Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Letter That Hit Me In The Feels

Racha is my mother’s cousin and the youngest in her generation. Being only 6 years older than I am, our generation in the family always considered her part of us young ones. Racha had always been a perfect example of the creative, stylish, art-loving, big-hearted, inspirational, independent woman. 

A major memory I recall is this one fun trip in 1989 when I was 11 and went with my grandmother to visit my aunt in L.A. This was when Racha, whose late father was my grandmother’s younger and only brother and who was 16 then, joined us for a while. The featured photo in Disneyland with my aunt and grandmother is from that trip.

12 years later when we left the hotel life and I moved to my own flat in Zamalek I had to paint it before moving in. Of course 23-year-old me had no idea or experience to be able to chose the colours. My mother suggested I ask Racha and that was precisely what I did. She came over and in less than 10 minutes she narrowed down the options, making it a much easier task. Eventually, I went along with her choices, one of which was a cool reddish colour for the stairs. Another tip is how the painter should use a sponge to get that spongy light blue, which was what I also went with.

Fast-forwarding to another 17 years during this current trip to Egypt, I got to meet her adorable Labrador, Dahab. When I offered to take it for daily walks around Zamalek, she kindly agreed. They had just moved back after a few years living by the Pyramids area where the family enjoyed a spacious garden; and as I came to reckon, the dog need those walks as much as I need them. For someone who works on his laptop for more than 12 hours a day, such breaks become essential to recharge.

My ecclesiastical love for dogs and for bonding with them beside missing having my own are other reasons which made those daily walks highly enjoyable. Now three months later, Dahab — who shares the kind nature of his hooman — and I became BFFs.

Both of us being talkative, fun-loving, and animated, Racha and I always got along perfectly well. For those past 40 years of my life, we have never fought, clashed, or had awkward moments... not even once.

Right before my planned departure a couple of days ago I was supposed to pick something up from Racha. This was when I found a beautiful letter she had left me. Other than being hand-written, which is a much more personal way of communication than the digital means, somehow the Arabic language made it even more poetic and sentimental. 

It is of significance to note that when one chooses a ‘different’ life path such as being a writer and leaving everything behind to follow their dream, receiving words of encouragement every once in a while becomes the fuel which propels you forward. Echoing with Stephen King’ nugget of truth: “Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

I have shared before some of the heartfelt messages I receive from readers and followers, simply because coming from people who only know me through my writing, such words have a sincere positive impact on me, leaving me with nothing but utter gratitude. 

This time, though, the words are coming from someone I have always considered like a dear older sister; someone who knows my true essence before getting to know the newly-enhanced version of myself. So it genuinely hit me right in the feels, which is why I’m sharing the letter with you after translating it...

My Brother and friend, Omar Bek Cherif,

I cannot express how thankful and grateful I am to your person for taking care of our big dog in such hard times for us. A time we’re all getting used to living in an apartment where our dog has been deprived of the garden and us from the space which allowed the dog not to be stuck to us all the time. We are thanking you; and so is Dahab.

But what is more important is that I thank and congratulate you and your parents on your gentle and generous soul which loves everyone — no matter how different they are — as well as love all the various animals, music, the air, and the sea. Very few people, especially those who were plagued by our Bourgeoisie, were able to free themselves from the shackles of “what should” and “what is acceptable”; equally freed from the way success is measured in our society — not only the Egyptian one but the Bourgeois in general.

Congratulation on your freedom.

Congratulation on your sophisticated soul.

And I wish you from the bottom of my heart all the happiness and success in your own way and of your own choice.

I love you because you’re you.

I love you because you’re the son of those I love!

And I love you because I see myself in you as well as my children and everyone who embraces freedom simply by being themselves. 

Your sister, Racha el Gammal.

Thank you for this uplifting letter, Sweetest Rachrouch. I sure love you too. I dare saying that everyone who knows you feels the same. Indeed, our Pale Blue Dot needs more people like you.

Amusingly, it was right after reading the letter, twice, that I decided to postpone my flight to L.A for another few weeks. 

Gorgeous Racha with stunning Sandra on the Northern Coast of Egypt,
Summer 2015 - Some People I Shot


For The Love Of Storytelling

Rooting Into The Past

My Correspondence With a 31-Year-Old Reader Before He Passed Away

Some People I Shot  

The Night We Turned ‘Beast Mode’ On

How Inspiration is Transferable 

A Saturday Evening with an Old Brotherman & His Doggy

Why I Share Stuff

The Night I Became a Stripper

Give That Man Some Groceries

The Writing Process and the Creative Block

Change Is The Only Constant
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Sunday, 16 April 2017

OLS Reflections Quarante-Trois

  • Most people who hold that childish kind of love for their country have never left it.

  • There are certain people who tend to feel insecure in my presence. Subconsciously they project their own fears and insecurities on me. I can almost always sense this vibe and to counter it, out of compassion, I am sort of compelled to comfort that insecurity and the fear it originates from. Doing so requires censoring myself — rounding-out my edges and dimming my shine — which is something I sincerely despise. Simply because it’s not who I am at the core; it’s a bland, ordinary, unoriginal, edited, “watered-down” version of myself. Despite caring for these people, eventually this dynamic pushes me away from them. For I am who I am and will always remain who I am. The only way to fix this is to fully accept me as I am, just like what I have done some years ago. I will likely sense that vibe as well and take off the mask I resort to wear when around them, which is a Win-Win situation when we come to think about it.

  • Almost all neurotic people I know are into smoking cigarettes, and I know enough.  

  • You’re always going to be too much for some people — too much of a dreamer, too Utopian, too happy, too free, too unrealistic, too loud. Those are not your people.

  • I know a significant number of people who would be shining with happiness now if it weren’t for their obsessive parents.

  • That utterly rare moment when you bump into someone you kind of fancied almost 20 years ago and can’t help but wonder how things could have turned out. This is not the same as seeing someone you have actually been with; because you know how that person is and have experienced being with them — even if once. When, however, nothing more than just mutual admiration had been there for a limited time one is left with an imaginative “What If?” after all these years. 

  • The more life pulls me forward towards my dream, the more I realise that I’m already living it, the more it seems like an impossibility to turn around. For the journey is the destination and the intention is not to arrive. The true essence lies in fully living the multitude of the eternal Here and Now. Onward Forward, Brethren, there is no stepping backward.

  • As long as man still regards God as an entity outside of himself and Heaven and Hell as places he’ll never wake up or reach his full potential. Echoing with Nietzsche’s words in Beyond Good and Evil: “As long as you still feel the stars as being something ‘over you’ you still lack the eye of the man of knowledge.” Once you look up at the sky and acknowledge that you’re looking at your past self you’ll finally get the chance to shine unapologetically just like our ancestors — The Stars.

  • There is a peculiar sense of serenity and humility in knowing that you can’t know it all. For the more you understand, the more you realise there is so much more to understand. Truly, those who know know they don’t know. A reason why the more the knowledge, the humbler one becomes.

  • In real life, some people smile and laugh when they get shy, nervous, or confrontational. On social media, the same insecurity makes them add “LOL” and “Haha” after writing something relatively serious. 

“The only way to deal with this mad world is to become so absolutely
mad yourself that it has nothing to offer you but respect.”
— Omar Cherif

















OLS REFLECTIONS Dreiundzwanzig






OLS REFLECTIONS  إثنان وثلاثون






OLS Reflections Einundvierzig

OLS Reflections — The Spiritual Edition

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Saturday, 15 April 2017

For The Love Of Storytelling

We all know how everyone loves a good story. Whether to command a crowd, motivate people, or to entertain them, narrative seem to posses a power capable of changing minds and influencing beliefs, behaviours, and attitudes. It is also known that women prefer men who are good storytellers to those who can’t spin a tale. It is not uncommon to hear from them that storytellers are sexy. In fact, recent findings have shown that, apart from being one of our most fundamental communication methods, storytelling can even make us fall in love.

But have you ever wondered why we are attracted to stories and their raconteurs? Well, science is now able to explain. Let me share with you what psychology and neurobiology can tell us about the topic.

In a recent joint paper out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University at Buffalo, a team of researchers concluded that good storytelling can fuel romance and lead to love. Published in the journal Personal Relationships, the three studies were conducted in an effort to examine gender differences regarding how storytelling may influence someone’s attractiveness as a long-term and short-term romantic partner. The results have shown that being able to tell a good tale is an advantageous evolutionary ability, which has a direct impact on attracting long-term romantic prospects.

Interestingly, this was not necessarily the case for females; a man’s storytelling ability factored greatly in their assessment of whether he would be a more appealing long-term match. For men, on the other hand, while storytelling ability in women seemed to show signs of greater intelligence, it wasn’t translated as regarding the women to be a more attractive match.

It was equally revealed that good male storytellers were not favoured by female as short-term prospect partners, only for long-term. Hm, makes one think.

The reason why this occurs was unveiled after further analyses of the findings. According to evolutionary theorists, women perceived men who were good storytellers as “higher status”; as more likely to be a leader and/or to be admired. It seems that in a woman’s mind there exists this conception that a man who can command the crowd with his well-structured language(s) ability — hence is able to tell compelling stories — is more likely to garner higher status within the group.

Whether or not good storytellers are actually able to attain higher social status or leadership positions hasn’t yet been scientifically tested. But based on said studies, the perception is well established in the collective female psyche. 
One can actually reckon how it could make sense to them, even if subconsciously.

The volunteer students were exposed to both good storytelling and not-so-good one. The condition or characteristics of the good stories were mainly referred to as “having an interesting variety of word choice”; which translates into “the writer possess an extensive vocabulary”. The volunteers were also told that the writer whose writing they are reading “often tells really good stories at parties”; which means that have the guts and the know-how to express themselves publicly in a well-structured manner.

In other words, good storytelling entails having a good command of the language — wide vocabulary, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure — plus being outspoken and fun. The latter characteristic may be only relevant to this particular example used in the study, because there is a significant number of introvert storytellers who would rather deal with a computer or a notebook rather than having to make eye contact with people while speaking to them face to face. 

Then again, being book-smart or memorising the thesaurus don’t make us good communicators. One must be able to incorporate the language into their writing, or speeches, while making sense. As I had previously shared in On Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing, I hold that everyone has something to say, but not everyone can deliver their words ― be it written or spoken ― in a coherent, or captivating, or catchy story-like or message-like form.

In a Wall Street Journal article titled, Why Good Storytellers Are Happier in Life and in Love, the writer begins by reminding us why good storytelling is regarded sexy. “In William Shakespeare’s time, the word “conversation” meant two things — verbal discourse, and sex.” Indeed, engaging, intellectual conversations could be quite erotic for some of us.

Personally, while I had been a lover of storytelling and a good communicator for as long as I can remember, I came to learn the basics of writing when I majored in Journalism and Mass Communication in university. When I later began working in corporate I learned more tips about effective public speaking through this training program/course called Train The Trainers. While working for three different companies 

I first took the course myself and then started teaching it to the newly-hired as well as to future trainers.

One of the useful tips I recall is to change your tone every once in a while. Because we can only attract the attention span of an individual, or the masses, for a limited amount of minutes. How many times did we get bored and started nodding while listening to someone reading their PowerPoint presentation with a monotonous tone of voice? 

Speaking of which, I recall how I loved history in school much more than, say, biology; simply because I studied it as a story and that’s how I was able to retain and retrieve all the information without actual memorisation.

Another tip I came to learn for TTT is to add real-life examples so that people can relate. Making eye-contact with the class/audience and divide it fairly between the different listeners is another. Also, adding humour whenever you can to make it interesting, for them and for yourself, especially if the setting and/or topic is business-related which usually lacks fun.

When after all this I transitioned from the mundane corporate realm to taking writing as a vocation it felt utterly right, for lack of a truer word to explain my sensational passion. Now more than ever, I consider each and every story I tell to be similar to performing on stage. Speaking requires effort and energy — body language, gestures, different techniques — in order to keep the audience captivated for a while and be able to deliver your message, whether at the end of the ‘performance’ or through it or both. But more or less, all stories follow the same rule: An introduction as a frame, the narrative body, then the conclusion or the punchline — though depending on the overall length I may have a few of those in a single story.

The featured photo of my cousins and I may be one explicit example of how animated I could get once in my element.

Amusingly, after about five years into writing I came to be certain for myself how women love creative storytellers and artists. Despite the fact that they may not know me personally, a healthy number of them seem to actually be attracted to me through my writings. And I would be shamelessly lying if I said I didn’t like it.   

When neuroscience was involved in exploring the effects of storytelling on the brain it was found that narratives caused the brain to produce the neurochemical Oxytocin. Dubbed the Love Hormone or Cuddle Hormone, this peptide is released when we snuggle, bond, play with our pets, or even watch a video of a cute baby panda; it is also released when we experience trust or shown kindness, which in turn motivate us to engage in cooperative behaviour.

In one study, volunteers were exposed to a narrative shot on video. By measuring their brain activity and taking blood raws before and after they watched character-driven stories, the researchers found that Oxytocin is always produced by the brain; the level of which predicted how much people were willing to help others.

In further studies it was found that for people — viewers or listeners — to be motivated to help others, the story they are being exposed to needs to first grab their attention, naturally. The key lies in creating tension in the narrative. Once the viewers/listeners are attentive they will come to share the emotions of the characters in it.

Not only that, but it’s predicted that they will keep mimicking the character(s) for a while after they are done with the story, sometimes lasting for days afterwards. 

Think of yourself after watching a film or reading a novel you had really enjoyed and how you seem to embody the main heroic character — their feelings and behaviours — for a while after. Consider Superman, Rocky, Karate Kid, or Star Wars.

It is worth stating that the influence is not always a positive one. On more sinister note, I remember when Natural Born Killers came out in 1994 and I went to see it at the theaters with my then girlfriend and a friend. Upon the end of the movie, 17-year-old me left the theater feeling like a true badass. Despite loving the movie, fortunately none of us acted upon that sensation and began psychopathically shooting bystanders in the streets of Cairo, as it happened elsewhere with people who pretended to be Mickey and Mallory before all hell broke loose.

In fact, a quick scroll through Google results in an abundance of websites titled “List of alleged Natural Born Killers copycat crimes”. One crime involved the Shooting of William Savage and Patsy Byers; rendered quadriplegic, the latter took legal actions against Oliver Stone and the Time Warner company in March 1996, which were eventually dropped. 

Another copycat crime of NBK is Heath High School shooting. The Columbine High School Massacre is one more. There are at least ten more crimes in which the killers one way or another had a link with watching the movie. This only shows how powerful, convincing, and possibly also dangerous stories can be.

Historically speaking, the movie was not the first to cause such havoc; for it is often seen in the same light as Kubrick’s A clockwork Orange, which came out 23 years prior. Kubrick, too, was attacked for the violence in his movie, only that he dealt differently by retracting it.

Lev (Leo) Tolstoy telling a story to his grandchildren, circa 1909

Now, when we are being told a story things dramatically change in our brain. Not only are the language processing parts are activated, which decodes words into meaning, but the same goes for any other brain area that we would use when experiencing the events included in the story. As such, if someone tells us a narrative about how delicious certain foods are, our sensory cortex lights up — no wonder one gets hungry when watching a food show or an ad. If we’re exposed to a story about motion, our motor cortex, which coordinates the body’s movements, gets activated — ending up with faster heartbeats and sweaty palms. 

Indeed, stories can put your whole brain to work, especially the good ones. They have this power which allows them to transcend time, cultures, even languages. Check The Story of Eric Clapton and Majnun Layla as an example. And that’s not even it.

As Uri Hasson from Princeton added, the brains of the person telling a story and the one listening to it can actually synchronise. 

When the woman spoke English, the volunteers understood her story, and their brains synchronised. When she had activity in her insula, an emotional brain region, the listeners did too. When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs. By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains.

All that said, perhaps the most important story for us to tell is our own life story. More studies have actually found that the way people tell their personal stories has a monumental effect on their life satisfaction. I remember in my early 30s when I left Egypt to North America I came to meet lots of new people, which made me tell mine so many times. I noticed that every time I tell it a tad better. Just like editing your own writing, you add a certain info here, remove another there, insert a punchline, make a connection between two things; there is always something to be done to make it a better, more enjoyable narrative. 

What is essential to remember is that you are the sole director of your own movie and the warrior of your own saga. Anything other than that and you’re most definitely missing the point of life. Simply because if you’re not in control then you’ll likely be playing secondary roles in other people’s movies, helping them reach the Big Screen while totally forgetting that you, too, have a story to tell and that you, too, must be its lead star if you ever want to lead a happy life.

Storytelling is an effective tool when it comes to inspiring, empowering, convincing, and entertaining people. It is equally effective in making them connect with each other, which is why sometimes it could lead to falling in love.

As we have seen, the neurobiology of storytelling revealed that we can get others to experience whatever we experience. Somehow the brain does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life. Despite the limitation of language — the biggest metaphor there is — the same neurological regions are stimulated. This is how the reader literally gets to share the mental states of the writer; the better the stories, the deeper the connection between them.

In that sense, we could say that stories are a highly contagious form of communication. This, I believe, is the literal explanation of how art is the medium through which we get a glimpse of others’ realities. And it conveniently echoes with Robert Frost’s wise words: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Now thanks to recent advances in science we know that, just like everything else we experience, all these reactions go back to neurochemicals in the brains. Does it make sense now how good stories can invade and hijack our mind, heart and soul, eventually making us fall in love?


Why I Share Stuff

Artists Between Mindset and Motivation

The Writing Process and the Creative Block

On Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing

When Choosy Men Reject Women  

Why I Choose to Remain a Non-Dad for Now — Reflections on Being Childless

How Drumming Changed The Way My Brain Processes Music 

The Story of Eric Clapton and Majnun Layla

What Being Conscious Means

Personal Questions I'm Often Asked and Their Answers

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Sunday, 9 April 2017

OLS Reflections — The Spiritual Edition

  • Confusing religion with spirituality is like confusing education with intelligence.

  • As long as man still regards God as an entity outside of himself and Heaven and Hell as places he’ll never wake up or reach his full potential. Echoing with Nietzsche’s words in Beyond Good and Evil: “As long as you still feel the stars as being something ‘over you’ you still lack the eye of the man of knowledge.” Once you look up at the sky and acknowledge that you’re looking at your past self you’ll finally get the chance to shine unapologetically just like our ancestors — The Stars.

  • I see that the regressive atavistic belief, often portrayed in Eastern cultures, regarding keeping the women at home stems from the insecurity of men. They know women can excel and be great in various fields and that freaks them out. It’s too much for their ego. So they choose to play the manly act, claiming it’s their God-given, patriarchal role to be in charge and to lead the race, while pushing women aside and degenerating their positions. As a result, the men get to use their own authoritarian positions and keep the women obedient and dependent as if they are mere pets or properties.

  • When consciousness has not evolved through life, people tend to develop a juvenile emotional need for a patriarchal figure which represents a source of authority. Whether it’s a president, a boss, a religious leader, or even a God(s), the figures are accordingly looked upon as powerful, protective, comforting, and dependable entities to be trusted and followed.

  • It truly is gratifying to have morals. Without expecting some divine reward or fearing any retribution, one can indeed be a good person who aspires to do the right things.

  • A distorted truth or half-truth is much worse than no truth.

  • The divine spark that you seek is already within you. Allow it to shine through you unobstructed and it will eternally light your way.

  • Essentially, there is no separation between life and death. They are both, in fact, complementary. And that is one of the many paradoxes of our mighty Universe. Unfortunately, that’s not we are taught as children. Through the established institutions ― religions and governments ― we are made to believe that death is sort of a punishment to be afraid of; if you don’t agree with what we believe in then you will die and go to hell and suffer on the hands of burning ghouls, from one side. And if you don’t submit to our powers we’ll kill you with our guns, from the other.

    It is all a control game. When irrational fear is induced people become controllable. That’s how fearing death came to being.  

  • Seeing the sperm which caused you as better than other sperms which caused other people because of a geographical haphazard happening means you chose to use your small, egoic mind to view the world. Unlike the big-picture view of the Higher Self, this way you are separating yourself from all the rest of humanity by believing you are better than them, which is a mere delusion.

  • We are not responsible for the conditioning we were exposed to during our childhood. But as adults, we are fully responsible for fixing it.

  • Once individuals become too ‘religious’ about a certain belief or reality tunnel they subconsciously lose sight of the bigger picture. Whether it’s faith, atheism, patriotism, veganism, cross-fittanism among a multitude of other isms, a teacher or a follower of any of those schisms often cannot help but become dogmatic to a considerable degree. The key is to do whatever you feel like doing without the need to shove it down others’ throats; and those who vibrate at the same frequency will eventually find you.

  • If the faith of those who are easily offended over their religion is shaken by the opinions of others ― or their drawings ― then it’s probably time they question that faith.

  • Some of the middlemen who claim to be closer to God than all the rest of humanity realise that they can outwit their followers by making them believe that the more you serve them, the more you are pleasing God. Needless to say, many folks throughout history bought this balderdash.

    As such, for many of those followers having a middleman or teacher or guru becomes their only way to add spiritual significance into their lives and to feel whole. They consequently throw away that responsibility by counting on another entity. This renders them mentally and emotionally immature — losing their freedom and critical thinking in the process while never achieving wholeness. On the other hand, propelled by the dogmas, rules, and hierarchy they embody, when the fake gurus notice the submission of such followers they begin taking advantage of it. 

  • Similar to the scientific endeavour, spirituality is a ceaseless revolutionary act. One can never be too high up by thinking they don’t need anymore learning. For there are always new levels of consciousness to be explored. 

  • You are a sage and you a lunatic. You are also the One who rises above them and chooses which to side with the most.  

  • There are Spiritual laws and there are man-made laws. I see myself as a cosmic traveler who happens to be a citizen of the Earth for some decades, and I have chosen to be guided by the Spiritual laws.

  • All religions are somewhat true. But my religion is the truest of them all because I was born into it and never got to choose it.   

  • If you come to realise that you are connected to the whole, therefore you are the entire ocean — Youniverse — you will accordingly live a grand cosmic life. It all lies in our perception, which in turn stems from our conception of the world we’re living in. The difference is that the essence of obedience is doing what you are told regardless of what is right, while the essence of morality and integrity is doing what is right regardless of what you are told.

    Further, being good and having morals has nothing to do with your nationality, religion, skin colour, or creed. It simply depends on the level of empathy you possess — how you treat others. For it is not our beliefs that matter in the end, it’s our behaviour.

  • In terms of depths of knowledge and in terms of Truth, this fundamental difference between scripturalism and experimentalism will always exist; between those who imitate and those who create; those who follow others’ path and those who dare exploring uncharted territories and create their own trail.

  • What if I told you that God doesn’t have a Facebook account? If you believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful God, then you should also believe that He can listen to the prayers you whisper to yourself. Of course if the purpose of publicising the prayers is to gain attention and/or sympathy, then that’s a whole different story.

  • May your divine spark grow and light your way.

“Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is
peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.”
— Alan Watts


Unfollow The Crowd

The Millenium Eve I Spent Alone at the Mosque

The Ashram Sweeper Who Blocked Me on Facebook

Why We Should Not Fear Death

Who Are We?

Dreaming That The Buddha Was Not Fat



OLS REFLECTIONS  إثنان وثلاثون





OLS REFLECTIONS Einundvierzig 
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Sunday, 2 April 2017

Francophun يا Waladé

T’as arnaqué les gringalets
T’as violé leur métiers
Ils demandent pourquoi tu dis: pédé
من غير ليه

Tu le sais come je le B
Chui complement singlet
Ton ignorance m fais chié
Pétard, .راح أحطك عليه

De loin ou tout près
Tes cheveux sont vachement laids
m’étonnes comme une tonne de lait
Conne, ça c’est “a ton” en Anglais,
Hun, what a mindless blasé.

Flânant les rues en décolleté
Toujours prêt a sucer
Du soufflé sucré, pépé
Ah oué! souffler c “blow” en Anglais
Que je change de sujet?

T né pour se faire baiser
Besoin d’une raclé sur le nez
Une faissé
 sans expliquer
Pendant que ce Beih

 يولع son J.

Quel stupidité ce Trump du U.S.A
Ce mec orange, tu sais, que tout le monde hait
ياللا واحد أمبليه علي اتنين براوليه
قبل يا بيه ماندلدله من رجليه
How OK is ce trilingue sonnet


StaYin Yang ☯

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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Do Parents Know Best When it Comes to Our Life Choices?


When I was younger way before starting any kind of work I thought that it must be fun to work with your parents. No strict rules, you feel “backed”, and being fired is not really an option. Then as I matured I began noticing that a large number of males, and some females, who end up doing it are never too happy, unless they are either replicas of their fathers and/or they are relatively well-off so the son, or daughter, will get to inherit the fortune just by taking on the role of the subordinate of the dad until that day comes. But other than that from the real life examples I have observed throughout my life, usually there is not much passion or fulfilment involved.

My own reasoning why many guys working for their fathers are not particularly happy is that it’s highly unlikely that you happen to be born with a passion towards the very same job, career, or industry as your father. Coincidence! 

Different Shades of Passion is a recent exposé of mine about how unique we all are.

The thing is, the son of a doctor or a carpenter probably knows more about medicine and carpentry than his peers of the same age. The same can be said in case the father runs a family business. Just because the son grows up in an environment in which the job, career, or industry are surrounding them. Even when they don’t know the details, at least they are aware of the general knowledge.

Oftentimes, they are also encouraged — and pressured — by the father, or the entire family, to follow in dad’s footsteps. In fact, some fathers choose their son’s career path the day they are born, which adds a significant amount of pressure to the equation.

One example I recall regarding this pressure is an old acquaintance of mine whom I met once in Canada where I was residing for a few years. He was a doctor doing his Masters at the University of Toronto and he wanted to live in Canada rather than go back to Cairo to take over his dad’s clinic, which probably belonged to the grandfather. “I’d rather be a superintendent or a security guard here than being a doctor in Egypt,” he confessed to me. Obviously his father wanted him back because “who else would take over the family’s clinic?” He did go back to Egypt and his dad passed away a couple of years later.

This was one example out of many. I actually know a significant number of people who had to abandon their dreams in order to please their parents. I know they would have been shining with happiness if it weren’t for the parents’ rigid control.

As such, many young ones come to mistakenly believe that they share the same passion as their fathers, leading them to pursue a similar field. The reality, however, is that due to our diversity and uniqueness as human being this is rarely ever the case. Beside being easily influenced, when you’re young you haven’t had time to know what you really want to do in life. So you go for the job or career suggested by the parents, only to realise later that passion is lacking and that this was not your path. Sometimes this realisation only comes much later in life, which could be a tad too late to do something about it; though it is never impossible. 

I remember when I was 19 I told my parents that I wanted to become a photographer for National Geographic. The response wasn’t really enthusiastic and I was told that photography was great… as a hobby. And I believed them.
 It took me ten years to reach the conclusion that whatever corporate path I had taken wasn’t meant for me. It then took some guts to do something about that realisation, which eventually led me to take art, and writing in particular, as a vocation. But to find my calling I had to leave my comfort zone behind and move towards the unknown.

However, as I reflect now on everything and look at the Big Picture, I am left with zero regrets. I am actually grateful I went through what I did. Because I’m aware that knowing what you don’t want is a significant step towards what you do what; that before finding who you authentically are at the core you get to know who you aren’t. Despite being drawn to photography as a teenager, I did not know with certainty that I would like to sincerely get into the Arts. I had to move to the other side of the world to find it out.

Besides, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my experiences. Indeed, nothing gives a man more credibility than saying “I have been there”. For experience can never be studied or bought and that’s why it is the mother of all wisdom. Who Are We? is an earlier existential exposé in which I’m discussing the question in length.

Now, just like everything in this dual universe there are two sides to every issue. Working for your family is no different. I’m saying ‘family’ but what I really mean is father since the situation is more common — even though there are girls, and boys, who work for their mothers. Let us start with the drawbacks.

 Note that what I’m focusing on herein is not those who share similar fields, but those who work directly with or for their father, such as a son becoming a dentist like his father and ending up sharing his clinic — or factory — before possibly taking it over.

Whether you mean it or not, spending one third of your day, five or six days a week with anyone will  certainly affect your relationship with them. When it’s your own father, the father-son relationship is affected on a whole different level. One reason this is the case is because the two know each other too well, so things cannot help but get personal sometimes, including during disagreements. And taking things personally and ‘work’ do to usually work well together. 

Working together often ends up by building tension between the father and son. Because of their special relationship, the tension usually transcends the office setting and can stay well into their normal life, negatively affecting the natural bonding between them. Whether they are sharing the dinner table with the rest of the family or a car ride, normal chats can easily turn to business discussions. Imagine having your business partner or “right-hand” — who also happens to be your son — right in front of your face in the office as well as outside it. While for the father, who’s usually the senior boss, this could be fine; for the son it may not be that much fun as it affects him differently, possibly standing in their way of being able to totally disconnect outside of work. 

Another drawback of working for your family is that in some cases it could be a one-way ticket. Once you have started it seems like there is turning back. The more time passes, the more the father trusts and counts on their offspring. Bit by bit, if all goes well, he gives them more responsibility and authority. If the son dared to leave, mayhem will ensue. Some of them actually stay stuck out of feeling of obligation and sympathy. But because it is against their will you can always sense a certain degree of resentment.

One more disadvantage is that you sometimes have to double your efforts. Especially if there are other colleagues, a working son is looked upon as someone who had it easy. “He’s here because of his dad” and not because of how good he is or his qualifications. Even if he is good, things like that are bound to be said behind closed doors. So to fill in the shoe, they must work harder to show that they are worth the job.


Psychologically speaking, when kids mature they come to realise that their father is not the Superman they used to think he is. But he is, in fact, a fallible human being who can make mistakes just like everybody else; also that he can sometimes be wrong. The mistakes can either be out of ignorance, such as Not to swim or shower for an hour after a meal. Or out of fear, like “Your head is heavier than your body” so that kids don’t look out from balconies — while in reality the head constitutes only about 8 percent from the body mass. But generally, the lies and mistakes are often made out of goodwill.

More examples can be found on Debunking Myths We Were Exposed To While Growing Up.

That said, as the son sees through the father’s mistakes and lies — even the white ones — he begins to assert his own identity and challenges their authority and knowledge. A battle between their male egos takes place. Depending on both of their characters, sometimes the friction is more subtle while other times it develops further into full-blown fights. 

Consider young male lions at two or three years of age and how they are kicked out of the pride once they mature. Other than the evolutionary reason for that, it happens because it’s time for the male, sometimes also female, to wander on their own and become a nomad, away from the territory of the family — the father.  When in our human world you end up working for the King of the Jungle, you likely miss the opportunity to grow through life and to make it on you own so that one day you, too, become the King of your own Jungle. 

What Nomad Lions Can Teach Us About Growing Through Life is another piece about how without wandering like nomads, we lack the necessary strength and tools needed to endure a novel life away from the family. 

With psychology in mind, let me take the opportunity and get back to lying to share a useful parenting tip with you. You see, most children live in a black-and-white reality. So when they’ll one day find out the parent lied to them about a certain subject, and they will, the deception will automatically lead them to assume that you lied to them about everything else. For instance, “marijuana is a gateway drug”. Meaning, once you smoke those Js, heroin will eventually follow. Anyone who reads now knows that this is utter malarkey. When the kids come to realise that they have been lied to about marijuana, they will assume that you likewise lied about heroin being a deadly drug.

The same can be said about the little white lies I mentioned earlier, like
Not to swim or shower for an hour after a meal. For it doesn’t matter how big or small the lie is, the fact that they have been lied to is what matters. This can easily backfire, for it does more harm on the long run than being honest in the first place. If you are a parent, try to stay true as much as possible to minimise the damage. Don’t insult their intelligence. 

To be fair and not square, working for a narcissistic father with ego issues, or an obsessive or a selfish one is way different than a cool and/or supportive father. This leads us to another example showing the other side of the coin and the benefits of working for the family, which is the case of a fortunate minority — or so I hold. 

I had a friend with me in University who wasn’t the studious type and who was confused about what to choose as a major. One day I had a talk with him, which was followed by him declaring Psychology. What I told him was simple: “Aren’t you going to take over your dad’s factory? Then choose whatever major you find easy.” Eventually, he did just that; he would even choose the same classes as me so he can copy my notes and have someone to study with and explain to him.

As soon as he graduated he became the general manager of the factory while his father was the CEO. Of course in his case no job interview was needed. He was also getting paid quite well. Just because his father was much older, and a nice guy, so my buddy had the flexibility to work however he pleased. Currently, I think, he is managing everything and I dare saying that he wouldn’t have it any other way. Note that this is an example of a well-to-do family, and for my buddy it had worked perfectly.

That said, for some people working for or with the family is the best thing to do. Taking over the family business seems like the rational decision. You’re making good money, you’re stable and secure, and you have all the flexibility one could ever ask for. Naturally, this combination leads to a happy life. What else would one need.

Another advantage of working for your family is a high sense of commitment and accountability.  When you know you own, or partly own, a business you cannot help but to give your all, which is beneficial to you as well as to the business. Naturally, there is also more trust between family members, which, again, is beneficial for both parties. In addition, if the father-son relationship happens to be a healthy one, working together means less pressure.

Regarding parenting, one of the grave problems of having controlling parents is that the children grow up believing they are dependent on that control. This interference handicaps them and renders them weak. Without wandering, at least for some time, and especially if the parents are the controlling type, the cubs never get to be Kings of the Jungle worthy of the title.

Sometimes I meet people in their 20s and 30s who seem as though they never got out of that phase when as children your parents needed to push you around to do things. Meaning, by themselves they wouldn’t do whatever it is and always tend to procrastinate — constantly waiting for that push. Without the push, they seem to lack orientation, they get startled and may never start moving. This is the state of mind you reach as a consequence of living under your parents’ submission for too long. You remain immature and insecure.

The reality is, everything changes for the better the day you start treating your parents as human beings and not as a source of authority. Be grateful for the life they gave you. Love and respect them but don’t spend your life trying to please them, for you will never end up happy if you did. Echoing with Frank Zappa’s nugget of truth: “If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti have also said the same: “It is very easy to conform to what your society or your parents and teachers tell you. That is a safe and easy way of existing; but that is not living. To live is to find out for yourself what is true.

The other way around is also true; for the parent to befriend they children will always be healthier to the relationship, especially as they both grow older. Truly, strict, overly controlling parents embody what bullshit actually means. Because they are capable of ruining their children’ lives, and in many instances they do. 

In brief, sons and daughters should be left the choice to pursue whatever they wish without much interference and without any emotional blackmail from the parents. They could be guided, but the final choice about what to do in their lives should be theirs and their alone. Simply because it’s their unique journey, and they need to learn how to be independent and how take responsibility for their own decisions. 

Again, it’s their experience and not the parents’. And in that regards and to answer the question raised herein, parents rarely ever know best when it comes to their kids’ life choices. Not because there is something wrong with them, but because no one knows themselves better than themselves.

Forcing an offspring to work for their parents or to pursue a certain career they have chosen for them is a selfish act. It may be convenient for the parent as it may be their idea of a life, but it is not necessarily the same for the young ones. As I argued, the drawbacks usually outweigh the benefits. Yet, for some people it works perfectly and that’s because we are all different. At the very end, finding our own passionate calling is the only way for us to excel and reach our full potential in life. And no one can find it for us. 

“Nobody can build the bridge for you to walk across the river of life, no one but you yourself alone. There are, to be sure, countless paths and bridges and demi-gods which would carry you across this river; but only at the cost of yourself; you would pawn yourself and lose. There is in the world only one way, on which nobody can go, except you: where does it lead? Do not ask, go along with it.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche


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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Blocked by an Anonymous Facebook ‘Friend’

I’ve had this anonymous person on my friends’ list on Facebook for the past year. They added me to many groups, before they themselves suddenly leave the group. Eventually we came to have several friends in common, mainly from those groups which the rest of us stayed in.

At the very beginning I once asked them if they are in their 30s or 40s, to which they said 30s. With a little bit of virtual interaction, it was apparent to me that due to their level of maturity they are probably in their 20s and cannot be older.

One striking feature regarding this person is that they are always, always online. Either compulsively posting every 10-15 minutes, or engaging in comments on those same posts — mostly with absolute strangers. Even with different time zone, they seem to always be around. And I’m certainly not the only one who could see this, but others were saying the same — joking about the possibility of them being a robot, or an alien. At times it was a tad too much as my feeds were hijacked. I often had to either unfollow for a few days to get some peace of mind, or choose to show less. That’s of course in addition to the good ol’ “stop notifications” in case I ventured and commented on one of their posts. 

This makes you wonder if some folks have any life outside of Facebook; also if spending their entire time seeking attention and validation from strangers is caused by a certain emotional hunger. You know Internet addiction is a thing; each ‘like’ and ‘message’ notification releases Serotonin in the brain, which is precisely what happens with drugs. Social media nowadays is indeed a new addictive drug.

On a similar note, Are You Addicted To The News? is an earlier piece of mine, explaining why millions and millions of people are literally hooked. Also check this Huff Post article about Facebook addiction in particular in which the writer explains how to “Facebook Diet”.

However, apart from the sudden emotional ups and downs, this virtual friend seemed like a genuinely good person. Probably it’s the reason why they may be my only Facebook friend whom I don’t know what they look like; not even their real name. I usually find hiding your identity online to be absurd. Just because they could be anyone. A 55-year-old bold, fat man in a greasy white flannel could be impersonating a mid-twenties brunette, or anyone else, really. There is no way of knowing.

But again, despite being repetitive sometimes their posts were mostly alright. Also due to what they have gone through during their youth, there are legitimate reasons for their slight instability. So I was fine with it and was open to help out with any insights they may find useful.

Then just recently they posted about how they were banned by Facebook for posting too much or ‘liking’ too much — being banned is a common thing for them. As a merry, related reply, I wrote that despite the fact that they are online most of the day and night, which is common knowledge by now and not a secret, Facebook shouldn’t be allowed to interfere; I also added a smiley face to assert the humour bit. Next thing I know, they ‘liked’ my comment and replied with a couple, one of which about my own comment not being funny.

Until then, that’s a normal human interaction between two people online, let alone F.B friends for a year. I would have probably written something else to ease their mood and that should have been it.

I checked the comment afterwards and it said it cannot be seen. I thought they deleted the comment and possibly also their reply — something they had previously done... twice. This occurs with me sometimes when people online get too insecure and sensitive and take things personally due to a sarcastic joke or comment; a reason why I only use sarcasm now with fun, secure, open-minded folks.

In general, I noticed that since I have been writing for years, people often take what I say/write too seriously. As such, I don’t comment that much anymore on Facebook. If I do, it’s because I somewhat like you and don’t think you have complexes, which allows me to be myself without any filtering or editing.

When a couple of minutes later I checked the post itself I couldn’t find it either. So what? They deleted the entire post because of one comment they didn’t like? A tad too much, I thought. But it does happen. In actual fact, they had unfriended me once before along some of our common friends then apologised the next morning and re-friended us. That said, they are obviously a bit unstable.

And THEN, as I’m checking their profile l realised that I have been blocked. Ta-Da. Like, “Out of 1 billion people on Facebook, I don’t want to share this virtual realm with you anymore because of a singe joke/comment which I did not fancy.” Okaaay. Ironically, stuff like that actually kind of boost my ego and make me feel important.

Like the Ashram Sweeper I wrote that article about, I have been blocked. Though this time it’s not after a two-day long debate about theology, Sufism, and psychedelics and not with a total stranger like that sweeper. But rather, it is someone I have interacted with frequently for almost a year — including many private messages covering many private matters.

Said extreme reaction tells us something about the nature of that person. They probably saw some truth in my comment, because, again, it’s nothing hidden. But to get so worked up to the point of blocking me right then and there only shows that something is amiss; it equally shows that a significant degree of insecurity is involved. Whatever it is, I certainly wish them well. I also hope that one day they’ll gain the will and ability to deal with the real world outside of the screen of their phone or laptop. 

Just like how some of those virtual relationships develop further and people get to meet in real, others are bound to remain superficial before they dissipate. It is a clear reminder of why I rarely add people I don’t know and how the ‘following’ option seems more fruitful. This person’s erratic, volatile, immature behaviour also sheds light on what Facebook addiction may look like.


The Bloke Who Thought I'm Too Much of an Alpha Male

The Joy of Being a Wanderer and the Credit Card Number

A Dollar & Thirty Four Cents in Me Pocket and Feeling Fine  

The Couple Who Couldn’t Handle My Honesty

The Girl Who Wouldn't Share Toilet Paper

Placebo Effect & The LSD Prank 

OLS Reflections — Facebook Edition

Are You Addicted To The News?
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Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Random Stuff You May Not Know: Nine

1- Eastern quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus)

After the The Quokka from Random Stuff You May Not Know: Six, another bizarre, unknown marsupial from the same area of mainland Australia along with New Guinea and Tasmania is the Quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus). Shown in the above photo, the Eastern Quoll, also known as the Eastern Native Cat, is a medium-sized carnivorous dasyurid marsupial native to Australia. It was thought to have gone extinct before suddenly making a single surprising appearance in 1999, then another in 2006. over 50 years ago. Finally in 2015, a small population was reintroduced to the mainland in a protected reserve at Canberra.

. Read more about it Here.

Speaking of rarity, check
The Most Unusual and Unknown Creatures [Photos & Videos] as well as its sequel, The Most Unusual and Unknown Creatures II.

2- Blood Orange 

A friend of my parents grow these wicked fruits and he kindly sent us some. They are only available in certain seasons, usually for a short time.

Some of you may know Blood Orange while others may not. It is a variety of orange (Citrus × sinensis) with crimson, almost blood-coloured flesh. The taste is significantly different than that of normal oranges — a bit like raspberry — and generally they are juiced. Yummey.

The distinctive dark flesh colour is due to the presence of anthocyanins, a family of antioxidant pigments common to many flowers and fruit, but uncommon in citrus fruits. The three most common types of blood oranges are the ‘Tarocco’ — native to Italy where they are the primary orange grown there, the ‘Sanguinello’ — native to Spain, and the ‘Moro’, the newest variety of the three.
The fruits have originated in either China or the southern Mediterranean, where they have been grown since the 18th century. In Egypt, they are simply called: “Abou Dammoh”, literally translating into, “with his blood”.  

And now you know. Cheers.

On a parallel note, learn about The Difference Between Mandarin, Tangerine, and Clementine on this previous article of mine.

3- Concussion Leads Man to Musical Genius

With 1 in a 8 billion people, the story of Derek Amato is an extreme rarity. He had never touched a piano before and after hitting his head on the bottom of the pool he was taken to the hospital with severe concussion. He was then taken home where he slept for five days. When he awoke he had a strong and sudden urge to play the piano. According to science, after his brain damage serotonin encourage neurons to make new connection in the brain. In Derek’s case, the part that was affected is the one responsible for creative thinking. Hence, his newly-acquired piano playing skills. How interesting is that human brain of ours.

4- Daggering

There is an erotic dance popular in Jamaica called “Daggering”. It was banned from TV after causing too many broken penises. Yep, as you heard. Hit Me With Music is a full documentary about the phenomenon. 

5- The Pacific geoduck (Panopea generosa)

The Pacific Geoduck (Panopea generosa) is a species of very large, edible saltwater clam in the family Hiatellidae. The common name is derived from a Lushootseed (Nisqually) word gʷídəq. The geoduck is native to the west coast of North America.

The following is a video of a couple hunting a 4.5 lbs Geoduck.

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