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Is Our Constant Need for Progress Enslaving Us?

Is Our Constant Need for Progress Enslaving Us?

Is our constant need for progress enslaving us? -> The issue here is an issue of self-knowledge. How can you live well if you don’t know yourself? The comprehension of a successful life in our modern western societies is mostly driven by external factors that […]

“Keep Religion & Politics to Yourself”

“Keep Religion & Politics to Yourself”

Have you ever heard someone say, don’t talk about religion or politics if you want to get along with people? This appears to be the dominant sentiment in the West. We shy away from upsetting or inconveniencing people, so we rarely engage in conversations that […]

Letter to the Friends I Will Never Forget

Letter to the Friends I Will Never Forget

I was a four year old blonde Hispanic boy who had recently moved to Canada with my family. There are few things I remember about that transition period except for my friends David and Jose. We were as different as the color of our skin, but what united us was innocence and curiosity. We played until the sun went to bed and ran alongside the dogs of the neighbourhood.

When I was 20, I had an existential crisis(like many kids that age). I was clueless and wandered through life like someone lost in a labyrinth. That is when I met the most beautiful humans that I have ever encountered. You know that saying that goes, there is a light at the end of the tunnel? They were my light. In their presence I discovered joy.

At the age of 24 I once again experienced the down part of a rollercoaster. My self esteem was stripped and I nakedly pondered this question: am I worthy to be loved? That is when a friend picked up a guitar and sang. Those were the days we danced and decided to forget our worries… It helped. 

When I was 26, an event took place that changed the course of my life. When I think about that day, and the sequence of events that needed to happen in order for us to be together in that room, I get goosebumps. Whether by fate or mere coincidence, there we were. I believe love takes time to build and grow, but for us, romance was ignited in an instant. One moment we were friends, the next we were lovers.

As I sit in my room contemplating on the people I have met along the way, I am flooded with gratitude. My life has been enriched by those I have come across. I swim in the gifts given to me by others, and I take huge bites of the blessings that have been put in my hands.

I raise a glass in the air to friendships that transcend time and distance. I propose a toast for the individuals who have shaped me into the person I am today. I say thank you to each and every one of you who entered my story and turned it into an adventure. And lastly, here’s to the friend who became my lover and now my wife. 

Jorge Robleto
https://www.facebook.com/jorgerobleto87
Hannover, GERMANY

How to Look Inwardly at Outside Problems

How to Look Inwardly at Outside Problems

What is at the heart of selfishness? Can we locate the source of hate? Is there something intrinsically evil about us? My mind is perturbed and saddened by what I see and read. Another mass shooting. Another bomb explodes. Another bigoted call to close borders […]

My First Year of Marriage has been a War

My First Year of Marriage has been a War

Marriage is war. Against the enemy of selfishness and Ego. We go through our entire lives worrying only about ourselves and all of a sudden are confronted with having to share everything with another person. What’s mine is yours they say. This process of reprogramming […]

I Give You Life Because Death Sucks

I Give You Life Because Death Sucks

I work with young kids on the weekends and have observed that some things never change. Regardless of culture, language and time period, kids everywhere use insults to put other people down.

You’re fat! You’re ugly! You’re stupid! You’re useless!

I have heard these words as much as my own name. I have spoken these words more than I could ever count.

Why do we use such hurtful language to communicate with one another?

Words hurt. They are needles pushed one at a time into your side. You may not feel the first one or the second one, but with time they accumulate and leave lasting scars.

Words kill. That part of your life that had so much joy and passion is treated to a burial ceremony that no one attends. This is the transition from innocence to a hardened heart; from trust to skepticism; from love to resentment.

I died a long time ago but have been resurrected. In the same way words were used to destroy me, words gave me life again.

‘You are an interesting person. Tell me more about yourself.’ ‘Oh wow, you are really smart. Can you teach me more about that?’ ‘You have a wonderful personality. I’m so glad we met!’

I don’t know your struggle. I don’t know how many times you have been called inadequate, stupid, or good for nothing… But I know what it feels like.

If people told you you wouldn’t achieve anything, well I believe you will. If you have ever been told that your outward appearance is unpleasing, well I’m here to tell you that the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in this world is a kind soul. If you have ever been the recipient of hurtful comments, well let me tell you that the heart heals. It can regenerate and become stronger than ever before.

You are strong.    

Jorge Robleto
https://www.facebook.com/jorgerobleto87
Hannover, GERMANY

Note: featured image by Damon Fraietta

The Long Walk Home by Brandon Wint

The Long Walk Home by Brandon Wint

  Brandon Wint, a two-time national champion of poetry slam and one of Canada’s most beloved and well-respected spoken word artists, released his first full length album, The Long Walk Home, on April 22nd, 2016. The album, a unique one within the landscape of Canadian […]

How an Aboriginal Artist Turned His Life into an Inspiration for Others

How an Aboriginal Artist Turned His Life into an Inspiration for Others

We saw Illustrated for the first time at a Poetry Slam in Edmonton. There was something very unique about his style and content. His words elicited a realism and intensity that we had not seen before. We hoped to get the chance to speak to […]

I Contemplate the Beauty in Front of me and Say, IT IS GOOD

I Contemplate the Beauty in Front of me and Say, IT IS GOOD

Every morning I get up and read the news. It’s a habit I’ve had for many years now. Log on to yahoo.com or cnn.com and you will see that most news stories do not present the world in a positive light. Whether it is racist statements by presidential candidates, terrorist attacks in numerous places, or the latest celebrity gossip, there are many reasons to be pessimistic.

I sometimes observe the world like the sinking Titanic. Global warming is a real threat. We have contaminated our oceans and atmosphere in pursuit of wealth and economic power. We show little regard for how consumerism negatively affects communities in the third world, so long as as we have cheap food and clothing. Fear governs the day. We adopt a mentality of us vs. them and proclaim our nationalist views on social media. This reactionist sentiment could very well lead to a nuclear war. We continue to see income inequality in our most vulnerable populations. Racism is a monster we have yet to overcome.

Pretty depressing eh?

But what if this is just one side of the story? What would happen if I instead woke up and said, life is good? Not in an attempt to shield myself from the cruelty that exists, but in order to be inspired and motivated to do something about it. 

When I say it is good, that means that it can be improved. We do not live in a perfect world, therefore it is up to us to collectively bring about positive change. That change begins in the heart and mind. We must reboot our hard-drive that says, all is hopeless, and install a new worldview. We must feel empathy and love for every living being. We must bleed love. Your pain is my pain, and your joy is my joy.

I am saying nothing new. Philosophers, teachers and religious leaders have preached this message for centuries. But we need to be reminded each and every day.

So I awake. I turn over and see my wife slowly begin to open up her eyes. A shy smile starts to form around the edges of her lips. There is calmness in her gaze.  I contemplate the beauty in front of me and say, IT IS GOOD.

Jorge Robleto
https://www.facebook.com/robletojorge/
Hannover, GERMANY

Note: featured image by Jorge Robleto

How Pain and Loss Can Lead Us to Hope

How Pain and Loss Can Lead Us to Hope

I sit alone in your room in your chair in silence brimming with loss and air so empty it chokes me. It is all around without escape and must consume and carve before it fills the hollow in my chest. Loss is the space between […]

7 Q’s with Shakeyra Pinnock

7 Q’s with Shakeyra Pinnock

Shakeyra Pinnock is a visual artist from the island of Jamaica and is passionately pursuing a career as a visual artist. She now lives in the city of Edmonton, Canada and has been commissioned to perform artistically in a number of different events. What got […]

War & Home by Sara AlSouqi

War & Home by Sara AlSouqi

War, forced my grandfathers’ out of Palestine to Jordan in 1948. Shortly after, they migrated to Kuwait, where both my parents were born and raised. In 1990, the war in Kuwait forced my parents and toddler of a brother out of Kuwait to Jordan again, where I was born in 1991. In 1994, my parents left Jordan and moved to the United Arab Emirates. Somewhere lost in this narrative, is the story of my pregnant mother’s journey from Kuwait to Jordan, where she was stranded at the borders of Syria; and not easily granted access into Jordan due to the fact that she was not a carrier of the Jordanian passport like my father was. This, among many reasons, became strong enough reason for me to hate Jordan. Is it okay to hate the country of your birth? The place where you began your journey as a human being on this earth. I did, and still do, shamelessly. It will always be that place I was unwelcome in when I was in my passport-less mother’s womb. A place where politics matters more than morals or ethics, a place that never meant home.

Home, in the mind of a child is always relative to their mother. This is why we call our homelands, our motherlands. To me, the two constructs, home and motherhood are congruent, but at the age of 24, my construct of a motherland is still an abstract one. When asked about where I am from, I identify as Palestinian-Canadian. A hybrid identity, with each part faintly retracting. In Canada, I will always be an immigrant, and in Palestine, I will always be that girl who does not know the true meaning of being Palestinian. A girl who never heard the sounds of bombshells outside of her television screen, a girl who never truly felt the meaning of the word struggle. But to believe that is to say that my story is an inadequate representation of my identity. To believe that is to believe that all Palestinians are made to struggle in life. It is to say that if you have not lived through war, that you do not qualify to be Palestinian, but to me, being Palestinian is much more than living through war.

sara

War, means much more than struggle. I know that I have not lived through war. My struggle has not been one of living through bombs, loss, poverty, or misfortune, but rather in accepting the fortune of some over others; a reconciliation between why, and why not. The struggle of accepting that change, like all good things, takes time. Understanding that the unfortunate outnumber the number of years we are given to bring about change. Accepting that I must live in the presence of injustice, but not live in the comfort of injustice. The struggle of a constantly guilty conscious; we are all Palestinian, why do they live in war, while I live in peace? Why are they dying in the place that I call home.

Home became something I decided not to think of anymore. When I moved to Canada in 2008, I learned that telling a story that never happened, is not always called lying. It depended on whose story you were telling. I realized that when this world’s criteria for determining the validity of a truth, is based on a lie, then giving up your story, becomes the only way to survive. So I gave it up in my heart and prayed for peace. The difficulty in finding peace was accepting that grievance is not the only way to get over your loss. In 2012, I learned about a mental pressure point that I never knew I had. I learned that sometimes, crying required more cardiac than facial muscles. And that screaming cannot always be heard over the laughter of men who know that they have completely defeated you; a test of true patience. I learned that I needed to wait a minimum of seven hours stranded at a border, without getting frustrated, to be granted access into my motherland. I learned that humiliation may be some people’s hobby and that not everybody loves a good heart. I did not see my motherland that day, three years later, I have not seen her yet either. So I wrote, I wrote in years, not words, and my journey became defined by my art instead of my struggle. I loved telling the world about people they had never heard of. Telling the world about my own abstract construct of war.

sara2

War never just meant one thing. My first journey with Art begun at the age of 16, I learned of a battle between what was on my head, and in my head. My hijab. I learned that wearing it was a journey, not a decision, or a final destination. I thought that I had touched every fabric as I wrapped it around my head every day, that I knew it like it was my very own, but ten years later I am still learning. My journey of art started on a small stage where I stood with my eyes pinned to the ground and read my poem off my page, and that was the best thing I had ever done. From that day, I began to share everything my mind found troublesome about this world, and that was when I started finding peace between war and home.

Home, became a space where there was a mic. And my journey was very much like these paragraphs, marked by searching for beginnings of home and ends of war. Instead, I learned that beginnings of war only ended home. And I still struggle, my mind still needs convincing that war and home are NOT just two different words for the same place. And even though it seems like home is my end, there is no end to the space that I learned to call home.

Sara Al Souqi
https://www.facebook.com/sara.souqi
Edmonton, CANADA


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