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Monday, August 18, 2014

Oh Robin Robin Robin.

Oh Robin Robin Robin, it has been days now since your passing but you will surely be missed. Your among the first out of Hollywood whose absence will leave a small void in my life along with millions of your other fans around the world. Even after your passing, I am afraid people will never learn, millions before you suffered from this terrible personal crises, and millions will continue to suffer, some will find the courage to live with it, for some it will be all too much, yet people will never learn or listen or care, because the reality is that is the world that we live in. A world that is apathetic and insensitive towards the feelings, thoughts, inspirations and weaknesses of others almost to the extent where other human beings around them are non existent or any signs of being human are non existent. It is a reality of the world we live in that conveniently chooses to forget that other human beings around us are just as human, not too different from the rest of us, this is what leads to the attitude of people towards those suffering from depression. First of all, there is the refusal among many to even acknowledge that depression exists, some confuse it human laziness, inefficiency or the attitude of always making excuses.

If people are not able to acknowledge that depression is a reality that does exist, how else can we expect people to realize that we can at times unintentionally contribute towards it. Only after acknowledgment can there be a sense of empathy, which I personally feel is the real element missing there and the root of the whole problem. Failure to feel empathy results in us conveniently overlooking the emotions and feelings of others around us and unintentionally contribute to another's suffering. Our apathy can do great damage, while at the same time we fail to realize that very small gestures of kindness towards those suffering from depression can go a long way in helping and healing a fellow being, especially if our lives are directly or indirectly linked to that person. Oh Robin, such is the nature of our fellow human beings, till disaster strikes them on a personal level, or find themselves in the same shoes as others people will not understand what it means to suffer. To too much ME ME ME attitude of people doesn't help either.

Oh Robbin, I do not know how long you suffered and I do not want to pass any judgment on the final decision you made in  your life, I really do not. I do not want to because I was not in your shoes, I wasn't seeing your life, what was going on behind the public face. We all have that private face that private mood of our lives, behind the scenes of what and who we are in public, we are after all the product of our lives and our environment. Every moment, every day, every event and every person we meet in life has some effect on us in one way or the other. It doesn't really help that we are exposed to a lot of information and digital interaction with the world around us, that contributes to our thoughts and our feelings. As easy as it is for people to say snap out of it or move on or don't give a shit about what people think, it is easier said than done. The last thing someone experiencing depression needs is further negativity. I hope you were not on the receiving end of such cruel apathy.

Oh Robbin, as an actor you have managed to do a fantastic job to inspire us, motivate us and to make us laugh, if the reality of your mortal life was a dark and grim one. My first memory of watching you on the big screen was in Jumanji, I was too young to remember the deeper themes in the film, but I left the cinema feeling very pleasant. I remember your very touching performance in Bicentennial man as a robot that yearned to feel and be human regardless of the vulnerabilities and imperfections of the human world your character saw. And then there is ofcourse your Oscar winning performance in Good Will Hunting as an academic and a reluctant therapist that plays a significant role in shaping the life of a young man who was nothing more than a stranger to your character in the film. Long before that you were the very lovable all blue Genie in Disney's Aladin, for those of us who grew up in the 90's that will stay one of our favorite animated movies and your character one of our most loved ones. Your character wanted to Free, I hope you are free, free from pain, free from suffering and in a much better place.

I honestly would love to stay rest assured, the world will  change for the better, at this moment in time, I am not too optimistic about it. I do not see it happening in the near future as we are continuously preoccupied with desensitizing ourselves of emotion since it is seen as a sign of weakness. I honestly do not know, how many more people we are going to lose to depression, many do not even acknowledge it exists. One can just hope, patiently hope upon hope, for humanity has yet to lose hope completely, it's got the world spinning. Rest in Peace Robbin, you are leaving behind a void that will be very hard to fill.

Good Bye Robbin, the big bad world will hurt you no more

Good Bye Genie, your finally free.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We never learn, history and literature both fail us.

It seems we never learn, we as human beings even though we are the dominant species on the planet have a some what rigidity and resistance towards learning. At times I wonder if it is more rigidity towards learning or more our increased inclination towards selfish self serving pursuits in life? Is it a product of the changing world that we live in? Is it the product of limited resources that we all fight for as we embrace brutal survival-ism or is it that we have embarked on a journey of desensitizing ourselves from our human connection that is the making of who we are as human beings today. I am certain the moment of time that we are in, it is not the first instance in human civilization where human beings have started shedding human emotions by associating them with signs of weakness.

Lessons are all around us, yet we conveniently choose to overlook them or even give them the due attention that they deserve. The lessons on compassion, on empathy, on being human, on the bonds that bind us together and on what it means to be different. Be it cinema, be it theater, be it news media or be it popular literature. There are valuable lessons for life all around us, yet it seems those messages are striking blank walls. Such exposure, especially through reading has the power to change, so are people reading less or just ignoring the messages as they come?

Very recently on the suggestion of a friend, I managed to get myself a copy of French-Turkish writer Elif Shafak's much celebrated book 'Forty Rules of Love'. The title being a bit misleading, I decided to read comments and feedback by readers on Amazon before making the actual purchase of the book. Sometimes insight from fellow readers can provide what we might otherwise fail to grasp, might provide us with what we might be seeking out, even if we do not know off it.

The book reads kind of like a book within a book, there are two books, two stories simultaneously going on. The main back ground story is that off Ella, a suburban American housewife who has suspicions about her husband's infidelity from time to time. Upon nearing 40 feels that the essence of love is missing from her life as she initially made her marriage choice based on practicality instead of thinking too much on the idea of love. The second story within this book is about the bond and relationship between Maulana Rumi and his disciple the Shams of Tabriz, set in 12th or 13th Century Konya which is in modern day Turkey. How we come to the second story is that Ella has received a manuscript by a Scottish writer inspired by Sufism who has penned the story of Rumi and Shams.

Through out the book, we learn not only off Ella's struggles with domestic bliss and spouse infidelity, but also about the story of the bond that two extraordinary men had, and the very bond about the demise of Shams under very tragic circumstances. The two men, Shams and Maulana Rumi worked extensively to promote love, compassion, harmony and empathy for fellow human beings especially those labeled as heretics and outcasts in society such as a prostitute, the terminally ill beggar or the local drunkard. Yet there was no stopping the envy or hostility that Shams managed to attract towards himself. Some readers may feel, resentment towards Shams was out of envy, some may feel it was because he was different, some may feel that society was generally intolerant in that century.

 If he was the victim of being unique, it just makes it all the more tragic and the world that we live in today is not very different from one depicted from almost a 1000 years ago. We are still intolerant towards those that are different, we are still too quick to pass judgments and form opinions, we are still too quick to look for reasons to dislike other people, we are still too deeply consumed in envy and selfish pursuits. One can easily conclude, the world has not changed over the centuries, it is we as human beings who have failed to learn the lessons history has provided us, and the same lessons that literature tries to remind us off.

Are we really good and socially responsible friends? (Originally published April, 2011).

There is a question that has been on my mind for quite some time. That question has been what distinguishes our friends from our peers, and should we practice social responsibility towards our friends ? At times, there are many people who can not distinguish between their friends and peers, though the definition of friendship varies from how the world describes it, definitions of how we define our peers stay some what the same. I remember once picking up a sociology textbook that first year university students use for intro to the subject and came across a textbook definition of what a peer is. Based on that text book, our peers are defined some what as people we know, we get along with and people we socialize or interact with. Sounds like the definition of a 'friend', but surely friendship and friends carry a different meaning, otherwise the two words would not be in existence or would be merely used inter changeably.

Friendship in order to distinguish itself incorporates characteristics that differ from those we associate with our peers.  Friendship incorporates additional values such as empathy, honesty, mutual understanding (which is common with peers also), trust, positive reciprocity as well as an element of social responsibility. The social responsibility that I speak off comprises of only not only how socially responsible we are, towards our friends, but also how pro active we are in instilling  a sense of social responsibility in them, whether that social responsibility is towards other people they know, or the wider community at large. In other words, a socially responsible friend is one who is not only a good, reliable and responsible friend towards us on an individual level, but is also one that communicates a sense of socially responsible behavior in us. One might argue that as mature adults, many of us are capable of thinking independently on our own and be in a position to distinguish between right and wrong, and that we do not need our friends or peers or who ever to be telling us what to do and what not to do, what is right or what is not? These are some of the countless arguments that one can expect people to give.

To put it simply what I am really trying to say is that what distinguishes our friends from our peers is that they are not reluctant to re assure us when we are correct, yet at the same time neither are they reluctant to criticize us or condemn us when we are walking down the wrong path or following a set of behavior or actions that are questionable, socially irresponsible or even just down right wrong. It is human nature, that we through out the course of our life, especially during early adulthood, we want a sense of continuous assurance from people in our lives especially those whom we see as our friends, with regards to what our plans in life are, and what course of action we choose to follow.  We want people, who we see as our friends to unconditionally support us regardless or whether we are right or wrong and/or look the other way when we are doing something wrong. Though different people have different thresholds for criticism coming from others, when it comes from our friends, or when our friends tell us what we are doing is wrong has an entirely different effect on us. One possible reason for this could be a level of emotional connection that we have with them, a sort of memorandum of understanding that has been built over time. Has it ever occurred to us, that it is only our friends who will communicate this to us, if we are genuinely truly doing something wrong, while our peers would not even think twice about what we are or are not doing?

Why is it that we forget that is our friends and not our peers at the end of the day, who come to our aid in times of need, in times when we are at our worst, times when life turns it's back on us and not necessarily the people we socialize with. So why should be reluctant to listen to our friends when they are giving us genuine advise and most importantly why should we hold ourselves when our friends are doing something wrong. It is not uncommon that we over the years growing up, witness our friends do questionable things before us, even though it might cause us minor disappointment deep down inside, out of possible fear of repercussion or loss of acquaintance holds us back. How many of us have seen our friends cheat in final exams, break the law, bully, abuse, harass and carry out targeted discrimination towards others. How many times, have we seen our friends use and exploit others, how many times have we seen our friends mistreat others, how many times have we seen our friends become victims of drug and alcohol abuse? How many times have we seen one friend of ours mistreat and exploit another friend? How many times have our sense of favoritism amongst friends cloud our objectivity and social responsibility? Just How many times?

One of the most famous human rights activists of the 20th Century, the late Martin Luther King Jr who led the famous civil rights movement in the United States once said ' Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter'. If we look back and reflect on life, the frequency of us witnessing such events over our lives would be substantial. We should take this opportunity to reflect back on just how good of a friend have we been to our friends and how often have we been silent where we should say something