Take control of your destiny
There’s always a choice: Yes or No

We often come across Pakistanis seeking refuge in Allah’s will or fate. Since childhood we have been hearing phrases like “InshAllah”, “Allah de ga”, “Har koi apni kismet le ke aata hai”, “Shayad kismet mein yehi likha tha” and so on.  If you have been brought and bred in Pakistan, it is unlikely that you escaped from these constant regurgitations of fate.  The emphasis is always on the fate of an individual rather than one’s responsibility to make informed choices via free will - this is unfortunately the mindset with which most of us are brought up. At least I have never been exposed to phrases in our society that carry a certain notion of taking personal responsibility for the outcomes suffered.

From a spiralling population in Pakistan that is relentlessly justified by the majority as Allah’s determination no matter how scarce the resources; acceptance of unchallenged religious traditions failing rationale; selection of careers dictated by survival rather than passion to promulgation of arranged marriages based on family conformity rather than meaning companionship – the authority of independent, responsible and informed decisioning is taken away from us at a very early age and “fate” is introduced as the most powerful tool in our subconscious existence. Be it a consequence of religious traditions or culture; but due to this  concept of fate we have eventually become ‘followers’ rather than ‘leaders’; not only in our personal and professional lives, but also as a nation. It is now second nature to us to shift the burden of decisions on fate or others. Translating this micro level irresponsible attitude of individuals to a macro level can perhaps help us decipher why Pakistan is still struggling to progress.

It is about time that we as individuals and as a nation break this idea of compliance to fate. We must not defy the element of fate completely from the equation but rather introduce the factors of free will and responsible decisioning for a better outcome. In the context of our daily lives, we have all at least once come to a point where we think that we have no control over our lives and that we are ultimately a product of our fate rather than choice.

Paulo Coelho in his book, The Alchemist, suggests that thinking our lives are controlled by fate is perhaps the world’s greatest lie and I am in agreement with the author. We need to understand that fate is constantly intertwined with free will. In the words of Jawaharlal Nehru “The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.” Hence the choices we make have a very strong hold on later events and our destiny. While fate can take over at times, what is important is one’s capability of excavating themselves from the situation. This is precisely the difference between ‘leaders’ and ‘followers’ - leaders make educated decisions with the knowledge and resources at hand while the followers let fate engulf them. Perhaps if all Pakistanis make a conscious decision today to take control of their personal and professional lives, Pakistan could transform extraordinarily as a nation. All it takes is positive will.

I believe neither marriages nor your path in life is made in heaven. Fate exposes you to choices and it is then up to you to make a responsible choice rather than letting others steering the course of your action and hence your destiny.  It is true that not everyone is lucky enough to be born with a golden spoon, but a strong will can help you manoeuvre your circumstances to reach your aims, whatever they may be.  Depending on where you are brought up, you will face limitations depending on your family, finance, culture, and environment. Some of us are born to have easy lives, while some are born to take a more challenging path. Perhaps the limitations and obstacles you currently face, that lead to feeling out of control of your life, are a part of your journey - you must overcome them to grow stronger on the path to achieving your goals. Mind is a very powerful tool indeed but when mind and heart are synchronized to achieve a certain goal, the entire universe will indeed conspire in helping you achieve it, as says The Alchemist. And if you don’t achieve it, always remember someone else somewhere wanted it more than you.

We often see others not the way they are, but often the way we are. We tend to presume that others' reactions would mirror ours and hence arrive at conclusions on the motivations or the reasons for action on the part of others based on what we would have done. While money can buy you freedom, it cannot buy you passion. It is painful if one doesn’t make enough money to live comfortably but it is even more painful if the work you do has no meaning to you. It is almost like a wife or a husband you don’t want to wake up next to everyday as the marriage is meaningless to you.

Ordinary people usually dwell on their problems and indulge in a comparative analysis with people who they ‘perceive’ to have been given everything on a silver plate. However, for leaders life is all about balance and focusing on the positives. Being aware of the opportunities and wary of the risks is something which puts people on the path of being a visionary and leads to responsible decisioning. So you don’t need a silver spoon and don’t really need to be a genius. All you need is sincere belief in yourself and willingness to take action towards your ambitions. Now wither you can believe in the world’s greatest lie or take control of your life today by taking conscious Yes or No decisions as there is more under your control than is actually controlled by fate.

By Sana Hameed Baba
Is hate a disguised form of love?
Reality Check: Absolutely NOT!

Note: This note is specifically for women readers but the writer is not a feminist at all. It is perhaps a generalisation; the writer acknowledges and welcomes other points of views and is empathetic to the male readers.

“I HATE your voice, I HATE your face and I HATE your existence!” said Mr. X

Ms. Y was in absolute shock with eyes mischievously wide open. She thought how could someone hate someone’s “existence” and bring them to do such nasty deeds without conscience? WOW! She hadn’t done or said anything horribly wrong to him and there was no evident romantic connection in the past except that she did find his character amusing enough to make it to a Bollywood movie. She then contemplated that she might have an atrociously ugly face (which was NOT true by any standard) and an irritating voice (she was definitely somewhat LOUD!), but why would someone question her very birth?

Ms. Y then deviously smiled. Marvellous!

Ladies and Ladies, I am disappointed to tell you this but hate is not a disguised form of love – there is an alternative theory I will present in this blog. It is just that brain’s “love” and “hate” circuits share identical structures which we perceive as the thin line between love and hate. When he says he hates you, he actually means it. So please stop flattering yourselves. Men are not rude to you because they like you. In the 21st century, looking through a male-lens, we are perhaps all equal and the hatred could stem from jealousy, competition or just no obvious reason except that someone hates your guts t to the core or thinks that you’re a waste of oxygen due to your very biology. He could perhaps just be a misanthrope or be suffering from some sort of character disorder. All in all there could be many root causes to the hatred thrust upon you aside from an unfulfilled love escapade. What we need to learn is that the root causes are not important. Getting bewildered in the root causes just helps you justify someone else’s wrong actions and that is not an intelligent start. Rather it is the ultimate impact and/or translation of the biology of hatred to our everyday lives on the surface that we must understand and accept as it consequentially leads to abominable actions to damage us or someone who is a subject of hatred. Eventually, it is the action not the intention that is imperative. I am sorry to have just popped your romantic fantasy balloon. But let’s see what goes on in that world of neurons in the brain to emphasize this.

To biologists, hate is a passion that is of equal interest to love, but conflicting in character. A study in University College London has revealed that the brain's love and hate circuits share identical structures. Hence, there is a thin line between love and hate; but only in the biological structure, not in its translation into our everyday lives – in everyday lives while love is associated with selfless sacrifice for the beloved, hate is associated with absolute destruction of the subject – two opposing extremes. We can suggest that hate is an evil passion equivalent in intensity to love and the fine line between the two extremes can be flipped at any moment - but it is not necessary that it will. Similar to love, hate is often seemingly irrational and leads individuals to perform heroic and evil deeds.

In my simplest understanding of biology, there is what is called a ‘hate circuit’ in the brain which includes structures in the cortex and the sub-cortex and has components that generate aggressive behaviour and translates this into an action via motor-planning. This involves two distinct regions in the sub-cortical activity know as the ‘putamen’ and ‘insula’ which are linked to aggression and distress respectively. Research has implicated the ‘putamen’ in the perception of contempt and disgust, while the ‘insula’ to control the brain's distress response. The study at University College London has showed that the same ‘putamen’ and ‘insula’ are also both activated by romantic love and the brain becomes mobilised to take some action. Hence, we often hear people making confusing and fleeting statements on how hate is an inverted form of love without much knowledge on the issue. It should also be noted that there is also a significant difference in the cortical pattern produced by these two sentiments. Whereas with love large parts of the cerebral cortex associated with judgment and reasoning become de-activated, with hate only a small zone becomes de-activated. This is surprising considering that hate is also an all-consuming passion like love, but whereas romantic love makes one less critical and judgmental regarding the loved person, it is more likely that in the context of hate the hater is actually exercising the judgment in calculating moves to harm, injure or take revenge. Therefore, while love is subjective, hatred is more objective in nature but the intensity of both remains almost parallel.  More so, romantic love is directed at one person only while hate can be directed against entire individuals or groups as is the case with racial, political or gender hatred. Additionally, some men may suffer from character disorders that can consequentially lead to an underdevelopment of one’s conscience or a lack of mirror neurons (empathy neurons) leading to extreme aggressive behaviour and/or hatred. The basis for this can be genetic and/or social upbringing and this is more common amongst males from developing nations as they strive for survival.

Now that you all understand the biology of hatred somewhat, it is perhaps easier to embrace the pragmatism of your relationships. If he says he hates you, he probably does! There is no element of love at all. So either you can falsely boost your ego under a facade of hatred and illusion of love or be better informed to make sensible decisions.

Until today Ms. Y is unaware of the root cause of Mr. X’s hatred but definitely knows it is not a disguised form of love.

By Sana Hameed Baba