Who am I?

And if creativity is the embodiment and emblem of full functionality and holistic health, then art is the manifestation of such a condition and state. Abraham Maslow wrote that “creative art education, or better said, Education-Through-Art, may be especially important not so much for turning out artists or art products, as for turning out better people.” And the whole point of life, arguably, is that through art, one can have as many ‘peak experiences’ in life as possible. A ‘peak experience’ amounts largely to a ‘blissful’ or ‘ecstatic’ or ‘happy’ feeling which is triggered by something. Music, art, poetry, meditation, and prayer are thought to be the most potent triggers for such ‘peak experiences.’ 

Also, some of my readers may have wondered where my name comes from. In order to accept or digest the content produced by an individual, it is often helpful to know the story behind the individual who is producing the content. There is, arguably, a story behind every name. And the story behind my name is essentially shaped by a battle over identity which began as soon as I came into this world. My maternal grandmother, I should note, was the most influential and important figure in my life growing up as a child and in my early youth. And when I was born, my mother and my grandmother essentially battled one another over who would name me. 

It turned out that my grandmother won the battle while my mother was in the midst of giving birth to me, and my grandmother decided that my name would be “Abdullah.” My mother, on the other hand, ardently desired for my name to be “Adam.” Thus, growing up, my identity and my personality and my story was shaped by a name that had been given to me by my grandmother, given that my childhood and my early youth was essentially shaped by the image of my grandmother. In turn, it was a childhood and an early youth that was closely knitted with culture, community, and family.

As I mentioned before, when I was in college, I worked for a law firm here in Northern Virginia. Although I knew the gist of the law field, I was not interested in ever practicing law as a result of a number of experiences and a number of reasons, the most significant of which was that the law practice was not interesting or intriguing to me. My bosses and supervisors insisted that I continue working with them and that I attend law school, but the law firm did not last long enough for that vision to materialize due to reasons which I would rather not discuss, out of respect for my old bosses. 

Coincidentally, my high school and college years coincided with the beginning and the initial stage of the 9/11 era. As a result, I was under immense pressure both from my mother and my bosses to undergo a name change, mainly for two reasons. One was that society and authorities would perhaps be less “suspicious” of me if I had a more “American” name, even though I was as liberal and open-minded as one could possibly get for someone with my cultural and religious background. Second, an “American” name would enable me to fit in more with American society. Hence, in the very end, my mother – and my bosses – won the battle, and while I was in college, I ended up with the name “Adam.”

Did the name change enable less suspicion of Muslims on the part of the authorities and society? And did it enable me to fit in more with American society? It is hard to say. But the name change did coincide with a behavioral and personality change that completely altered my place in my own culture, community, and family. In turn, these behavioral and personality changes led to a loss of identity which is hard to assess or understand, given that it has taken me to a place in life and an occupation which is now largely ahead of its time and its society as a result of “Artificial Intelligence” and “Machine Learning.” Due to personal and structural forces and factors, I had always felt that my life and my destiny were outside of my own hands. At times, the feeling that your own life is not in your hands can lead to a feeling of helplessness and immense confusion and angst. To conclude, I would like to share what Rumi Ullidov has written, which in turn puts the loss of personal identity into perspective in a poem titled “Identity Crisis”:

Should I be called Mero, Hero, or Romero?

The creator of Rome, or a sublime tyrant?

meandering in a capitalist maze – 

where cows their milk drink and throw it up.

What am I but a swift melody 

in the Lost Forests of Latin America,

never heard (do I even exist?).

Psychedelic experiences – extraterrestrial – 

Cruising in the Milky Way, on a white Toyota.

20% beast, 30% baby, 50% thoughts.

Who am I?

The son of Zeus, the king of Kamasutra,

the foolish peasant in a king’s royal court.

I am not who I wanted to be

but what I have become is not what I did not want to be.

I quit!

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