Arabic Verbs

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” -Pablo Picasso

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  These are some thoughts I wrote down a couple months ago and have decided to share. There have been several things on my mind lately that I’d like to learn. You know, new skills, know-how, expertise on subjects I currently know little to nothing about. But that can be kind of intimidating. When you’re brand new to something and first trying to get the hang of it it’s easy to get frustrated and discouraged. There’s so much you don’t understand. There’s so much you don’t know. Often you don’t even know enough about that subject to even be aware of all the things you don’t know about it. It’s easy to feel like you’ll never fully grasp things right, that this thing will never come easy to you.  It can feel like you’re standing in front of a large, solid, insurmountable wall. But I feel like patience and sustained effort are crucial to learning new things and can get you past those obstacles.

  I vividly recall walking into my very first Arabic class several years ago and seeing up on the wall a large chart titled “The Ten Measures of the Tri-Literal Arabic Verb.” This was after my mission, so at the time I was a modestly accomplished speaker of Spanish. Looking at that Arabic verb chart, I immediately attempted to fit what I was seeing into the framework I understood of Spanish verb conjugations. It didn’t work. Trying to do so, combined with my complete ignorance at the time of the Arabic alphabet, left me with a profound sense of confusion and feeling of dread about what I was getting myself into. How was I ever going to master Arabic? Fast forward over four and a half years later and here I am with a perhaps not complete but rather competent mastery of the ideas and concepts conveyed by that beast of a chart. I won’t sugarcoat it: it’s been a long, hard road full of lots of hard work. But at this point those concepts are nearly second nature to me, and I call upon that understanding daily in my current responsibilities. The insurmountable wall has become a broad gateway, opening up a whole world of possibility that was closed to me before. Yes, it’s come after many, many long and tiring days, but my life is so much richer for it. I think much of the best knowledge, wisdom, or expertise is gained along those long, hard roads.

  So I’m determined when confronting a new subject that seems to befuddle and discourage me to press forward with determination and discipline. At some point down the road of life I may look back again and find that coming to understand those challenging concepts has blessed my life.

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Yeah. It was something like this.

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Feelings

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While I was drafting this post I had so many stray thoughts related to the topic that I’ve ultimately cut out so as not to get too far out into the weeds. I’d love to hear y’all’s thoughts on this, because my own thoughts could obviously still use some refining. For a while now (off and on for a couple years I’d say) I’ve been thinking a lot about feelings. Emotions. Affections, passions, sentiments. Whatever you want to call them.  Apparently it’s an essential part of this whole experience we call being a human.  I spent a lot of my critical development years involved in martial arts, and one of the first things we had to learn were these ten maxims known as the dojo kun.  The first one was, “Harmonize body, mind, and spirit.” That idea played an important role in my early life development, and I still believe that a lot of unlocking our individual potential and happiness comes from developing ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Maybe this is something of an oversimplification, but for the sake of the point I want to make here that third element, spirit, can be viewed as our emotional self: the inner part of us that feels and responds to stimulus with feeling. While there’s a strong connection between our physical, intellectual, and emotional experiences each is a distinct aspect of who we are. Of those three elements, maybe the one we (or at least I) least understand is our emotional self. Particularly as a result of the crazy vagabond life I’ve been living the last several years, and particularly as a man so often immersed in our modern warrior culture, I very often find myself inclined to simply shut down any emotions that may come. While I believe there is value in stoicism, I think exclusively resorting to it can be a kind of emotional cowardice, and you miss out on a lot of goodness when you’re emotionally closed off to the world. I’d rather not become one of those cold, jaded souls who only feel things infrequently and shallowly.

There’s so much in this world to appreciate. And I think true, full happiness comes from filling our hearts with those good things.  It’s easy for me to get to feeling cantankerous about my feelings (when I have them), because feelings so often run counter to logic and reasoning, and because of manly blah blah blah, but let’s be honest: life has so much more to offer when we keep an open heart to the world. We talk a lot about keeping an open mind, and I’m certainly an advocate of that, but we, or at least I, talk much less about keeping an open heart.  However, I think they’re both probably pretty important. And just like with our thoughts, it’s important not to let our emotions run wild. But controlling them doesn’t mean suppressing them or stamping them out completely.  With thoughts and ideas we often, in some cases to great lengths (the entire world of modern and ancient academia and philosophy comes to mind) examine and analyze them and decide which ones are valid and worth storing away inside of our selves. The thoughts, the ideas that we find to be of most worth are ones that become a fundamental part of our character and personality. Shouldn’t we do something similar with our feelings? Give our feelings consideration and decide which ones are valid, which ones should be developed, polished, and stored away? And conversely, which ones can be discarded and/or dismissed? That’s what I would like for myself. A lot of who I am as a person is centered around a set of ideas that I value and have taken time to study out, define, and refine in my mind.  I’d also like who I am to be centered around a set of feelings that I’ve developed, worked on, and made essential components of my heart: compassion, joy, empathy, trust, friendship, love, wonder, courage.

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