No rhyme or reason

I know that the melancholy which afflicts me is completely irrational. I have much to be grateful for. I have a wife who loves me, and I love her. I have a roof over my head, and sound employment. I can afford the cost of living. I have no debts. Life, by all accounts, is good. Yet these heavy blues weigh down on me, bringing misery and flowing tears. I cannot justify them at all, but for the absence of sunlight in midwinter and the weariness seeded by the short days and long nights. There’s no reason for me to feel so blue. It’s just a tragedy that I do.

Towards self-belief

Looking back, I realise that my shyness paralysed me. It prevented me from achieving lofty heights. Instead of encouraging me and edging me out of my shell, teachers back then simply ignored me. Looking back, I wonder how my parents allowed me to make such a mess of my final years of education, but in truth: perhaps we had both given up by then. I remember my intense self-hatred in those awkward days, as I muddled through with zero self-esteem. I never learnt those preeminent skills: to have self-confidence or self-belief. For my own adventures, I know I am a lost cause. But at least this realisation will help me support the next generation. I hope we can encourage our children to achieve starry heights of their own, despite inner reserve. I hope they will develop the self-belief I never did, and live a happy and contented life.

Peculiar

Most people we meet in our daily lives are not religious. Some identify with a religious community or tradition from a cultural perspective, but more often than not have no interest in the practices or devotions of their particular faith.

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Let’s be real

Let’s be real about this thing they call “cancel culture”. The only people who need to worry about being cancelled is the Oxbridge set. The rest of us… we’ve spent a lifetime being cancelled, from that first redundancy, through unemployment and unpaid invoices for freelance jobs, to working in internet cafes and driving coffee machines, to that foot in the door, sticking labels on files all day long. There was no graduate job awaiting me after a three-year degree and the Masters that followed. No, I’ve spent my illustrious career being cancelled, living a life of monotony.

Let’s be real about “cancel culture”. Somebody like me, with a personality like mine, isn’t going to be given a publishing contract. I’m not going to be adopted by a literary agent, to be brought to the attention of the great and the good. Nor do I want to be, really, for I am content with this obscurity. Yes, for we cancel ourselves too, self-censoring, running for the hills whenever it gets too hot out there. Only the big-hitters need worry about being cancelled, for apparently uttering profound truths — usually profound only to themselves, and hardly true. The rest of us: we were already cancelled by the Oxbridge and Ivy League sets, who have appointed themselves the high priests and gatekeepers of cultural orthodoxy.

It’s not our fault if the shoe now sits on the other foot.

Accidental satirists

I seem to recall that a decade ago, right-wing thinkers and commentators occupied themselves with trying to cancel the culture of minority groups, arguing for anything from clamping down on their ability to speak freely at universities to demanding that they be deported for said speech. It’s amusing, therefore, to hear the same voices today complaining about a cancel culture which threatens free speech. We must cancel the woke cancellers, they now insist, unable to appreciate any of their own bitter irony. They have become a parody of themselves.

Old boy

I think catching up with your Alumni / Old School networks must be one of the worst things you can do for your mental health. All those happy-smiley people with fine careers and puffed-up chests. Must content myself with obscurity. My downfall began long ago.

Sleepless

I could not sleep again last night. All night long, memories of my sins, stacking up before me. I wish I had chosen the path of righteousness through all those years, instead of heeding the calls of my scheming self. I’m not very happy these days. I blame that on the realisation that I spent most of the past three decades subsumed in sin. If only I’d had the piety of my companions. If only I was refined like them. If only I had understood the nature of the world, and of the life we live. Here we are, asleep, just dreaming. Soon we will awake to the true reality, and then we will discover our loss. It will be as if we had been asleep only for an afternoon, or a part of it, all of a sudden wide awake, alert to the accounting that awaits us. Perhaps it is a blessing that I have been granted such great regrets during this dress rehearsal of the sleeplessness to come. May the Lord of my soul enable me to repent and reform, before the curtain’s close.

Wake up

If you’re one of these people still going around telling yourself that the global pandemic is just a fiction, completely made up, fabricated to herald some new world order… wake up. It’s not. For some, it is a health emergency.

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Strange hobby

Writing is a strange hobby, because you end up with repeated bouts of extreme depression while writing… and then you get an even heavier dose when it’s done, which usually ends with you deleting every word in a fit of melancholic self-censorship. If only I had taken up watercolours instead. I could’ve been a happy man.

Wide awake

I honestly have no idea what people mean when they say, “We should reject wokeism”. Indeed, I have no idea what they mean by “wokeism” at all, though it reminds me a lot of “political correctness gone mad” — which is to say, we oppose disenfranchised people standing up for their rights. Personally, I refuse to use these terms, loaded with an ill-defined derogatory sentiment. It just seems to be media-speak designed to dispossess people of their natural inclination to pursue equality, fairness and justice. If being alert to injustice is woke, then count me in.

Forgotten

By now we are forgotten. Most we once knew have forgotten us, and we have forgotten them. Amidst 7.7 billion bodies, we are strangers, unknown. Amidst our 68 million countrymen, we are nobodies, known only to a few. We barely know our neighbours; only a few faces on our street.

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Divergence

A chance encounter with one I once knew years ago. How incredible how far our paths have diverged. A choice here, took my life off in one direction; another choice, another direction altogether, on and on, multiplied through the years. A choice there, took their life in a completely different direction too. Now we reside in completely different worlds, so unalike, walking completely different paths. How utterly extraordinary.

Plans

So convinced were they that God was on their side, that they voted for an executive presidency. But God does not play human politics. If the government should be brought down by anger at the sliding economy, what does that mean for the faithful now? Imagine an executive presidency staffed by a rabid secularist, with the power to rule by decree, turning back the clock on two decades of reforms to enable religious freedom. Of course, the masses are angry today, calling for early elections. The bold vision of the powerful might be about to come crashing down. Alas, the short-sighted plans of the faithful might mean dark days lie ahead. An executive presidency may sound fine when it’s your man in power, but should your fortunes change? Yes, perhaps trampling on the rights of others was not such a great plan after all.

Not my type

Do modern-day publishers no-longer obtain a physical proof of their typeset works before going to market? As an occasional typesetter myself, I find myself perpetually frustrated by the impossibly tiny print in which so many contemporary books seem to be set.

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A theory of relativity

Too often, I feel inadequate because I compare myself to others. I look at their expectations, and conclude that I fall far short of them. In my mind’s eye, I am an imposter, constrained by the lack of ambition which characterised my formative years.

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Whistleblower

It’s inevitable. If you call out the rich and powerful, you must expect the rich and powerful to call you out. If you dish dirt on others, expect others to dish the dirt on you. You may be allowed to savour your day of glory, but behind the scenes your opponents will already have started digging for dirt to discredit you. So beware of skeletons in the closet. Beware of your own biases and behaviour. Society will have us believe that only the righteous saint may call out wicked conduct; the sinner must rightfully be ignored. Soon enough, the whistleblower will be discredited absolutely.

I am who I am

Gradually, we come to terms with reality, that we are what we are; I am who I am. My soul was inserted into this skin and this form, with this gender, to live in this land under that sky. I was raised in that family, with those privileges and that ease, but was nevertheless built shy and slow by the One who created all things. I am the sum of many parts. I am who I am. I cannot be other than as I am. If I am unread, I am unread. If I am uncool, then uncool. My reality, in every facet, is the decree of the One. And so I wander on, embracing my medium of expression. This is me.

Perspective

When I am writing fiction, the biggest obstacle to progress I encounter is deciding upon the narrator’s perspective. This inner debate has scuppered many a nascent work, as I switch midway through, only to abandon it, frustrated.

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Ungrateful nation

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for my ungrateful nation. I’m sorry that you came to these shores to staff our hospitals, to make up for labour shortfalls and fill skills shortages, and were then treated like dirt by the very people that should have welcomed you. I am sorry that you built the institutions which the nation claims to hold dear, but received no gratitude at all. I am sorry for our boastful arrogance while we trample the rights of those to whom we should be eternally grateful. I’m sorry that we could not just say thank you. I pray that the One compensates in full all who have been wronged by this ungrateful nation.

Spiked

I’m always worried when I see a spike of traffic hitting my usually quiet website. A true self-promotionist would rejoice at this point, dreaming of ways to monetise the sudden influx of visitors. Me? I fear I am about to be lambasted for something or other. Brace for impact. Hopefully it is just an aberration.

Sufism

For me, Sufism—tasawwaf, ihsantazkiya—concerns the purification of the heart, striving to replace our egocentric egomania with God centeredness. With that understanding, I embrace it.

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Racism

Naively, I thought we were becoming a post-racist society. I thought we had made great strides forward towards treating each other with respect. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to find that this isn’t the case. Now I have Dory from Finding Nemo ringing in my head: “Just keep swimming…” So much work still to do.

Faith at work

I have not disclosed my religious affiliations at work for over a decade. No, that’s not true. I did once tell my former line-manager—also our director—who promptly quipped, “I hope you’re not going to blow yourself up.” Ah yes, and I confided in a couple of Muslim colleagues five years ago.

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Wanderer

Wandering one: do not lose hope in the mercy of your Lord. You are doing well. Stay strong. Take it slow, but stay strong. Allow your living faith to sustain you. Hold fast.

Feed the poor. Clothe the destitute. Provide shelter for the homeless. Be an ally to the orphans. Walk humbly on the earth. Strive for peace. Spend your wealth in the service of others. Let that living faith of yours sustain you. Try your best and leave the rest.

Cancel culture

It is with regret that I have decided to cancel my world tour in protest of cancel culture.

Waffle-waffle, something about wokeism, yes I am cutting-egde, risqué, daring-even. The newspapers love this stuff.

Oh, and don’t forget to buy my book. See, I am still relevant.