On right and wrong

 

This species of ours is obsessed with labeling every single aspect of our lives with two words; right and wrong.

We talk, act, think, preach, judge and even breathe based on what we perceive to be right and wrong. We categorize what is “right” as something that will supposedly end well and what is “wrong” as something that will bring remorse and pain.

Every single day, we say and hear phrases like “That was the right thing to do,” “But that’s not right,” and “The right decision is…”

We are obsessed with labeling and categorizing every aspect of our lives, and the lives of others as well, with virtual signs that blink the words “right” or “wrong”, hoping that it will make it easier for us to distinguish our heads from our feet.

In this light, please allow me to ask you a question.

Did it ever cross your mind that this “habit” is just an easy way out of actually making the effort to think and decide for yourself if something is indeed “right” or “wrong”?

Well, I thought about it and I have come up with a different theory; a different ideology and credo that I personally follow.

There is no such thing as right and wrong.

Yep.

In actuality, things just are. Decisions, actions, habits, thoughts, beliefs, and the list goes on and on.

All of the above, every single aspect of our individual lives, just is, and every single aspect of our individual lives has its pros and cons. In its entirety and as a general rule, there are good sides and bad sides to simply everything! There is something “right” and something “wrong” about everything!

There are decisions and there are consequences; good and bad.

There are choices and there are aftereffects, good and bad.

There are actions and there are reactions, good and bad.

And that is the only rule that truly makes any kind of sense.

Even “bad” habits fall under this category. Off the top of my head, we are taught that biting your nails, for example, is a bad habit. If you were to apply the “just is” rule on this habit, you will reach a conclusion along the following lines (or at least that is what my head could fathom):

Indeed, biting your nails has its unhealthy outcomes; be them ugly-looking fingers or infections, etc. But isn’t the time spent biting your nails satisfying? Doesn’t it answer to an urge or a need for you to do it and, thus, put your mind at ease at a time of stress or thoughtfulness or whatever it is that triggers that habit in a person?

Another example off the top of my head is sleeping late, for instance. Yes, indeed, sleeping late leaves you sleep deprived and feeling cranky in the morning. But look at the other side of the coin; didn’t you enjoy the time you spent awake till the wee hours of the night? Wasn’t the reason you stayed up late a good one, at least for you?

Looking on the other side of the matter; take eating healthy as an example. Yes, indeed, eating healthy is good for you! But, in making that decision – to eat healthy – aren’t you depriving yourself of ever tasting the not-so-healthy food that you love?

Decision. Consequence.

Choice. Aftereffect.

Action. Reaction.

That’s all it boils down to. That’s all there really is.

Making choices and decisions based on what is perceived to be right and wrong just isn’t… well, for lack of a better word; right! It’s not fair to you because, simply put, in labeling an issue as right or wrong, you are depriving yourself of the idea that the matter actually requires thought and blinding yourself to the plethora of options that are really out there, but shielded from your sight because of preconceived notions that don’t necessarily make sense.

There are no rights and wrongs. There are decisions and consequences. Choices and aftereffects. Actions and reactions.

All you have to do is think.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Deviant Love Stories in History

In this fast-paced age of globalization, internet and transparency, we still find ourselves longing for old-fashioned love that exudes romance, passion and unconditional devotion. During the course of our busy daily lives, we look out for a perfect partner who will love us for who we are and who will prove to us that ‘true love’ indeed does exist. We refer to legendary love stories in history and in the lives of celebrities and interpret them into what each of us defines as the ‘perfect relationship’. But is there such a thing as true love? Does the term ‘perfect couple’ actually have a definition? Are the stories we read about and hear, be them from history books or from tabloids, really as perfect as they seem?

Every single love story has a twist and every legendary love story in history has hidden facts that are distorted by the media because, frankly, the true stories are not the ones that sell. So, here are some deviant love stories in history with no emitted or beautified parts.

Love from infidelity – John Lennon and Yoko Ono

John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s love story is one that is sworn by and yearned for by many. It is believed that the couple shared an unmatched love connection and were among the legendary couples of history. But the part that people have wilfully forgotten about is that, at the time John Lennon and Yoko Ono met, John Lennon was married to Cynthia Powell who is also the mother of his first son; Julian Lennon. In May 1968, Cynthia Powell was in Greece on holiday and John Lennon decided to invite Yoko Ono, who is seven years older than him, to his home where she spent the night. Cynthia Powell returned home to find John Lennon in Cynthia’s bathrobe, sipping tea with Ono. Lennon reacted with a simple, “Oh, Hi!” and Cynthia filed for divorce later that year when news of Yoko Ono’s pregnancy spread.

Five years later, John Lennon and Yoko Ono separated and Lennon took their assistant; May Pang, as a companion for a couple of years before reuniting with Yoko Ono in 1975. This time the relationship lasted until John Lennon was killed in 1980.

Love that created a legend – Om Kalthoum and Ahmed Rami

During her days, Om Kolthoum was capable of emptying the streets of the city on the night of her performance better than a football match between Ahly and Zamalik does today. Needing no introduction, simply no one in this country or in the Middle East as a whole is unfamiliar with at least a few of Om Kolthoum’s magnificent love ballads. But little does anybody know that these world renowned love ballads are the products of true love.

Ahmed Rami; the poet who wrote 137 of the 283 astounding songs that were sung by Om Kolthoum, was helplessly in love with her. The songs he wrote, literally, for her include Hayyart Qalbi, Raq El Habib, Awwedt Eini and Dalili Ehtar. For more than 50 years, Ahmed Rami expressed his love for Om Kolthoum through his poetry and Om Kolthoum, out of love for her music, refused to return Ahmed Rami’s love, fearing that in quenching his thirst for her, he would run dry of words to write.

Ahmed Rami is quoted to say of Om Kolthoum: “My poetry expressed longing and that longing, in her throat, became the country’s. Her voice caressed rage and pain, nostalgia for a world still to come, and which failed to come. Both of us. We reached our hands out to infinity to close them around pure desire, an empty core. Perhaps art is nothing more than the trace left by this absurd endeavor, certain to fail.”

The forbidden affair – Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

Taylor and Burton’s romance began while they were filming Cleopatra in 1961. The fantasy love affair they were portraying in front of the cameras wove itself into reality and the famous love affair began. Both, Taylor and Burton, were married at the time and their affair had its negative effects on their personal and professional lives. Burton ended his marriage to Sybil Williams, Taylor divorced Eddie Fisher, and the couple married only nine days after Taylor’s divorce was finalized. The union devastated the separated couples (Fisher and Williams) and was met with disapproval from fans, but the intensity of their passion was undeniable.

To manifest his love, Burton had the famous Bulgari 33.19-carat Asscher-cut Krupp diamond made into a pendant for Taylor and it is said that she wears it to this very day.

But Taylor and Burton were the kind of couple that couldn’t live with, or without, each other. The couple divorced in 1974, only to remarry the following year. Their second marriage ended in 1976.

Infidelity and sacrifice – Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine Tascher

Before Napoleon and Josephine met, she was married to Alexandre Francois and had two children before he met his fate at the guillotine after the French revolution. In order to support her children, Josephine became the mistress of men with power, among of which were Napoleon. They became lovers for a year and were passionately in love when Napoleon proposed. It is said that Josephine was hesitant to accept at first, but they finally united and his wedding present to her was a gold medallion with the engraving ‘To Destiny’.

Shortly after they were wed, Napoleon left to command the French army near Italy and begged Josephine to join him, but she refused. Upon his return, he was confronted by her brother with the fact that Josephine had been unfaithful. Consequently, over the years Napoleon had a series of infidelities of his own, all the time believing that he was the reason why Josephine and himself could not have children. This was proven wrong when one of his mistresses gave birth to his son and it was then that he began contemplating the need for an heir.

After 13 years of marriage, Napoleon let Josephine know that, in interest of France, he must divorce her and find another wife who can give him an heir. Josephine cried and collapsed but, out of love for Napoleon, agreed and the divorce ceremony was held.

So, in this fast-paced age of globalization, internet and transparency, has our perception of true love been distorted? Has the fact that we spend so much time online, and consequently away from reality and other people, deformed our definition of what love really is? We have lost our grip on reality and we fantasize about relationships that are ‘picture-perfect’ and as far away from the real thing as can be. James Blunt says in his song ‘She will be loved’: It’s not always rainbows and butterflies. It’s compromise that moves us along. Have we forgotten that a successful romantic relationship is a set of compromises and sacrifices? That, in order for a relationship to succeed, there has to sharing, communication and, occasionally, rainbows and butterflies?

We have allowed ourselves to drift into a sleepless dream and we have stopped aspiring for true love. Perhaps this is why divorce rates around the world have risen to the current terrifying figures; because we settle for what we do not deserve since we don’t really take that into consideration. We just grab whatever comes our way and make believe that it’s the real thing.

Quoting a friend of mine; Shahd Allam, I end this piece. Shahd says “Great love does not come handed to us by a delivery guy who looks like cupid. We all need to put in the effort in order to create beautiful, worthy-of-storytelling love.”

Touché!

Polygamy: Is it really that bad?

The word “polygamy” is reacted to diversely between the two genders. Women mostly see it as an insult and as abuse to their naturally weaker physical status. Men see it as a God-given right that strengthens their – wrongly understood – stronger physical status. Polygamy is the practice or condition of having more than one spouse, usually a wife, at one time and, in this article, we will scratch the surface of this sensitive topic and leave the judgement of whether it is a good or a bad practice to you.

Many people think polygamy was introduced by Islam, but that is a misconception. Polygamy has been present for ages and many prophets had multiple wives simultaneously throughout their lifetimes. The controversy here is that Islam is the only religion that mentions polygamy in the Quran, putting rules to it and organizing it in a manner that human nature can abide by.

Some of the basic rules laid down by Islam for polygamy are:

  • Treating the spouses equally in all aspects, such as finances, spending time, affection, etc.
  • Notifying the spouses of the presence of another wife
  • Giving the first wife the freedom to choose between accepting sharing her man or separation
  • Publicly announcing the marriages and not keeping them in the dark

Without indulging into the reasons Islamic scholars believe are behind the presence of polygamy in Islam, let’s take a look at how some men and women justify male polygamy:

HE SAYS:

  • It is the nature of men that they are more sexually active than women so, instead of committing adultery, they prefer polygamy
  • The ratio of men to women is heavier on the men side so, in order to give more women a shot at marriage, men practice polygamy
  • Having kids, whether the first wife is unable to or whether the man merely wants more kids and does not want to burden the first wife with their responsibilities
  • Out of sympathy for women who cannot financially support themselves

SHE SAYS:

* Women who cannot completely satisfy their husbands’ sexual appetites may accept sharing him with another woman
* After passing a certain age, which varies drastically between women based on their beliefs, a woman may accept sharing a spouse with another woman
* Once again, if a woman is unable to have children, she may allow her husband to remarry

Of course these are not the only reasons for polygamy, but merely the most common ones.

The problem with polygamy does not lie in its presence or legitimacy. The problem with polygamy is in the manipulation of this legitimacy to satisfy one’s own selfish desires. Humans are not created without flaws, on the contrary; it is our flaws that make us human. In this case, the selfish pursuit of more than one sexual partner, for instance, can motivate a man to misuse his right to have multiple wives. A woman can also find it more beneficial for her to share her husband with another woman, perhaps for some twisted reason in her mind.

As Muslim women, we cannot forbid marital polygamy as it is ‘halal’ in our religion. But what most of us are unaware of is that Islam gives a woman the right to accept or reject sharing her man, meaning that a man is obliged to tell his wife he wishes to remarry and must divorce her if this is her wish.

What baffles me though is the fact that men choose to twist this right to their benefit and practice it in the dark, leading a double life filled with secrets and lies. To those men, I ask this; would you hide the fact that you prayed? That you fasted in Ramadan? That you helped less fortunate people? Then why hide something that is perfectly within your rights as a Muslim man? And why force a woman to share your bed when she simply does not want to? Here lies the explanation to the phrase “the wrongly understood stronger physical status of men” in the first paragraph of this article.

According to statistics, only 14,000 men out of the entire Egyptian population practice polygamy, but does this figure include the men who did not legally register their second marriages? And, if not, how many of them are there?

Is it fair for men to manipulate their legitimate rights to satisfy their desires? Why not stand up to those desires and answer to them the way they are supposed to be answered to; without degrading women and insulting them by not giving them a say in their own personal lives? Why assume that your wife will not accept the situation? And even if you, as a husband, are positive she will refuse it, why force it upon her?

How would you, as a man, feel if it was the other way round?

The Myths and Realities of Sexual Health

“We all know sex sells and the whole world is buying.” – Scott Stapp (Creed)

Sex is by far the most controversial topic ever discussed by human beings, if ever discussed at all. We all know about sex; bits and pieces that we stumble on as we find our ways through life. But, we never really talk about it and, more importantly, we are never educated about it. Sex is a myth, a series of conceptions that cling to our minds from our accumulated exposures to different media messages. What we generally know about sex is completely selective and not solid or evidence-based. Consequently, we have no idea what the definition of ‘Sexually Healthy’ is, if we know such a term exists in the first place.

Sex is vital for good health. It is definitely good for us and the reasons for that are countless and need an article on their own. But how do we define sexual health? What are the criteria upon which such a term is based? How can a person say, “I am a sexually healthy individual”? And can a person who is not sexually active be sexually healthy?

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes health as the state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction and infirmity. Therefore, sexual health requires a positive, respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights and needs of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled in a monogamous relationship. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviors, practices, roles and relationships.

Human beings respond to sexual stimulation as early as infancy, but at birth, we respond to sexual stimulation based solely on instinct. If we feel safe and our basic material needs are met, we will most likely respond to sexual stimuli very easily. This is perhaps why the simple acts of nursing and exposing the genitals to air result in sexual arousal in infants, and perhaps that explains why babies are happier when they are naked. In the pre-pubertal phase, orgasm is controlled more by physical stimuli than mental thought processes and it is a simple physical reflex response.

At puberty, we are probably taught how to “appropriately” respond to sexual stimulation. We perhaps know that any sexual response is bad and we are so isolated from our physical sexual selves that we are not even aware of it when we are sexually aroused, and this is truer of girls than boys. A major misconception that results from that is perceiving sexual arousal as “being in love.” We are incapable of separating between the two and refuse to believe that we can feel sexually attracted to a person we have no intimate feelings towards. A perfect example of that is how both, men and women, find certain celebrities attractive. Take Brad Pitt as an example; he is worshiped by woman from the four corners of the globe but, how many of these women can actually say that they love him? And those who do are basing that emotion on their conception of who he is simply because there is no way they could know him in person and fall in love with his true character. So basically, what they are feeling is physical attraction towards his good looks and charismatic movie roles.

A sexually healthy person, male or female, feels desire, experiences stimulation and arousal and responds to them. The myth that males are naturally more sexually active than women is untrue. Men and women are born the same in that regard, but what makes a man more sexually open than a woman is the way he was raised and the cultural givens he grows up into. Blaming testosterone is unfair because estrogen responds the same way towards sexual stimuli and the fact that women suppress it more skillfully has nothing to do with human physiology.

Another sign of sexual health is masturbation. Yes, masturbation is normal. It is a healthy behavior that most people do at some point in their lives, male and female, although some never do. It is normal if a person masturbates, and it is normal if a person chooses not to. Frequent masturbation cannot harm a person physically or psychologically. Masturbation can actually teach people how their bodies respond to sexual stimulation and can help people know what to expect during actual sex with a partner.

Scientists have broken the sexual response cycle into four phases:

1. Excitement: an initial stimulation phase where there is an increase in the blood flow to the genitals. The speed and intensity of arousal varies greatly from one person to another
2. Plateau: a more or less steady state of high arousal which is still not so intense as to trigger orgasm
3. Orgasm: the physical and emotional sensation experienced at the peak of sexual excitation; the climax
4. Resolution: the state of satisfaction, euphoria and relaxation accompanied by the decrease in the blood flow to the sex organs and relaxation of muscle tone

During the orgasm phase, there are slight differences between males and females. Men are incapable of achieving multiple orgasms during a single sexual performance, while women are. There are also differences in the resolution phase. Males experience a refractory period after an orgasm in which it is impossible to be aroused again before the duration of that period in complete. Females, on the other hand, can be aroused again without having to go through the refractory period that males do. The media messages we are exposed to have always revealed the opposite and many find it surprising to know that it is actually the other way round.

Researching, reading and learning about sex are vital to achieve sexual health. A person cannot assess whether or not they are sexually healthy if they do not know the basic interpretation of the term. It should not be taboo to talk about sex, as long as it is done in an educational and respectable manner. It may be a bit embarrassing, but it certainly is beneficial. There are so many more aspects to sexual health than the ones mentioned here and going into them can take up the whole issue. But the bottom line is, the information is out there, all you have to do is look for it. Just like we are keen to know about the health of our babies or of particular organs in our bodies like the digestive system or the kidneys, we must be just as keen to know about sexual health so as to have the power that comes along with knowledge and to help ourselves lead healthier lives.