Here We Start – Issue #51

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing, a digital publishing house for online magazines and ebooks, and editor in chief of the Emirati Sail Magazine, an online magazine about community and culture written in English by Emirati columnists. Iman is a multi award winner in digital publishing, entrepreneurship, and literature. Iman has also completed the Leadership Strategies in Magazine Media Course in Yale University. Besides her work in publishing, she also lectures in Canadian University in Dubai.
Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Few days ago, we mourned the death of an icon to many of us. We mourned the death of Maya Angelou, who was a huge inspiration to me personally, and to many more I’m sure. I’ve come to know about her from Oprah Winfrey’s show about 10 years ago, and that’s when I read her first autobiography “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”. Her story moved me beyond measures. She was raped around the age of 8 by her mother’s boyfriend, and he threatened to kill her brother who she loved the most in her life if she dared to tell anyone. The horrors that she has gone through, and the guilt she felt at such a young age for her raper’s death made her go mute for five years after it. Knowing the childhood that she’s gone through and knowing where she’d reached decades later is where her inspiration lies. She was known as: an author, a poet, film and series director and producer, actress, civil rights and feminine rights activist, and I’m sure she was known for even much more than that. Many others would have allowed the tragedy that she’s gone through at her childhood to wreck them, ruin their future, and in cases, take their lives, but she didn’t, she grew out of it stronger than ever, and became a person who preaches hope, love, joy, and forgiveness amongst many other inspirational meanings. For that, she is my inspiration and I hope her story continues to inspire many more to rise from whatever they’re in, and become phenomenal.

May you rest in peace Maya, you will always be the rainbow in our cloud.

Let’s talk Sail. As many of you know, we launched couple of week ago our new sister magazine: By The Masses. Whereas Sail eMagazine is exclusive for Emaratis, of opinion articles about community, culture, and creativity, and strictly regular columnists; By The Masses is opened for all nationalities, all genres of writing, and any frequency of writing, and allows one-time writers as well. On the one hand, By The Masses is meant to open the door for all writers to share their unpublished work, share their voices without restriction and without censorship as long as it doesn’t cross the obvious boundaries. On the other hand, By The Masses is also meant to widen our reading options and diversify them, and allow us to learn more from others. We hope this is just the beginning to a much brighter future in reading and writing for all of us.

This month we are joined with two new writers:

  • Amna AlMadani: A soon to be 23 year old, who loves story telling in all its forms and aspires to live as one.  She graduated from Mohammed Bin Rashid School for Communication (MBRSC), in the American University in Dubai (AUD), with a bachelor degree in Digital Production and Story Telling.  Her column “Wondering Out Loud” features questions about the many aspects of life, whether daily life issues or a once in a life time phenomena and anything in between.
  • Bahar AlAwadhi: Bahar is a recruiter by profession, an aspiring writer by night, and a new mom of gorgeous twins. She has an unending thirst for learning, as she completed her BComm in Canada, an MA in Dubai, and continues to develop herself with her love of reading and research. Her passions range from psychology, history, spirituality, holistic healing, to animal welfare, traveling, and football.
    Bahar considers herself to be a reflector, and even as a young girl, she would often lose herself in her books and thoughts, and with her column “The Words Within”, she hopes to reflect out loud and share her journey with you as she grows and learns more about this crazy beautiful world we live in.
Artwork by Maryam Zainal (@maryam_zainal)

Artwork by Maryam Zainal (@maryam_zainal)

And now to our issue #51 – June 2014 in brief:

Hats off to our amazing editorial team: Aida AlBusaidy, Amel Shaheen, and Dhabya AlMuhairi. Enjoy our reads, and don’t forget to check out our illustrations by our creative team: Dana Al Attar, Hayat AlHassan, Marwa Fuad, and Maryam Zainal.

To keep up with our monthly-published issues and to know about any of our coming events, make sure you register with us by clicking here

Help us spread the word about the magazine and share the articles with your friends!

Warm regards,
Iman Ben Chaibah
Editor in Chief

What Maya Angelou Meant to Me

Aida AlBusaidy (@AidaAlBusaidy)

Aida AlBusaidy (@AidaAlBusaidy)

Developmental Editor.
Aida has more than a decade experience in the communications, and mastering ceremonies field, she worked in private and public sectors, and now heads the Stakeholder Communications in Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing in Dubai. Aida was a columnist in few of the local newspapers, a TV co-host of a community talk show, and cofounded with friends a community platform: “Promise Of A Generation”.
Aida AlBusaidy (@AidaAlBusaidy)

Latest posts by Aida AlBusaidy (@AidaAlBusaidy) (see all)

Article in brief: The author shares what Maya Angelou meant for her and her special tribute to Maya.

Picture taken from Maya Angelou's Official Website (http://mayaangelou.com/)

Picture taken from Maya Angelou’s Official Website (http://mayaangelou.com/)

In a recorded interview with the comedian Dave Chapelle, Maya Angelou, hold on, the late Maya Angelou said, “it is dangerous to make anyone larger than life, because a young person sees that personality and thinks I can never do that”. She went on to elaborate that people become icons because they happened to be at the right place at the right time and they grabbed a hold of the situation.

I’ll come back to the point of icons in a bit. But first, let me tell you about my history with Maya. I was introduced to Maya Angelou in a class I took when I was in university. I minored in English and some of the pre-requisite classes that were required for the minor were folklore classes. Something about the African American folklore class lured me to take a second class to complement the first one. The history, the struggles, the people, their clothes, their words, their music, basically everything about them was enchanting. It helped me understand so much about who African Americans are and is something most of us don’t knowledge or don’t know about.

Maya was a lot of things to a lot of people, but for most of us, it was her humbleness that touched our hearts. She enriched our minds with books, poetry and her wisdom. She taught us how to be strong, how to be human. She left an impression that many world leaders today would fail to even reach half her level of intellect or contributions to mankind.

Every once in a while, I think God places people in life who aren’t connected physically to just connect with you in any other way. We praise a lot of things, a lot of materialistic things and we connect with things that cost us money, but sometimes we fail to connect with humanity for fear of disappointment, or anger, or anything else but Maya told us to embrace anger, or any other emotion that we are told not to feel instead of bottling it up. But embrace it in a good way, talk about your anger, write about it, sing it in a song, as long as you feel it.

So back to icons, who are they? Why do we have them? Why do we create them? Is it a sense of need to create someone to look up to? What if they fail you? Todays’ icons are Lady Gaga and Rihanna, who are setting the trend of what culture and fashion should be. People use lyrics off their songs to express their emotions. Are those the icons we are creating? Are we meant to promote these icons because we are moving with the trend? Where are the Mayas of the world? How can we make more of those? Or have we lost our icon compass?

Are these new “icons” paving the way for the way we should act? Are they spreading positivity amongst us or even teaching us things worth learning?

Maya wasn’t my icon but she was someone I respected. I respected and continue to respect her work, her contributions, her passion for life, her troubles and how she overcame them with positivity.

A lot of people have asked me who my role models are and sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint one, I love characteristics in certain people and if I had to name my ideal icons or role models, it would be a combination of several people. But I would certainly give tribute to the ones who have impacted my life in a positive way.

The End of High School Life

Alia Al Hazami (@AliaAlHazami)

Alia Al Hazami (@AliaAlHazami)

Column: Hidden Promises
Alia is an AUS student double majoring in International Studies and English literature. She is also the author of Alatash fictional novel. Her main goal is to make a change and empower the youth. Her column is meant to help the younger generations deal with tough situations. It was given that title as hidden promises is what us teenagers often believe; false promises.
Alia Al Hazami (@AliaAlHazami)

Article in brief: As the author’s school life is about to end, she pens down this article to her fellow graduates.

Artwork by Marwa Fuad (@marwah_f1)

Artwork by Marwa Fuad (@marwah_f1)

A wise man from Harry Potter called Dumbledore once said, “Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”

We’re getting close to graduation season, and as a graduate, I’m currently going through a rollercoaster of emotions and reminiscing upon my school life as a whole.

Thinking about it, I realize that our diversity as students wasn’t an obstacle, but merely the reason why we’re so close. Being in an environment with much distinction makes us learn and grow more. It’s crazy to know that I have been spending my time with more than 28 nationalities per day! With chasing the right in attaining knowledge, it really isn’t about where you come from but more about the added value you’re going to get.

For fourteen years, us, high school seniors, worked our way to academic excellence and created endless memories that make us who we are. We made lifelong friendships, and a set of flashbacks that will only make our hearts grow fonder. A journey I, and many others have been in, is about to end and we all fulfilled one purpose, which is obtaining knowledge. It is a never-ending process; nonetheless, we’re half way through.

I’m sure we all faced hardships along the way with our studies, the deadlines and their stress. People often view studying as a torturous and daunting act, but really it’s the reason we’re alive. To be educated, is to have many different perspectives. However, I believe that most of us know that deep down, it’s all worth it, because there’s nothing more noble than the pursuit of knowledge.

It is insanely bittersweet to have to say goodbye to what has to be an astounding chapter in the book we call our lives, but we have to comprehend that everything has to come to an end. I’m more than ecstatic to finally take my cap off and start a brand new journey. I’m eager to grab a pen and write out a blank fresh chapter with nothing to guide and light my way but the torch of knowledge that has been passed down to me by my beloved teachers and mentors.

It’s scary to think that we have to decide on a path from this point onwards, but having a passion makes it easier. My advice to you fellow graduates is that you follow your passion no matter what people think of it. Don’t let anyone degrade what you love because at the end of the day, you have to go after what you enjoy doing the most.

Lastly, remember to always give credit when it’s due. Be assured, that no matter where the road takes us, and whatever success we may encounter, it’s all due to the people and even school that made us. Be grateful and appreciate what you have been given because school will always be the base of what you are.

One Minute Of Patience

Alwid Lootah (@AlwidLootah)

Column: Lost in Reverie
Alwid is a young lady who aims to become the change she wants to see in this world by spreading positivity and leading youth towards the road of unlimited possibilities. She recently founded her own website hearmyeche.com through which she aims to become the voice of youth and share unrecognized talents. Her column “Lost in reverie” is a place where she allows her thoughts and emotions to flow and a place where she can hopefully create a change.

Latest posts by Alwid Lootah (@AlwidLootah) (see all)

Article in brief: The writer expresses the beauty of being patient and how one minute of patience could change your life. 

Artwork by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

Artwork by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

What is one minute of patience? It’s 60 seconds of pure faith, 60 seconds of you holding on a little longer, and 60 seconds of you being better than you were a minute ago. Imagine life without patience. You wouldn’t get your favorite morning coffee because you are not patient enough to wait for it, you wouldn’t be with the people you love because you are not patient enough to forgive them, and you wouldn’t be the person you are today because you are not patient enough to give yourself another chance.

Patience is way more than just a trait; it’s a way of living. It’s a way of taking one more look at a situation and trying again just because you know giving up will be the end of the road. In my life, I’ve faced so many moments where I only needed a minute of patience; where I only needed this glimpse of faith to get me by. It’s not about regretting the times you were impatient. It’s about putting an effort to change into a better you. It’s about how you face the troubles of your life, about your choices, and what you make out of them.

Aside from being a better person, you’ll be a better daughter, a better son, a better husband, and a better wife. You will never allow anger to take over you as you will give yourself a minute of patience; you will not allow yourself to make decisions you know you will regret later and you will not allow anything to come out of your mouth until you give yourself a minute of patience.

Let’s use this moment as a start to having one minute of patience – 60 seconds to a better you. It will be a challenge, but what’s life without those challenges that make us better people. From this moment forward, I promise you dear reader to take one more minute of patience; to give myself a chance to think clearly before I say or do anything. What about you? Are you up for this challenge?

The Misconceptions About Introverts

Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

Column Name: The Words Within
Bahar is a recruiter by profession, an aspiring writer by night, and a mom of toddler twins. She has an unending thirst for learning, as she completed her BComm in Canada, an MA in Dubai, and continues to develop herself with reading and research.
With her column, she shares her journey as she grows and learns more about this crazy beautiful world we live in.
Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

Latest posts by Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram) (see all)

Article in Brief: What does it really means to be an Extrovert or an Introvert? Are these traits being loosely used to set people in defined groups?

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

I recently attended a psychometrics assessment course in which one of the main components was to study personality types in an attempt to understand people better; be it for recruitment and selection or learning and development.

One of the measures in personality assessment is identifying where you fit on a scale of extroversion vs. introversion, a scale that was developed and first popularized by Carl Jung. According to Jung, extroverts get their stimulation from outside themselves and tend to be enthusiastic, talkative, assertive, and enjoy the company of others. Introverts, on the other hand, are stimulated from within and are usually quiet, reflective, and have a preference for solitude.

The discussions that followed peaked my interest as the trainer went on to explain that in today’s workforce, introverts are generally misunderstood as they are seen as overly shy and aloof. It appears that the term introvert can have a negative connotation to some who do not understand the true nature of introverts. In fact, Jung had also observed during his research that society placed higher value on extroverts and it appears that the trend has continued to this day.

As an introvert myself, I experience firsthand the misconceptions that can occur in the workforce. I am constantly being told that I need to speak up or be more assertive. What they fail to see is that we all have different traits and our approach is different. However, the general consensus is still that loud employees who are outgoing and don’t mind spending hours chatting away are seen as more dominant and worthy of managerial roles, while the quieter ones who prefer their solitude as they diligently finish their work are seen as unassertive and incapable.

In the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, author Susan Cain talks about how extroversion is now seen as an ideal standard which people feel they must live up to in order to get that job or promotion. This notion is further encouraged with the way that extroverts are portrayed in the media despite having strong figures such as President Obama and Bill Gates who are introverts.

However, recent research suggests that reliance on extroverts alone will only lead to failure unless employers realize the true worth of introverts. This is not to say that introverts can outperform extroverts, but that a balance is needed for any organization to be successful. Each personality type brings with it a set of strengths and weaknesses and it is for this reason that both should be given the same opportunities and valued equally.

——-

References:

  1. Helping Psychology (2009). “Carl Jung: Extravert vs. Introvert”. Retrieved 14 May 2014. http://www.helpingpsychology.com/carl-jung-extrovert-vs-introvert
  2. Mind Development. “Carl Jung and Jungian Analytical Psychology”. Retrieved 14 May 2014. http://www.mind-development.eu/jung.html
  3. The Ladders (2014).”Can Introverts Get Ahead in the Workplace?” Retrieved 14 May 2014. http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/can-introverts-get-ahead-in-the-workplace
  4. Profiles International (2012). “Quiet but not Forgotten: The Plight of the Introvert in Today’s Workforce”. Retrieved 14 May 2014. http://info.profilesinternational.com/profiles-employee-assessment-blog/bid/109585/Quiet-but-Not-Forgotten-The-Plight-of-the-Introvert-in-Today-s-Workforce

What Causes Fear? And How Do We Overcome It?

Salma Bin Faqqas (@SalmaOA_)

Salma Bin Faqqas, an aspiring 17 years old chemical engineering student that took a leap of faith into the unknown where she found out what she is truly capable of becoming. She believes that people too weak to pursue their own dreams will always find a way to discourage hers. An official addict to positivity and spreading joy. Through her column: "To a better tomorrow" she focuses on common problems found in our society and psychologically analyses them. It also gives simple solutions to the raised issues in order to make the community a better place to live in.

Latest posts by Salma Bin Faqqas (@SalmaOA_) (see all)

Article in brief: Fear; an emotion so strong it could either push us forward or paralyze us in our places forever. What is fear? And how can we transform our fears into strengths?

Artwork by Maryam Zainal (@maryam_zainal)

Artwork by Maryam Zainal (@maryam_zainal)

Fear is one of the important survival mechanisms; it is our brain’s response to danger. Its importance lays in warning us from genuine risks and helping us protect ourselves from different kinds of threats.

However, some people fear situations that are far from protecting themselves from danger and threats. Fears like fear of public speaking and fear of failure are not life threatening but can get out control and affect our daily lives. So, what causes fear? And how can we use fear to our advantage?

One usually learns fear from his/her surroundings. When someone grows up in a house where everyone is constantly scaring him/her of something, even if it was for educational purposes, he/she will naturally develop a feeling of reservation and fear from that certain thing. Also, fear can be gained from some personal experiences. If someone falls off a cliff or watches another person fall off it, especially if at a very young age, he/she are more likely to develop a fear from heights.

As for me, I have always feared death. I always wondered what it would be like not feeling a soul within me; not being able to move parts of my body I used to move so easily, not having the capability of speaking even though once, my words were always heard.

The thought of being buried and having the world continue without me, not knowing whether people would miss me or not, was horrifying. This fear took over my life to the point where I would be scared to even go out. At that point, I decided to take control of my fear.

I transformed my fear from something keeping me behind four walls to something that made me want to live the moment. I became extremely grateful for the life I’m blessed with, started to cherish every second of it, and be nice to everyone around. For if, at anytime, death knocked my door and I passed away, I would leave a nice memory and be forever unforgettable.

In order to get over anything, you will have to get to know it better. The same thing applies to fear, in order to overcome it, you will have to know it, recognize it, and define it.

Always ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen? And prepare yourself to welcome the worst.  If a person starts to accept fears that occur all the time, it would make it much easier for him to handle those fears when they come back again, until a time comes were those fears aren’t a problem at all.

Here are some more lessons I learned from my research and experience:

Be realistic: Fears tend to be much worse than reality. For example, putting in mind that you will faint each time you are given an examination paper is not useful. Also, the possibility of that happening is very low.

Talk to others: Sharing your concerns with others would be very useful in helping you overcome your fears. Have a good talk with a friend or a very close family member; it would help you look at the situation from another person’s perspective.

Reward yourself: When someone who is afraid of heights goes bungee jumping, or someone who is afraid of public speaking recites a poem in front of his class, he/she should reward themselves. Rewarding can encourage them to do better.

Lastly, try your best to turn your fears into hope because they are nothing but obstacles that stands in the way of your progress. If you conquer it, you would be able to move forward with very strong and steady steps.

—–

Reference:

The Crucial Realms of Sincerity

Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)

Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)

Mohammed, an Emirati involved in healthcare business development, comes with a background in biomedical & clinical engineering, technology management, finance, and business setup related project management. Mohammed has a keen interest in relevant social, religious, economic, and cultural affairs.
Mohammed’s bi-monthly column aims to openly and honestly target issues around the native culture, society, religion, economy, and policy that have resulted as a consequence of the constantly changing demographics of the region. The column is characterized by a point-like articulate approach that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the discussed issues.
Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)

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Article in brief: The author suggests that many societal issues stemming from post-oil culture are mainly due to a lack of sincerity. Through putting emphasis on 3 realms of sincerity, the author hopes these issues can be eradicated.

Artwork by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

Artwork by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

For those of you who are familiar with my column, you may have noticed that a lot of the topics I discuss revolve around the neo-culture introduced in the Arabian Gulf countries post-oil. The major contributors to the evolution of the region’s culture, I believe, are the sudden influx of wealth and the necessity to co-exist directly or indirectly with foreign cultures. I have touched upon many topics in the past such as the reversal of the reward and punishment structure, the lack of thought processes, marriage and its basis, and society worship in particular.

In my opinion, there is one crucial change that occurred over time; this I believe is the root cause of most of the issues we face today. This change is in the levels of sincerity prevalent in the people of the region. Sincerity, also known as “Ikhlaas” in Arabic, is defined in Merriam-Webster as “honesty of mind and freedom from hypocrisy”. Without sincerity, many important supporting pillars of a healthy society can collapse. The lack of sincerity can have a very strong ripple effect. Examples include wrong social/political/economic decision-making due to inaccurate information, the selection of an inappropriate spouse or business partner, and the lack of drive towards areas of responsibility. Many of you may already be nodding.

Rather than focusing on why and how sincerity has slowly changed, I would like to walk you through the 3 crucial realms of sincerity we need to be mindful of (in order of importance) and link them to concepts I have shared in my column before.

First, I believe we need to be mindful of the sincerity of our belief systems. For the Muslim reader, this would be the sincerity of the relationship with Allah. We need to formulate an opinion and attain knowledge of our creed. For example, not only must we trust God’s decisions sincerely, but we also must sincerely perform His orders such as performing prayers, giving charity, visiting the mosque, etc. All of these actions must be sincere towards achieving His approval and not in pursuit of status or social/financial gain.

(And among men there are some who say, “We believe in Allah and in the Last Day”, yet they are not believers. They try to deceive Allah and those who believe, while they are not deceiving anyone except themselves, although they are unaware of it)

The Holy Quran [2:8-9]

Second, I believe it is important to be mindful of the sincerity towards oneself. This means we have to be honest to ourselves in different situations. We must understand when we are wrong and when we are right. We must be ready to accept criticism about ourselves. We must be sincere to ourselves about the way we feel about certain people who we enter into relationships with. We must know when we are liked and when we are despised. I believe this is one of the most difficult realms of sincerity as it requires having an aware and conscious mind.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

 – Richard P. Feynman, in a commencement ceremony at Caltech 1974

Third, I believe it is important to be mindful of our sincerity towards others. This includes sharing feedback, relationships, agreements, evaluations, and even general interaction. We must make sure we say what we believe and we convey information appropriately and sincerely wishing the best for all parties in any interaction. We must be true to our spouses and not cheat. We must be fair in our business dealings and not deceive. We must give others sincerely. We must work sincerely and treat those under our authority fairly. We must sincerely make sure that we do not cause harm towards others.

“Every traitor will have a banner on the Day of Resurrection, and it will be said, ‘This is the betrayer of so-and-so.’” -The Prophet Muhammad Peace be Upon Him ( Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim) 

In summary, I believe a lot of the social and behavioral issues the region has faced in the post-oil era stem from the lack of sincerity. In my opinion, if we focus on and be mindful of the realms of sincerity in our beliefs, ourselves, as well as others, we may be able to reverse many of these issues. I’ll begin by being mindful today and I hope you do too.

Some Things Just Don’t Matter As We Grow Up

Fatma AlKhaja (@fay_alkhaja)

Column: Observing the World, previous column: Too Blunt for Words
Fatma (Fay), Emirati girl, with an experience in Corporate Communications and CSR. She is passionate about anything that is traditional and Emirati. In her free time she loves to watch Japanese anime, read manga, and play videogames. Spas are not the only thing that relaxes her, but cooking as well.
Fay’s columns observe work-life experiences and balance. A lot of her articles are based on first-hand personal experiences and issues she has seen or been part of. She loves to observe her surroundings, and watch how people handle different situations they’ve been put in.Also, she is trying to balance the art of staying positive at work and helping her peers understand that not everything should be a problem. With her writings she hopes to make a difference and make people more observant of the little problems in life, or work that hasn’t escalated to a catastrophe. It’s the little things that matters.

Latest posts by Fatma AlKhaja (@fay_alkhaja) (see all)

Article in brief: reflects on how our priorities change in every stage of our lives.

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

As you grow up and you enter new chapters in your life, you come across various challenges. The question is, are you ready to face them? And what really matters?

My chapters included graduating from school, then university, post-graduate studies, work, marriage, and motherhood. As I experienced each phase, I also realized that what was important in one chapter was not so important in the other.

For example, I realized that certain incidents that used to upset me when I was a student did not affect me when I started working. Later on, when I got married, things that used to drive me crazy at work did not bother me anymore.

Did my perspective change? Or some things just didn’t matter anymore?

I was facing new challenges at work last year. The workload increased and so did the stress; the job became demanding. As a result, I was struggling to keep my calm at days and was too tired to do anything when I got back home.

As I tried to get through work, I found out I was expecting a baby. I was surprised that within 48 hours, my whole perspective changed again. Things that used to annoy me at work didn’t matter anymore. I went through everything I was struggling with in a calm manner and got it done on time. I wondered about this new feeling. Why was I feeling calmer now? Was my health more important than work? I was totally switched off and was taking it really easy.

My calmness even flowed to my team; they actually asked me if something was wrong? All I answered was that I have other priorities now. My work was still important and I got it done. However, I just couldn’t focus on other things anymore. Every step I took, every decision I made, and every outing I planned was all revolved around my baby’s health.

At work, I kept wondering how easy it was to just switch off in a short span of time. Rather than letting things get to us, we should learn that there are always ways to get over the madness. I learned that once you have something new to focus on, then old problems shouldn’t be an issue anymore. The problem will not resolve by itself, but at least you have mastered ways in controlling your emotions.

What Really Drives Us Into Being?

Written by : Amna AlMadani

Article in brief: The author studies the effect of genes versus upbringing on human behavior, and what if one of them overrules the other?

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

René Descartes said: “I think therefore I am”, or I am therefore I think. I smile because I’m happy or I’m happy because I smile? I eat to live or live to eat? We all have different perspectives, whether it rests in an extreme black and white logic or a calm grey area in between. Most of these questions don’t have one right answer but a combination of both for they intersect with each other at some point.

We naturally accept balance and shun extreme views. However, the chicken or the egg? Who came first? It is a question that might drive us into madness. Although there are several answers based on hypothesis presented by scientists on which came first, there is still not one unanimous decision about it. Another question that is still baffling us humans and science is the case of Nature Vs. Nurture. Are we ruled by our genes or our upbringing? Again, the answer is both. However, which defines us more?

In an attempt to answer this question, geneticists have studied identical twins who were separated at birth. Imagine two physical carbon copies of each other who share the same genes then grow up with meeting different people, and face different upbringings, circumstances and lifestyles. Identical twins, even if they share the same exact physical attributes and some character traits, still have their own thoughts. So they’re not really confined by their identical genes, right?

A study that followed identical separated twin brothers named “Jim” found striking similarities other than the similar names the brothers were given by their adoptive parents. Jim Lewis and Jim Springer grew up not aware of the other’s existence, they both got married twice to women named “Linda” and “Betty”, both named their pet dog “toy”, both named their son “James”; the only difference is one Jim named his son James Allan while the other Jim named him James Alan.

You might think this is just some eerie coincidence; perhaps it might be. Yet similar names isn’t the only attributes the twins shared. Both Jims had a habit of leaving love notes to their wives throughout the house. Both suffered from migraines and shared the habit of biting their fingernails. The similarity goes on and doesn’t end here. However, this doesn’t mean that they are exactly the same person; they share the same genetic code but they did display slight differences that set their individuality. For example, one Jim was more comfortable expressing vocally while the other was more into writing.  Remember that all of this took place while both of them led different lives and they only met at the age of 39.

Does it really matter if genetics or upbringing ruled us more than the other? The fear is that people will start believing that if we as humans were predestined biologically to behave in a certain manner, then why be blamed for our misconduct, as there appears to be no choice in this matter. A certain debate about this puts into light the nature of aggression in males. Some go to the extent where they hint that rape coming from men must be excused or not punished, because men are more inclined to commit it because of their given nature.

Here comes again the problem of the egg and the chicken, it won’t affect us if one came before the other, yet what will happen if a rapist was dismissed from a case because he was predestined to act this way? What happens when a woman is only charged because she’s not genetically modeled to behave in such a way? This is in no way about gender equality. Men might be blamed of harassment if they hit a woman because they’re physically stronger. Switch the roles and you might see the numbers of sympathizers decrease because woman don’t pose a threat to a man, the natural born aggressor. To forget the act of aggression itself and judge according to a genetic norm is worrying.

The years will pass and there are studies that might prove the opposite that the situation controls us more, that the upbringing we had is the force that will create our reaction. “Raised by a criminal, she became a criminal.” Or  “Her father was a criminal, she carries a gene of a criminal.” Is it wise to bring this debate and implement it in a legal system? Should we stop asking this question all together?

“Curiosity killed the cat” or Curiosity gave Newton’s apple a meaning?

What I’m sure of comes in the words of Vincent Van Gogh “…there is nothing in the world as interesting as people, and one can never study them enough.”

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References:

  • Myers, David. “Nature, Nurture, and Human Diversity.” Exploring Psychology. Michigan: Worth Publishers, 2011. . Print.
  • Neer, Katherine. “How Twins Work.” HowStuffWorks. HowStuffWorks.com, 22 Sept. 2005. Web. 16 May 2014. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/genetic/twin1.htm>.
  • To, Yen. “Is Rape Culture Human Nature or Nurture?.” The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 17 Oct. 2013. Web. 16 May 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/yen-to/rape-culture-_b_4094920.html>.