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The Singing Nation

Just returned form the gym. During my training session today, I had to listen to one of these satellite channels that play a mix of Arabic and English modern songs all the time. Of course I couldn't help but listen to them and sometimes watch while I was exercising in the gym because they where playing on many TV sets scattered all around the place. It was really interesting, for about an hour, all the Arabic songs that played on that channel, by singers from the Arabic nation from the ocean to the gulf, all talked about one thing, and only one... the love between man and woman. Not even any of the many other flavors of love like family, home, friends, or even love of food. It was like it's the only subject in life to talk and think about. As if the whole world has boiled down to this one and only subject. They discussed and analyzed it to the bone from each and every possible angel and perspective. It was like all our challenges and problems have vanished and we are living like America in the 50s!!! Don't these singers know that they are living in the hottest spot in the world? Aren't they aware of our social, political, and economic problems, the problems of the very same society they are living in and singing for. Are they really happy with what they do and really, I mean really, feel it has a value? How come they lose conscious this way? As if our new generations - their audience - have no other problems in life, not to mention how such video clips are considered from an Islamic perspective.

At the end while I was preparing to leave, I kept thinking to myself: Is this acceptable, isn't this enough? For how long will this go on? a group of singers package worthless songs and the mass of the nation youth are following them, led by them, and see them as their role models. This has really become ridicules. It made me draw a parallel to the popular term "we are a vocal phenomenon" that used to be said in a different context. How come our youth became that shallow minded? But then again, I don't want to over blame our youth, for the singers, this has become their only ticket to quick fame and fortune, the way to break through where other factors of life like science and education have become worth nothing in their societies. Think also from the producers stand point, it's very profitable. Why would they go for deep thinking or annoying subjects, they want money, and they have a guaranteed and tested way. I can not also put all the blame on the new singers, they are just the result of many generations before that made our nation go down the hill.

Note: To be honest, they mentioned Sami Yusuf among others... in a commerical for mobile ring tones!!!


The Slippers

It was a nice evening, I went with a dear friend to watch a movie in Stars Mall, I was planning to watch Madagascar but it was not playing there so I picked up my next movie on the list, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I'm one of Johnny Depp's fans after all). We picked our movie tickets and went to that coffee shop to have something while waiting for the movie to start. Although I wanted to resist in an attempt of a weight control, we ended up sitting on a table at the far corner with two big fat hot cinnamon pies with chocolate and blue berry milk shakes in front of us. It's interesting how things work when you face the real challenge, no matter what you intend or how strong you think you are, when the moment comes, actions are what separates the sayers form the doers (the pie was irresistible after all).

I was sitting looking through the glass wall to the shop on the other side of the corridor. There was a shop of a dealer of a known shoe brand (at least in Egypt). There was a promotion for slippers, the buy one get one free kind'o stuff. That made me think. For me, that brand was known for shoes and shoes only. Now they produce slippers. This made me think how much we - humans - are mature now when it comes to technology. When that company found a business opportunity in slippers, there was no problem, here come the slippers, producing such stuff, and any stuff, is easy, provided you have the money. In a broader perspective, we are generally mature in technology, we have reached and established the foundation for an easy life, we have communications, phones-on-the-walk (mobiles), satellites, computers, e-world, Internet, mass production, name it and it's there. Everything is available provided that you have the money to buy it.

The next question in line was: Are we also mature with ourselves? Do we have mastery over the human factor the same we do with the physical world? My answer is No. It's even worse, the more we reach in technology, the more that technology uncovers our immaturity and gives more room for abuse. There's a great difference between our control over matter and our control over ourselves. Give people mobile phones and they waste their money on ring tones and mobile wall papers instead of giving it to the needy. Give them fast food and they addict junk food and abuse their bodies. Give them TV and a part of them produce worthless programs, shows, and songs that solely aim to making profits without any real value or creativity, and the other part waste huge amounts of their precious time in watching these productions instead of making it a controlled, reasonable, and useful process of entertainment and refreshment. Give them weapons and they attack and occupy other countries instead of defending themselves. Give them nuclear power and they develop nuclear bombs and level cities. Give media to people in power and they use it to dominate and control the public mind and brain-wash the masses for their benefit. Give them authority and they abuse it if there's no monitoring and control systems. We still do the same mistakes again and again, learning nothing from history. Technology helps, but also shows the worst of us. We are still living in the dark ages of humanity, wrapped in shiny gift wraps, but the inside is still the same, just has a new shiny shell. We are living in an illusion of civilization. We still have the same greed and the same lack of self discipline. We still as nations do not know how to live with each other and to respect each other. A few, very few, are those who really know how to master themselves, a fewer are those who practice it, and each of us can be one of them if we want to. All we need is conscious and will!


More, More

I was sitting at my desk trying to find a magical solution to squeeze all what I want to do till the end of the day in the remaining few hours. Once again I repeated to myself the same desperate saying: I wish I had a 48-hours day! However, this time was different, I stopped and looked into this phrase, people are always complaining that time is never enough no matter what they do in an implicit blame for time, as if time is bad, time is evil, time does not give them enough. But is it so? No it is not. Time is natural, time is simply... a 24 hours/day, that's what we've been given. It's not the mistake of your old trousers because you gained much more weight and you no longer can fit in, the trousers are not bad. It's not right to blame the small pickup truck you brought for shipping because it can't move all your house furniture on one trip just because you thought it could, you miscalculated. Trousers are trousers, a pickup truck is a pickup truck, and a 24-hours day is a 24-hours day. The 24-hours day was sufficient for you when you were a child, you could sleep enough, play, eat, watch TV, and do much more, and still there was time left that you did not know what to do with. The problem is simply that we want to get more than what we could actually afford with the available resources. Time, energy, and materials are resources. We try to pump too much in the same limited day more than it could actually take. But who said that so much work could be done is so much time with so much resources after all? What is the basis for our judgement? The answer differs according to the answerer, according to interests and to decision makers. The problem arises when the allotted time estimation fails, and yet, people insist on repeating the same mistake the next time. People usually do not learn, they live in a constant state of frustration, this means that the feedback is either missing or ignored.

But why is it so? Is it ambition? is it greed? Do we have a choice or we are forced to do so? You answer, but the result stays the same, we enter a never ending race, we lose the real joy of life, we sometimes lose directions and our means turn into goals and vice versa.

More, more... this is one of the main reasons why projects fail, businesses go wrong, and even lives ruined. We do not want to manage our expectations, businesses want to do more-for-less, an oft repeated statement and an ideology in today's business world. More for less is a healthy thing to do in terms of motivation, enhancing productivity, optimization and minimizing waste, better business process engineering, new technologies, better ways and methods of doing things. However, some people go too far and abuse the more for less concept and drag themselves and others to the breakdown point where things fail, when things reach a point of a "less" that makes it impossible to get things done. They think that they save resources and raise profits, while in fact the impede success.

The funny thing is that while some complain of the lack of time, on the other side there's another type of people who create and innovate new ways to waste their time because they simply have too much free time and they don't know what to do with it!!! If only we could redistribute the wealth of time, but God is wise, this is a type of wealth that we can not redistribute, we can not take some of others people's time and add to ours, we can not store time, we can not postpone time, we can not buy time, we can not go back or move forward, and it's the only thing that we really share together. Time is rare and uncontrollable, only usable. The only thing we can control is the "now". All this tells those who do right form who don't.

I think there's a lot of homework to do for those who complin of the lack of time, this includes proper time management which in turn required good self discipline, and after all being realistic but spiced up with ambitions, dreams, and self motivation. The future is to plan for, and the past is to learn from. And for those who do not know what to do with their time, if you haven't already then you must plan for your life, set your goals, then work on achieving them, or give me your time.


The Pipe & The Source (The Conduit & The Origin)

Not the best title but tells the idea.

I slept very late last night, I could not go to bed before I finish watching a documentary about E=mc2, that amazing equation that links matter and energy and shows that in fact they are both two sides of the same coin. The documentary was very interesting; it tells the story of the world's most famous equation, and the five eminent scientists who contributed to it. Michael Faraday, Sir Humphry Davy, Antoine Lavoisier, Emilie du Chatelet, and of course, Albert Einstein. Over the course of 250 years, each of them played a role in letting the whole world know that E=mc2 even though not all of them meant to do so. From the very beginning and until it was delivered to us cooked and ready through Einstein's unique vision. How this simple equation is used to understand the universe, since The Big Bang banged, till today and in the future.

While watching this documentary, it drew my attention the answer of Michael Faraday when he was still a young bookbinder apprentice when asked by the scientist Sir Humphry Davy who would later become his employer. Davy asked Faraday "So what is it you aim to do with your life?" and Faraday answered "My desire Sir is to escape form trade which I find vicious and selfish and to become a servant of science which I imagine makes its pursuers amiable and liberal". This is what the script writer imagined of course as how their real dialog would be.

The assumed answer of Faraday took me many years back when I was thinking about what I want to do in life and what options I have. In this perspective, I divided people into two categories and likened them to a water pipe, a conveyor, or a conduit. One category of people is at the end of the pipe, those are the ones who create, who innovate, who invent. They are the source and the origin of ideas that ignite our world, they are like the water source at the end of the pipe. Those are inventors, scientists, philosophers, thinkers, writers, artists, and others who have the quality of creation. On the other hand, the other category is like the body of the pipe, a conveyor, they transfers water form the source to destination. They are merchants, businessmen, manufacturers, farmers, and alike. They convey water from source to destination, to the world to use. They take invented ideas and use them, they apply inventions and methods, they run machines and produce, they are merchants who trade in goods and products made by others. They transfer the water from source to destination. The convey inventions to us through production and operations.

My decision was to be at the end of the pipe, a source. Like Faraday, I felt it's more valuable. My area of choice was computers which was initially a hobby. But "computers" was a broad word then, used to describe everything related to computer, from hardware to networks to software development, to maybe computer training. Where should I be? A source, that's why I decided then, I wanted to create stuff, I wanted something more intellectual, and that's why I chose software development. Time went by, and I think I've developed a deeper insight of things around me (hopefully) and learned to appreciate other things in life more as I started to feel more and more the dynamics of life and how some things can not go without others. Now I do not feel this superior appreciation for the source any more, the source and the body of the pipe are both important. We need new inventions, but we also need brave businessmen, venture capitalists, and investors who are willing to invest and realize them, and active workers to produce them. We need thinkers and writers, but we also need others to publish books to convey their ideas to the world. Inventors would not invent if a proper foundation was not laid before to secure their needs.

Now I see both equal, no one is better, and no one is more valuable. Without the source, our world would not progress, and without the pipe, the power that moves the world, the world would be a nice punch of great ideas carved in stone. Inventing the wheel was a great idea, but without the power to move it, it would worth nothing. All are important, form the inventor of the wheel, to the merchants who routed the Silk Road carrying goods and ideas, all played very important roles in humanity and their roles are interwoven, both complete the circle and both required for the cycle to go on. They are the skin and bones of life. At the end, I better put goals for myself and make them worthy. I try to make my trip in life useful for humanity, but if I could not, I try to make it at least useful for myself and family.


Al Fajr Prayer, the Key to Alternative Lifestyle

Muslims are ordered to pray five prayers per day, one of these prayers is Al Fajr - or dawn - prayer. Some may wander, why so? It might seem unmerciful to let those who want to commit to wake up that early to pray instead of enjoying a full night sleep. But is it really so? It might not be as it seems? To find out, let's imagine something different for a minute. Why wouldn't a person sleep enough if he or she wants to pray Al Fajr? Is there a contradiction? If we step back a little and look at the bigger picture - our life and the whole day - we can even see something strange. Al Fajr prayer could be a key to rearranging and organizing a person's life and time.

Al Fajr prayer does not mean only a prayer, in fact it means many things. It means enough sleeping late, that life deformation we call "modern lifestyle". It means enough staying up late watching meaningless movies and worthless talk shows. Of course there are good movies and talk shows, provided they are broadcasted in a suitable time. Al Fajr prayer means realizing the value of time and how precious and scarce it is. In fact, a success and time management expert like Brian Tracy encourages waking up very early as a way to make the best use of one's time and having two hours every day early to plan for the day and work when the person is very productive and focused at that early time. Imagine even adding a little exercise or sport at home, club, or the gym!

Pivoting the day around Al Fajr and other prayers and using them as anchors can result in a change to one's lifestyle and habits. Knowing that you have to wake up at Al Fajr to pray can cause a change in one's habits and actually can make us feel the value of time. A person will know that he or she has to sleep after Al Esha prayer to wake up early. Maybe stay up or wake up earlier to pray "Keyam Al Layl" during the night which is optional. We'll feel that we are no longer free or willing to let time slip from our hands late at night. We feel that we are no longer willing to mess up our biological clocks. Having such anchors in our day makes us have limits and feel them instead of having our free time of the day like a big wide un-partitioned space.

Al Fajr prayer can bring order back to the Egyptian community and any community similar to it. Framers will go back to sleep early and wake up early and produce, instead of their new habit of staying up late watching satellite channels. It means shops will open at a reasonable time instead of opening at noon and closing after midnight. It means ceasing the strange habit of some Egyptian families who wake up at one or two o'clock in the afternoon after staying all night watching movies. It means more stamina and will to work or study instead of being lazy. Moreover, when all that happens, it will even mean a change in the whole society. Being committed to prayers not only organizes time, but also making the person more willing to accept what is right and reject what is wrong. This can drive the whole society in the right direction.

More about Islam here


Feel It

Yesterday about 3:45 PM I was on my way back home from the gym. Not much training this time, I decided to exercise a little and to take a steam bath. On my way back home, I was "ooops, I forgot". I steered the car back and went to my favorite pharmacy. Inside the pharmacy at the counter, I was talking to the pharmacist trying to figure out a good multivitamin brand to get, trying to make myself think I shall be super. Right next to me there was a little boy, about 10 years old, leaning sleepy at the counter. In front of the boy there were a lot of various medicine boxes arranged on the counter top beside each other ready for packing. The medicines were too many that when the pharmacist did not find the prescription paper and asked the boy about it, the boy replied "I think this is it", and pointed at a paper that was almost hidden beneath the medicine boxes. Being just out of the steam bath session and feeling relaxed and in peace with the world and taxi drivers in Egypt (yes I wasn't mad at microbus and taxi drivers playing acrobat with their vehicles in the street as they always do!!), being in this mood, I started joking with the boy. From the number of medicine boxes, I estimated it's the supply of 3 persons, maybe a whole family, who caught some infective illness. I asked the kid joking: Are you gonna take all these medicines? (in Arabic of course). He answered: No, it's for another person. I asked wondering: All this medicines for one person?!!! He said yes, it's a sick person and he sometimes falls in a coma!

I'm not sure what the look on my face was at the time I received that answer, but what I'm sure of is that this playful conversation did not last any longer. Conjuring the image of that person whose life is so dependant on such big number of medicines, how weak that person feels, how helpless he is. The chain of images started flowing about such a person who needs the help and support of others to survive. Maybe he can not move around the house alone. And some people do not feel the blessing bestowed by Allah on them by being able to walk!!!


The Vehicle of Life

This is the story of two neighbors, Mr. A and Mr. B, each living in a two story house with a small garden next to each other. Each house has a garage. Mr. A has a car, so does Mr. B.

Mr. A takes care of his car, he takes it to the maintenance regularly, he washes it, he waxes and polishes it. Mr. B just takes a look at his car, scratches his head, and enters the house.

Mr. A is disciplined; he manages his time and allocates the required time to take care of his car, no excuses. Mr. B is a genius in inventing excuses and finding reasons out of nowhere to procrastinate and avoid performing his car duties.

Mr. A sets goals for his car and puts his full effort into them, he tries to get the best he could out of his car. Mr. B resorts to relaxation in his big chair in front of the TV.

Mr. A goes out early before going to work every day and checks his car to make sure everything is OK. Mr. B rushes out of his house late, throws himself inside his car and drives, not wonder he ended up many times with a broken car in the middle of his way.

When Mr. A is back from a trip out of town, he drives his car around the neighborhood in the weekend to make sure its battery is charged and the car is still active. Mr. B watches TV.

Mr. A is very alert while driving his car and very cautious when parking it, his car body is intact and its paint is unscratched. Mr. B's car looks as if just out of Demolition Derby.

Mr. A takes pride in his car and likes to be seen driving it everywhere. Mr. B sneaks out of his house and in to his car, he dashes away before any of his neighbors sees him in it.

After five years, we are standing in front of the two houses, the two cars are parked in front of the garages and the two men standing next to their cars. Mr. A's car is good as new, willing to take another five years effortlessly. Mr. B's car deserves compassion and sympathy. It can barely survive a trip to the end of the road.

Mr. A knows that his good shape car might not see another day, he could simply have a crash the very next day, but he knows that he enjoyed the past five years, and will enjoy his time with it in the future, unless something out of hand happens to his car. Mr. B lived a tragedy with his car, and he knows for sure that his car might outlive Mr. A's car, but he is sure that any more day in the life of his car will be another tragedy to tell.

Mr. A has been living a peaceful and harmonious life with his car. Mr. B and his car both hate each other.

Mr. A enjoys the result of the way he has been treating his car for the past five years. Mr. B regrets the way he treated his car, he can't go back and fix what he did, and he doesn't want to go ahead with it.

Both Mr. A and Mr. B can not buy another car, they have to stick with what they have.

Mr. A is happy. Mr. B is not happy, he may try to fix what he ruined, but sure will not have Mr. A's car.

This is what we do to our bodies, our vehicles in life. Read the story again now. Imagine yourself at the age of 40.

Story by: Yasser Hassan

Body is: Yours

Role Played by: Everyone of us (acting is compulsory, but we are free to choose being Mr. A or Mr. B)


The Right Right

A quiet Friday afternoon, finished the Friday prayer a while ago, had my coffee while reading a light comic magazine in an attempt to inflate the pressure of life and just forget. Finished a while ago and now laying in bed, a stream of ideas flowing. I've been exposed to new ideas recently that could change my look of life. Glimpsing through what I used to consider right and wrong and how things changed through the years, I visited the same old question again but this time in urge...

What life is about? I mean, what life is "really" about? We all used to have targets and goals, consciously or not, knowingly or not, and willingly or not. We have always used to, now and before, and in the future to come. But� are these goals real? Are the bones of our lives that we consider genuine and valuable, are they really so? What is the "absolute" right? The "right" that is right, will remain right, and will persist right. The "right" that is not bounded by our age or life stage. The right that will stand the test of time. The right that will not prove to be wrong later in our life.

Is it one "right" or everyone has his or her version of that "right". Is it my "absolute" or a universal constant human absolute? The things we adopt and invest ourselves in, are they worth it? People cling to values through their childhood, teenagehood, when they were children and later teenagers. In every stage we look back and think how na�ve we were, sometimes how foolish we were, as if now we are wise and smart. Some used to have music as a core value, others value some sort of art, some go with computers and like to be called geeks, reading, writing, sports, politics, science, and TV. As time goes by, we look back and laugh at our naivety and compare what we were by what we are now. Some even cry for the precious years they wasted chasing a vain goal thinking it's the ultimate goal in life. But after this stage had passed, we look back and laugh or cry thinking that we have now reached the ultimate wisdom, thinking that what we are doing now is the right thing, the valuable goal and values that are worth spending our life for, or the remaining of our life to be accurate. But still age makes no difference, we find adults at their thirties and forties devoting themselves to work while leaving their families and children behind, or loosing their health for more money just to pay back dearly at an older age.

Finally, is it right for me to visit this question again and again or is it better to harbor to any dogma I have just to feel secure and to maintain a sense of comfort, whether this comfort is true or false? I chose to question until I feel right and not just to adopt what I used to have and receive from around me through the years without thinking, values that just happened to grow up with me. I'll keep questioning.

What life is "really" about... what? Maybe too hard to answer, maybe there's no single answer, but there is one thing that always gives me comfort; as a Muslim and a believer, I have fixed values in life that do not change. Allah or God as an anchor, a north pole for the life compass. Everything then revolves around this value. Fixing other important values such as the importance of family helped in drawing my life map. The effort is still underway to draw the whole map and explore my uncharted territories.

Now back to lay back... and to think again...



While listening to a new music album that features a collection of beautiful songs sharing the theme of being based on classical or electric guitars, the song "Wild World" by Mr. Big started to play. A beautiful song. Suddenly I found myself starting into the nothingness. The song recalled a long tape of memories that started flowing. With a smile on my face and a stream of memories in my head, I went back in time, visited places, and met people. One of the memories was about that friend whom I've lost through the journey of life. He died a couple of years ago. It was nice seeing him again for a couple of minutes. For a short while I was sitting with him in that coffee shop having a soft drink and with them a mixture of peace and rampage. Peace for being care free at that age, and the rampage of trying to reach places and get things that I do not even know what they are. Fast-forwarding the tape to the recent time, I was somewhat struck by the large change. How back then I - and many of the people I knew - were traveling in a journey that we didn't knew we are in, an expedition set out to search for an identity. A frame of reference, an anchor for life that we can cling to to avoid being drifted away with the violent currents of believes, principles, and various directions in life that we expose to.

Time has passed. My life has changed... definitely. Totally reshaped. I'm not that person any more. Better or worse? Hopefully better. Not that he (me) was a bad person at that time, but because now I have traveled more and reached a new station in life; I'm different! Like everybody, I do not know for how long my journey will continue, but I'm hoping to finish it as a winner. I hope I'm working right on that and... wait... the song has finished.