Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gratitude of Bookish Proportions and How One Thing Leads to Another

Cover of Book "Arash's World" by Arash Farzaneh
Things have come wonderfully, miraculously together in full circle. Years ago in a place then referred to as West Germany, a shy, somewhat reclusive child wished upon a star to see one day his name on the cover of a bound book, and recently, the now less shy but still somewhat reclusive (albeit for different reasons now) individual living on the West Coast of Canada has had his first book printed by a German publisher. Not only was his very first writing as well as dreams of becoming a writer in the German language, but so is his publishing house. It is interesting how, at least symbolically, past and future weave a continuous arc.

To add to the wondrous aspect of it is the fact that the same person (by now you may have surely guessed that this post is graphically autobiographical) had spent, over the span of a few years, his wits and energy to get published but received form (rejection) letters from agents and publishing houses. As a result, he decided to let this year (2012) just slide by so that he could take aim again, with renewed confidence and endurance in the following (unlucky-appearing) 2013!

So to keep building on this fairy-tale anecdote, the aforementioned individual (yes, me!) decided to somewhat selfishly post on this adopted brainchild of his (this blog) a letter to the powers that be asking for a job, an ipad for his son and a published piece of work, see link. All three have again (and I hope I am not jinxing my luck!) received a check.

Yes, wishes and prayers, if done with honesty, genuine affection and if they are accompanied with blood and sweat can come true. Yet at the same time, the whole process of writing / posting, sharing and reshaping it all in a book could not have been more pleasurable indeed. All of this has led to a see-saw type of feeling deep inside, where I have become both humbled and elevated as a consequence.

In fact, I am aware that none of this would have happened if not for your generous and sympathetic interest, dear reader, and for one of those fortuitous (divine?) circumstances of (the hand of destiny?) guiding my wondrous, patiently diligent, resourceful and hardworking editor Maxim Gorbulea to the pages of this blog. A hearty thanks to you for putting my world on the map, both in cyber space and in printland!

Although people nowadays complain about a lack of reading, it is interesting to note that our obsession with print publications has not been erased or even diminished all this time. Many of you are fellow bloggers / writers (or writers / bloggers, or writer-bloggers ad infinitum) and / or are interested in reading and writing. 

It is funny, however, that our efforts as a writer won't be generally appreciated by others until we have published something in print, that is. We are still, even in this age of technology, drawn to have our names typed in black ink. Incidentally, the saying of “lying through one's teeth” has its equivalent German expression of luegen wie gedruckt, “lying as if printed” adding even more weight to the printed word.

So there you have it: one thing leads to another. Again, my deepest heart-felt gratitude to each and everyone of you and the constructive desire that all will be well, or at least as good as possible, for all of us involved. In fact, let not the green-eyed bug bite you since according to the everlasting karmic wheel, wishing well will make us all well, and instead feel free to celebrate with me as I will gladly follow suit.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Secret Mantra to Success: Why Timing is Everything

Old-fashioned black and white photograph of a Railway Station Clock by Petar Milošević
Railway Station Clock by Petar Milošević
So much of life depends on proper timing. If you happen to be at the right place at the right time, if you say or do the right thing at the appropriate moment, you can get the job or the girl / boy you want. Your joke, plan or marriage proposal won't fly unless it is delivered at the most propitious time and circumstances.

I find it indeed amazing how some people seem to have a knack for timing, while others are always completely off, sometimes by five minutes or so. I do not know if timing can be achieved or improved through conscious effort, if it is inherited, if it is about education or upbringing, or even if it can be studied and practiced. One thing I do know, however, is that timing is a necessary secret ingredient for success.

I do not claim to have particularly good timing myself. Yet one thing that I have noticed -- in perfect 20 / 20 hindsight -- is that most of the time when I trust my instincts and intuition, the timing is right. Doubt seems to be the enemy of timing because of its blocking effect. I will give an example. I would have a funny line in mind that sprang up as a humorous footnote to a certain discussed topic; yet I would hesitate to utter this phrase thinking it may not be good enough. However, by waiting instead of acting on the right moment, the opportunity passed and any mention of or relation to a previous topic would seem unnecessary and futile, in short, unfunny. I missed the moment by letting it slip by unused.

Then, as I become engaged in Improv, also known as theater sports, where everything depends on the spur of the moment and lines must flow more freely than wine, I learned the truth of every comedian, wanna-be or not, that it is not only quality, but also the correct timing that defines humor. 

And Improv kept me on my toes because it would be a matter of seconds, and you must trust your intuition. It is like the tennis-player or the hockey goalie who must react to a shot with no time to think. It is the shutting off of your ego's voice and a complete engulfing and absorbing awareness of time and space. It is similar to being stoned but without the drugs, hence cheaper and healthier for the body.

At this point, I am assuming that timing can be learned but again that is not the entire truth. You can do Improv 24 hours a day but that does not make you funny or necessarily good at it. You can practice for days on end, but it doesn't mean that you will become a successful athlete. Yet if the “talent” -- for a lack of better word here -- is already in you, then the proper practice can bring it out. You come to trust yourself and your instinct and then you will say the right thing at the right time, you will win the heart of a girl by saying the words she has been waiting for or you will make the entire audience laugh.

And at the same time, timing may also be out of your reach. Think about the following situation. You enter a workplace, and they happen to be looking for someone with your qualities at that exact time because one of their employees had unexpectedly and inadvertently quit the post. There is no rational way for you to know or have this information, but it is timing again that leads to your obtaining the job. It is the difference between receiving the awaited call response versus the email letting you know that they will keep your file on hold for the next six months.

This type of timing depends on a supernatural type or source of information. Some, like me for example, may call it destiny, that something was meant to happen and you entered not out of your own free will but with a certain otherworldly push into that office. That kind of timing is quite similar to karma: Although you cannot study it, you still can practice it to a certain extent by providing good deeds so that they will eventually bounce back to you in the form and currency of timing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Problem of Evil Revisited

Jesus tempted by the devil
The problem of evil has had serious logical implications for the existence of God. The argument that if God is good and all-powerful, how come He allows evil to exist is a pointed and powerful attack on monotheistic religions in general. The free will response is often used, but it presupposes that humans indeed do have free will, that we are able to make choices on a completely independent and voluntary basis. However, considering the combined influences of genetic make-up, karmic cycles, behaviorism, evolutionary psychology and personal experience make this idea seem rather far-fetched and a fairy tale we try hard to believe in or hold onto.

I am proposing a compromise for the existence of God and a possible solution to the problem of evil. The emphasis lies on the word compromise, which in our case means that we have to part with or rather redefine some of the cherished characteristics of the traditional Western God. Curiously enough, my data may seem unsubstantial and weak, not to mention unscientific in the eyes of most people, as I am basing my ideas not on research or flashes of inspiration but a series of dreams I have had recently. So all the psychoanalytically-minded people will be thrilled to read on, the scientific mind will flip the page, or in our case, close the link, the stodgy religious will have stopped reading after the first paragraph, the spiritually open-minded might browse through the article out of curiosity and the atheist will read on with restrained pleasure.

In my dreams, evil was something real and tangible, personified in what is generally given various names, the “devil” being the most common one. I must disagree with those hopelessly optimistic people who claim that evil is like the night or the dark, merely the absence of light and goodness, rather I believe that Evil is an actual and real manifestation or force and not just ignorance of what is generally deemed good.

The reason that horrible atrocities continue around the world is that the dark nature of humanity actually connects with this entity, which then takes over both mind and body like a dangerous virus. Yes, evil is like a disease and that might explain that there is mass madness in times of turmoil and distress as each person feeds on others and the dark forces begin to win the upper hand. Only the ethically strongest will have the power to resist and fight against the manifested evil.

So does that mean that God is not powerful or that there is a balance, or if you will imbalance of powers between good and evil? Since I still claim for the existence of God here and despite my compromising thoughts I still believe that God's powers are superior, yet that the Evil One is still quite strong. As in Christianity, it is a fallen angel nemesis we are dealing with here, perhaps even the ex-right hand man of God Himself. So he is acquainted with the tricks and powers of the Almighty, which makes him almost equal as is believed in the Zoroastrian tradition. However, God is superior in His powers and can order his arch-enemy to sit like a puppy. So where is our compromise? That God cannot be everywhere at the same time, a concept of wishful thinking on our part.

Think about it. God is a busy man, that is, if he is male at all, so why in God's name are we so humanly arrogant to think that God is always preoccupied with each individual on this planet of billions? First off, we may not be the only humans in the universe; secondly, there may be other beings, such as angels and the dead that the Almighty has to deal with on a regular basis, in addition to all the animals, insects and plants all around us. So since He is busy, he might put in charge angels, and they are then as equally powerful as the fallen angel, so good cannot always prevail.

Only in some circumstances, whether by personal request of the afflicted, through the prayer of individuals or because of a divine interest in that person's fate and circumstances will God appear and set things straight. In my dream, Jesus appeared in the form of a squirrel / hamster and told the powerful foaming demon to lay off his hands and let go of my feet, and reluctantly the Evil One obeyed. And no, I am not making this up for argument's sake.

Therefore, we can state that evil is as tangible as good. There are seen and unseen power struggles in the world. It is not that God does not care, He is still omni-benevolent, nor does it limit His powers; He is still, at least technically, omnipotent, but He may not be as ubiquitous or omniscient as we may have believed. Or maybe He is omniscient, but He has his own sets of priorities and maybe our lives or a little problem here and there is not worthy of His full and undivided attention. Yes, we humans can be so demanding that even God cannot keep up with all our wishes and desires.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Gethsemane: Fears and Doubts of Jesus Christ

Jesus at Gethsemane being consoled by an angel
Gethsemane by Carl Heinrich Bloch
Gethsemane was a crucial point in the life of Jesus. He was finally and irrevocably faced with the consequences of his actions; it was the summation and culmination of his deeds, of his life. He was looking death squarely in the eye.

But he had a final chance. This was it. He could take it or leave it. He had the opportunity to call it off or to accept the consequences. It was the most important night and prayer of his life. In Gethsemane, he knew as a fact, clearer than ever, what was awaiting him. He realized that his years of hard work and “campaigning” had brought him there. He felt he had been guided by an invisible hand up to that point. He was aware that to become a realized man, one has to fully face one's destiny.

As it is with such decisions, they have to be taken willingly, otherwise they lose their value. Yes, Jesus was betrayed, but it was a betrayal that still left him options. He was not poisoned or stabbed in the back (at least not literally); there was still time left to escape death or perhaps even rectify the situation; he could have cut a deal with the Romans when he was facing Pilate and the high priests.

Yet, not unlike Socrates, he decided that running away was futile, cowardly, and counterproductive. Exile as an escape was to both a horrendous option; it signified death, not of the body, but rather of the spirit. Strangely enough, by being ready to lay down their physical lives for, what each of them perceived as, the truth meant that their spiritual existence would continue for time immemorial. So they accepted martyrdom for what went beyond the limited scope of human life and each embraced the great beyond of the divine.

However, the greatest doubt of Jesus must have been merely moments before his death. I cannot possibly imagine the horror that must have flashed through his mind when he suddenly thought, what if everything that he had done and accomplished had been in vain, what if God had indeed forsaken him. 

Yet this moment, which may have lasted an eternity in the dying man's perspective, passed, and Jesus accepted that he was willingly sacrificing himself, and he commended his spirit into the hands of God.