Are You There, Because I Am Here

Hi.

Writing is a lonely yet wholesome process. After a long hiatus, I am back in my head space: plotting a new novel and now I am on Chapter 4.  I am taking a break from Facebook and I am loving every second of it.

Writing is a form of relationship, the lost art of love letters. Imagine this: whoever out there reading this, whenever, – are reading what I am typing right now in a different zone of space and time. You may find this months or years after I have finished writing this piece of my mind, but it is like you and me, while reading, we both are having a conversation (in your head). I do not mind a bit, to live like that – forever. I do not mind to be immortal.

I guess that is more than enough hint about my new novel. I love you, take care.

 

In Search of This Foreign Familiarity

These past few days, my impostor syndrome intensified.

There is a tinge of melancholia in everything I do, in a simpler manner to explain, I feel like I am not as what I like people believe I am. I am a fraud. It is eating me alive and I don’t really know how to help myself. Of all the things I read, such insecurity never crossed my mind this deeply, until I cried out of no reason and feeling out of place in my own space. How terrifying to feel like a burglar in your own house. In your own damn room.

There is a huge different between feeling like you have no talent and the talent is not yours to begin with. Unfortunately, it is the latter for me. This will be easier had I believe that I have no talent at all – then I resume to whatever the system allowed me, probably being more happy that I am right now.

I know I have the talent in me. I just feel like the talent is not mine.

Hence everything I do is an act of robbery. I feel like I am a scammer, in a process to fish praises from other people, into believing that I am actually good at something, like how I try to build my imagine in the internet. The architecture of Fahmi Mustaffa. Here comes the author, illustrator, visual painter, translator, la…la…la… but deep down, I am still here, celebrating little mediocre with a stolen talent from God knows whom. How do I deal with this?

How does a robber deal with himself?

XXX

I believe that this is something to do with my financial insecurities. I am doing okay, not well. I do not own much, and my cost of living is minute, if I must say, unlike my friends who do far better than me. They are all have their own promised future, or so I felt. Does not matter, they seemed happy. That is good. All I worried for is my journey (as much as I hate this J-word), and it feels like I am in the cab, drove by stranger, wasting gasoline to the pathless nowhere. But money is okay so far, I still eat once a day and I do not really mind, because I have suffered worst than that. Hence, I believe this got nothing to do with my financial state, even it plays a lot of role in distracting such suffering I try to exaggerate, for speaking about this seems trivial to the eyes of normal people with real problems, or so I speculate.

Normally, this trepidation that I have will give rise to something beautiful, something stronger, but now my context have changed, and I do not want to stuck in the same loop, that the emptiness became my middle name; after I have invested my all to create a life as I visualized with my juvenile eyes and chatty mind. I need to figure out what is it with me, so I can can assess to it, and say goodbye, for I crave to sleep like everyone else.

Right now, this is 5 o’clock in the morning, and my bed is nowhere to be found. Absent, in my mind. Going rogue.

Maybe I am tired, but of what? Physical exhaustion never impact me this way, and I havent think too much of late. The point being, I am done with thinking. I feel imprisoned when I think, in a way that I live based on what I think, not what I feel. Why do we demonized feeling as if it is secondary to rational? I believe it should go hand in hand – we must act based on the action of our thinking and feeling. Maybe I am wrong, but that is my truth. And for that reason, I speak to you.

XXX

I wake up today. Again.

I am chained to this desk, arranging these letters into words so that it will mean something. Something out of plan and somehow related to my effort in deciphering myself. The rain is falling and the tapping sound of the roof calms me down. I am in the best shape of my mind. And now that I have put my feelings on the table and like a blind man trying to envisage by touching all sides of it, I neutralize everything that I believe what happened to me to start anew. This is very complex, but I will try.

Feeling comes before we even master the art of language. Long before we possess the ability to talk, we already knew how to feel something, and as a baby, we used to cry for something, never know how to say it. A lucky mother will guessed it right. A good mother will give it all. A great mother will give her all. And now that I have mastered the language of feeling before the language of words, I have arrived to a familiar phase, of which I am feeling something huge weighted upon me, but I do not how what it that, or how to put my fingers into it. I do not know the words for these feeling. And to my Guru, I said, “I have some abstraction in my mind, I need a space,” and here I am, cancelling our meeting while jotting down these words in my safest space.

This is an answer-less world, if you must view it that way.

But let’s tweak while we can. I would say, the answer is everywhere, and the answer is plenty.

There are answers even before the question exists.

I am in the J-word of trying to find an answer of my feeling, and I know for the love of life, that there will be no adjective answer to it. There shall be no word to describe something indescribable. Thus, the effort to search an answer, is already an answer, of so I have to believe. Pay attention to the process, regardless of the product. Hence I am paying my attention in search of this foreign familiarity, to which I believe in all its (life) promised beauty.

Is this by mistake or design?

A Welcoming Note: On Religion and Growing Up

Welcome.

In the process of slowly detaching myself from virtual conversation out of self-care and my constant need to start journalling (out of Nature’s order), I am revisiting this space – take this as a ceremonial celebration of my emptiness and for that, I must pay in letters and metaphors, like everything else in this world.

If you are reading this, thank you. As I told my professor (Latif) once, there is an abstraction in my mind and for the longest time of my mortal life, I tried to channel it – through art – but more and more trepidation and births coming out of spontaneity (but what does it mean – spontaneity?) now that I am settling with one step in front of the other, pacing myself as if I am walking on a new beginning because that is what this is. Or so I thought. Or so I felt. Or so I believed.

XXX

The accumulation of this familiar-yet-foreign abstraction needs a special attention in a spatial form, thus this is my space, of which the vulnerable self comes out to play. Nothing here is important, but what is? Maybe the greed in me tries to make it more as it is, and in between the findings I found out that my impostor syndrome keeps on growing and I am left with overwhelming drive to confess, as if this is necessary. Two premises of 1) this is not important and 2) this is not necessary; hence I have dissipated anything from this point forward, diluted it as a little bird chipping out in every sun and moon, and for that again, I thank you (and me, if that is okay for us).

Right now, I am sharing a small piece of abstraction and gathered it into a moment, a memory about me growing up and how does my belief system come into play. As my physical senses are lacking instrument to see God or as I taught to believe that, it is harmless to share this experience to you, like a bird I am wandering across the ocean for a piece of land I can call my own for a while.

… the question popped when I was 10 years of age, running straight to my mother, asking  how long is forever? Her answer – very long, but why did you asked this kind of question? – of course did not answer anything (or I was misguided on the concept of answer), in fact bringing even more questions. I do not deserve to think this way when I was 10, but I cannot make up my own mind. I don’t have such freewill.

Later on in my class, a religious teacher or ustaz told me about the bridge that everyone has to cross on their way to heaven, a place that we were taught to aspire to go when this is all over. It gives some comforts to be hopeful, however fascinating the concept and its measurement is.

A bridge to heaven’s door. Plain and simple.

It sounded possible until he told me that such bridge will be as thin as a strand of hair cut in 7 parts, cross-sectional.

How is that possible? My calculated sense is lacking such imagination, or as he put it – our minds are limited, stop thinking about it Pami – but I tolerated such teaching in awe and amazement (but why do I regret using these adjectives soon after?).

Waiting under the bridge are snakes and monsters and raging inferno, trying to reach my soul, and that the speed of my crossing depends on my good deeds during the time I spent on earth. If I remember the Quran, good deeds will enable me to cross with the speed of light or even faster, and if I keep on being naughty the way I am, I will either fall into the violence of eternal flame or engulfed by the monsters.

What bothered me the most was how did my Ustaz know these scenario like the back of his hand? Did he experienced it himself and went to the present to warn me about it? So to understand better, I drew a picture of that bridge – as-Sirat, and I have never been more proud with myself upon the completion. I used all the crayons given by my sister and created the hell of my own, my own version, pure sketching of my imagination. It survived a year before I lost the sketch.

Later in life I learnt that we do not really create imagination (and pretty much anything else) – it is a discovery. Or in a simpler manner, Hell has always been inside of me, and I just discovered it on a blank piece of paper, fingers stained in colours and eyes full of liberated satisfaction. It was a childish act of – I need to see it to believe it. But no child is a liar. And so was I.

Boys around the age of 13 are either actively playing football or discovering the joy of masturbation over stolen porn from friends or brothers. I was born in a fishermen’s village and spent most of my time by the jetty – watching fishermen unloading their catch before sunset while listening to the smashing sound of waves. I had a couple of friends I cannot exactly relate to besides school matters. I avoid questioning the eerie topics with them, in fear of  interrupting their discussion on homework and the cutest girl in class.

This leads to my discovery of  solitude, a feeling that I enjoy the most.

Little did I know that I have engineered myself to conquer solitude and made peace with chosen isolation.

Those quiet days at the beach taught me something more that I wish I knew back then, what I know now – that human mind is as wild as it can get, and contrary to everyone’s opinion (or made to believe), it is not limited. I look at the sky and how it kisses the ocean without failing every single day.

Writing this reminds me of the conversation I had with a painter (Khomeil) few weeks ago, that as a core believer in reincarnation, I read out a line that I created out of spontaneity (then again, what does it mean – spontaneity?) I told him:

Once again, if you are the sky, I am the ocean”

Who said that? It’s a poem? – he asked.

I said that, I replied. It’s just me. The line. Crossing my mind.

The once again.

And to continue my relationship with the sea, oh how many secrets of me the Sea knows and keep. (I remembered crying in silence because I miss my father so much. I never really have a chance to know him. It is so sad to miss someone you never really know, even with a picture of his smile tucked in my wallet, sure, but I do not remember anything except the yellow small chair that he bought me weeks before he passed away. I hate yellow colour ever since.)

XXX

Nature is all the friend that I have – I dig soil and watch earthworms dance, curling around and around on the surface escaping sunlight – it does look like noodles and once I saw it couple of times, I do not fear such creature anymore. It takes practice to conquer fear, by facing it again and again. So does the fear of not knowing – thus I dig up deeper and deeper and hoping to find any evidence – that heaven exists and it is underneath my feet. But, to no avail. I should have dig deeper or stop believing in heaven – I forgot which decision I had chosen but at the end of the day, I still have the picture of as-Sirat upon my wall and at least, it did served me as a reminder to be kind, whatever the reason may be.

I was trained to be an Imam, and I like it. I like the narrative of me doing the right thing – and if people keep on telling me that I am doing the right thing, eventually I will believe it.

That is how brainwashing works.

It did worked for me.

I enjoy studying religion and as I was raised as a Muslim, I study Quran at the very young age of 8. I began reciting it and finished reading Quran by the age of 9. At the age of 12, I learnt all the meanings and its grammar by my ustaz, ustaz Abadi (of which, in Malay, Abadi means forever). What a rebellious name for a mortal human!

I feel deeply connected to God until now, although my perception toward everything has changed, which now gravitated by a bigger view compared to some institutionalized interpretations. Along the journey between loving and fearing God, I found a fine line that I was not supposed to talked about, hence I shall write it here as my simple, humble opinion, for I am not exemplary, nor someone important. This is my story and like any other story under the sun, it is just as unimportant as everything else in this borrowed universe.

XXX

ISLAM comes from the love of God, and showing such love is a form of obedience. An obedience to God is an antonym of to human – simply said because God is intangible in terms of its physicality. Some people beg to differ – that this universe is the sign of Him creating but I think otherwise – for that He does not have to create, but His power is so monumentally Rich, Everything comes from him (for the concept of creating is too humanistic). During the course of achieving such obedience, people either went to the road of Loving Him or Fearing Him as an instrument.

The culture of fear translated into my mind since the very beginning.

One, I should not ask too much, as asking can weaken my Iman, or so they said, as if blind faith is the sign of ultimate obedience.

But I did not raise a finger, went silent for as long as I can remember because I fear that people might have mistaken me to hate my own religion, or maybe, I no longer believe in Allah. I do not think I should expose any of this but if one must know, I never doubt that Allah is my God, and I will selfishly claim as such out of Love, not Fear. So all my questions were self-pressured and censored for the calamity of me among my friends and family.

I became as normal as everyone else and somehow (whatever it means), I suppressed my own thought to just keep it simple, borrowing anyone’s voice because it is easier.

I was born to a single mother of 6 (and now 5), a strongest woman I know in my life.

And although the fact that I do not  her so very often pains me deep to my core, every fabric of my beings are in love with my mother. We struggled to make the end’s meet and God knows what we have been through to put simple food on the table, but I do not wish to go into that. It is irrelevant for you to know, and too capitalistic for me to describe my hardship going through poverty as if I am fishing for some compliment.

I just really want to share this habit to you, the one who are reading this – of me and my mother every day after we pray in the dusk –I would sit next to her (or sometimes, placing my head on her lap when I was young) while she was reciting verses from Quran, and those moments are beyond monumental.

If I close my eyes hard enough in a dark, silent room, her voice resonated out of my memory and breathe to life; both of us are together again like old times.

I was young, and although I understand nothing besides the opening – which describe God as the Most Merciful and Compassionate, I found her recital healed me. I did not know that I need some healing, until. And I found that even as meaningless as it sounds to me, the listening itself is a channel for my mind to be at peace.

As I am all grown up, 32 years old that I am right now, I believe that this is true and scientific.

Spoken words, sounds, come from the vibration (of vocal cord at larynx to the vibration of the air, beating the auditory system that begins from canal to cochlea), that creates the force. As our living cells responded to such force, our brain will detect the output and such phonic effect will produce parasympathetic reaction that will calm my nerve down. To say it in a simpler manner, listening to my mother’s recital is like drinking a potion  – I do not know all the ingredients but sometimes, it heals. My skepticism does not make me arrogant, hopefully, for I really found my peace in Quran, but people love to instill the culture of guilt and fear, to achieve a ruling power.

I do not like that.

Extremism does not mean better obedience.

In fact, it is the other way around. Had God is so judgmental like some of His worshiper, He would not even want to open the surah by acknowledging His Most Mercifulness and Compassion.

Extremists bothered me because they said things that God never did.

I am always in love with learning process (and I believe that it is a humbling experience, having a privilege to have an access to education), mainly in language, art and science. My late sister taught me to learn one grade higher from where I was so I was updated a year earlier than my friends.

It is safe to say that I am one of the bright students in my school, not because I was smart, but the education system is not but a rehearsed practice of memorizing, not learning. Since I am the only one who happened to have a future to go to the university, all hopes are upon my small, brittle shoulder and it scares me because no mortal human can ever repay what their mother gave to them.

And to give such expectation was understandable but rather too impossible to achieve. Every time parents have to come to school to sign the report card, my mother would be the earliest even she do not own any transport. She would wear her best cloth and show up early, sometimes even way too early and my teacher will give her my record.

And she will discuss what is needed to be done and what books should I get to improve. We are coming from the working class family, living in the fishermen’s village in east coast of peninsula Malaysia. We do not show each other’s love by saying I Love You, not even a hug. But I do not need that, because I know that every waking moment of her life is not but a pure dedication to all her children.

That is why I believe she will go to heaven, and the fact that she will pass away eventually will not make me sad at all, because this is just the way it goes (and this all a long dream of which I will wake up eventually). And for that reason, I am very lucky to be born in such an environment that allows me to appreciate the nature as my guru.

I am a person, unlike my friends, who owns nothing – no home of my own, no car of my own, not even a medical insurance and emergency savings but I feel so satisfied doing everything I really want, and that is not because I am talented or smart (to be honest, I just got lucky).

All of the good things that happened to me are because of kind people around me, helping me through thin and thick, and if this ever exist, the conspiracies of Destiny. Right now, I am so heavily missing my mother who is far away on the land of the East. The land of making me made a choice. The land where they prosecute you for not using a borrowed voice.