Yom El Din


I woke up at 3am today thinking about Babylon.

I like waking up early, when everyone — except the guilty — is sleeping. It is a time of muted presence, bar the quiet hum of the SSD of my new comp — presence in the sense that Sufis call hadra.

Once there was never any quiet in my life.

Like many who have — how shall I put this? —  wrestled with their inner demons on the precipice of the malbolge, there was always some insane voice in my head that rarely shut up, that always wanted to push things a little further.

Drinking was the only way to stifle  that voice, to dull it, if nothing else, until some fanciful picture of the world as it should be emerged, replacing the unacceptable realities of the present, not to mention the depredations of the past, far and near.

But it never lasted.

Adays of wine and roseslways in the end I was Jack Lemon in some seedy big city motel room, with a huge Vacancy red neon sign flashing just outside the room’s window, left half open, with the curtains flapping in the breeze, and me sitting on the edge of a beat up, stained mattress covered by a filthy sheet, shiny from the sweats I had when I had passed out earlier, coming to with only one warm unopened can of beer left, and no place to go in the morning.

It is as such times that one can be cornered into making a choice, perhaps walking outside in the mist and rain in front of some house of worship, its doors locked, and standing alone at the bottom of its granite steps, begging the void, with tears streams down your cheeks, just for the ability to not have a drink that day, just this once, or if that be too much, just for the next hour, that looms before you like sixty impossibles before sunrise.

An aching soul such as this can feel no rest until it palpably senses — at long last! after so much suffering! — the presence of the Spirit that is invisible yet everywhere.

It happened to me, on the steps of the Cathedral of St. John Divine, on a terrible night in October of 1986.

It is not something one readily forgets.

These days, I am thinking a lot about Sufism.

Sufism has become very fashionable in America — complete with out-of-context Rumi quotations, self healing life styles, and ponderous New Age blather.

I am interested in Sufism because I am a Sunni Muslim, from Egypt, where Sufism is practiced by a large segment of the population — looked down upon by the country’s co-called élite and the government-appointed imams at Al Azhar.

When you are a Muslim, there is something intensely visceral and pleasing about hearing the call to prayer — not as it has become in Cairo today, with dueling loudspeakers on countless minarets harshly cutting down the dawn with ear splitting, droning harangues — but perhaps more along the lines of one given by a sweet-voiced youth standing barefoot on a hill in the desert calling the faithful to assemble before God.

But I am also half English  — born of a Christian mother — and have experienced my share — despite the haunting pull of the Ayenbite of Inwyt, that which Joyce called the agenbite of inwit — conscience, dameer in Arabic — of sins of the body against that dominion of spirit, cavorting along with agnostic self-confidence in the allure of technocracy as a panacea, a substitute, for what we have all lost. (E.g.: this virtual prayer rug that I weaved on CodePen.)

Yom el Din.

The way I see it, every day is a potential day of judgement, on ourselves, others, and the world around us.

Is the ability to suspend that judgement part of the Sufi way?

All right.

Enough of this self-indulgent meandering.

Am I not the sort of person who has Chrome Canary on his desktop, rather than a would be Eckhartian influencer who traffics in unprovable imponderables?

Time make some ahwa, take in this presentation, and get on with the day.

Poochie will soon be demanding her morning walk!

leaving america

Falling into place

a screenshot of the design space of XVG, the app I’m building

Last 2 weeks, my back gave, as did my comp — oddly enough, both desktop and the display died at the same time. I’ve gabbed enough about my back problems in prior posts, so no more of that. Beata Maria Virgo Perdolens begone:  the zounds of the flesh are now mostly in the past — though I am looking forward to being in receipt of the Delta 8 package sometime like soon, man, and transport myself to some entirely higher plane of consciousness.

I set up my new comp yesterday in the monk’s cell / study where I generally lurk. It’s a Dell XPS 8940 with an i5 processor, Intel UHD Graphics 630 card with shared graphics memory, 16 GB of RAM and 1TB HDD storage capacity.

The monitor is a brand new 27″ HP QHP 27mq with IPS and QHD. I think Quad HD makes sense, given the scaling issues that come up, still, with 4K monitors.

This new display has 4 times the resolution of the one that just died, so I am a happy camper. But I predict I’ll be tempted to get a UHD at some point in the coming year as a second display.

So for those of you who are curious to know, here is what my study / hermit’s cell looks like these days. Indeed, this is THE VERY PLACE where I write this blog, think, sleep, code, meditate, and watch movies or TV when not otherwise busy — as well as practice endless mental tahlees.

One of two bookcases in this hermit’s cell
desktop and desktop monitor
My desk
My dog
egyptian flag
A custom replica I had made of the royal Egyptian flag. That is me in the pic by the Gezira Club Lido when I was about 14 or so.
travel gear
My travel gear. I travel light, no suitcases, and have my gear always at the ready
dell xps
My JBL Charger 3 atop my XPS. I use it as an external speaker, connected to the XPS via Bluetooth

This may not look impressive, but it is all that I need in terms of physical living space, together with the ensuite bathroom which also has a shower. 20 years ago, I lived in a million dollar house in Greenwich CT on a manicured acre of land that I planted with native wildflowers and beautiful evergreens that I never got to see mature. I thought I would raise a family there. I thought my wife and I would grow old together in that house, after having lived in cramped Manhattan apartments for 15 years.

gsd puppy
My wife with Attaturk on the kitchen floor of the Greenwich house

Well…that didn’t happen. So it goes. The headwinds of cyclical rootlessness prevailed. I burned in two months then what I live in on now for a year. Living below the poverty line for years has had a way of removing most of my more fanciful delusions, the ones that told me that friends and family truly cared and that in the end, people are basically good and you can find someone other than yourself to trust if you look hard enough. If feeling embittered can be avoided — and this is no easy thing for me — then not caring if you lose your material trifles — or your mind in a ditch — or your erstwhile friends in a lurch — can be enormously liberating: a big fuck you to everything the swells think is important, or that which society dangles as some reward: a prize, recognition, money, power…. and the rest of it.

That is why my “Che” US army shoulder bag — same as the one I took with me to Paris at age 20 — and  Filson duffel always hang on the door, ready to be packed with a passport or two, some money, and  a few simple items of clothing, all at a moment’s notice…falling in place is just as easy as falling out of place — becoming once again the universal Bedouin, the wandering Arab, the bina yallah Man — and either option is equally rewarding, if timed right, for the days of score settling and disappointment and uncertainty and personal humiliation are now finally over. Rira bien qui rira le dernier — mais sans amertume.

Finally, lest you are feeling pity and perhaps even a touch of disdain for this pauvre type loser, a petit con mesquin (which is derived from the Arabic maskeen: i.e., poor), seemingly trapped in perpetuity in some swampy,  impoverished Florida oubliette, may I mention, Alphonso, that I can — and do — console myself in the view, such as the one this morning from the back porch of my crib. Hélas!

A dawn most fowl

leaving america

Yom El Gomm’a

Today is Friday.  Joyous day to listen to a joyous song.

Yesterday, I tried to set up my XPS Dell tower.  It turns out that my display monitor is also kaput.

No worries.

I have wanted a 4k monitor for a long time; looks like now’s the time.

Meanwhile, back to what is important.

I am beginning a 3-day fast today — as a preparatory step for the deep and prolonged cleansing of my soul which I intend to embark on in 2021 — a rihla year in which I am dreaming of traveling to Istanbul, then going cheaply by ferry down various Mediterranean islands until I reach my beloved Alexandria.

I long to again gaze at the beautiful deep blue of el bahr el abyad, as I used to when I travelled with my mother from Port Said to Southampton on a Cunard or P&O ship.

It looks like I shall be able to get a COVID shot in the next week or so, so there will nothing to stop me from executing this pelerin plan except being out of shape or if Allah somehow does not wish me to pull an Ibn Battuta.

Better renew my soon expiring US passport!

Meanwhile, I did not have breakfast at sunrise.

I will go out with my dog (kalba, in Arabic, as usual, then upon my return, shall study up on 4k monitors and order one.

But more importantly, I shall read the 18th sura from the holy Qu’ran sometime today, and meditate on the meaning of being the meaning of futuwa (see previous post), and what the dog is doing at the mouth of the cave. I shall probably express my thoughts in a post on this matter, sometime this weekend.

Ya ‘alam! I may be completely alone in the land of the Neanderthals, cut off from el umma, for the moment, in an America that is devouring itself into further madness by the day — but il hamdel lillah, Gibreel is always near — and Allah is never far — as the essential tranquility of Sufism beckons.