My Appreciation for Blogging

I love blogging, as well as reading the blogs of others. Although I used to have Facebook, messed a little with Twitter and Reddit, I end up feeling like they’re a waste of time. Blogs seem to be an exception. They have their ups and downs too, but I honestly enjoy writing blog posts and reading the blogs here, as well as interacting with them. So what is it about blogging that I love so much?

The Writing Culture

Let’s start with the writing aspect. You could say that each social media platform has its own culture. Because Twitter has a strict word limit, it can lead people to be more careful with their words. This encourages you to be precise with what you mean and prevents you from waffling on with needless information, but it can be tempting to fall into going for flashy, yet meaningless takes on something, whilst preventing you from ever getting to know someone for it.

With any social media platform, I find whatever I write to feel restricted in some form. You go on Facebook and feel like writing about something, but all you have is this little box asking you what’s on your mind. Blogging is extremely good in this regard. You have the opportunity to start clean. An empty website where you have the freedom to style it to suit you and a blank page to write what you want. The emptiness may feel daunting to make something of, but you’re given the freedom to be you. I appreciate that.

My Journey with Blogging

What do I mean when I say I get to be me…

Whenever I blog, it feels as if I’m growing alongside it. I’m writing about the stuff I care about and in turn, it tells me more about myself, leading me to reflect on the stuff I write. At first, my attention was mostly set on writing posts I felt comfortable with, so I put off the website design alongside many other things, until I felt like I found something I wanted to mess around with and build on further.

It took more than a year of writing and more than a hundred posts, but alhamdulillah, I got there. I’d find a form of writing I feel was me. This is where it gets interesting.

I’d come to recognise the patterns in my writing, so it became easier to assess and consider the tags and categories I’d like to have. These allowed me to reflect more on the stuff I’d commonly talk about, so I began to understand myself better and consider what else I’d like to add, alter or distance myself from.

After this would come the layout of my website. It was trash. I knew it looked like looked like a heaping pile of trash, but my priority with blogging was always set on my writing, which already felt like a massive jump in itself, so I set my sights on feeling secure with my writing first and foremost. Once I felt comfortable with this, it’d only then properly struck me that this mountain of trash had become a living monster gnawing on my arm with its plastic and paper teeth, so I slapped some sense into it and told it to get itself together, only to find that I was taking this metaphor too seriously and talking to an inanimate imaginary nightmare that I’d made up to excuse myself from establishing a structure to my atrocity of a website. I added some pages and altered the theme, made it easier to navigate, yada yada yada. Then I suddenly felt like looking through some of my previous posts and cringing at my own attempts to write, so I deleted some and edited others. I still feel like my writing can be better, I still have plans to add a page that makes my posts easier to access, I’m even still considering where I’m headed with my blog and what I’d like to do with it, but that’s the point. It’s my own space where I’m constantly trying to figure out what it is I’m after. I’m inclined to consider who I am and who I want to be. There’s this freedom you have in being allowed to be yourself and the incentive this gives me in finding my voice that makes blogging so interesting for me.

Photo by Gilberto Olimpio on Pexels.com | It’s so rewarding to see something grow. It’s something you’ll appreciate far more once it blooms.

Blogs tend to be Honest

What about the community?

Blogs are more or less a collection of journal entries you’d like to share with others. It takes the concept of a diary whereby you’d write about something that happens during your day, but you also allow ideas to spring out from them. It’s when you write about how you managed to walk into a lamppost and embarrass yourself today, but you’ll go on to talk about how the lamppost made an enemy he’ll regret, then start to detail the inevitable revenge you’ll rain upon it, plus the mwuahaha underlined multiple times at the bottom of the page. It’s when you write about something interesting you’ve learnt and what it means to you, as well as how you want to implement it into your life. That being said, you won’t gain much from being dishonest. I definitely appreciate that.

I tend to follow blogs that not only interest me, but are honest with themselves. One of the reasons I’m distant from social media is because it can get fake and fast, which gets tiring. I believe that honesty isn’t about mentioning your flaws or being emotional. Anyone can do that. Honesty is honesty. If someone comments on your blog and you’re shy to respond, honesty is when you recognise that it’s polite to respond, even if you suck at it. Honesty is when you wanted to respond, but couldn’t bring yourself to, so you decided to write a post that apologises for not responding to anyone that comments on your blog if you don’t respond. Honesty is when you failed to do both, but the growth of your blog shows that you’re not the same person you were yesterday, so you might still yet do something about it. Honesty is when you remember that you’re not the embodiment of perfection, you’re not a book, nor a system, so if you talk like one, something’s wrong. You’re the imperfect version that knows it can be better, you’re the living expression of what you’ve learnt, you’re the culmination of the habits you’ve taken on. You don’t need to mention your flaws or be emotional in order to be honest, it’s that in your honesty, you find yourself bringing up your flaws to make sense of something in your life or can’t help but feel emotional due to something you’re passionate about. It’s near impossible to fake honesty in a blog because of the personal element that’s often involved in journalling, with exceptions for those that write purely to share ideas, like fictional stories or research studies.

Too Long, Didn’t Read

Back to the question,

Why do I love blogging so much?

It’s because of the freedom you’re given in what you express. It inclines you to practice honesty and makes it easy to recognise this in someone else’s blog. Sometimes I’ll follow fiction. Sometimes I prefer pure research. These will be exceptions, but I’ll mostly tag along with someone’s blog because I felt like I could see the humanity of the person behind the screen. I seriously appreciate that.

Is it Possible to Understand Someone?

I wonder to what extent it’s possible to understand an individual. There’s this skill I seemed to have acquired throughout the years that I hate to talk about. Honestly, one of the reasons I don’t like talking about it is probably because you’d struggle to believe it as much as I did for the longest while. Regardless of whether it’s true or not, the concept itself might get us wondering to what extent our personalities and character can shape our actions. It might also begin to bring up some of the issues that prevent us from being able to do so.

For the record, I’m not trying to build up the tension or anything by not mentioning it, I simply don’t know what to call it. Considering it now, the most accurate description I can think up right now is it’s this passive skill to be able to read a situation by accounting for someone else’s perspective, except I don’t get to decide when it happens.

White & Black, with Shades of Grey

We’re going to start with a common premise I mention often. I’ve always had this strong interest in the reasons that lead us to our beliefs. That’s the catalyst that lead me to this skill in the first place. With so many people claiming to know right from wrong and differing on it, I chose instead to assume that I didn’t know. That lead me to listen more than respond because I wanted to know how they got to where they were.

Although they’re often merged together, I emphasised an individual’s thought process, as opposed to the beliefs themselves. It’s subtle, but it makes a difference. By all means, either God exists or He doesn’t. It makes sense to talk about it and consider the proofs for and against. However, when you walk into my environment, right and wrong are almost seemingly thrown out of the window for the most part. In my world, it’s all about the extent to which your reasoning is justified. That often inclines me to see only in shades of grey. Rather than seeing something as a truth or a lie, I can spot the twisted truth and a lie glittered with gold. I can also recognise a journey that’ll eventually lead to a truth and an honest lie. However, the downside is it’s all too easy to forget black and white still exist. It’s a lot easier to differentiate between two colours than it is an infinite number of shades. You have to remember to simplify it as black and white if you actually want to get anywhere. An honest lie is still a lie to redirect. Meanwhile, a twisted truth is still a truth, but it needs to be purified it if I want to put it to good use. If I don’t have the means, I’ve got to treat it as a lie before it corrupts me.

Let’s take a simple life related example. You’re reading a book and choose to highlight something from every paragraph. By emphasising the choice itself, you’re more likely to wonder how effective that method is and consider what other methods are available. As for me, I’m more likely to consider the reasoning behind my preference and if it suits my objective, if it was even necessary to consider now or if I could leave it for later. Apart from that, both mindsets might go on to read books on how people take notes effectively and ask around about what they feel is best. After it all ends though, I’m left with a feel for what led everyone to decide what they did, as opposed to a conclusion that claims something like paraphrasing is the most effective of taking notes. In my case, I’m still left with nothing to strive for, but I’m more likely to mess with my own style by drawing from everything I’d gathered. Meanwhile, if you feel like paraphrasing is more effective, you have a clear aim to strive towards and build a structure around, so you’re able to double down on what it is you want.

You’ll notice that my approach has a lot more uncertainty to it because nothing’s set in stone, even after all that research and observation. However, I’m given the freedom to create something that uniquely suits my conditions. It’s like learning to bake so you can make your own custom cakes, rather than buying your generic cake from a supermarket. The ones at the store might still taste good and are a lot easier to get, but sometimes they don’t have what you’re looking for in stock, sometimes it’s difficult to find because you have to go scouring a number of stores before you find the right one, or sometimes there’s not enough demand to justify making and selling it.

Pen or pencil?

An Abomination of Memories

Imagine making this assessment not only for yourself, but for everyone else. If you think you’ve found the most effective approach, you’re going to double down on it and teach it to others. In my case, I tend to assume that each case is new from the get go, then consider how each approach affects them, applying what I’ve come to learn so far in relation to them. After a lifetime of repeating this cycle, everything suddenly begins to feel like déjà vu, even with all the uncertainty, except it’s not of a single memory or event, but an abomination of fragments all coming from a vast number of memories at once to make sense of what’s in front of me.

It’s this scenario in which you were to become known for making custom cakes, so people come to you asking to bake something for them. Talk with each one a little, you might one day find that you can tell what they’re likely to love based on their body language and the response they give to different suggestions you’ve made. Compare that to recommending and selling a selection of cakes based on what everyone often buys.

Being Open, yet Simple

You can totally brush off what I’ve said about being able to somehow read a situation based on the perspective someone’s likely to have, but the question remains as to how far we can understand one another, as well as how we’d go about getting there. If the majority of the population were to prefer apples to any other fruit, it’s okay to emphasise the apple more than any other fruit, but we want to consider the signs with which we can recognise when this isn’t the case. You begin to consider if there’s a way with which you can tell what fruit it is they’re most likely to prefer if it isn’t apples.

Alongside all this, we begin to notice that we can be mislead by what we’ve come to know. When we know that the majority of people like apples, we tend to assume that the next person who comes in will like apples. Then you suddenly find that actually, your locality so happens to like oranges more. Insisting that everyone likes apples here isn’t helpful because you’ll either assume that everyone’s weird, the information you have is wrong, or everyone’s hiding their love for apples. If we were to take a trait known to bring a lot of good like gratitude, we fall into the trap of repeatedly preaching gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, to anyone that comes to us, even when the person is without a doubt filled to the brink with gratitude. Sometimes we need to re-assess the situation when additional information comes in, before we manage to convince ourselves that the guy who’s nothing but grateful for everything is somehow a master at deception and isn’t actually grateful for anything at all.

Like with anything else in life, I’m sure we don’t want to get so carried away with trying to understand someone that we dissociate from the extreme of assuming one size fits all, only to sprint to another extreme stating that no size can describe anyone. We want to understand the person so that we do good by them, but we also want to keep it simple. If you lack the means to make sense of someone’s context, it doesn’t mean you don’t get to give your perspective on something if you feel you have some understanding of it, but it’s worth being humble about how you express it, so we don’t do the opposite of what we sought to do and call them into something that only makes their life more difficult.

Something that Strikes the Soul

I came across this post by another blogger known as Mitch Teemley in which he quoted something attributed to Albert Einstein that I’d love to mess around with for a moment,

Any fool can know. The point is to understand.

Let’s take a saying like slow and steady wins the race. I agree. Consistency creates a habit that ensures that you’ll get there.

… Wait a minute, you did what? Let me get this straight. You decided to write no more than 100 words a day for a blog scheduled in 2 days you aim to write 500 words for. Being slow here probably means you don’t have to be too harsh on yourself when it comes to the stuff you write.

Slow down there Sonic. So you wrote what you consider a sloppy, half-baked 500 word piece because I told you to take it easy. Umm…

Oh, okay. Subhanallah, What a story! You realised you were afraid to post anything in case anyone hated it. That first made you super slow, then too chill because you got tired of worrying. So now you insist on building your confidence. Sounds great!


Knowledge can be passed on, but an understanding of it isn’t as easily grasped, no matter how comprehensive you are in expressing it.

From what I’ve come to recognise, understanding is the aspect of knowledge that strikes the soul, rather than something purely reliant on being grasped by the mind.

The Strength of Hope

I wanted to expand more on my reflections on what it means to be hopeful.

To me, being hopeful is about an active choice to assume good when you had the option to assume bad. It’s human nature to emphasise the bad, so much so that we even have a term for it known as loss aversion. I feel like there’s a lot of misconceptions about what it is and isn’t, alongside what results you’ll get when you walk with it. That’s the gist of what I wanted to get across, so I’ll spend some time expanding on what it means now.

A Common Myth

Let me start with some of the myths. I’d consider them to be somewhat similar to our myths on being grateful. When we’re told to be grateful, it can be twisted against us to mean that it’s wrong to feel bad. I feel like it should instead be a reminder to show our appreciation for the stuff we’re glad to have in our lives. If someone’s having a bad day, it doesn’t help if they were to go home to a partner they deeply loved, proceeding to direct their anger towards them. Being grateful in this case might mean arriving home to hug and acknowledge their partner for the comfort they give you by being around. It contributes to fostering a loving relationship, bringing more good into a marriage.

When we’re seeking to be hopeful, it isn’t about brushing the bad under the carpet. It’s about responding to bad by seeking something better. If nothing else, we want to minimise the damage the bad can do to us before we inadvertently allow it to destroy something else. Hope motivates us to continue to search for a means of removing the ills with. It’s a vision we’re striving towards.

Are We Stunting Progression or Facilitating it?

With what I feel to be the most prominent myth out of the way, I wanted to get more into what it means to respond to something bad with another bad, the results these tend to achieve.

The idea I wanted to present was the issue with doubling down on every shortcoming as a means of preventing it from happening again. You don’t cut off your arm when it suffers a wound because you believe it’s no longer as good as your other arm. If you do, you’ll have one less arm for the rest of your life. No sane person would take this route, except as a last resort.

Consider this in light of the interactions we have with others. If you’re always harsh on someone for matters like bringing you coffee when you asked for tea, they run. They fight back, they dissociate. All in all, they become disillusioned with you, they stay away from you, finding their solace in someone or something else. Amongst these is the internet. They’re given the wrong information to tackle a similar scenario and prepare themselves in case you’d ever dare ask them for anything again. You decide to say hi to them one day as they pass by and they look at you in disgust, wondering what it is you’re after now. If you’d simply brushed off the mistake and made your own tea, they would’ve been more likely to be attentive and familiar with your request next time.

When we view everything in a negative light, I’ve noticed that we end up equating shortcoming with hostility. Every imperfection becomes proof that our endeavours are fruitless and without worth. Guilty unless proven innocent, but when we rush to punish them first, it becomes a matter of act first, feel bad if we’re wrong later. By indulging in the bad, we can significantly increase the risk of suffocating the passion from the pure. It’s when we love what we do, but don’t do it because of the relentless pressure of perfection set on us with regards to it. In that, we stomp out the good and can even corrupt it when we insist. Being merciful to ourselves and others plays a significant role in the progression of good. Rather than perceiving every shortcoming as a mistake, being hopeful means to perceive every moment as a step closer towards something better.

We’re going to expand a little on this idea of shifting the mindset from seeing something as a shortcoming versus it being an ingredient to realisation. Seeds grow. They turn into fruits and flowers, but this takes a while. Each observed milestone excites us, motivating us to cultivate the conditions for the next. When we constantly look down on its progress, we become tempted to drown it with water or starve it with too much light. These should’ve been the very resources it needed to grow, yet it turns into something that kills it instead. Likewise, by emphasising the imperfections in someone’s actions, we’re only going to kill any passion they have in striving for something good.

There’s this immense value in assuming better. It causes us to count our blessings. These blessings become the references that inspire us to be better until we’re masters at what we do.

We don’t always get to see where our steps are taking us, but hope is the aspect that reminds us that somewhere out there, there’s an end to this vast expanse of sand.

Another Path

On one hand, we don’t want to brush every sorrow under the carpet, pretending that life is all flowers and sunshine. On the other, we destroy any chance of getting better when we’re indulgent on our sorrows.

The reason we want to be hopeful is because we don’t want the bad to remain that way. We want something tangible to strive towards that can defend against it and make way for more blessings. If we indulge in spreading the bad out of pure hatred or grief and no more, we only attract others to feel the same. This lacks direction, hence it’s without purpose, so what it leads to won’t always be good. We’re simply asking for a response that seeks to quell the insecurity we feel, no matter how blind, senseless or counterproductive the endeavour might be.

Here’s the other route. What we want instead is to share something that makes us realise that something is pulling us into destruction, but it’s something that we can act against. You won’t get that by repeatedly shaming people about their lack of awareness to matters they already feel helpless about and grieve upon. You’ll get there by giving them something to hope for, the faith that believes what we do matters, with meaningful decisions we can make. We do that by appreciating every good that comes of our actions, hopeful that it leads us from one good to another. Step by step, we begin to see with our own selves that we were the catalysts that were necessary to make everything better, so when we’re presented with an issue we’ve yet to be able to tackle, we’re more likely to ask ourselves what it takes to get there, taking every step we need to get to it.


That’s my take on hope. So I’m interested,

What does it mean to hope for you?

Growth and Difficulty

I’m going to ask you a question. It’s not a trick question.

What do plants need to grow?

Sunlight, water, fertile soil, appropriate temperatures. You know what never gets mentioned?

Pain.

In this, we can begin to understand the relationship between growth and difficulty. Plants adapt into difficulty, they don’t grow from it. What they adapt into makes them unique in relation to other plants, like the cacti that grow in the deserts.

For this reason, abuse by neglect can be considered as damaging as trauma, as the word itself guarantees that the tools you need to get through a difficulty are removed altogether (see chapter 6 in What Happened to You? by Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey).

Growth leads to resilience. Resilience braces us for the difficulties to come. We can become so accustomed to pain that we fall into the trap of considering what difficulties we need to face in order to grow. In reality, we should be asking ourselves what we need to grow, so that we can learn from the difficulties we need to face.

From Blob to Blog

There’s always so much running through my mind and so much of them I’m trying to make sense of at once. Blogging is a means for me to take my thoughts further until they become simple. Let’s talk about what that means.

Behind the Scenes

As much as we like to believe that we know ourselves, we truly don’t. We like to believe that we’re able to make sense of everything as adults, but this is relative. A matured tree is only relatively more stable than its younger self, but feeble when we consider its stability relative to a mountain. Likewise, an adult is relatively more aware of themselves and their environment than their younger selves, but that doesn’t make them masters of it. We still have room to grow, only this aspect of growth isn’t spoon fed to you in life.

Many of the processes that go on inside ourselves weren’t commands we actively made. There are these processes that occur behind the scenes, processes that we can only come to know by means of reflection. We don’t remind ourselves to breathe whilst we sleep, it happens without our consent. We didn’t wake up deciding not to be ill, nor did we decide that our body should mature whilst we were growing up. Our thought processes are no different. There are many aspects of our thoughts that aren’t deliberately determined by ourselves, cues that we passively pick up on and store away. We can increase the range of stuff that we notice by being mindful of ourselves and the environment or increase the likelihood that we’ll notice it by drawing our attention to it, but we don’t get to decide many of the memories that we make and store.

There’s this aspect of ourselves that’s also figuratively thinking, far faster and encompassing a greater range than what we can deliberately exercise our own, with or without our consent. This is why we might go out of our homes feeling as though something’s wrong, only to find we’d left something at home that we needed later on in the day. This feeling tells us what’s going on the split moment you choose to leave the door, yet it’d take us much longer relatively to check we have everything before we leave the house.

We’ll make these things simple and call them gut feelings. These gut feelings as we might call them aren’t always accurate and can be influenced by or mistaken for something else, such as our desires and emotions. Sometimes it makes the worst assumptions, going so far as to mistake fireworks for gunshots in war veterans suffering from trauma. In a more common scenario, it may be why we feel sad when we send someone a message and don’t receive a reply for a while. We’re so accustomed to getting an instant response when we’re talking face to face that it comes across as rude when the response doesn’t match the speed we’re accustomed to, so we have to actively reflect and recognise that they may genuinely be busy or haven’t noticed*. There are new dynamics with messaging that we want to assess further if we’re to be fair about something, like how we now have a means of accessing someone at any moment of the day. Messaging someone at 3am in the morning and expecting them to have woken up to look at your message isn’t exactly fair.

You don’t really want to disturb this type of sleep if you can help it, unless you’re mean. Meanie.

*(We’re going to ignore the scenarios similar to one where someone feels bad about a delayed response because they were upset about something and sought comfort, as that suggests an emotional aspect, rather than the gut feeling I’ve been describing.)

Simple and Intricate

So we have these hidden processes which think far faster and take in far more in any one moment than we could ever hope to wilfully achieve. They can be right, but they can also be wrong. On one hand, you want to be able to hone on this so that you can make lightning fast, effortless judgements in any single moment. I’m messing with this and developing it as I go about my life. However, if I can make sense of what it’s acting on, I can not only direct it when it goes wrong and build on it further, but I find that it’s possible to apply this to new scenarios altogether. This aspect is what my blog plays with, making sense of everything I’ve come across and observed so far, simplifying them into something that I can easily act with.

We can study the forests, the mountains, the rivers and the seas, only to realise that they’re all about the planet we live in. That theme prompts me to consider the caves and the marshes, the animals and the people, how each and every thing interacts with each other to make up the planet we live in. From more to less, using what we’ve made less to understand more. And so the cycle continues. Sometimes we come to know something by the frequency in which they appear and the qualities they have whenever it appears. If we’re able to describe the theme to which they all adhere to, we have a single technique that we can polish through every relevant scenario that comes to us.

The Conditions of Expertise

Expertise can confusing these days in that we’ll often witness the disagreements that experts have with one another before the appropriate response is made. I imagine that this is due to the ease of access we have to information these days facilitated by the internet. Something to note is that these disagreements are normal. Humans don’t know everything and are far, far, far from that state, so many matters are left up to interpretation and have to be assessed before they can be proven or disproven. I once mentioned the issue with citing studies from the perspective of a layman, so I wanted to go more into depth with regards to the conditions that an expert of present times may find themselves in, how even their reason can turn out to be as flawed as that of a layman or even worse.

Before I go any further, I wanted to mention that this isn’t supposed to make you cynical of experts whatsoever, but it is worthwhile to be curious about what they say. The difference is that when I say curious, we support and assume good of them, not destroy and rush to assume ill. It’s about applying patience, compassion and understanding when we observe the possibility of an expert falling short.

Humans make errors and experts are no exception. It’s something we have to remember. However, that doesn’t mean we should assume that everything is an error or has to stay that way, nor should it diminish the credibility and significance of someone who constantly seeks sound knowledge, applying it to the best of his ability and for nothing but good.

What are the Chances?

A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics by Daniel Levitin goes into a lot of depth about the conditions of an expert. I love how simply he presents it.

Stuff happens. So it’s not that experts are never wrong, it’s just that, statistically, they’re more likely to be right.

From a perspective based upon Islamic principles, it’s that God decides to whom to bestow of what He knows to.

The book on statistics gives us an example of flight, something that Simon Sinek in his book Start with Why also mentions. The most renowned experts in multiple fields were brought together to figure out the science of heavier-than-air flight. At that time, many experts declared this impossible. We’d eventually realise that not only was it possible, some self-taught, determined dudes from nowhere who dropped out of high school and owned a bicycle shop figured it out. For the record, I mean no ill to them through any of those descriptions whatsoever.

What we want to recognise about experts who undergo the training that our present systems take us through is that they may not necessarily understand something, rather they have the potential to do so. This can be considered one of the limits of our system. We have what I refer to as expert assessments, but we also have expert opinions. Expert assessments are based on sound science or methodology. In other words, they did the research and ironed out what wrinkles they could spot before they reached a conclusion. In contrast, an expert opinion is simply what they lean towards. Some mental health experts may lean towards therapy, whilst others towards medicine. One side may quote the benefits of medication, stating the limits of therapy, whilst the other does the opposite. In reality, if both had positives and cases whereby one was more effective than the other, we should’ve instead been asking under what conditions each would apply best to and what their limits were if we were to properly assess the situation.

It’s like how salt and freshwater don’t mix well. Freshwater applies to rivers, whilst saline waters apply more so to the seas. They do mix, but extremely slowly, so you have to accept that there’s a clear boundary there.

A Grey Area Determined by Character

I believe it’s necessary to distinguish between the approach taken to an assessment and an opinion, as they might require two entirely different methods to employ, the latter of which doesn’t seem to be well addressed by the current system we have.

We could make the argument that an expert opinion is better than the opinion of the layman as it’s based on their assessment of the knowledge they have, but that isn’t necessarily true. It may even be far from it. In Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, he presents multiple cases in which experts will fall for the same mistakes that your average Joe will make. The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli alludes to a number of them too. This is all in addition to the book on statistics I’ve already mentioned.

The issue here is that we tend to draw our attention to facts, yet neglect to account for the character of the one relaying it. The difference between an assessment and an opinion is that an assessment will more often consider what we know, whilst an opinion will more often have to pass through the things we don’t know.

People are shaped by their emotions, by the people around them, through their preferences, their desires, their experiences, their position. As the saying goes, give a man a hammer, he’ll think that everything can be solved by one. The parent complains about their child, whilst the child complains of the parent. As much as it makes you a better person, we hate to account for our shortcomings. Even when we do, we may not always be able to do anything about it. If an expert is presented with a question that he hasn’t considered, then gives an opinion straight away, he’ll inevitably be influenced by his own preference because it determines which proofs come to mind first and which proofs he will most likely neglect. We call this the availability bias. I’m going to put forward a rhetorical question to illustrate my point about the significance of someone’s character when it comes to the worth of their opinion and even knowledge by extension,

Are you prepared to trust an expert who lies, exaggerates, belittles, rages, and puffs up on pride and arrogance?

All in all, I’m saying that an assessment has been thoroughly combed through to the best of their ability. It was never necessary for an expert to hold all of those traits, a single one would’ve been enough to hold their opinion under doubt. An expert’s opinion is less about the knowledge they have, and more about their character, alongside their state in the moment they’re expressing an opinion.

It Helps to be Nice

There’s so much more to consider with expertise, like the relative nature of expertise and how narrow expertise can be, as opposed to a single objective measure of it. Expertise is a slippery slope. Humans aren’t perfect, so a hint of curiosity, patience, humility and compassion from both sides will go a long way in coming to an appropriate understanding of something. In other words, it helps to be nice.

Taken Further: Love Languages

There’s always something we can be better at. Although I want to make it clear that we aren’t failures for falling short of them, nor is it fair to force someone to seek it, I still want to better myself how I can. I wanted use this post to talk more about some of the stuff I’ve been trying to get better at. Emphasis on the trying. Don’t forget the failing too.

Love and Loving

So I began reading The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman about half a year ago. He began to observe in his time counselling that couples will often love each other, yet fail to express their love in a manner that their partner will recognise, leading to the decline of a loving relationship. This concept could be expanded to any relationship in general, whether it be with family, career or social. It’s that situation you get whereby, let’s say someone named John were to claim that his partner Emily doesn’t love him, yet isn’t convinced when Emily responds by telling him she does and begins recounting every way she’s recently made the attempt to show it.

The idea of the five love languages is that what counts as loving is interpreted differently by each individual, though they generally fall into five categories,

  • Physical touch
  • Quality time
  • Words of affirmation
  • Receiving gifts
  • Acts of service

So let’s say that John feels like someone cares about him most strongly when they’re attentive to what he has to say and involve themselves in his interests. That’s quality time, but Emily believes that love is all about hugs and dancing. Those expressions of love can be considered to fall under physical touch. There’s a mismatch, so John feels neglected. We can’t help how we feel, so although it may help to alleviate some of the pain by recognising their attempts to love us, making us more forgiving and patience towards them, we can still feel empty when they’re unable to express it this way.

Something New

I could argue that if I’m showing someone that I care about them through my own means, then it’s on them if they don’t like it, but that feels incredibly shallow. If I want to show someone I care about them, it’d make more sense if I do so in a manner they recognise, rather than the manner I prefer. The latter feels more like I’m saying that I know what makes such and such feel cared for, but I don’t feel like I expressing it in the form that makes them happy. In that case, do I have the right to say that it was for anyone other than myself?

So apparently, there are many ways in which you can express your love for someone. Depending on the individual, some will be more effective than others, but you may not be comfortable in expressing them in that way. You may be more than happy to wash the dishes for a loved one as a show of appreciation, but you loathe the idea of having to think of creative ideas to give as gifts to them. Something I’ve been trying to better myself in is through being more diverse in the expressions of love I show, so that I can be more flexible based on the individual I’m interacting. Sure, I may loathe and horribly suck at some of them, but I’m willing to try if it means that someone knows they’re appreciated.

This is all theory of course. I want to get better at it, but then again, I want to get better at many other stuff too. I’m not sure if I’ve gotten any better since I first heard about it due to the other stuff on my mind, but I do want to make sure that I try whenever I have the chance to apply it. I still probably fall very short at showing love to others, but I have my life to get better at it. I don’t have to do everything today, but I do want to make sure that I tried something, anything, each and every day.

So that’s something that I’ve been trying to get better at. How about you?

Between the Living and the Dead

There’s this armour we tend to wear on ourselves at every moment of the day, even within our own homes. This is something that The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown spends time addressing. We’re afraid to drop the armour, to be ourselves and to embrace the moment, for fear of being harmed. Although this defence minimises the pain we feel, we give up on being ourselves, leading us to lose what we sought to preserve.

We wear armour for protection, but this makes it difficult for anyone or anything to reach you if you’re always wearing it. You’re always prepared for conflict, even in areas that have none. Consider for a moment the animals that roam and the plants that grow. When you unnecessarily encase them behind fortified walls all round, above, and below, what was once free to grow without your input now requires your careful consideration and intense care. You’ve additionally closed off its interactions with everything else. This much resembles our own selves and the interactions it has with everything beyond it.

From a Defence into a Prison

The armour we wear was meant for war. It doesn’t allow us to feel the warmth of a hug, movement is heavily restricted in it, it’s difficult to relax whilst you wear it. When you wear it in these moments, you don’t have a defence, you have a prison.

Let’s first account for the people. They can become a means of comfort, belonging, and inspiration. We feel lighter when we know that others have found success in something similar, we feel more secure and ready to act when we know we’re surrounded by those that love us, and we move with passion when we hear the stories of those that inspire us. When we clothe ourselves in armour for these moments, our burdens continue to feel heavy because we remain focused on the weight of our armour. We’re in constant fear wondering when our loved ones will pass on or betray us, whilst we argue about the stories that should’ve inspired us until we forget and destroy the good in them for ourselves.

The concept of closing ourselves off isn’t restricted to people either, it extends to the knowledge we gain and the experiences that come to us. Much like taking a photo in every personal moment, the armour can become an empty symbol of strength. Whenever sound knowledge comes to us, we decide whether to accept it or reject it based on whether we believe it’ll harm us or benefit us, when we should’ve been accounting for and acting with it. Eventually, the arguments become so hollow that we decide if it’s authentic based on whether we like the idea of it or not. When we witness the stars in the sky and the waters that flow, we’re too afraid of suffocating in the emptiness or the dark to appreciate the beauty it holds.

What are you taking in?

To be Ourselves

By allowing ourselves to love and be hurt, we’re giving it the chance to grow by being able to observe and account for who we are. Rather than theorising about who you are, you get to be you and build on it, allowing your life to receive and interact with everything around you. You don’t have to numb yourself to everything in order to defend yourself, you simply need to understand yourself to find the right shelters to seek refuge in. If you instead build on the armour and never on yourself, you learn never to roam without it for fear of being harmed, even if it means that you don’t get to take in the good. With this attitude, everything is perceived as loss and everything will inevitably lead to loss.

By being ourselves, we get to take that armour off and admire the peace. By knowing yourself, you learn to recognise when to wear it, which would be for war. You learn to instead dress appropriately for different conditions, like warm clothes for winter and thin for summer. Like that, you’re able to preserve and appropriately make the right adjustments in the balance between being just and being compassionate at any given situation.

Seeking Peace within Ourselves and More

On one hand, you want to build on the external so that you can make use of it when you actually need it. This is about being able to grasp the knowledge in front of us, being open to the experiences that surround us, being with good people, and what’s similar to it all. On the other hand, we need to actually be ourselves to take it in how it was meant to be taken when the opportunities present themselves to us, otherwise we’ll skip out on it and much of what we’d built on may go to waste. Having armour on significantly restricts all of that, from being able to bring out the best in everything because we’re afraid of the risk in being ourselves to do so, to reaching a place of peace within being ourselves because we can’t make anything good out of the matters that come to us.

I feel like a person is far more interesting when they’re authentic yet flawed, as opposed to those who are boastful of their strengths as they hide behind cover. You get to observe the sincere become stronger in every aspect, whilst the arrogant are destroyed when their flaws grow and engulf them. I’d like to believe that I’m not into revenge, so the latter isn’t ideal if I can help it.

Ease Before Difficulty

Many of us are probably familiar with the idea of no pain no gain, to brave the storm to reach the calm. Well, let’s spend some time reminding ourselves that you don’t need to seek pain to gain something.

Let’s get Cooking

Oh no! We’re about to step into analogy territory again, aren’t we?!

The Steps We Take

Different foods cook at different temperatures and turn out differently when we alter the process. If you crack an egg straight into a pan, you get sunny side eggs; if you crack it into a bowl and whisk it first, you can make omelettes; you can instead boil it to either make poached eggs or boiled eggs. If you separate the yolk from the egg white, the latter can become a meringue. That meringue can be a standalone bake or can be part of a cake. Likewise, the temperature of an oven may need to be adjusted for the same cake depending on the colour of the cake tin you’re using: a black tin cooks the outside faster, whilst lighter coloured tin will allow the cake to be cooked more evenly throughout.

The first rule of difficulties I’m going to mention is that what we gain depends on the journey we’ve taken. If it hurts, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the outcome you wished for. A common example of this is the idea that more effort equals being more productive. It isn’t. It plateaus after while, like when you realise that you haven’t been taking care of yourself as you’ve strived towards your destination.

It Isn’t Always Necessary

So what happens when you continue to cook something that’s already been cooked well?

It gets burnt.

Do you need to cook a fruit for it to taste good?

No.

Here’s our second rule of difficulties: pain doesn’t always equal gain. Too much pain destroys us, much like how too much exercise can lead to injury. Meanwhile, some foods don’t need to be cooked, so trying to cook it will only make it taste bad and may even kill off the benefits it originally came with. If you think that someone needs to be burned by fire to know that its dangerous, they may simply learn it out of fear, not of understanding, so they become blind to the properties of fire altogether, its risks and its benefits.

A Point of Reference

Combing the previous two, cooking a blueberry by cracking it into a pan and frying it won’t turn it into a sunny side egg, no matter how much you wish for it to do so.

The final rule I want to share about difficulties is that you have to consider the individual that’s facing the pain. I have my strengths and weaknesses, and so does everyone else. What makes you stronger may break me, whilst what defines me may lead you astray. Hence, we have context. There are some universal traits, like how food is food. We use it to fuel ourselves for the day and it can taste good or bad. Likewise, there are some universal traits we all have as humans, yet we express them differently and each trait is tweaked to different capacities. We all seek patience, but for some, patience more often means to wait and for others, it more often means to be consistent. It may even mean to start searching.

Water can Flow, or it can Crash

Whenever Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was given the choice of one of two matters, he would choose the easier of the two, as long as it was not sinful to do so, but if it was sinful to do so, he would not approach it.

Sahih Al-Bukhari 3560

Even though our difficulties can make us better people, it doesn’t mean it will, nor does it mean we should drown ourselves in each and every one, nor does it mean that the path to success will always be the same, moment for moment, step by step, word for word.

If a difficulty can’t be avoided, then take it and make the best out of it. Until then, take the easier path. Like the saying attributed to Bruce Lee, water can flow, or it can crash. In the context of this post, I’m going to add to that and remind ourselves that water first chooses to flow until it has to crash.

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