Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Words I Made Up — The Tenthquel




Ladies and Gents, I am happy to announce that after The Ninthquel, the Words I Made Up Series reached number 10. That is 100 new words and their definitions. Youppy. As mentioned before, I plan on gathering them in a book: a small thesaurus of novel words and their meanings for everyone to use. Until then, enjoy the following newborns. 
 

  • Melondrama (n): A sensational dramatic piece or play about round, sweet seeded fruits.

  • Nicoteen (n): An addictive chemical contained in tobacco exclusively used and abused by adolescents.

  • Asqueen (n) : The wife of an asking.

  • Approveal (n): The action of agreeing with or accepting eating the flesh of a calf.

  • Lavable (adj): Deserving love and affection but in a really hot, volcanic way.

  • Ukay (exclamation/adj/adv/n/v): The British version of ‘Okay’.

  • Introperverted (adj): To be shy and reserved regarding one’s abnormal sexual practices and tendencies.

  • Rum-on sentence (n): When the writer is exceedingly inebriated, they forget to use an appropriate conjunction or punctuation between two or more independent clauses.

  • Sinchronicity (n): A concept holding that immoral acts, which are considered to be a transgression against divine law, are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related.

  • Clitaurus (n): A book that lists words in groups of synonyms of, and concepts about, the female sex organ.


“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.”
― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World




 ALSO VIEW:


Words I Made Up

Words I Made Up — The Sequel

Words I Made Up — The Threequel

Words I Made Up — The Fourquel

Words I Made Up — The Fifthquel

Words I Made Up — The Sixquel  

Words I Made Up — The Seventhquel

Words I Made Up — The Eightquel

Words I Made Up — The Ninthquel
  
OLS REFLECTIONS — الطبعة العربية المرحة

OLS REFLECTIONS TRE — The Mildly Fun Ones

OLS REFLECTIONS SEIS — The Mollifyingly Fun Ones

OLS REFLECTIONS Девять — The Pacifyingly Fun Ones

OLS REFLECTIONS DODICI — The Appeasingly Fun Ones

OLS REFLECTIONS SIEBZEHN — The Peacefully Fun Ones

OLS REFLECTIONS VENTI — The Quiescently Fun Ones

OLS Reflections पच्चीस — The Soothingly Fun Ones

OLS REFLECTIONS — الطبعة العربية المرحة




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Saturday, 12 August 2017

Training a Gentle Giant





“When I look into the eyes of an animal I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.”
― A.D. Williams



Being a true dog person, I had never dealt closely with giant breeds until 2009 when I first met Shay, a female Saint Bernard who belonged to my then-girlfriend’s parents. She was 2 years old, weighed 140 pounds (63.5 Kg), and had a beautiful dense, shaggy white coat with the popular reddish brown patches. Since she wasn’t really used to leaving that Toronto house and garden, the first few times I was met with loud and wary barking.

When the following year I left everything behind in Egypt, took Caramella my Cocker Spaniel and moved to Canada, Shay and I slowly began developing a relationship. At start it was trips to nearby parks, either alone or with Caramella; other times also with my ex’s two King Charles Cavalier puppies who lived with Shay whom she gently treated. There is this cute, ridiculous difference in size between them, that I was often stopped in the streets for pictures and questions.

Five dogs on the loose” was a favourite thing to tell strangers which always made them chuckle; another was “They are taking me out for a walk.

Other than dog walkers, you don’t usually see many people walking around with a Saint Bernard
plus three more canines.

The main problem I was facing by walking that gentle giant is how to handle such immense force, especially when crossing path with other dogs or when being approached by people. She would pull me and starts her barking, and what a bark that is. No wonder neither the parents nor the girl knew how to deal with her outdoors — hence she was kept home all the time. Other than the occasional frowns I would get, I never enjoyed not being fully in control and decided to do something about it.

Remember that setting no rules does not work; neither for the dogs nor for the relationship between them and their masters. Dogs need rules as much as they need to know that you, the pack leader, is the one in charge. That’s how it works and not the other way round. Obviously, they also need to leave the house. Check Things I Wish All Dog Owners Would Understand for more tips.

 

Then one day, I was chatting with two older ladies in the street when Shay began distorting our conversation because she obviously didn’t feel at ease around any strangers. So they mentioned the Dog Whisperer, the well-known show by Cesar Millan, and how it could solve the problem. Later in the afternoon, a man at the park also told me how by watching this show his relationship with his previously-abused adopted dog has fully healed.

Taking those two encounters as a sign, I went straight home and, thanks to the sweet Internet, found all episodes — from season 1 to 8 — streamed online and ready to be watched. Like a rookie off the bench, I started with episode one from the first season.

Despite loving all dogs and finding some of the information to be quite useful, I never had trouble with average or smaller size dogs and I was always capable of smoothly connecting and commending them. That is probably the reason why I had never watched the show as I thought it wasn’t meant for those of us. This time, though, I was sincerely interested in solving my little dilemma with cute Shay.

Connecting with her as Toula watches — Haliburton 2012

The first thing I realised is that a more powerful collar was definitely needed, so we bought a metal one with pointy edges. A new leash was needed as well since the old soft one, or what was left from it, caused a great deal of damage to my hand every time I used it. They obviously weren’t doing the job in controlling that gentle giant doggo, which is the one and only way in dealing with such size and force. As mentioned, like any other dog she simply needed to know who the master was.

A second remarkably useful info I learned from Millan was how dogs sense our tension or fear. I honestly never gave it a lot of thoughts, but I always knew that dogs do sense human fear and was even told once that they smelled it. The truth apparently is that through the short leash, the dog feels the slightest pull or hesitation, which is automatically transferred to them and causes them to get agitated.

Looking back at how I handled her during our early walks, whenever there would be other dogs around, I would pull her a tad closer almost unconsciously and that’s when she sensed my tension and acted upon it. Dogs do sense our energies, and the vibration through the leash is one way for them to know how tensed or relaxed we are.

Hatted

Excluding the show’s useful tips and as I do with anything I’m interested in and want to know more about, I Googled Saint Bernard. And man was I fascinated by the findings...

This large breed of working dogs originates from the Italian and Swiss Alps where they were primarily bred for rescue by monks in the late 1700s. Their ancestors share a history with the Sennenhunds — also called Swiss Mountain Dogs or Swiss Cattle Dogs. These dogs are thought to be descendants of Molosser type dogs first brought into the Alps by the ancient Romans.

The monks used them to save travelers from snow storms and avalanches in the Alpine wilderness. Later, equipped with strong digging paws and a great sense of smell, they were trained to go out by themselves in packs of two or three and find victims on the Great Saint Bernard Pass between Italy and Switzerland. They would dig the survivors out, and if capable, they would lead them back to the hospice or monastery. If they couldn’t move, in a graceful display of intelligence, one of the St. Bernard would lay on their body for warmth while the other(s) would go get help. This is actually smarter than some humans I know.

Between the tough winters of 1816 to 1818, St. Bernards were about the brink of extinction as many dogs lost their lives in the snowy climate while performing rescues. By 1850, they were crossed with Newfoundlands brought from the Colony of Newfoundland in an attempt to save the remaining breed. Successfully, other efforts were later made by a group of enthusiasts in the UK to increase their numbers by crossing them with the English Mastiff.

Picked up from the kennel after a trip

The modern St. Bernard, which became the Swiss national dog, is quite different from that of the type bred by the monks. Over the years, the breed has got larger and heavier while still keeping the original character of that ancient proud history from which they originate.

The most famous and most remembered St. Bernard in history was Barry, who have reportedly saved between 40 and 100 lives during his life. Another celebrity was Beethoven who starred in the comedy movies by the same name. Then of course there is Shay.

Interestingly, I equally found out that the famed Brandy kegs worn around the dogs’ necks, often depicted in paintings and cartoons, and which were supposedly used to keep the found-victims warm is just a myth; its origin goes back to a 1920 painting from England titled Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler.

With Caramella and Shay while camping by Mazinaw Lake, Ontario — 2012
Poles Apart” at Haliburton, Ontario — 2012

Following my brief research I never looked at Shay the same again. She’s a descendant of rescue dogs who dug in the snow in extreme weather conditions and saved human lives. Along with the gentle and mutual affection I came to discover, this magnificent breed has truly gained my utmost respect.

Most naturally, a dog that size and with such heritage needed a healthy outlet for its energy, and getting physical to make her feel useful was the right thing to do. Armed with my newly-acquired knowledge, a new leash and a new collar, I started taking Shay out for training walks and sometimes for short power runs her first ever.

Our last photo together taken days before I leave Canada

A short while later and with more walks around the block and trips to the park, the tension disappeared, the barking diminished and my love for her increased. Eventually her and the other three dogs accompanied us to a couple of camping trips around Ontario. It truly was great seeing her run freely and be herself around the natural wilderness. She even fell into a frozen lake, probably because she never saw one before. Check the hilarity in the video below.

I vividly recall when she would lie on the ground right by my feet, charmingly roll on her back while looking me straight in the eyes and handing me her strong paw to hold in my hand. I can softly say that I became deeply attached to this gentle giant.


Our life is made of up of captured moments frozen in time. Shared feelings, smiles and
laughter, and time spent together become the memories that the heart and soul never forget

The Lion Queen - Halliburton, Canada 2012

After three full years in Canada, Caramella got sick (Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and I had no other option but to ease her pain. Seeing her suffer had a tremendous effect on me and relieving her was the conscious decision to take.

The following day after that fateful September morning, my then girlfriend and I took the other three dogs to Caramella’s favourite U of T park to celebrate her life. The canines could all sense the sadness and were acting extra sweet, especially Shay who was 6 years old by then. To me, though, healing only began to manifest after writing and publishing a 5,000-word piece about our story together: A Dieu Caramella.

Being comforted by Shay one day after the passing of Caramella at U of T


A short while later I left Toronto to the U.S, ending up in Venice Beach after some roaming around for several months. Three more years had passed and I was recently visiting Egypt when I met my ex who told me that Shay went on her next journey. She, too, got sick and had to be given that damn shot. I like to think that her and Caramella are keeping each other company in Doggy Heaven.

At the very end, change is the only constant in life. We need to accept it and move on in grateful remembrance. The whole experience of being surrounded by those dogs taught me what unconditional love is and what having a man’s best friend is really like. Now more than ever, I remain a believer in Alfred Lord Tennyson words, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”


May Their Souls Rest In Peace.

D-Pack parked outside of Starbucks in Toronto
The K9 Familia in 2012
My Facebook profile picture for three straight years
Shay the Gentle Giant



*Article originally published in 2012 on Conscious Life News


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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Caregiving For My 86-Year-Old Uncle




As some of you may know, I have been taking care of my ageing uncle whenever my aunt leaves to Egypt for short visits. They live in the Valley area and have been in the U.S since 1961. Mentally, the 86-year-old Dr. Toutou is completely fine and still quite sharp, it’s mainly one of his knees and some “water on the lungs” — known as fluid in the chest. As such, I leave Venice Beach and move in there for 10 days or even a couple of weeks; preparing breakfast, making dinner, and listening to his engaging stories.




Being in the area with nothing much to do, I end up writing a whole lot. Actually while here I have previously written several articles like the ants trilogy 1, 2, 3, which were inspired by the ants I observed in the garden.

I have also written about the stories I heard from Toutou like The Doctor Who Wittily Saved Two Lives in 1956 and the denser Between Shifting & Shattering Paradigms As I Cook Dinner — On Fast Food, Fluoride, and What ‘Work’ Really Is.

Others in Arabic are about his memories from 1950s-1960s Egypt such as (رحلة عبر التاريخ: واحة باريس). One more is Stop-n-Search That Hippy about a fun encounter with cops.

This year, however, the sweet man has lost his sense of taste (and smell). This is quite normal as the number of taste buds decreases while the rest begin to shrink after the age of 60. It has already happened to my dear mother and she’s coping with it. The man is also eating less portions. 



Speaking of which, I am now reminded by a friend who twenty years ago lived with his grandmother who had also lost her sense of smell; so smoking weed inside the house was pretty cool.


At first I tried a bit of psychology with Toutou, saying that he has known the taste of onions — which he adores — for 85 years, so whenever he eats onions he should envision what they taste like and the brain will do the rest.

Next came the cooking phase. A few hours after breakfast I go to his TV room and propose what I’ll be making that day. I feel like a waiter who must entice the customer with words and images to keep him captivated. To be honest, I cannot imagine how this loss may affect someone as sensual as myself. So I guess I’m trying to find ways to cope before it ever occurs to me.


Dinner is usually served with more allure as I explain how I cooked the meal and all the added ingredients. This is usually followed by him smiling while his eyes widen up. I wish him a Bon Appétit and let him indulge while watching his favourite channels.

During this time I go to the kitchen and do the dishes. 30 minutes later I go back to take the leftover and do more dishes and that is that for the night. Though he may have a small snack later, like a piece of pumpkin pie, some ice cream, or a just a 7-Up; he’s not too crazy about fruits, salad or nuts, which are my kind of snacks.

Since I already enjoy cooking and feeding others, I do it all with joy. A couple of times I was tempted to reduce the butter or salt in order to make the meal healthier — because he cannot taste — but I didn’t do it. In any way I cook healthily so there is no need to cheat.

Then again, an 86-year-old man, let alone a doctor who spent 60 years helping people, should do whatever he pleases. Even the occasional burger from Jack in the Box or those fried chickens I know he loves so much should be totally fine. These meals make him happy, then let him be happy.

Besides, he has always been relatively healthy, so eating fast food whenever he feels like it is not much of a big deal. Writing about this herein made decide that this is exactly what I will be doing today: I will go get him some fri... no, grilled chicken and something else on the side and that will be dinner.

Mission accomplished

Thing is, I have always enjoyed the company of older folks. In fact, these yearly visits also inspire me to write some of my philosophical reflections; one of which is: Make it a habit to spend time with people over 80 and kids below 10 every once in a while. Simply because you do learn a whole lot from them.

What is interesting is that whenever I’m back here I’m always reminded by this peculiar sense of satisfaction stemming from helping someone who can never repay you and without expecting anything in return. For someone who is unmarried, childless, and leads a somewhat solitary life, this experience adds me with a certain substance that I think I need in my life. Something to help me grow and to add to my humanness.



Shine On.



ALSO VIEW:


The Doctor Who Wittily Saved Two Lives in 1956

Between Shifting & Shattering Paradigms As I Cook Dinner — On Fast Food, Fluoride, and What ‘Work’ Really Is


Stop-n-Search That Hippy

Why Ants Carry Their Dead and Other Fascinating Facts

Ants Carry Other Live Ones As Means of Transportation: Further Evidence That They Must Be Communicating [Video]

Guiding Ants Out Of The Kitchen...Alive

A Letter That Hit Me In The Feels

Rooting Into The Past

For The Love Of Storytelling

My Correspondence With a 31-Year-Old Reader Before He Passed Away

 رحلة عبر التاريخ: واحة باريس
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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

OLS Reflections 50




  • Those who awaken something inside of us never leave us, even if we parted ways.

  • If one is seeking to lead a truthful life, some people’s lines must be crossed.

  • When someone tells you about something that is usually perceived as sad or tragic while they can still keep up their sense of humour, be certain that they have died inside many times over.

  • Whatever is to come, or not come, will always be a mystery. Do not worry or obsess about it. For what will be will be.

  • The shattered pieces I’ve let go of along the way are the reason why I have sharp edges.

  • A philosopher is he who acknowledges his own delusions and then finds joy in analysing them.

  • There is a certain level of stupidity beneath which the individual does not know they are stupid. In fact, some of them consider themselves to be somewhat intelligent who seem to always be so damn sure about everything. The next level consists of those who are smart enough to know they are not smart enough.

  • Illusion is a distorted form of perception. The biggest illusion of all is that your own perspective isn’t distorted.

  • Recent research in cognitive neuroscience has shown that the brain physiology is directly affected by our inner belief systems. The reason being is that all facts, ideas, and actions take the form of networks of neurons in our brain. While the left hemisphere is responsible for preserving the old model — the existing paradigm, our reality tunnel — the right one is constantly challenging the status quo. When the right hemisphere cannot convince the left one to change its views it ends up by causing narrow-mindedness, almost literally. In essence, it is our neural connections that physically define our belief system.



    The good news, however, is that through transformative learning and neuroplasticity we know that the wiring between those networks can indeed be altered. Once the long-held beliefs and values — reality tunnel — change, the mind opens up... again, almost literally.

  • You can’t state the obvious to someone who’s in an oblivious state.

 




  ALSO VIEW:


ALSO VIEW:

OLS REFLECTIONS

OLS REFLECTIONS Deux

OLS REFLECTIONS Vier

OLS REFLECTIONS Khamsa

OLS REFLECTIONS Yedi

OLS REFLECTIONS 八

OLS REFLCTIONS Ten

OLS REFLECTIONS Onze

OLS REFLECTIONS 13

OLS REFLECTIONS Quince

OLS REFLECTIONS Sixteen

OLS REFLECTIONS Dix-Huit

OLS REFLECTIONS تسعة عشر

OLS REFLECTIONS Veinte Uno

OLS REFLECTIONS 22

OLS REFLECTIONS Dreiundzwanzig

OLS REFLECTIONS Twenty-Four

OLS REFLECTIONS Vingt-Six

OLS REFLECTIONS Ventisette

OLS REFLECTIONS Veintinueve
 
OLS REFLECTIONS 30

OLS REFLECTIONS Ein Unddreißig

OLS REFLECTIONS  إثنان وثلاثون

OLS REFLECTIONS Thirty-Three

OLS REFLECTIONS Trentaquattro

OLS REFLECTIONS 37

OLS REFLECTIONS Trente-Neuf

OLS REFLECTIONS Forty  

OLS Reflections Einundvierzig

OLS Reflections — The Spiritual Edition 

OLS Reflections Cuarenta y Cuatro

OLS Reflections 45

OLS Reflections Quarantasette

OLS Reflections — The Unpublished Edition

OLS Reflections Forty-Nine
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Sunday, 30 July 2017

Random Stuff You May Not Know: Ten



After a brief hiatus, the Random Stuff series is back with number ten.

1. Gypsies’ is Short for Egyptians
Gypsies
/ˈjipsē/

Gypsy:

1. A member of a traveling people traditionally living by itinerant trade and fortune telling. Gypsies speak a language (Romany) that is related to Hindi and are believed to have originated in South Asia.

Synonyms: Romany, Rom, traveler, nomad, rover, roamer, wanderer.

2. A nomadic or free-spirited person.

The Romani (also spelled Romany; /ˈroʊməni/, /ˈrɒ-/), or Roma, are a traditionally nomadic ethnic group, living mostly in Europe and the Americas and originating from the northern regions of the Indian subcontinent, presumably from where the states Rajasthan, Haryana, and Punjab exist today. The Romani are widely known among English-speaking people by the exonym “Gypsies” (or “Gipsies”), which some people consider pejorative due to its connotations of illegality and irregularity.

What I just found out is that the origin of the name came from the time when they entered Europe between the eighth and tenth centuries C.E; they were called “Gypsies” because Europeans mistakenly believed they came from Egypt. Seriously!

Now I can confidently introduce myself as a gypsy.

On a parallel note, check this early piece of mine: Why Hippies Are Sometimes Called Bohemians.


2. New Orleans, Louisiana

Only a few weeks ago I came to know that New Orleans — La Nouvelle-Orléans — is not an actual state in the U.S but a city of Louisiana. The reason why I had always assumed it was a full state is because whenever asked, almost all the people I met from there say “I’m from New Orleans” rather than “I’m from Louisiana”.


I got curious to know more so I kept reading. Nicknamed the “Big Easy”, I also found out that it is known for its round-the-clock nightlife, vibrant live-music scene, and spicy, singular cuisine reflecting its history as a melting pot of French, African and American cultures.

New Orleans is equally known to be where the first American Mardi Gras took place on March 3, 1699 when French explorers celebrated it.

One day soon I would like to visit this charming place.


3.
Remnants of Prohibition


A couple of weeks ago I went to the nearby grocery store at around 5:30 am. I got what I needed, added a bottle of rosé wine, and headed to the cashier. The girl put the stuff in my bag but then said that there is no alcohol sale before 6 am (by California law).

“Are you serious?” I asked and she confirmed it. Since it was 5:50 by then and I was not about to drink it any time soon, I said screw it and left the bottle.

This got me scratching my head a little. Is there really a difference between 5:59 and 6:01 when it comes to regulating the public’s alcohol consumption? I mean, most pharmacies or “drugstores” and gas stations in the U.S sell booze and tobacco — the legal drugs. While at the same time there are states such as Alabama, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia where you cannot buy alcohol on Sundays. True story and it’s 2017. These regulations must be the reason why alcoholics across the nation are causing less mayhem and debauchery! Lives are saved!

This also makes one think about how the system of such a production-consumption culture essentially works and who really is in charge.


 

4. Rivet


Those tiny copper buttons we find on jeans are called rivets. They are there to prevent jeans from wearing out and ripping at the seam, making them last longer. Young Levi Strauss came up with the idea in 1829 when he noticed miners were complaining about how quickly their pants wore out. Rivets are actually patented by Levi.

The word originates from Middle English; from Old French; from river “fix, clinch”, of unknown ultimate origin.

Rivet
/ˈrɪvɪt/

1. Rivet (n) a. A short metal pin or bolt for holding together two plates of metal, its headless end being beaten out or pressed down when in place.

b. A rivet-like device for holding seams of clothing together.

2. Rivet (v): a. Join or fasten (plates of metal) with a rivet or rivets.

b. Fix (someone or something) so as to make them incapable of movement.

Synonyms: Fixed, rooted, frozen; unable to move, motionless, unmoving, immobile, stock-still, as still as a statue, as if turned to stone.

c. Attract and completely engross (someone).

Synonyms: Fascinated, engrossed, gripped, captivated, enthralled, intrigued, spellbound, rapt, mesmerised, transfixed.

Fascinating, gripping, engrossing, very interesting, very exciting, thrilling, absorbing, captivating, enthralling, intriguing, compelling, compulsive, spellbinding, mesmerizing, hypnotic, transfixing; (informal) unputdownable.

d. Direct (one’s eyes or attention) intently.

On a parallel note, the tiny pockets we also find on jeans are another invention of Levi Strauss; they were originally made for pocket watches. When they began being used for different purposes they were eventually also dubbed: Frontier pocket, condom pocket, coin pocket, match pocket, and ticket pocket.

And now you know.




5. Hustler, me?


I remember an ex who would occasionally tell me: “You’re not a hustler, you will never ‘fight’ for me.” And I always told her, “No I’m not and I won’t. There is no need to fight for anything; if it’s not happening, you cannot force it.”

Then some time later I found out the full meaning of ‘hustler’.

Hustler (n): An aggressively enterprising person; a go-getter, especially in selling and promoting business; a prostitute (uhu).

The word originated as a 19th-century slang, hustle “To have sexual intercourse”. Later in the same century it meant “To sell goods in an aggressive manner”. Then even later “To work as a prostitute”.

In the late 19th Century, the term hustler became slang for a ‘player’, ‘gambler’, which by the 1910s had become a pimp, which in turn by the 1920s then became a prostitute of either sex.

I do love to play but it is no wonder the word never sincerely appealed to me.






ALSO VIEW:


Random Stuff You May Not Know

Random Stuff You May Not Know: Two

Random Stuff You May Not Know: Three


Random Stuff You May Not Know: Four   

Random Stuff You May Not Know: Five

Random Stuff You May Not Know: Six

Random Stuff You May Not Know: Seven

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Friday, 21 July 2017

Choosing Art Over Corporate and Academia




I left Egypt to Toronto in September 2010 and had absolutely no idea what life would lead me to. After 10 years of exposure, I knew I had no real intention of rejoining the corporate race or the mental, emotional, or psychological toxicity it brought along. But with moving from the Old World to a different continent like North America it seemed that there wasn’t much of a choice. The following piece is about the different roads I had to first explore in order to reach where I am today; all of which have taught me one thing or the other, either about myself or about the world we live in.





The option facing almost all immigrants is to get a “Canadian Experience”, which for me sounded quite silly. Not because of the idea itself, but on a personal level and with the languages I speak and the experiences I have gained by the time I were 32, it didn’t seem right — or fair — to accept about any job just to get “my foot in the door”. If I was 20 or even 26 it might have been different, but honestly I wasn’t that desperate.


Yet at the time I was still trying to make it work, searching all over. So I decided to reach out to some of my connections. The two most notable people I wrote were Gamal Aziz, the President & CEO of MGM Hospitality who put me in touch with Ivan Goh, the Senior Vice-President of Four Seasons worldwide for many years who had later moved to MGM. Goh encouragingly ended one of his e-mails with: 


Good luck, immigrating to Canada for a new immigrant like yourself is challenging to get a fresh start but even more so in today’s economy but your luck will change sooner than later. Keep on pounding the pavement to knock on every hotel and you will find something.”


Through them I was kindly connected to the Regional Vice President & General Manager of the Four Seasons Yorkville, Dimitrios Zarikos. Interestingly, as I was searching for his name I came to find out that he is currently the Regional Vice President & General Manager of the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza, which is where I was working in 2005-2006. After some time I was set to meet someone for an interview at the Four Seasons Headquarters in Toronto. 



However, even with my VIP connections, that “foot at the door” catch-22 was a must. This meant that instead of the middle management level I had reached in Egypt I needed to take a somewhat lower post just because of the bureaucracy. It didn’t seem right, so I dropped the idea altogether. 



But in actual fact, even though I had an immigration lawyer, I never went on with the process. So paper-wise without a work permit, getting any job in Canada was actually a considerable dilemma. The option of marrying my then-girlfriend was looming on the horizon as it seemed like the smarter option. Nothing ultimately happened and I’m quite grateful for that.




After recanting the hospitality industry alternative, I began searching for myself — my true inner being. This self-realisation led me to writing and photography, which further became my life’s vocation. But then and there I was clueless of the outcome. I was just following that gut instinct and things just took off from there.


Around the same seeking time, I joined the School of Continuing Studies at the University of Toronto for a Creative Writing Certificate, which apart from training (Train The Trainer) at work, was the first time to be back to the class setting since graduating in 1999-2000. I ended up taking two courses, Copywriting and Logic, and befriended both teachers.

As I previously shared in From English as a Third Language to Author — How I Expanded My Vocabulary, those two classes were a major boost for my confidence and self-esteem. I had just come out of a seven-year hazy period of self-medication, so mingling again with people in such a setting was quite the invigorating experience.



At The University of Toronto in 2012

I also did some volunteer work for Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) — once standing in the street in front of major publications to give out handouts, while the other I was some kind of usher/security guard during a film screening. It was a great way to peel off some layers of the ego.

Since I already knew that I love digging and researching and finding truths, Academia then came to mind. Actually, a few people I met there in TO told me that I look like a scholar or professor, which probably cemented the possibility in my mind. A couple of years into writing I was still frequently asked by readers if academic writing is my field.

Besides, higher education was one legit way to legally stay and be able to “work” in Canada.



The reality, though, is that I was still in that phase when I felt the need to belong to an institution in order to show a certain legitimacy and to reach “success”. Who would blame me. After all, I grew up on that. My dad was a General Manager for Sheraton, and I began working for Hyatt then the Four Seasons, thinking that this is the natural evolution of things: The bigger the name, the fancier the job, position, and status. 

You alone are not enough.

As such, after seven years of steadily climbing up the ladder in hotels, I decided to leave it all to join another multinational Real Estate company. Those two years were followed by a last year in another multinational before I came to terms that the matrix is not for me. 



Then, I had to take a leap of faith — in myself — to be able to leave these vapid jobs which were sucking my soul, forcing me to lead that inimical, toxic life. The problem with fakery and inauthenticity is that they always require you to wear some kind of mask, to appease to society, culture, and family. To be honest, I was actually pretty good in pretending to give a fuck about that which I didn’t give a fuck about. Naturally, this self-deception — more colloquially, all his Bullshit — brought countless unhealthy drawbacks.

But what about me? I would ask. What about what I really want? Isn’t this my life after all? I was already approaching my mid-30s, almost “half my life”, and such questions were constantly being replayed in my mind. 

My loved ones at the time humorously called it a second wave of mid-life crisis succeeding the one at 27 when I chose to leave the hotel industry


Back to the academia option, the first person I thought to consult is a studious cousin of mine who had been a professor in Cambridge, England for almost ten years. She is only four years older, though in actual fact she’s the daughter of my same-generation cousin, Djenane. My dad being the youngest of 10 half-brothers and sisters, that’s how my paternal family goes. So I have been an ‘uncle’ since the day I was born. 



As mentioned, I knew I love knowledge and like to engage with others. I equally knew that I had the means — in terms of language and communication skills as well as presence. I was confident that I was capable of teaching. Finally, I wrote Shima from Toronto, asking her opinion.



The young woman was as truthful as she could be and she eloquently shared the following in our correspondence:



Being able to speak in front of an audience is a bonus, being able to engage them and actually enjoy it yourself is a competitive advantage. So, now in terms of content: I am a firm believer in doing what you love — that’s the only way of being able to do great things. This is particularly important in academia where the line between the personal and the professional are very blurred. Late night and weekend working is the norm and vacations are conferences are sometimes the only time off you’ll get. You live and breath your subject all day, every day. And students have the most incredibly ability to sense if you are not totally passionate about what you do and that gets reflected in the feedback.”

She carried on, “Working with a prof is very much an option. In fact most academics are desperate for help. Try to get paid as that is often possible but a lot of the times, academics have interesting projects that they have no funding for as they are too early stage or too new/novel that regular funding channels won't touch them. And these are usually the most exciting projects actually. Finding yourself a prof and a project that suits your interests as well as your personality could turn out to be your intellectual foundation for many years to come. By that i mean it could develop into a PhD and/or a research and writing relationship that lasts for years. You could apply for fund and get your first research job on the back of this project etc etc etc.

I was grateful for her encouraging input, which gave me a better outlook on the idea. 

I was also totally ready for the blurred line notion. From Confucius to Alan Watts to Mark Twain among other mammoth souls, work and play have been indeed thought to be the same thing under differing conditions. It is all in how we look at it. Are you forced to do it or do you find joy in doing it? This very perspective is la crème de la crème of the crop. 

Fortunately, when I chatted with another academic who happens to be a friend, they asked me if I would be fine with teaching the same subjects over and over again, class after class, year after year?



Hmm. I left corporate because for me it was monotonous; because there is not much novelty or creativity. Would teaching be monotonous as well? Coming from them, I took their question seriously. There was obviously a reason why they asked it. Either they couldn’t see me fit in the academia model, or they were naturally projecting an issue they had been facing. This got me thinking.

Fast-forwarding to seven years later when recently I posted the following engaging question on Facebook: Would you rather have less stuff to do in life or more stuff you actually enjoy doing? I deliberately didn’t use the word ‘work’ since it means differently to everyone. 



Shima was one of those who commented: “I am getting to an age where I want to do more of what I love and almost none of what I don’t. Collectively though, I’d like to do less and have space to sleep and reflect on the things I am doing instead of always doing.”



It seems that at a later stage in life she is now consciously seeking more peace of mind.




Then back again to this time of metamorphosis, the ideology that one needs to belong to and depend on an institution to “adopt and take care of you” was alive and well everywhere around me. Parents, family, friends, most ex-partners, my then-girlfriend and, last and least, her own parents. This is how you make it and become a respectable person. The mantra is summerised as follows: No one can survive alone because you are not enough.

The common shared idea is to be “working” within a certain system that you are not in control of. That is just the old model that is being preserved by the brain’s left hemisphere. You are just a replaceable brick in the wall. Then in your mid-50s or even younger, they have every right to tell you one morning: Thank you for your effort, time to go home. More so in corporate than academia. When through my short life I saw how devastating this feeling of being discarded by that same organisation you gave all your life to is on a few people, I only knew one thing: I never wanted to end up in their shoes. Ever. 



I had already experimented with the corporate world for ten years, while for academe, well, I was aware of quite a few truths.


First, I knew that if I did become a faculty member it means going back to certain “rules and regulations”; to tenure, routine, structures, political correctness, some exhausted ideologies, ego issues, assignments, exams, deadlines, conformity, competition, and certainly some lack of real-world experience. I have spoken with many professors in my life, and as much as I often communicate well with most of them, there is a bit of an overall cluelessness about real life. Once one becomes a specialist in a certain field they tend to forget about all other fields of life. This is not to say that every scholar is lacking experience, but I personally didn’t see this for my future self. This is even worse in corporate. 

Further, even though you can intrinsically love your line of work, but doing the same thing, over and over again, year after year, eventually becomes dull. Routine can be lethal; and it is through change, novelty, adventure, and some uncertainty that us humans remain captivated by keeping the magic alive. This is how we grow through life.

I equally knew that such scholastic life has the potential of isolating me from experimentalism. Being constricted in such a way — again — was not an option. All the patterns throughout that decade were enough to show me that I was through. I knew I needed more freedom as I knew I have had enough of systems in general. From now on, I shall do what I want. 

“Rats” by Steve Cutts

On a parallel note, when you come to think about it, people who haven’t had enough life experience tend to compensate by hiding in books. Those book-smarts can be intelligent and educated, but the intellect is not enough to lead a full, happy life, at least how I envision it.

Conversely, having experience — being street-smart — gives you situational awareness; the wisdom and the needed skills to survive in the real world, rather than following more abstract knowledge which is largely based on the experiences of others.

Sometimes, though, one kind of ‘intelligence’ can induce the other and a certain balance is manifested. Being “world-smart” as well as “word-smart” would then lead to astounding achievements.  


Generally speaking, another thing to consider when pondering the topic of today’s education is that education does not equal intelligence. Repeating what we are told to repeat and being tested on it is not the best way to learn. As I came to reckon, nothing worth knowing can be taught. Or as Isaac Asimov expressed, “Self-education is the only kind of education there is”. Indeed, how can we love learning if someone is telling us what to learn? We can’t. How can we see beauty in growing through learning if we are forced to? We don’t. 



If you take notice, taught material rarely ever stays in our minds and almost always evaporates after exam time. And that’s a major flaw in today’s education system; most of what the youth are taught is not designed to be useful or practical for the rest of their lives. What to think is more important than how to do it when the very opposite should be true. 



This kind of enforced learning is limiting as it is disempowering, because you only get to learn what you have been taught. Just repeated, recycled information which someone thought is a good idea that you — a student — should memorise. But there is so much more to learning and it should be fun before anything. Echoing with a quote by Ludwig von Mises that serves as a reminder of why education should not be confused with intelligence: “Many who are self-taught far excel the doctors, masters, and bachelors of the most renowned universities.”


All that said, eventually I chose uncertainty with a chance of happiness over certainty with guaranteed unhappiness. I chose non-affiliation. I embraced arts in all its forms and become my own independent researcher. I write about whatever engages me without having to worry about guidelines or political correctness or some patriarchal institution. Thank you very much. I can keep learning and develop my intellect all by myself. Also, most knowledge is now free on the Internet. 

Speaking of affiliation, a publisher who actually paid me for two well-researched pieces told me once: “You write for an intelligent audience. This is not what the masses want. The goal is to create fear. “WOW WE’RE FUCKED!” (using better words). The doom and gloom. End of the world. Make them feel that.

They also wrote: “This may sound counter intuitive, but we need to make this mid level or low. We’re not looking for readers who want to learn anything, we want the same people that visit tabloid magazine sites. 

Reduce the research, reduce the references (it’s not even necessary), just make the article sound and have the affect I’m looking for. Here you have to SOUND like you know what you’re talking about inside out. This is different from actually knowing what you’re talking about inside out. Just sound like it. Sound like a professor teaching a bunch of students. 

A different time they said: Try to write on topics people love to read about. Hollywood gossip and music videos are excellent places to start.” Uhm... say what?

 Wrong address, man. I will not sell my credibility for some dollars. I never will and that is to stay.  



Another publisher wanted me to use clickbait titles for my pieces. Stuff like “12 Ways Your Mind Lies to You.” or “How to Reclaim Your Anxious Mind Through These 8 Tips.” I obviously refused, because it felt I am addressing school children. After a period of introspection I finally had to sent them the following:


Educating the readers and letting them connect the dots about themselves and their lives is not useless. This is what psychology is all about; it teaches you about yourself and about others, which empowers you because you come to KNOW yourself.

I wanted to share my views with you earlier when you had mentioned the titles some time ago. The link you sent me was full of clickbait titles which do not suit what I usually write about. In fact, they are too mainstream, too sensational. If you read left and right on the Internet, you
ll find that a large portion of these articles are reworded, re-edited, and paraphrased from earlier articles found on different publications; many of which are New-agey/Astrology, ‘Spirit Science’ kind of stuff.

Perhaps because my writing often entails psychology, philosophy, and research, there is a certain level of intellectual endeavour which I cannot seem to be able to go beneath.”



Ultimately, I stopped contributing to both publications. Now I freely write whatever I please in my own One Lucky Soul. Actually, now other publications often share my writings from there, usually with my approval. I’m not getting much payment though, because I’m not trying to please someone else. But I am certainly free and happy and I know that this way I’m doing my true will.

Once again, just like what I previously wrote doesn’t concern all scholars, this also does not concern all publishers. Only that this had been my own experience with those I have dealt with. 

“Matrix” by Zackary

The final nail in the coffin during those fateful times of change came in the most unlikely way: Spending 5-6 nights at the Don Jail in Toronto for an alleged DUI.

My then girlfriend was out of town and I was all alone in Canada yet her parents chose to not bail me out, despite sharing a family. So they knew my parents well and were aware that I left all the comfort and abundance I had in Egypt in hope of a newer life with their daughter, which they themselves had previously encouraged. But then as soon as something so casual happened, they just sold me out and forbade the girl to see me. The heartless father even waited till after the weekend to go to court and watch me on video from an adjacent room while the judge was explaining what I should be doing.

“He doesn’t look remorseful,” that smarmy asshat later told his daughter. Perhaps he expected to see me cry my eyes out and beg the judge... just because I was driving with half a drink above the legal.

After six full days of incarceration in a real jail such a The Don, my ex-brother in law had to fly all the way from New York just to come pay my bail.

Note that, out of decency, I had previously chosen not to mention my ex’s parents and what they did — writing that they were also out of town which is nothing but a flat lie. So this is the first time I publicly come clean with the full story which, minus that specific part, can be found on here: Banged Up Abroad — My Few Days @ The Don Jail.


Gratefully, however, the experience ended up being an enlightening turning point in my life. For it reminded of more things I did not want. It also convinced me even more that I should pursue art as a vocation while at the same time teaching me a whole lot about myself, human nature, and how people can be infected with fear. After all, we do learn by means of opposites.


Now, to hold such a radical life view against all the surrounding mainstream, you cannot help but feel slightly alienated. The feeling of being different is certainly challenging and not always easy to deal with. Because you don’t feel you belong to the same reality tunnel as the majority, leading you to withdraw from that frivolous race they seem so embroiled in. Using Robert Anton Wilson words in Promethius Rising, “In our terminology, they are mechanically hooked to their original imprints.

More questions invaded my transfigured mind: Is it me or them? Am I the loony one who sees the absurdity and uselessness of wasting your life away, doing things you don’t have passion for, or everyone else is? 

Then came the sobering realisation that in today’s world, any conscious, aware lifestyle change to that which isn’t related to the production-consumption culture, which is built upon the notions of acquisitiveness and possessiveness, will always be followed by a hullabaloo.

Nevertheless, when down deep inside you know what is best for you, you come to gain the needed courage that empowers you to keep going against the current and disregard the hullabaloo. Knowing that you’re not the only one to do so is an inspiration as it is a relief.



Another realisation that came along was that everyone creates his own reality. When you delve deeper into the inner reaches of such a statement you will find how utterly true it is. Whether you look at it from the point of view of physics, biology, metaphysics, or spiritually, it will blow your mind away — almost literally.

After going through everything else, the very last challenge to overcome was how to make it work logistically. If I don’t work for some institution or the other, I won’t be getting a monthly pay check. Then again, that pay check is another addiction, at least for the majority of people.

Besides, many of my previous pay checks were fully spent on getting high, yet I did survive. So without the highs, I ought to survive as well, no? Even better than just survive. If I was getting promoted and life was still flowing when I was wearing a mask, then without the mask and with much more health and truthfulness, life should flow even better. That was my own inner mantra when I took the final step of choosing independence and getting into the Arts. And Life has been getting
notoriously better ever since.


A friend and I were recently having a related chit-chat when she said that she needs $4000 a month to be able to live in L.A where I ended up after Egypt and Canada.

I told her that does not NEED that much, she just conditioned herself that she does. “Do you want to know how much I spend?” I asked. 



But you simplified your life,” she responded defensively. 



Yes I did, which means anyone can if they really want to.”

This simplification catalised enough freedom needed to research and write about any topic I wish without having to wait for funding or for approval from an editor or publisher. It may not be the easiest way, but we’re not here to lead an easy existence — for that is a waste of life and potential. Rather, we’re here to lead a life that is worthwhile; one that is full of purpose, meaning, and growth.

Another mantra that developed later is: Screw your social ladder; I choose to levitate.


In summation, part of the experience of growing up and facing the real world I happened to go through corporate employment, drug addiction, relocating several times, and yes, jail, before finding my true calling. By then, I was being slowly but surely introduced to more things — and people — I did not want in this life. Until I followed my heart and found my Meraki, those were all significant steps towards what my soul is inherently yearning for. And as you can see, that’s precisely what transpired.

Dear ones, by looking back at this eventful dérive I’d like to suggest not to be in a hurry to try to uncover all the answers. Instead, cherish the different possibilities and probabilities. When the time comes, and when you are ready, what you need to know will reveal itself to you... one after the other. Just flow with the natural, cosmic order of things with clear intents and everything shall be adjusted.

Lastly, whatever is to come, or not come, will always be a mystery. Do not worry or obsess about the future. The past is already gone and the future will always be “the future”. For what will be will be. The Here and Now is all that matters.

Be true to your inner self. Do what you love. And believe you can inspire others as you share it. The universe will somehow deal with the rest.
 


Artification Happy Nation on Abbot Kinney by #sart9


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