts us from who we are, or what purpose we may have been pursuing in life. Sometimes we start out making a statement, a sincere one, that we wish others would hear and embrace. In the process we become bold, filled with conviction and obstinacy refusing to give way to the drivel that drives us down the path of main stream acceptance. And then, somewhat unexpectedly, we find that our ideas, or our passions start gaining acceptance. Distracted by this sudden triumph of spirit, the emotions of the masses sweep us off our path and deliver us in the midst of the madding crowd. The crowd that forms symbiotic relationships of mutual delusion. The greater the acceptance, the more reassured we are that what we always fought for must be real, or must finally be embraced.

So we slow down to breathe. We take a moment to pause and reflect on the days when the struggle was real, the isolation intense, and the path lonely. We hold  a quiet internal celebration believing that we’ve finally arrived, convinced that the crowd is true validation, and the embrace is an accepting embrace. Emboldened by these moments of validation, the spirit surges once again. The greater calling beckons, and in the belief that we are no longer isolated but are now seen as a source of inspiration, we take bold steps to lead that crowd to the next mound. It’s just a mound relative to the multitude of mountains that still await us. But that mound is better than the mirages of the past. The mirages that taunted us each time someone had a faint sparkle in their eye that hinted at some enthusiasm to hear our thoughts, only to discover that it was politeness disguised as conviction.

So we step up to that mound, glowing with hope that finally the cesspool we’ve despised for so long will finally be cleansed. Finally, the beauty of the mind we caressed for all those years will be appreciated for the wisdom it has nurtured, and the masses will follow. And as we find our footing on that mound we stop to look around. The sight is a familiar one, it’s just the vantage point that is different. The crowd receded, the politeness ceased, and there we are. No, there I am, standing on the mound realising that the crowd I courted was not the crowd I courted. They represented a hint of what I yearned to engage with, and in the absence of nothing more, anything less would have had to do. And so I settled without noticing that I settled.

The euphoria was temporary, and so was the triumph. But the spirit, the resilient rebel remained intact, ready to push forward with a renewed sense of self, because it’s only in abandonment that we are forced to question the relevance of our convictions or efforts. If done sincerely, we either re-find our grounding points, or establish new ones. If done superficially, we set ourselves adrift in a sea that will forever remain foreign.

Each time I tasted betrayal in my life, I found myself renewed as if emerging from a birthing process. A process that smelted away the tainted cloth that covered me to that point so that I could dress myself in a new garment of endearment for a path that I have yet to fully set out on. But each time I set out, I find myself closer to the moment that I yearn for. That moment when I may find a true sense of purpose or contribution. Contribution of good from a life that was lacking of the same.

Reset. No matter how many times it is required, it will never be too much. When the path is not the one that I set out to tread, I must reset. Restart. Recalibrate. Without such reflection and correction, I risk arriving at a destination that is not my own, nor of my yearning. Reset. Each time, with more wisdom than before, and therefore hopeful that my next attempt will be more informed, and as always, most importantly, more purposeful.

The Thief of Yesterday

Living in the past is often recognized as unfortunate or sad, or at times it is seen as pathetic or weak. More than this, I think it is a sign of ingratitude. Carrying around our burdens that have long since left us simply says that what we have available to us now is irrelevant because what we wanted then was never achieved. The logic baffles me, which is why I often find myself scathing in my response to those that consistently dwell on insecurities from a time when they may have been overwhelmed or cheated out of a good life, if their current state offers them more than they were ever cheated out of to begin with.

I look around me and I find no shortage of examples of people that are so self-loathing that they become egotistical in the process. That’s not as contradictory as it may sound. The egotist, by definition, is excessively self-absorbed. Strange though that we only associate this trait with those that seek to embellish their lives for show, but fail to see the same loathsome tendencies in those that decry their lives for pity. When we fear success, but seek it desperately, the angst it creates leaves us desperate to hide our weakness while soliciting pity from the world by presenting our inner struggles as struggles against this harsh and cruel world. The irony though, is that it is that very same insincerity that makes this world harsh and cruel. Therefore, it’s quite superficial for the contributors to that state to be the ones complaining about it.

Insincerity is called for when we want to be seen as something we inherently believe is not true about ourselves. Or worse, something we believe we’re incapable of achieving. Most often the need to be seen as successful is greater than the need to be true to ourselves, and so the result leaves us creating facades and elaborate images of a perfection that eludes us. The conflict this creates within us feeds the self-loathing until it becomes who we are, and we fail to see what we were fending off in the first place. Some believe pity is called for when faced with such feebleness, I disagree.

The harshness of reality has always been a greater teacher than any fairy tale ever was. Cajoling and condoning only reinforces the very same egotistical behavior that started the cycle. However, given the weakness in most to want to be seen as likeable and huggable and amicable and all those ridiculously juvenile aspirations, it’s no surprise to me to see that the majority of advice dished out at times like these is to embrace and support and pacify, rather than to dish out a healthy dollop of tough love.

More than tough love, there is a self love that is called for. Not the sugar coated type, but the one that insists that if I don’t take care of myself first, I won’t be of much use to others. The more I deny myself the right to move forward in life, the more likely I’ll be to hold others back. For every person that needs to be cajoled and molly coddled (I despise these terms!) there is someone that is focusing on cajoling and molly coddling instead of growing in their own lives. I can hear the clamour of the idealists chanting in the background that such compassion in itself offers growth, but they confuse compassion with excessive accommodation.

One verse from the Qur’an always prompts me back to reality, and that is that there is no burden that will visit a soul that is greater than that soul can bear. This has so much truth in it that it makes the fickleness of many that much more contemptible. Not because the verse prompts us towards intolerance for the struggles of others, but because for me, it reminds me that just as I must find the capacity and ability to deal with what comes my way, so too does everyone else. I am no more special than the next person, but the moment I slip into a self-defeating pathetic state that suggests that the world must stop and recognize my struggle before I will rise above it, in that moment I become a burden rather than a blessing to those around me.

We all have a limited capacity to deal with strife in our lives. Yes, you read correctly, I believe it is limited. However, that limitation is largely defined by two key reasons of who we are as individuals or human beings. The first reason being our ability to live in the present moment and making conscious decisions about what is worth holding on to versus what we should let go of. The second reason being the subconscious tolerance level we set for ourselves. A level that is most often dictated by our ego rather than the practical reality of what we’re faced with.

The thief of yesterday creeps in and destroys the beauty of the present moment when we convince ourselves that until we receive the desired affirmation, acceptance, inclusion, or validation that was missing yesterday, we are unworthy of embracing the beauty of today. Until we achieve that moment of perceived significance in the eyes of the insignificant, we prevent ourselves from moving on. It’s a load of hogwash that destroys more than the rejection we originally experienced. It’s a juvenile cry to the world to see my significance, and my strength because of how much I’ve endured for so long, rather than to cherish my own strength, internally, when I realise that it will take a lot more than the fickleness of others to knock me down.

I wish there were more people with such resilience, spunk, attitude, or whatever it is that you choose to call it. More people that are recognised to be a bad ass, or a difficult character (for the right reasons), because that is the seat of passion for life. Not in the loins, but in the heart. Conviction to shape your future, rather than the meekness to be shaped by your past. History has its place, but only to inform us of where we went wrong, not to define what we’re worth.

Investing in the weakness of others has its place, but only for enough time as is affordable to pull them forward, out of their abyss, and into the beauty of the present moment. Some would argue that a life sacrificed towards this achievement may yield the strength of a saved soul that could change the world, but I would argue that such a sacrifice denies the world of the beauty that you could have shared instead.

Hijacked Agenda

At some point in our history, Islam was hijacked by well-meaning community leaders and turned into a religion of fear and compliance, rather than the balanced lifestyle that it actually propagates. It’s that eternal struggle for balance that was probably lost when people veered from the practices of moderation and sincerity because of a fundamental shift in what they aspired towards. Instead of focusing on what drove that shift and remedying that, the community leaders rallied around driving fear into the hearts of the people to encourage them to return to the path of moderation.

I think there is infinitely more to gain from leading a life of purpose rather than a life of compliance. Compliance has the potential of a successful outcome, but yields very little joy in the journey itself. Purpose has the potential for both, and so it is with Islam as well. Instead of constantly focusing on the repercussions of non-compliance, we should be focusing on the beauty and benefit of compliance. Rather than acting out of fear, we will find ourselves responding with passion and conviction. Every single chapter of the Qur’an, except for chapter nine, begins with the confirmation that God is the most merciful, yet everything that is preached is focused on His punishment and wrath instead. The logic around our approach towards learning and teaching about Islam is fundamentally flawed.

Understanding the wisdom behind something always leads to an appreciation for it. Where that wisdom has a direct bearing on our lives, it automatically leads to adoption of such principles into our own lives thereby entrenching the benefits of its practices because of the conviction with which we do it, rather than birthing a grudge practice because we’re afraid of the result of non-compliance. Personally, I blame the Indo-Pak influences for most of this. Based on my own cultural influences from my upbringing as a Muslim of Indian descent in South Africa, and referencing my experiences with Pakistani/Indian and Arab communities in my work abroad, the consistent trend is clear. The common motivator for discipline in the Indo-Pak communities is dominated by punishment or negative consequences that are to be imposed, rather than experienced as a natural outcome, coupled with an absence of opportunity or total intolerance to question the rationale behind what is being taught.

It is from this same quarter that I see regular accusations of deviancy and even disbelief against practicing Muslims simply because they (those Muslims) don’t comply with the preferred interpretations of the Indo-Pak-based schools of thought. The emphasis on the ritualisation of everything Islamic, and the focus on imposing social structures that have no direct basis in the traditions of the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) lead to unhealthy dynamics that tear communities apart. What started out as a need for revival has fast turned into a turf war. The sectarian rhetoric continues to pour down in bucket loads from the pulpits, while at the same time pleading for Allah’s mercy in the delivery of rain to a drought stricken land.

I am convinced that there are simply too many self-proclaimed scholars brandishing about man-made titles that are supposed to emphasise their religiosity relative to the average Muslim, which establishes them, in the eyes of a warped society, as superior Muslims to the rest. Islam has never been about title-hood, inherited privilege, or binary thinking. It has always been about principles and values that align with the core nature of what we need to achieve a fulfilling and purposeful life coupled with a harmonious interaction with society. It is about moderation and justice, and subscription, not compulsion. Too often we mistaken laws that were intended for guiding our personal actions with laws that are intended to establish harmony in society. For this reason we see fit to pass judgement and, when within our means, punishment against those that indulge in an act that does not transgress the rights of others, but is only harmful to the individual.

Islam has been hijacked by the scholars long before it was hijacked by the West. The scholars, with their divisive politics, have made it easy for the West to use Muslims as their fodder for their wars. The masses that blindly follow play to the personal agendas of the scholars that seek to prop themselves up as leaders of a nation that have no leadership. This reminds me of the stench of opportunism among the same leadership that is ever ready to chastise the masses for their non-compliance or wayward behaviour, but never take responsibility as the self-proclaimed leaders that they are, for being incapable of leading the nation of Muslims out of the quagmire that we find ourselves in.

The most potent sign of the times, for me, is the fact that we are living proof of one of the major signs of the hour, where Allah promised to raise a nation that will re-establish the beauty of Islam because those that inherited its custom will no longer serve its true purpose. The majority of the growth of Islam is from reversions to Islam, and not from the offspring of families that were born into Muslim households. Islam is being wrestled away from the traditional strongholds that assumed to be the flag bearers of this beautiful way of life, but they’re so caught up in their self-praise and condescension on lesser Muslims, that they would rather assume themselves to be the strangers that were promised paradise, while not realising that they don’t fit the description to begin with.

I’m often reminded of the prophecy that states that a time will come when we will despise the scholars. The general assumption is that such a disgust towards scholars will be due to ignorance or evil intent on the part of the masses, but most don’t consider that it may be due to the unacceptable behaviour of the scholars themselves. I think the claim to being a scholar is akin to the profession of humility. The mere profession of the same leaves the claim null and void. We don’t need self-proclaimed scholars or schools of thought to resurrect the honour of the Ummah. What we need is a return to the Islamic traditions (the Sunnah) that won the hearts of the most vile of humankind at a time when even Europe was sunken in barbarism and acts of filth so vile, that most would prefer to recall it only as fairy tales or romanticised fictional stories instead.

Despite the hijacked history of Islam, it was not spread by the sword. The sword was only ever raised in defense of an imminent attack. Muslims went out to meet their enemies rather than wait for their enemies to come to their cities. These days we invite the enemies in, and then go out to plead for their mercy to escape the horror that we created at home. It is no wonder that the reverts to Islam consistently demonstrate a better understanding and appreciation of its intent and principles than most Muslims that have been raised in a traditional Muslim household. In  the absence of authentic leadership, and a world full of tainted sources of knowledge, being a Muslim of moderation becomes exceedingly difficult at a time when questioning is needed, but is not afforded.

The Projection of Rage

There is very little else that enrages me more than the sight of parents that project their insecurities on their children. Parents that feel insecure about where they’re at or how they’re perceived by society and then over compensate by supposedly making sure that their children are not going to be perceived in the same way. The coward’s way of life is to live vicariously through others. That’s safe, risk averse, and effectively protects you from being perceived as a failure. That’s not life. That’s fear.

But it’s not only parents that project such fears on their children and then raise sheltered or dysfunctional charges. It’s a practice that is almost pervasive these days from governments to organisations to almost every social structure we see. It feels like we’re living in a world where everyone has to defend their claim to significance, and those that feel like they don’t have one, associate themselves with courses that justify their rage at feeling insignificant. Countries that have military might will exact respect through force, or impose their beliefs through occupation, while organisations do the same through developing lethargic hierarchical structures that disempower while holding accountable those without authority.

Behind all of this aggression lies flawed human beings that lack conviction or sincerity, and therefore leverage the tools and resources at their disposal to make a point that would otherwise go unheard. The climb to the top therefore becomes one of self-enrichment rather than servitude. It is therefore no wonder that those that occupy public office, or positions of ultimate authority, rarely use it for the benefit of the masses, but instead aim to benefit their revered peers instead. It’s a corruption of the soul that leads to a vapid life. A life that feels so empty that the only way to fill it is through the acquisition of trinkets and distractions, and the exercise of authority over subjects that have no means to retaliate or protest.

The individualistic and narcissistic tendencies of the modern day interpretation of human rights and the rule of democratic law has created a cesspool of moral and ethical degradation that celebrates the implosion of human dignity. We’ve created structures and protocols that pacify our innate conscience so that we are not deprived of sleep at night, but we live the same indignity we impose the moment we find ourselves deprived of the resources we once wielded.

For governments it’s a coup or a landslide defeat when being removed from power. For organisations, it’s the cheque book holders that dethrone the arrogant heads that no longer serve them well. For society, it’s the leaders that fall from grace when their morally objectionable behaviour that is celebrated in private becomes public. We only seem to be called to account if the common knowledge of our excess indulgence becomes noted by those perceived to be our moral authorities, otherwise turning a blind eye works well because we have much that we wish others would overlook as well.

We’re a society that resides in glass houses. We lament the erosion of dignity and peace, but refuse to acknowledge our contribution to it. This is not a rant, it’s a lament. We’re so focused on appearances, perceptions, and reputation, that we dare not disappoint the expectations of those that need our fickleness as a yardstick against which to measure their own.

Society, of which I am a futile member, have become nothing more than a projection of rage on that which we cannot influence, or prevent. We are enslaved, more by our fears of being human than by any system imposed on us. Authenticity is rare. It requires an embrace of who we are, and a conviction in who we want to be. Most are willing to settle for the facade, because the substance appears far too daunting to pursue. The path of least resistance has never been more appealing to the meek than it is now. It is therefore no wonder that we are meek in conviction, and bold in oppression, of ourselves, and those around us.

[This turned out to be more cryptic than intended]

On Sin for the Sinless

We’re experiencing a drought in South Africa at the moment. In some areas it is the worst they’ve had it in 30 years. One town even reported their tap water turning salty because the river mouth has dried up, causing the seawater to seep in. In response to this drought there have been calls from all political and religious persuasions to use water sparingly and support each other where possible, especially in the worse hit areas.

The Muslim community responded as well and scheduled a special congregational prayer for rain to be held tomorrow morning. It is no different to the manner of praying for any other prayer time, but the intent and purpose is distinctly different. As Muslims, we believe that such conditions as drought befall us because of the general level of sin in our communities. Now before you dismiss this as religious hogwash, consider my perspective first.

The subscription to the notion of sinning is not necessarily constrained to religion either, and most certainly not limited to Muslims. So set aside the stigma and think of it as an imbalance in life, and by extension, society. We always think of sins in a transactional way. We assume that the sin itself is what brings the negative recompense, but generally fail to consider the broader context of the environment that sustains such sins.  When we indulge excessively, either in good or bad, we tend towards extremism. Such extremism leads to imbalance, which is typically manifested in unnatural conditions that befall us. Extremism, again setting stigmas aside, is when we party more than we reflect, consume more than we contribute, or destroy more than we create. Within this context, I believe, the true nature of sinning is revealed.

Droughts are caused by imbalances in the environment. Destroy the natural balance of an ecosystem and the results will mean the destruction of the ecosystem. Remove the trees that are the lungs of the earth and the earth will cease to breathe. Simple, yet so difficult for most to grasp. More importantly, relative to the point I wish to make, the reasons for this imbalance is what drives us to do the stupid things that we do like destroying balance in favour of imbalance. We party hard because we need to escape, or we need to feel included. The destruction it causes internally, and often to those around us as well, is ignored because we’re distracted by the gratification we feel from the ability to escape or the void that is filled when we feel included.

Trees that are not appreciated for their contribution is quickly consumed as a trivial resource because it holds the promise of wealth. Re-purposing the fertile land to hold a shopping mall or block of apartments that will yield premium returns on our investment quickly dwarfs the need for reason around why the trees should be respected. The excess we indulge in for purposes of wealth creation distracts us from the balance we are responsible for maintaining. Chasing these trinkets leads to excesses, usually sinful in nature, because it goes with the territory. In other words, the sin is just the symptom of a sick society, it is not what makes society sick.

What I am struggling to articulate is that when we hear religious leaders talk about our sins being the reason for the natural disasters we see around us, we automatically assume that it is a specific and deliberate response from God to smite us for our actions, when in fact it’s merely a natural consequence to the imbalance we created. This is just one example of this cycle. Far too often we find ourselves seeking answers in symptoms forgetting to reflect on the causes that landed us in the unfortunate situation to begin with.

The sinless are those that are faultless. They’re the ones that believe that everything untoward that happens to them is not deserved. They believe that the occurrence of misfortune must be imposed and can never be a cause of their own doing. The sinless are the naive, the ingrates, the distracted ones. Those that are not naive, ungrateful, or distracted know that there are no sinless beings around. We all make mistakes. Just because the mistakes are not intended (they wouldn’t be mistakes if they were) doesn’t mean that we’re suddenly immune to the consequences. It’s like accidentally killing someone and then saying I didn’t mean to kill them hoping that that would miraculously undo the destruction that your action caused in the first place.

The state of being sinless exists only in our own minds when we’re in denial. When we stop associating it with religion and punishment, we’ll start seeing it for what it is. It’s a harm we perpetrate against ourselves first, before anyone else. The excess, while being directly harmful to others around us, started eroding the good within us long before we acted on it. The collective imbalance of society is bound to result in an outcome that is larger than the sum of the contribution of each of us. It’s like a snowball effect. One plus one does not equal two in this case, because it often accelerates as a factor of the contribution and not just a reciprocation in equal parts.

The lesson, for me, is simple. Stop harming myself, before I can stop harming others. Stop blaming others for the harm that I impose on myself. The rest will find its own balance. The difficulty in stopping the harm is not due to an inability to stop. It’s due to the unwillingness to give up the gratification that the excess offers us. The less likely we are to give it up in favour of more sustainable means of fulfilment, the more likely we are to reach the tipping point on a global scale. Say hello to climate change.

[I’m too lazy to fully complete this thought process right now]

The Way You Do That Thing

I recently read an article that suggested that they could provide you with insights into your personality depending on how you held your handbag, and the first thought that came to mind was, “How fickle!” Then I thought about it a little more and quickly realised that the same can be done with almost any shared behaviour that can be analysed between people. There is a general tone that underlies all of these behaviours, and it’s that emotional tone that I think is more insightful than any reactive analysis of how we handle a bag, purse, or wallet.

I’ve found that my mental state is either calm and composed, excited and passionate, or weighed down and dreary. Sure, there are a number of permutations that exist across each of those bands, and that is to be expected, but there is almost always only one of them that is dominant at any given point in time. The one that is dominant is either spurred on by environment, or objective. The stronger we are at maintaining our sense of self in the face of adversity, the more likely we’ll be able to maintain our disposition out of choice rather than through instinctive response to what is happening around us.

With this somewhat simplistic view, consider it within the context of how you write or doodle. When you’re calm and composed, in other words not feeling threatened or under pressure, your signature will probably be more fluid in its movements or curves. Your fingers or wrist won’t strain when you’re signing that till slip or contract, and your pressure will be differentiated just enough to place emphasis on those elements that subconsciously define your passions and inclinations, while skimming over those that simply complete the statement of who you are. Sign the same till slip when you’re feeling pressured or under duress, and suddenly the elements that were previously just mildly emphasized are now prominent, while the detail of the rest is quickly transformed into an unrecognizable squiggle because making a statement about the complete you is not so important. All that is important when you’re in that mindset is to establish your significance. To make a bold statement about who you are and why you demand to be taken seriously.

The same is true when we doodle. Under duress the doodle is harsh and deliberate. Usually concentrated patches of graphics or hard angles, while fluid and shaded when we’re not under duress. Squares and jagged edges replace curves and flowers to express frustration or anxiety. Logical flows or sequences reflect a need for structure, or an expression of boredom, and so on.

At the risk of over simplifying it (more than I already have) this in a nutshell is how every action of ours reflects what is going on internally. Those that pay attention to these nuances in our behaviour gain an insight into our frame of mind that allows them to use it, or abuse it to their advantage. Sometimes, a sincere observer will pick up on it and find ways to either draw you out of the detrimental phase you’re in, or they’ll make you aware of it so that you can use it to your advantage. How? Consider it from this perspective. If I am aware of the response I get from others when I’m angry, and that response gets the results that I need after all other avenues are exhausted, in future I will be able to draw on anger as a tool of expression when needed, rather than sliding into an angry state because I’m out of control.

What I mean is, if anger is used as a tool of expression, rather than a last resort to demand to be taken seriously, it becomes a lot more productive and is easier to harness and control, than if it is simply a state that overtakes us in a moment of desperation. To achieve this, we must be mindful (yeah, that word again). But mindful of what, you might ask? Mindful of the dynamics of the situation we’re faced with, and more importantly, mindful of our internal state in response to that situation. A third dimension that extends from the latter is an ongoing awareness of our abilities or talents. The more aware we are of what we’re capable of, the more likely we will be to deliberately draw on those abilities or talents selectively when needed, rather than relying on instinct to bring it to the fore when needed.

So how does all this relate to how you do that thing? The way you walk, the angle of your step, the gait you adopt, the completeness of your smile, the expressiveness of your style. It all reflects who you are, and what you wish to convey to the world. The more bold you are, the more confident you are that where you’re at is worth being admired and celebrated. The more subtle you are, the less likely you are to want the attention of others unless specifically needed. We say more with our actions and non-verbal expressions than we ever say with words. Think about that the next time you remain quiet when you know someone is expecting an overt verbal response. Then smile quietly as you have that a-ha moment. It’s that moment that, if nurtured, will spur you on to grow larger than the life you lead up to that point. That’s the power of mindfulness. It forces us to be accountable where before we felt we were victims.

What Am I?

I once heard that if you intend to be good at something, you should repeat it to yourself as if you are, and not as if you wish to be. The intent to be isn’t always followed up by action, but by stating that you are what you wish to be, you condition yourself to behave as that, rather than who you are, or were. At the time of hearing this I was particularly poor at professional networking, and I recall using that as the statement of conviction for myself. As part of that exercise I stated quite boldly, “I am adept at professional networking!” I don’t think it worked.

I still suck at it, but I do venture into that space more readily than before. However, at the risk of potentially contradicting what I said in The Placebo Effect, I think when we tell ourselves that we are something we’re not, but we have a sincere intention of achieving it, it prompts us to consciously act within the behavioural norms of that which we wish to be, rather than in the ways that may have inhibited our progress in that direction. I think it’s called cognitive dissonance.

With this in mind, I’ve recently been bold enough to tell people that I’m a part time writer. Only problem is, I know I say it with a lacking conviction. I’m more a rambler than I am a writer. Having a collection of thoughts with a reasonable grasp of the language is hardly the makings of a writer. In attempting to start in earnest on a book recently, I realised the discipline and monotony involved in seeing such a project through.

I’ve always quipped that if ever I wrote a book, I would sit down, start, and continue non-stop for a few days until I was done. I think a few years ago that may have still been possible, but given the level of noise and clutter now, it’s just a pipe dream.

My thoughts are lacking in congruence now, and setting out for such an endeavour leaves me filled with frustration and impatience rather than a sense of composed expression. The result is a lot of noise that echoes my mental state rather than creating the clarity or comfort of being sufficiently expressed. In this state, making the bold statement that I am a writer leaves me feeling conflicted and insincere, rather than authentic.

I sometimes read through my previous rambles and often cannot recognise it as being a part of me. People sometimes quote me in their correspondence to me and I end up agreeing with them as if it’s a point they made, which must seem quite superficial for them. If only they knew that my own words and thoughts often feel foreign to me. For this reason, among many others, I find it increasingly difficult to define myself as a writer, part-time or otherwise. In fact, I find it difficult to define myself at all. Such definition must dictate consistency, and consistency is something I do not subscribe to outside of my spheres of responsibility or duty.

I guess the question relating to what I am will remain unanswered for the foreseeable future. Perhaps forever. Perhaps I’ll never afford the comfort to those around me to allow them to perceive me as a complete and finite being. Maybe in that lies part of the problem, not just for me but for all of us faced with this same question. If it was not for our need to be perceived as a specific being, we would have no need to define ourselves. I can only imagine that such absence of definition will be liberating and congruent with the nature of things around us, because it will afford a level of adaptability that definition, by definition, denies us. What a futile pursuit it is to feel compelled to act against our nature simply because the frailty of society dictates that such behaviour is necessary for predictable outcomes.