Pseudo Desire?

Lately I've been thinking about the mechanisms that govern human desire. Why do we want what we want? Or, to be more specific, what makes us obsess about certain things when we know we'll never be able to have them? Is it simply a matter of them catching our eye, and then the knowledge that we will never be able to attain them working its magic through the power of reverse psychology? Or is it something deeper, something subconscious that interests us, keeps us--quite literally--captivated by the things we want? Or am I just trying to make myself feel better by painting the illusion of a bigger picture, by convincing myself that I'm not acting like a toddler who clamours for a toy simply because it's been taken away? But what if I am that toddler, but that toddler also wants the toy because of a deeper reason that transcends mere possessiveness? I know what you're thinking. If you'd have taken another toy, the toddler would've reacted in the same way. It's not the toy that matters; it's the fact that it's no longer there.

Is it true, then? Is our desire for certain things completely unrelated to the nature of said things? Do we want them because of the circumstances, because someone took them away or they're no longer there? Is that the reason we miss people? Not because we want them, but because we feel like they've been taken away? Darwinists would probably attribute that to some sort of evolutionary possessiveness that our ancestors needed in order to survive; what's mine is mine, don't take my shit--you get the gist.

But what if we really want what we want? What if the absence of the object of our desire is merely a reminder of how much we actually want it? You know, the whole you-don't-know-what-you-have-until-you-lose-it mindset. Can the same concept be applied to things we know we'll never have? Does knowing you can never attain something make you think of how much it would have meant to you if you were given the chance to actually have it? Think of every time you wanted to buy something but couldn't; didn't you think of all the awesome uses you would have put it to had you been able to purchase it? You might think, Yeah, but I know I wouldn't have put it to any of those uses had I actually bought it. But is that related to the question of whether or not your desire for it depended on it or on the circumstances? Couldn't the intervening factors of laziness and procrastination be to blame? Or is it all connected?

Is that why we expect things we know will never happen? I feel like "expect" isn't the proper term. The word I'm looking for is a cross between "expect", "hope", "want" and "wish". Do we really want these things to happen, or do we just enjoy the feeling of struggle? Does it all really come down to the concept illustrated by Miley Cyrus's song The Climb (you may laugh) that the journey is what really matters? Do we chase after things just because they will never happen? I know I'm basically asking the same question over and over in a myriad of different forms, but it's because they all lead to the same thing: Do I really want what I want (to have/happen), or do I feel like I want it just because I know I will never have it/it will never happen? 

Papa Alien's Last Letter

Dear son,

I write these words in acute physical pain, as you can probably already guess. I chose to write them myself, rather than dictating them to the young man you employed for that specific purpose, for the sole reason that my mental anguish outweighs any weariness of joints I might be experiencing. It saddens me to know that I will be shortly leaving you; I know you are well-equipped for the journey of life, but a father can never be too cautious.

I address you now as a young man, full of hope and faith and optimism. As a child you were exactly the same, save for the added feature of intense curiosity. You wanted to know how we came about to live on Neptune and why we'd done so, whether there was life on other planets and if so, why we'd left it. I found it a staggering feat to keep up with your questions, especially since I felt that detailed explanations might be too complex--better yet, too corrupt for your pure brain. I tried to shield you from the truth, and you gradually let the matter drop--whether that was as a result of forgetfulness or deliberate abstinence, only you and God shall know--but I feel that, with death so hot upon my heels, I had better explain what it is only fitting for you to hear from me.

Years ago, my son, the majority of the population of the Solar System was concentrated on a tiny ball of green and blue called the Earth. (I suppose you can already guess how self-centered the inhabitants of this planet were just by its name.) They did not look like us; God created them in different colours and shapes, as he has us, but most of these Earthlings strived to achieve a uniform appearance. You may have come across the terms "fashion" and "mass market" before; these were things the Earthlings in power used to control those below them. The division of power itself upon the Earth was quite intriguing. Being rich was almost always a guarantee to regency; however, other factors could come into play as well. You could be powerful just because you had a powerful relative! Most fascinating, I know. What is even more remarkable is that you could be respected for things you had no hand in, and which everyone knew you had no hand in--these feats ranged from simple things like eye colour to greater things like ghostwritten novels. It was quite a social structure, this Earth was--which brings me to my next point.

The Earthlings were of a strange mix. Some of them pledged steadfast allegiance to science while others held complete belief in myth (for they believed them to be two completely different things). Others still dabbled in both. Most Earthlings, despite their declarations, believed in a theory that stated that their world would come to an end on the twenty-first of December on the year two-thousand-and-twelve. Now, my son, you must understand that these Earthlings had a flair for the dramatic. They believed the end of their world would come in the form of a magnified natural disaster or a swerving comet or some such thing. They were also, as I mentioned above, extremely self-centered; they believed the end of their world meant the end of the entire universe.

As it was, time passed--as it is prone to do--and the fated day came. Some Earthlings hid in fear in their homes, while others put on shows of bravado, walking with more gusto with each passing second. These people did not know the secret. Those who did, however, were busy getting onto the vehicles that would transport them here, to Neptune. They were a mixed crowd. They did not believe in the term "misfit". Everyone was a misfit, hence the theory annihilated itself. They believed in the uniqueness of everyone, and most of all, they believed in everyone's right to be respected for that uniqueness. The Earthlings had called them "idealistic". Perhaps they were; the life we live now was but a mere dream on the now-abandoned Earth. But they took a stand. The first voyage was made up of about ten thousand people, but the spread of the news ignited hope in most Earthlings' hearts, and they too desired transportation to Neptune. There was a key factor of differentiation, however: only those with a sincere desire to repent, to change their ways, to live by peace and love and equality were allowed to board the shuttles. I shall not bore you with the technical details of the test the first voyagers devised; you can find that out on your own, if you search thoroughly enough. Eventually, the only life left on the Earth was that of the souls that had no desire to change; those who only wished power, and would have it at the expense of corruption. You'll notice that throughout this narrative I have used the past tense, but the truth is, they might still be there now, and we would never now. We do not want to know.

Excuse me if my handwriting is a little faulty, or my explanations a little defective, for I am an aging old man, and although that is no reason for me to fail you, it shall have to suffice. I hope this letter reaches you after news of my death does, for I fear lest you should abandon your promising career in the false hopes of nursing me out of sickness. Some sickness you cannot be nursed out of, son. But that, that is not sickness. That is life fulfilling its ultimate promise, its purpose. It does not lie or cheat, and I hope that, by bringing you to this planet, I have allowed you to experience an existence where humans do not either.

Your loving father

The Conundrum

First off, I'd like to take the time to thank you if you're actually reading this post. I know one should write for the joy of writing and all (and I do), but there's always that fizzy excitement when you know that someone actually reads your posts (especially if you procrastinate studying to write them). Second of all, if I know you in real life and you happen to be reading this, please a) don't feel offended or b) mention it to me ever, because that would just be awkward. I also apologise in advance for my poor phrasing and lack of organisation--my feelings sometimes overwhelm my ability to remain coherent. Last thing before this rather lengthy prologue winds to a halt--please keep in mind that this is a highly subjective post, so it might be a little unfair. Thank you.

I have this thing where, if I happen to be thinking about a particular problem or issue at a certain time, it consumes my whole existence. Literally. I get so caught up in it that it begins to seem like the propelling force behind everything that happened or did not happen throughout my entire life. The current unlucky subject is misanthropy. defines misanthropy as "hatred, dislike, or distrust of humankind." Now, if you're following me on Twitter (this might also apply to a select number of individuals who know me in real life), you'll know that I continually complain about fellow members of my species, and how I hate them, distrust them, want them to shut up, etc etc. I think I might have also made the point of them reminding me of everything I hate about myself, which makes me hate them all the more. The truth is, there are a myriad of different reasons behind these claims, as well as a sort of Step-Up-like battle of feelings and thoughts.

The simplest and most obvious question would be: Do I really hate people? Coming to think of it, I guess it would depend on your definition of hate. I'm a pacifist; as a general rule, I don't approve of physical harm, and feel guilty whenever I engage in it in a non-joking way. That doesn't mean that I don't get engulfed in feelings of desire to bring about physical harm; it just means that I know I'll feel like crap if I do, so I don't. I also don't approve of using duaa, or prayer, as a means of hurting someone. I also think it's not mustahab, or advisable, in an Islamic context. Which brings me to the next issue.

I'm a Muslim. I'm far from being an ideal one; however, I do want to be. I know that Islam frowns upon misanthropy; there are many Quranic verses and sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) that declare as much. Despite that, I don't take any steps to eliminate these negative feelings. Don't get me wrong, I'm not some sort of aggressive nutjob (with all due respect to nutjobs) who goes about blowing up local diners because of the repulsion they feel towards their fellow men. I have friends. I do nice things. I don't go and bash people's faces in. I don't start fights, be they physical or verbal. Thus the argument has led us to the second question: Why do I say that I hate people?

There are so many reasons I don't even know where to start. I think I'll start with the most obvious one: Insecurity. Like everyone else, I have my insecurities. The difference is that I don't know that many people who attempt to eliminate them, which leads to said insecurities becoming magnified. I know what you're probably thinking: Other people weren't put on this planet to wash away your fears, you need to do that yourself, etc etc, and I completely agree. Nevertheless, I am something of a weak person, and little things keep happening that make me feel worse. I won't go into much detail...or, you know what, fuck it. Fuck being cautious. I will go into much detail. I'm not pretty. I don't exactly have the funniest personality, the wittiest humour, the sharpest brain. I don't play sports or have overt artistic tendencies. I am what they call "mediocre"--not the blonde mediocre type you see on American TV whom everyone likes, but the kind they don't show, the kind who gets by but never really lives. I'm the kind of girl you see and don't try to get to know, or if you do, it's only for a few hours, and then poof! You'll never try to keep in contact or see me again. It's not that I'm invisible, per se--people know me, they say hi to me, I get invited to stuff--it's just that, I feel like, to most people, I'm a bystander. An extra. Someone who's there but isn't really central to anything. The number of times I haven't gotten invited to stuff that nearly everyone else running in my social circle has aren't a lot, but they're still more than I care to admit. And what I hate is how my own friends give me awkward glances when that happens, or, even worse, talk about it like it's okay, it's normal, we've all gotten used to it. I know I should have by now. But I haven't.

So I guess that's one reason. The fact that I feel like I continually get rejected has stopped me from trying; I've become hypersensitive to anything that could possibly fill me with that juxtaposed desire to break down and cry while at the same time beating someone the fuck up. I know I'm victimising myself here, but I never said I was perfect, or even remotely close, I just mentioned how people react to my imperfections. 

Another reason is that people genuinely piss me off. I know I can't expect everyone to be like me, but I'm still working on my cope-with-differences strategy. Girls who act dumb, guys who act macho, adults who act like they know it all, people discussing trivial things, people who rank our country's "image" as a thing of greater importance than the number of people actually suffering in it, people who think that equality is dumb; all these are just samples of things I encounter on a near-daily basis which annoy me to great lengths. I also get especially annoyed when I meet someone who reminds me of my own faults. What else? I guess how people sometimes screw up and act like it's my fault, how some people don't live up to the simplest responsibilities they thrust upon themselves, how people sometimes act like the entirety of the human race was created for their convenience, and so on. I also don't like anyone who doesn't like me--childish, I know, but I can't help it.

So where's the conundrum, you might ask? Well, I've already partially mentioned it. I know I'm not being a good Muslim by constantly being so negative. And there are times when I don't want to be so negative; times when it feels like my brain is a Tumblr blog, full of appeals to smile and live life to the fullest and always do good, no matter what. But I just don't know how. How can I constantly do good to people who annoy me, or who reject me? How can I embrace the imperfections of people who never tried to embrace mine? How can I act like certain dogmas don't repulse me? And, most importantly, how can I take chances on people when almost 90% of the people I've met have never taken a chance on me?

This Scent

Inspired by this song as well as countless quotidian and not-so-quotidian events.

This scent
Never goes away,
This scent
Often leads me astray,
This scent
Has plagued me night and day,
This scent
Of pure

This scent
Is wholly unreal,
But this scent
Has such a corporeal feel,
This scent
Is one of irresistible appeal,
This scent
Of pure

This scent
Has taken its toll on me,
This scent
Has me hooked on its ambiguity,
This scent
Is one of rare inanity,
This scent
Of pure

This scent
Roams the corners of my mind,
This scent
Can be nauseating at times,
This scent
Has propelled me through the lines,
This scent
Of pure

This scent
Tells the story of a girl,
This scent
Is her life unfurled,
This scent
That makes her hurl,
This scent
Of pure

This scent
Is overtly nonsensical,
This scent
Coalesces in this poem's vernacular
With the scent
Of mystery,
A scent
Of pure

They're Not There

No. No, no, no. It can't happen. I can't let it happen.

The sun creeps up the horizon and slowly encompasses the world in its post-twilight glory. The feeble yellow rays land gently on her messy bun of loosely tied frizzy hair, exposing its magenta tinge in much the same way that a magician reveals a hidden rabbit. She cowers instinctively from the light, a visceral tug inside her causing her hands to reach up of their own accord and cover her hair.

I can't let them find me. They can't find me. They've already taken away too much.

And yet, she can't move. She remains paralyzed on the floor, not even able to rock back and forth to soothe her frayed nerves like they do in the movies she's seen. Looking at her from the outside, all you'd see would be a ball of grey topped by a dark covered head. She almost looks like a pencil. Except she can't write, can't express, can't move. Can't move, can't move, can't move.

Their eyes sting. I have to protect myself. I have to throw off the force of their being.

She remembers, yet she forgets. She remembers what it was like before. She misses the good parts. But she can't remember them without recalling the bad days, the days when she felt like no-one understood her, like she might as well grow an extra head for all the difference it would make in the way they viewed her, in the way she viewed herself. She hated being hurt by them, but she hated hurting them more. It made her feel like she was one of them, and she didn't want to be. She wanted to be part of something, something that wasn't that, something that wasn't them. They'd upset her too much already, whether they meant to or not.

I can't hear them.

The distinctness of the noises fades away. The sounds become enmeshed in one big aura of hustle and bustle. They become easier to ignore, easier to withdraw from. The pounding subsides. She can hear the hum of the birds and the chirping of the crickets. She can hear one of her favourite songs playing. She can hear the soothing sound of her mother's voice and the laughing guffaw of her father. She can hear her own laugh, less gruff but still raw, still pure, still happy.

I can't see them. 

As her eyes adjust to the darkness they are engulfed in, images begin to appear. She sees herself with her head thrown back, hysterically laughing at something. She sees herself talking to the woman on the street with her four children, before the accident that killed her. She sees him walk towards her and ask her what was wrong. She sees the day she found out she'd been accepted at college and could start over.

I can't smell them.

It isn't there anymore. The smell of rats, alley cats, fleas, urine and food gone bad. Instead, her nostrils pick up a scent of homemade fried chicken, of ta'leyya, of chocolate, of pasta. She can smell roses and salt and wind on the beach. She can smell one of her favourite shampoos. She can smell the scent she always picked up whenever she came back home after a long holiday.

They're not there.


The contradictions. Oh, the contradictions.

Sometimes I wonder how someone so juxtaposed could possibly exist. It's like my mind and soul are experiencing a never-ending whirlwind of thoughts, emotions, ideas, dreams--too bad I can't make much use of them.

I want things to change, but I don't. I want them to collapse, but I don't. I want to be happy, but I don't. I hate everyone, but I don't. I know I'm right, but I don't. I believe in myself, but I don't. I'm okay, but I'm not.

Bottom line is, if being conflicted were an achievement, I'd be a Nobel prize winner by now.

I'd Stop For You

"Life goes on."

The words were written in normal ballpoint pen, the handwriting of their writer cursive and flowy. They were the conclusion to a long, winding paragraph which appeared to be an attempt at philosophical musing out of which she was undoubtedly meant to derive comfort.

She didn't.

She'd come across those words in almost eighty percent of the cards, letters, emails, even telegraphs which had been sent to her over the last few days. She knew their senders meant well, but she didn't really appreciate the phrase. "Life goes on." What is life, anyway, she felt like asking? Isn't it a relative concept? Is there really a big, entangled, messy mash that contains us all? No. Time may go on, but "life" is different for everyone.

She looked at those same words again, her pen poised. She wondered if the person who wrote them--her mother's aunt, in this case--knew how much they hurt her. It wasn't just their bluntness--she felt like they were telling her, "Hey, we know you're hurting, but, guess what, time won't stop for you, so you better forget your pain and catch up with the rest of us!"--but the fact that they reminded her continuously of the magnitude of what she had lost.

His words echoed in her mind as she read every condolence note. He'd said them just once, but they'd been engraved in her mind. It was the closest he'd ever gotten to being romantic--he wasn't prone to what he called "mushy crap", and neither was she--but those words held far more meaning and truth in them than anything she'd ever been told in her life.

It had been the week after they'd gotten engaged. He'd said something stupid, and she'd wondered jokingly why she'd ever agreed to marry him. He looked at her, and there was a flicker of something in his eyes. At first she'd been confused, wondering if maybe the words had hurt him, although they joked like that all the time. Then he spoke.

"Because I'd stop for you. If you ever fell, I'd stop for you. I'd try to catch you, of course, but if I couldn't, then I'd kneel down beside you and cry with you, yell with you, go on a wild rampage with you--whatever it took, till you felt better. Then I'd help you up, be your crutch, maybe, and walk with you. I'd walk with you till you could walk on your own. And if you ever fell once more, I'd stop for you and do it all over again."

They'd laughed, even though they both knew he meant it. He never brought it up again, but she'd kept the words firmly in her mind, locked inside a cell of their own, her comfort in case anything went wrong. Little did she suspect that what would go wrong would be an accident of such magnitude, the type of event that stretches a person and tears them apart, limb from limb.

She found it ironic that the only person who could help her, the only person who could bring her relief, was the one person who was gone. She thought of those words every day from the moment she woke up to the moment she went to bed. She thought of them as she put the kettle on to boil, she thought of them as she ate, she thought of them as she read and reread every single one of his emails and texts, she thought of them as she thanked people for their kindness and assured them that she'd be all right, and she thought of them as she prayed. Still, it wasn't enough. There was always this nagging feeling that something was missing; his reassuring voice. She could hear it in her mind's ear, but it wasn't the same. She needed it to flow through the air, to cause waves of sound that would ultimately reach her and make her feel like things would be okay.

"Life goes on." She realised that she was still holding the pen, still staring blankly at the piece of paper, which was now moist with her tears. What was she supposed to say? She'd devised a standard answer, but she was sick of it. It was hypocritical. She needed truth. She needed honesty. She needed realism. She needed someone to acknowledge that no, her life would not go on. Right now, her life was in a rut and it would stay that way for a while. She didn't want to move on. Maybe she'd feel differently in the future, but for the time being, all she wanted was to stay right where she was. Because what was moving on, really? A dilution of the pain? Putting your hurt on the back burner instead of at the forefront of your thoughts? Whatever it was, she wasn't up for it. Not now.

She put down her pen and clawed her way through the unkempt room to her bed. She'd managed to take one of his sweatshirts when she and her parents had visited his widowed mother in the house she used to share with her son. It didn't have his smell--it emanated an aura of fresh laundry--but in the middle was the logo of his favourite band. It wasn't much, but it made her feel like she had a tangible part of him with her. She never wore it, but hugged it tightly whenever she went to bed, as if she could squeeze the comfort out of its fibres and allow it to seep into her soul. As she held it now, she felt her heart skip a beat, and muttered, so quietly her voice was almost inaudible, "I'd stop for you too."