This isn’t what you think it’s about

Okay, maybe this is just a little preemptive, seeing as how I have one last final exam in a little over 12 hours. Frankly, that’s exactly why I’m writing a blog post; it fools me into feeling like I’ve been productive, and that staves off any guilt I feel at not studying (assuming, of course, that I feel any guilt at not studying – which I don’t). It’s interesting – I spent the last three hours in a weird haze of sadness, but now that I’ve gotten past it, I can see everything clearer. The deeply-steeped peppermint tea I’m drinking helps too.

I’ve talked about this to my friends quite a lot, but a semester that started off really slow managed not only to fly, but zipped past with the ferociously plummeting speed of my own motivation when doing homework. September dragged in the most wonderful way, October was fast, November barely existed, and now it’s the 11th of December and I’m looking at a day’s journey back to Dubai in 5 days.

Maybe I’ll continue the above post someday. Maybe I won’t. But there’s something more important to talk about than my silly reflections on a semester that passed by slightly faster than I expected it to, on a topic that has become pretty repetitive on my blog. There’s this ridiculous tumblr post going around which says the following:

my social studies teacher once told us “human beings are the most selfish of all. even when someone dies, you shed tears only because they are no more around to provide you with whatever they had been for so long”

and it has been 3 years since she said this and this is still what i think about at night

Now, I always have a bit of a knee jerk reaction to posts like this in the form of “NO, STOP THAT RIGHT NOW.” Which, I mean, is a very valid reaction to bullshit but I figure some things require a bit more of an articulated response. So I took a deep breath, put on my big girl pants, and replied with this:

…nope. Your social studies teacher is some ridiculously cynical person, OP, because when someone dies, you think about them in their own right. You think about their smile, the way their eyes crinkle when they laugh, the way their hair did that one thing that annoyed them. You think about all the memories you made with them, and that they made with you. Relationships are mutual. Death is a mutually shared experience. Humans cry when people far away die – even when those people didn’t “provide you” with anything. You miss them for the person they were. You shed tears for what you shared with them because the person who died was close enough to you that they brought something to your life, and you brought something to theirs. It isn’t selfish to cry because someone has been cruelly taken from the earth. You cry for what their life was, what it could have been, you cry because you no longer have the opportunity to see them grow.

This post is bullshit. To try and strip human empathy and deride it is cruel and manipulative. I don’t blame you, OP, I blame whatever culture decided it’s fashionable to be apathetic, that it’s fashionable to be a cynic.

And then I got thinking. If the original poster of that post had been wracked so hard by someone’s thoughtless comment about the selfishness of humanity, there have to be so many other people who think the same way. And I’ve bumped into a fair few of them myself. To say that it hurts to see people who’ve given in would be a massive understatement: imagine someone plunging a hand through your rib cage, grasping your heart, and tugging it. That’s how I feel when I see people succumb to cynicism.

This isn’t to say I’m sheltered – and please don’t accuse me otherwise, I’ve seen and felt more pain and tragedy than my disposition hints at; I grew up in freaking Pakistan, for god’s sake! But it’s because I grew up in Pakistan that the hope in me has mutated into a personality completely unwilling to be shoved underground. My country has seen so much, and yet it survives. A friend of mine said to me recently, “we’re nothing if not survivors” and she’s absolutely right. But I, as I do so very often, digress.

I figured people needed a reminder that humanity can be possessed of honey, and that it so often is; that we don’t have to fall into the trap of hopeless; and that, by the same token, we have the right to feel and the right to feel sorrow and hurt. The following Facebook status came out of that (because when I’m emotional, I go to Facebook when I should be going to a word document):

Fight cynicism if it’s the last thing you do. Fight apathy till your last breath. Fight the culture breeding within us that says humanity is dead, that we are all doomed to be selfish and cruel and hateful, and that there is naught to be done but “go with it.” You can be kind without being selfish; you can look at someone and want to make their day without being silly; you can cry tears over someone else’s pain not because you’re self-obsessed, but because you care deeply, and because humans are empathetic. And if there exist philosophers – and there do – who wax sad poetics about the conflict inherent in humanity, breathe it in, and exhale beauty. And love. And an undying hope. Sing that white melody slowly into the hearts of those around you, a tune like a pebble thrown into still water, rippling outwards and outwards until another pebble meets to spread it further.We are only what we believe ourselves to be. Whisper sweet, caress affection, make room for the world in your heart and let yourself feel pain at the sorrow of others because that is how you know you are human. You are built to feel, and deeply too, so give yourself the right to do so.

 To whoever’s reading this: please be kind to yourself today. And if that means watching a sad movie or a book that makes you cry like a baby, do it. You deserve it. Apathy is bullshit and totally overrated. In fact, here, have my favorite collection of letters:
“This sky where we live is no place to lose your wings, so love, love, love.”
 – Hafez Shirazi

The origins of humanity

What is it that makes us humans? Most people would say it’s that we’re the most intelligence species out there. Now while that may be debatable in practice (see: the history of the world) it does hold some merit. Sort of.

This won’t be a very long post but I disagree with intelligence being the definer of humanity. Intelligence alone is pretty much useless – it is an amplifying quality, absolutely, that only holds esteem if paired with something else. Intelligence without passion and curiosity is null and void; intelligence and selfishness is a recipe for disaster; and intelligence plus compassion is what makes all the difference in the world. No matter what you pair it with, however, the number one definer of humanity – as far as I’m concerned – is drive and discourse.

Our ability – no, our desire – to engage in debates, conversations, to draw up complete manifestos or works of art is what defines us. If we weren’t inclined towards wanting to share ideas, or towards discussing them, all our intelligence would have no point.

Only then does intelligence guide the course of discussion – but even then, it’s not alone. Then come your values, beliefs, optimism, pessimism, conflict verses consensus, theism verses humanism, idealism verses pragmatism etc. Perhaps your understanding/interpretation of these concepts is intertwined with your own inherent intelligence, but the two are not mutually exclusive either. Intelligence is not monolithic – hence, it cannot be considered the base of humanity either, in my opinion. And it can never be taken alone.

This idea probably opens up a whole other can of worms in terms of education, society, culture, religion etc and I’d love to hear differing ideas on this! There’s so many questions that could follow too and I’m open to forming new ideas and opinions or evolving my own. I’d love to engage people in a friendly discussion on this topic so don’t be shy!