It may be a dream afraid of waking up, or it may be a dream coming to realization in the next morning.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Denial Prayers

"Ahmad is in love with a girl named Fatimah, and nothing he wishes that much other than marrying her. Sadly, the feelings are not mutual, though Fatimah keeps her friendly attitude toward the man. As the result, Ahmad's family is concerned over the fact that Ahmad is reaching his 30's but is still not married. Thus, Ahmad's parents set him up with a nice girl, Aishah. Though Aishah is a girl every man would dream of marrying, Ahmad knows that feelings can't be forced, and his heart is still loyal towards Fatimah. Until he becomes thoroughly devastated and hopeless over his unrequited love, he begins to consider the fact that he just has to marry Aishah and gets this over with. So, he says yes to his parents and Ahmad's family starts the wedding plan right away. In the midst of the planning, Ahmad's hope to be united with his love is up and down - and many of the times too he thinks that until he is actually married, he still has a chance to be with Fatimah. He prays and prays so Allah would make Fatimah has a change of heart and would actually love him in return..."

The story above is fictional.

My post here is nothing about wedding and love or anything related to this. This post poses a question I have been attempting to answer these past few days. At what point of time do your prayers are a  hope or a sign of denial? Though it has been confirmed that Ahmad would marry Aishah, Ahmad keeps his hopes up that anything could happen and Fatimah might actually fall in love with him. The thing is, my question is, Ahmad's prayers, are they hopeful or are they actually denial prayers?

We Muslims have been taught that Allah's power surpasses anything. He can control weathers, the earth, the flow of the life, and also human hearts. So, by this logic, praying that there is a chance Fatimah might accept Ahmad as long as there is time. Allah certainly has the power to change Fatimah's heart. But to judge by the standard of this realistic world, Ahmad is being in denial that Fatimah would not accept him, he keeps having the "fake hope" that anything might happen. So, again, the question is, when is it time to stop praying and start realizing that you need to move forward?

I don't have the answer to this and I hope some of you do. I am currently experiencing the similar situation like Ahmad's, except mine is related to my choices of universities for PhD. What I'm sure is, perhaps this wise heart will know for itself if it's time to stop praying and move on to what is available.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fairy Tales (Part 2)

In part 1, I talked about how fairy tales stand apart from other kinds of stories we call as fables or myths. Fairy tales have certain unique characteristics that enable them to possess the ability to guide children within their own imaginative capacity. In this part-2, again referencing to Bruno Bettelheim's "The Uses Of Enchantment," I will give an example of a popular fairy tale to show how it addresses a child's conflict in its own empathic way. The story below is written in my own language.

The Fisherman and the Jinny 

"Once upon a time, there was a fisherman in the sea. In the calm sea, he cast his net four times. The first cast gave him a dead donkey, the second a jar filled with sand and mud, and the third was just broken glasses. However, the fourth cast gave him something that he did not foresee finding - a copper jar that contained a huge Jinny. The Jinny was not friendly and kind. All he wanted to do if he was released was to kill the person who released him out of the anger of being trapped for so long. Trying to save his life, the fisherman thought how this beast could be defeated. The fisherman asked, "Oh Jinny, you are a big creature! Are you sure that you came from that very small copper jar?" The Jinny assured the fisherman that he was from there, leading the fisherman to challenge him to fit right back in. When the Jinny did so, the fisherman quickly capped the jar back and threw it to the sea where it belonged."

The fairy tale above tells the story between a huge beast and an ordinary man. Logically, a man with his strength would not be able to defeat a huge beast physically. But he instead used his wit and intelligence to outsmart the Jinny. At last, the Jinny was defeated by his own idiocy.

The fairy tale acknowledges the very fact that in every child's life, there will be a "beast" that he or she would want to get rid of. Be it the parents, a bully at school, a teacher, or anyone whose physical attribute would defeat the child's. The Jinny's desire to kill the person who releases him is not within the logical sense. In our world, the more a person is trapped, the more he or she is grateful when released - but this is not what happens in a child's mind if that child feels entrapped for a long time. What a child feels would be revenge and resentment because it takes someone too long to release him or her. When someone finally reaches out to him, he lashes out.

To a person who doesn't understand, this child will be treated as one who rebels and needs to be punished, but to a person who does will try to put him- or herself in the child's shoe and how egocentric and single-dimensional a child's mind is. As Bruno explained in his book, we cannot expect a child to be able to explain his feeling and say things like, "I'm angry because..." Even half the adult population cannot truly understand themselves why they are angry most of the time.

The fairy tale, if read to the child, can give him or her a sense of direction in imaginative form what and why he feels that way. The story can be empathic to the child's inner need and conflict. Not just this fairy tale, others like Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk all have their own purposes and certain conflicts that actually happen in a child's life. For you parents out there, start reading for your children fairy tales and let them run their imagination and fantasy.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fairy Tales (Part 1)

I already made a post about this book I am reading, "The Uses Of Enchantment." It is a book that talks about how important fairy tales are in children's life - because it is a means for them to seek meaning to their own existence. In this first part of 2-part post I am going to talk further about this point. I will talk about some of ground rules fairy tales need to be like in order to have the effects.

1) Because children's mental processing is very simplistic, fairy tales characters need to be one-dimensional. If one character is evil, then he or she needs to portray as an evil character throughout the whole story. This can give the children clearer choices of what they need to act and behave were they in the same situation.

2) Fairy tales sometimes have non-human characters that have human-like qualities like communicating and having desires. The author asserts that stories like "The Three Little Pigs," "Beauty And The Beast," and some others that have non-human characters acting like humans conform to how a child thinks, fantasizing, and imagining better than other kinds of stories.

3) One significant difference between a fairy tale and a fable or a myth is again the human qualities possessed by the characters. By "human," the author means it is not overmoralistic and heroic like the Gods in Greek myths, for example. Characters in a fairy tale is also presented with choices where one of the choices is always so more tempting and distracting from the main goal. They will think about it, and sometimes even act on it, but they quickly revert back to what brings them to the journey in the first place.

4) Traditional fairy tales are told verbally, unlike modern tales that use pictures and graphics to aid the storytelling. By only telling the stories verbally, children are left with their own imagination on how the stories go on. They can freely imagine how the characters look like and how they continue to walk on their journey. By using pictures to aid the storytelling, children's fantasies are restricted.

5) Fairy tales are not afraid to use extreme points of cases to be the integral part of the stories, and by this, the author means to use cases where supposedly only adults could comprehend - like a death of a loved ones, being lost, poverty, being adopted, an abusive parent, etc. The author believes whether or not the adults like to expose their children to the adult matters, children still face them everyday and they need a means to handle with them.

There are more characteristics and rules that make fairy tales as what they are. But these are some of the important points to note when talking about how fairy tales should be like. Modern stories are very light and only deal with limited conflicts that adults think children could only handle. But we must recognize that children also have conflicts and they need a guide as to how to manage them, and fairy tales can do that.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

You Can't Absolutely Know Until You Are There

Stanley Milgram shocked the world with his experiment that found that humans were actually easy to destroy a life - as long as they are put under confinement of an authority. Prior to conducting the experiment, Milgram asked a number of people, including ones who are familiar with the field of psychology, if they could go as far as killing someone if put under the pressure by the authority. Majority of them were confident that they would not, that they would have the capability to stand up for what is right and actually disobey the command of the authority. But the experiment yielded 65% as many people who actually "killed" another human being because the experimenter (who acted as the authority) asked them to do so.

I already talked about Milgram's study on destructive obedience, but one thing I would like to point out here is the study done before the actual obedience experiment - the survey. It is amazing how sure we are when asked about a hypothetical situation. This is called as Illusory Superiority. Illusory Superiority is a term coined to describe individuals who believe that they better than what is expected. They often overestimate their own performance, ability, skills, and sense of right and wrong. When Milgram asked the individuals if they could kill another person if asked by an authority and they largely said "no," while what really happened was 65% of them actually could, they exhibited Illusory Superiority.

Perhaps Illusory Superiority is related to empathic ability - not to another person, but to a hypothetical future. When we put our own selves in the hypothetical situation, we fail to really feel what we would feel in that situation, leading us to overestimate.

Lesson of the say is that we need to really consider several factors before making any rushed conclusion about what we would do in a hypothetical situation because this is beneficial in a number of ways. I also believe if you are careful when it comes to this issue, racism, prejudice, unexpected failure, and a lot of more could be prevented.