As a young boy in Columbus, Indiana, I attended an elementary school called ABC Stewart. Last night, having been primed for nostalgia by some Thanksgiving-inspired reminiscing, my family and I went through old boxes in a storage room, where we came across the school’s 2004 yearbook.

Image for post
Image for post
Evidently, the school still wasn’t progressive enough for two squares to hold hands

The cover features a number of crudely-sexed stick figures of various colors, presumably a signal of the school’s multiculturalism, and not an entirely unwarranted one: my sister and I were one of three first-generation Syrian families there.

On the first page we encounter the founder, matriarch, and principal of the school, Merry Charmichael, whose…


Image for post
Image for post

Hunter S. Thompson’s second book, The Rum Diary, remained unpublished for most of his lifetime. But more than half a century after it was written, the novel was adapted into a film starring his long-time friend Johnny Depp, who portrayed its protagonist and Thompson’s literary alter-ego, Paul Kemp.

The film adaptation was a poetic triumph for the late Thompson, who wrote the book as a struggling 22-year-old writer. …


Image for post
Image for post

As part of my job at an optometry clinic, I run patients through a series of tests which screen for common ocular and visual disorders and provide the doctor with important information prior to the eye exam.

This routine has become proceduralized, enough so that I can have a relatively coherent conversation while running and documenting all the tests, and yet there are two distinct situations which rise above the mundane and give me an opportunity to pause and reflect.

Stereo #9: a striking display of subconscious knowledge

The image of the world given by each of the two eyes is slightly different than the other. The brain…


Image for post
Image for post

What is the quintessentially human endeavor? To face the most terrifying parts of yourself, striving towards truth and goodness of spirit, and at the end of a long journey of self-discovery, to be able to lead others through theirs. To find, in the particulars of one’s own suffering, something of the universally human, and to convey that insight to the world.

This has been the life led by psychologist Marsha Linehan, and the product of her labors has been dialectical behavioral therapy, one of the most thoroughly evidenced forms of talk therapy. …


Image for post
Image for post

(Translated from an obscure Sufi text)

Everything in the universe and on the surface of the earth praises God, and testifies to his existence — all of it is the work of the creator, the eternal and self-sustaining, the completely transcendent. Have you seen the sky? He raised it. And the stars in orbit? He fixed them. And your own creation? He made you from a blood-clot, fashioned and proportioned you, instilled in you a sense of right and wrong, and gave you the capacity for speech. All of these are signs for people who give thought.

Dumb, deaf, and…


Image for post
Image for post

You aren’t likely to find a more loaded term than the placebo effect. As one author pointed out, it has the quality of a semantic chameleon, signifying different things in different fields of study. To the scientists, it’s a nuisance: something that must be overcome in a research study in order to prove that a treatment ‘really works’. To the doctors — the orthodox ones, at least — it’s a happy mistake: a phenomenon that contributes to well-being, but which is for the most part evoked without their intention. …


Image for post
Image for post

Our visual field, the area of perceptible stimuli around a point of central fixation, isn’t uniform: there are some obvious, and other more subtle, discrepancies in our capacity for detection and response, known in the psychophysical literature as asymmetries.

The most obvious asymmetry exists between our central and peripheral vision. This is most clearly demonstrated when reading text, which requires a high degree of visual acuity, the ability to make out fine details of an image. Looking at a word directly, you can see it clearly, but shift your eyes even slightly away from it, and you’ll hardly be able…


Image for post
Image for post

Far from the American public’s reductionist conception of it, which emphasizes its sociopolitical aspects and obscures its status as a blueprint for self-becoming, Islam is a religion which is based on the single individual’s experience. Specifically, it instructs the adherent to introspect on his own life by viewing it from the perspective of a transcendent cosmic witness: a divine creator who will resurrect us and hold us accountable by a standard of ultimate justice.

The roots of this idea are no doubt ancient, and perhaps best captured in the striking iconography of the ancient Egyptians, who represented the final judgement…


Image for post
Image for post

The mu’allaqat — literally, the ‘hanging ones’ — are several widely renowned poems of the pre-Islamic Arabic corpus, so named because they’re said to have adorned the walls of the Ka’ba, that holy religious site which, even then, was a center of widespread worship and pilgrimage.

Imru’ al-Qays was a 6th century warrior-poet who composed one of the mu’allaqat, and who, like many of his contemporaries, focused on themes relating to Arab chivalry: the seduction of woman, taming of great beasts, skill with swords and arrows, and victory in battles.

Here are the first six stanzas of the hanging poem…


Image for post
Image for post

My dreams tend to be extremely vivid, featuring not only detailed visual scenes, but — owing to the fact that I’m a predominantly verbal thinker — an unusually prominent focus on language (I’m apparently exempt, for example, from the common saying that you can’t read while dreaming).

The most striking example of this comes from those instances, not uncommon, in which I wake up having learned an entirely new word — provided to me, as though miraculously, from the creative and mystical process of the dreamwork. Here are three of such words I’ve encountered in the past few months.

Ikhtislas

(noun)…

Farid Alsabeh

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store