Microscope IIIc: Walking

Gravity is a funny thing. I’ve been listening to a lot of John Mayer recently. Particularly ‘Gravity’. The song itself is like butter – smooth, voluptuous, everything you want but not quite it. It’s not your lifelong treasure of destiny – not mine at least.

But what of gravity itself, not the song, but the concept. That unknown force that keeps us anchored to the ground. I hate gravity. To me, walking is the greatest act of defiance known to man – our ability to walk is our refusal to be weighed down to the ground. The ability to move forwards, backwards, left, and right is what precipitated running, what gave birth to flight. It is the essence of our humanity – to get up and walk.

As you can clearly see, the practice of walking is extremely personal to me – akin to prayer. If kneeling at church is to find your place in the universe, if standing at a temple is singing to the cosmos, then walking is to look for the answer. When you kneel, when you stand, you are a slave to gravity. When you walk, you’re a slave to nothing.

And today, I find myself walking far more than I ever have, probably more in the last 9 weeks than I have in the last 9 months. But do I feel any freer? Not really. I have never used walking to seek freedom, it has always been there.

I have used walking as a contemplative mechanism.

I have needed to find a lot of answers recently. Answers to questions I never thought I would have to ask. Questions about myself, my past, my present, my future. Sometimes, I have had to find the strength to go on, sometimes the quiet to stop my mind racing. None of it has been easy, walking has made it tolerable. One day, perhaps, I’ll get to tell you more about it.

So what are some of the more interesting walks I have been on recently? I could tell you about the time I walked back home from the temple from the last blog along the canals of Little Venice. I could tell you about the walk from my apartment on Wells Street to Regents Park, getting lost near the little waterfall, reminiscing about times past. And what about the numerous walks in Hyde Park? Getting lost in the trees, feeling so fragile in the open.

No.

Let me tell you about the simplest, strangest, and certainly calmest walk I take –

Every morning, after our daily team meeting, I take 15 minutes to walk from my office in America Square to the Starbucks down the street. It is not a glamorous walk, after all, the Tower of London is right around the corner. Perhaps it is the funnel created by the skyscrapers around me but there is a particular direction to the wind as I walk down the street – as if it cuts across me as opposed to into or behind me. I am usually halfway through Gravity at this point where the guitar gently takes over somehow making my head feel lighter. All the anxiety, all the worry, all the thinking from moments ago disappears as I enter the shop.

A friendly face at the counter, with an all too familiar name, welcomes me with a smile,

“Peach green tea lemonade, lite ice?” She asks me, knowingly.

I give her a half smile, a simple nod, and an empty look. I pay and walk to the corner.

I pick up my drink, I take a sip – paradoxically, the cool liquid envelops me like a warm hug. I take one step after another, out into the windy street, back to my office. I look up into the cloudy sky as Mayer croons, 

“Gravity, stay the Hell away from me.”

The thing is you can’t logic your way out of Iman. Gravity can push you down as much as it wants to but it is Iman that makes me look up into that cloudy sky and say,

One day at a time, one step at a time. You’ll get to where you want to go.

Not where I need to go, but where I want to go. Walking on a cloudy day to a Starbucks down the street is enough to remind me that I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. Because I have Iman.

Next Post Coming Tonight

My apologies for not posting in a while – I have been working on something rather big and perhaps I’ll tell you about it one day. Just know that it is important, and is filled with Iman. I will finally be taking a break this weekend but rest assured, my piece on Walking will be up before I leave tonight.

Stay tuned, dear reader.

Microscope IIIa: Kneeling

All Saints on Margaret Street was, up until a few weeks ago, just another charming and enchanted building I would walk past in London. It is a few feet away from my apartment, opposite a Buddhist Temple, with imposing towers adorned with the Cross. This should be reason enough to use it as shelter when a hurricane hits you. I remember the first time I walked into this old, stone building that looked as heavy as it was. Hallowed ground comes with it’s baggage – not a bad thing in this case.

Its ornate and gilded interior providing the perfect refuge for someone seeking divine intervention. It’s often typical to think of a higher power after an evidently PTSD inducing experience. I remember looking at the giant arch above me – Alpha and Omega adorning its opposing sides. It was 6:35pm on Wednesday, the 21st of June, a scorching day. My shirt was drenched in sweat, my eyes were red with tears. I’m not ashamed to admit it.

I interrupted the typical Low Mass ceremony that takes place at 6:30pm everyday except on Sundays (5:15pm). There were three other people standing in silence facing Father Alan Moses. He looked at me, and said sternly,

“Son, if you’re here to pray, kneel before the Lord, find a seat, and confess your sins.”

For the first time, in ages, I cannot even recall how long it’s been, I bent a knee.

There was a power to the act of kneeling, a foregoing of our human stiffness. Let me clarify something here, I am not saying that I am a born again Christian or a man of the cloth – as always I am respectful and in awe of all faiths, of the strength of belief, of the humility of giving yourself to something greater. I am in awe of Iman.

I rose and took a seat, the first seat on the third row to the right as Father Moses continued,

“May all those who truly repent be forgiven for their sins.”

A little while into Mass, we were all called to receive Communion – non-Baptized folk could receive a blessing. As you would suspect, I went up and asked for one – something I now do every day.

“May the Lord bless you and all the angels pray for you.”

I knelt back down, feeling the power of something greater than me. Perhaps it was a heightened state of emotional reception or perception, perhaps it was the hurricane, but in kneeling, for the slightest moment, I found a sliver of peace. 

I now go to All Saints every morning, and kneel in front of that gilded arch. I don’t say any prayer, I don’t recite any scripture, I just kneel and imagine a hand on my head –

“May the Lord bless you and all the angels pray for you.”

Amen.

Microscope II: Madness

Not a lot of people know that I originally started by writing poetry – perhaps it’s apparent in my writing, perhaps it’s not. A wonderful friend of my describes my writing as that of a poet. As such I thought I would share a poem I wrote on my way to work a couple of months ago.

The piece is called Madness. I would love to get your thoughts on it!

Madness

Love on a real train,
Like a tangerine dream,
Louis the fifteenth
Draped in moonlight sonata.
A bird in the air,
Flanked by fireflies,
Blanketed by the clouds.
Frenzied obsessions,
Built on untrue confessions,
Find the hidden meaning,
Hear the blind nun screaming,
Ready your swords,
Guitars playing power chords.
Madness is not taught,
Neither is it earned or bought,
Madness is inherited brilliance,
Gifts of generational passing,
Percolating without asking,
Trickling into your brain,
Permeating every fiber of your being,
Giving you sight without seeing,
Traveling a thousand miles a second,
Count from one to five,
And see it come alive.

Happy Monday, my friends.

P.S. – Amanda, this post was inspired by you!

Microscope I: Serenity in Chaos

These days, I find moments of serenity to be precious – they are very few and very far in between. Tonight, as I write this on the eve of my 24th birthday, I find myself sitting in my office, of all places. There is a cup of what can best be described as “utility” coffee next to me, and no one else around me. This is not the dark, cavernous coffeeshop, this is a fluorescent space, enough to make your head spin in a neon haze. Somehow, it is in this, very, very, non-functional, functioning office space, that I have found a moment of serenity.

Today, or rather, tonight, I want to turn the microscope onto work. My work.

There are two types of work places – the corporate jungle – built on rules, policies, regulation, and formality – and the wild west – where anything goes. They are both equally savage, equally consuming, and equally miraculous. I chose the wild west. Why? For many reasons – the opportunity to grow, to learn how to fight, to survive in an environment full of cowboys and Indians. It hasn’t been easy, constantly having to find ways in which to “deliver value”. I have often found myself backed into a corner, my weight has fluctuated more times than I can remember, my hairline has receded more inches than I care to count. But each time, every day that I was told that I was not adding value, was another day that I learnt something new. That’s the beauty of the wild west, you learn or you die. Best try and live a long life.

Then what about the corporate jungle, the place where trees grow tall, with green leaves, with plentiful rain. Where branches on vines are serpents, where fire ants roam the ground, where the treetops are so far above you, that they have forgotten what the ground looks like. What about that jungle? It is a space of great sadness, many bodies are buried there, many more skeletons in the closet. But it is a place of great opportunity. Those who climb those trees have the ability to shape the world. Those who hang from the vines learn how to survive, how to swing from branch to branch without falling. And those who fall, they have the memories of a beautiful view.

In both the wild west and the corporate jungle, the going is hard. You are forced to de-sensitize yourself from the world around, often to devastating effect. The long hours, the continuous pressure, the mind numbing tediousness. How can you not give up on your humanity? How can you not let the tracking of your productivity as the number of hours you bill not make you feel de-humanized?

I used to hate the long nights at this office. Despite it being on Baker Street, it had none of the charm you would expect. It was cold, it was quiet, it was barren. And it was frightfully apparent and ferociously potent. I would FaceTime from the office at night and dream about being on the other side. And somehow, tonight, I find serenity in this dead space.

“Abandon all hope ye who enter.”

Dante, you’re wrong.

As I sit here, on the desk that saw me gain almost 10 kilograms (that’s 20 pounds), the same desk that saw me lose 20 more kilograms (that’s 40 pounds), I remind myself what kept me strong throughout the cold. As the clock strikes midnight, and the 18th of July begins, I want to leave you with the thought keeps me going,

Work is not a reflection of you. Sometimes, you are a reflection of your work. But you, and only you, are a reflection of you.

So feel the sadness, feel the loneliness, feel the despair, feel the coldness, feel it all. Feel the happiness that you learnt something, feel the gladness of being with your team, feel it all. And remind yourself that this place, in the dead of the night, this place is the only place, other than where you are loved, that makes you engage with your humanity and makes you fight for it.

Now wipe your brow, be thankful to be human, and sweat the glorious sweat for there is serenity in this chaotic place. Have faith, have…Iman.

Happy birthday, V.