The Ship That Wouldn’t Sink and the Ship That Sank too Soon

Faith, pure and unshakeable, humility, sweet and subtle and an iron will that withstood a storm that ravaged and destroyed nearly all life on this planet, this is what it took to build this gigantic ship, the first of its kind and the only vessel to have endured it all and docked its crew to a safe harbour. The Ark of Nuh (AS), a sign among many for hearts that comprehend and souls that stir in reflection and hope. Where the great flood was the ultimate sign of total destruction for the arrogant, disbelieving ones, it was also the only beacon of hope for the believers who were oppressed and disheartened. For them, the flood was not a destructive force but one that rescued them and steered them to a safe refuge.

Prophet Nuh (AS) tirelessly called the people to the right path over the longest period in recorded history, precisely nine hundred and fifty years as mentioned in the Quran. In 950 years he only managed to garner a mere following of 80 people according to most narrations and these were the ones that undertook the journey in the ark putting their complete faith in Allah and were thus guided to safety. These fortunate 80 were also the poorest and the least popular amongst the people, the ones deemed downtrodden and unwanted in the eyes of all except for Allah and His Prophet.

Nuh (AS’s) patience and unwavering faith serve as a strong reminder to anyone on the path of preaching to never get disheartened in their journey. He invited his people to believe in the Oneness of Allah and to leave the worship of false deities. He invited them to the path of truth, humility and justice but they were determined to follow the footsteps of their forefathers without questioning the truth of their erring ways. The people paid no heed to Nuh (AS’s) constant reminders, his appeals to their intellect or his gentle admonishment. Their arrogance and pride never gave them a chance to comprehend the beauty of true faith. They were lost in their maze of vanities and self-deceit.

Nuh (AS) always prayed to Allah to guide them but the people stubbornly persisted in their disbelief. They were tired of Nuh (AS’s) preaching and said “O Noah, you have disputed with us and much have you prolonged the dispute with us, now bring upon us what you threaten us with, if you are of the truthful”. (Surah Hud 11:32) Prophet Nuh (AS) was disheartened by their repeated insults and their unwillingness to come to the right path. When Allah revealed to the prophet that no one else would heed his call and they would continue in their arrogant ways, then Nuh (AS) said, “My Lord, leave not one of the disbelievers on the earth, since they will mislead Your slaves and beget none but wicked disbelievers.” (Surah Nuh 26-27) This prayer wasn’t a result of anger or contempt but because he knew that there was no hope for any reform in them and their wickedness was growing exponentially.

Allah then commanded the prophet to build a huge ark under His guidance and inspiration. When the people found Nuh (AS) building the ark they mocked him ceaselessly, they asked him why he was building a ship in a desert and if he had taken a fancy to carpentry instead of preaching. Isn’t this always the case when someone undertakes a difficult challenge or goal? We find people mocking their ability and questioning their aspirations but if one has complete faith and diligently strives towards that goal then success is inevitable. Nuh (AS) completed this massive undertaking with Allah’s help and when the heavens started pouring torrential rain and water started gushing from the earth, he boarded the ark with the believers and set off to ride the storm. The flood that engulfed the land was huge in proportions that none could have imagined. When the waters receded finally Allah steered the boarders of the ark to a safe and blessed landing. The ark still rests on Mount Judi, fossilized and evident for all to see. It is most definitely a reminder and a clear sign that the stories from the Quran are indeed true.

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Image Source: islamiclandmarks.com
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Image Source: noahsfloodnoahsark.wordpress.com

This massive vessel wasn’t put together by one trained and skilled for the job but by a prophet who had only his faith in Allah to help him. It was the first ship to be ever built without any model to refer to. Nuh (AS) had never seen a ship because they did not live near an ocean and neither was the world so densely populated so as to have trade routes across the seas. His crew members probably knew nothing about navigation and neither were they a seafaring community but they undertook this journey in humility and hope and survived the flood.

There are innumerable lessons to be learned from this story if we patiently ponder over it and try to grasp with an open mind.  I pray that Allah guides us all and hope that we are not led astray by our ignorance and pride. And I pray that when we seek answers, we seek with the intention to learn the truth and increase our understanding and not with derision and a motive to invalidate the obvious.

Let us talk about another ship now that exclusively rode most popularity charts before and after its short life-span, the R.M.S Titanic. I am drawing an analogy here between the two because it strikes me to be one that provides deeper insight and makes us reflect on divine intervention, faith and human folly.

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The R.M.S Titanic was the most expensive and foremost in sophisticated nautical design and technology. It took 26 months and a workforce of over 3000 skilled people to build this magnificent, luxurious, one of its kind ocean liner. It embarked on its maiden vogage and was launched into the water amid great fanfare and a mere 4 days later and just 7 seconds worth of scraping by an underwater spur of ice caused enough damage to have this entire vessel come undone.

The Titanic had a double-plated bottom and sixteen watertight compartments on the hull of the ship with doors that were designed to close in case water entered them thus allowing the ship to stay afloat. This was one of the reasons that the ship was deemed unsinkable. In fact a crew member was reported to have said to an embarking passenger, Mrs. Sylvia Caldwell, “God himself could not sink this ship!” When the ship had the fatal glancing collision with the iceberg the hull buckled inwards and it was 5 of these very 16 watertight compartments that opened up to the sea thereby drawing water in.

How atrociously pompous is that statement that “God couldn’t sink the ship”. How could anyone presume that the one who created us and inspired us to think and build such massive vessels had no power over it? This probably wasn’t an idle comment by one crew member but the collective opinion of the over confident builders and financiers of this ship, how else can one explain the major potholes in the safety measures and slack in emergency procedures for the Titanic. They had already touted it as “The safest ship ever built”, and hence overlooked key safety features. Sometimes we tend to get fooled by our achievements and the structures that we labor over, we think we are self-made and let our false egos and pride take over the clear sense of reasoning that we have been blessed with. How deeply do we then afflict ourselves and wrong our souls.

There is enough research out there to fill a presumptuous labyrinth of possible reasons that might have led to this terrible disaster, yet it is just that; a maze of probabilities that make the investigator’s head spin. What was it, human error, the force of nature, preordained destiny, sheer arrogance or a culminating spiral of all this that led to this eventual tragedy?

When you read the detailed accounts of what went on board the Titanic that fateful day it churns up such an emotional turmoil within; the countless lives lost, the dreams, the hopes and aspirations that drowned with them and the shattered lives of the families and loved ones they left behind.

Why does our species then continually disregard the obvious and flock together in confused societies armed with nothing more than our haughty egos? Why are we so sceptical when we see the signs that our creator has scattered around the world in His creation? The entire natural world in all its diversity and uniqueness bears the stamp of but one architect. Our life, our struggles, our relationships, our efforts to strive towards goodness and our challenges would have no meaning if death would indeed be the final curtain call to our existence and there is no accountability and no hereafter. There is a creator that we are accountable to, life is a gift that we have to live to the best of our ability and it is a test that we will be judged for. We need to open our hearts and believe in the oneness of Allah and stay humble and grateful for everything in life. We all need to board the vessels that Allah propels us towards with faith and resolution and indeed then we shall get steered towards success and fulfilment.

 

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You Can Learn Anything From Scratch

We are living in an incredibly charged up information age. A time where the air itself is infused with so much electrifying energy that our mind literally spins at high speed velocity and it’s really amazing how we still manage to stay grounded. No knowledge is beyond the scope and breadth of our grasp. We learn as we breathe each day and that too in copious volumes.

The virtual world bombards us with new information every other second and even if one isn’t quite internet savvy, you would still be exposed to a lot more than you signed up for. It’s much like the era of the amazing gold rush only this knowledge boom is far more precious than any metal or stone.

The gift of learning is what makes our species distinct and blessed. We now google anything and everything and refresh our existing memory banks throughout the day. Education isn’t confined to brick and mortar institutions anymore, any new skill or field of study is easily accessible through the net. In short we cannot come up with any tangible excuse for being unable to learn something we wanted to other than our own reluctance to do so. There are even comprehensive college level courses available for free online. Coursera, Udacity and Duolingo are my personal favourite net destinations for learning. Honestly, the kind of courses that Coursera offers is unbelievable and some of the most prestigious universities are onboard here. More options definitely exist but I find these sites quite engaging and fulfilling as far as my learning outcomes are concerned.

YouTube and Pinterest are yet other popular learning repositories where the delightful visual array and level of engagement makes everything fun to learn. From spirituality to science, fantastic lectures on almost any field of study are a few keystrokes away. From rolling out the perfect flatbreads, baking solutions, figuring out the ins and outs of your gadgets to the most amazing DIY hacks ever; YouTube and Pinterest are perfect treasure troves for sure. In fact I really want to share something I have recently started to learn using solely YouTube tutorials.

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Wisteria Tree (Artsherpa Tutorial)

During one of our vacations in March this year at my dad’s place my sister asked me to get my hyperactive 4 year old daughter interested in paints hoping it might help her to focus and calm down a bit. Well, it certainly did that and more importantly it’s been one heck of a wonderful journey of discovery and pure joy ever since. Painting with my daughter has been real fun and we both enjoy the creative time spent together. But I had no idea that a splash of colour on the canvas could feel so exhilarating and relaxing, it’s totally therapeutic. I can draw some elementary stuff but had never really tried my hand at painting.

My neighbor in India, Nilofer Hanif is a very talented artist and her paintings are really inspiring. Her works have always filled me with a sense of awe and often made me wonder how incredible it must feel to be able to paint so beautifully. When you find something that overwhelms you or fills you with wonder and realize one fine day that you can learn this skill too, the feeling is one of sheer delight.

 

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Sailboat Sunset Seascape (Artsherpa Tutorial)

I think with the number of in depth tutorials that YouTube offers anyone can learn to paint from scratch. I Did! My favourite tutors are ‘Theartsherpa’, ‘Ryan O’Rourke’s 10 minute paintings’ and ‘Katie Jobling Art’. Cinnamon Cooney @ ‘theartsherpa’ makes learning to paint so much fun and she exudes so much optimism and enthusiasm that even if you don’t know a thing about art you will want to grab a paintbrush and have a go at it. She really keeps you motivated and engaged throughout her art lesson and her positive energy is quite infectious. Teachers have a big hand in making you want to learn something and developing your latent potential into something magical.

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Moonlit Forest Landscape (Ryan O’ Rourke Tutorial)

I have posted some of my initial paintings. They are completely amateur attempts and it required a lot of nerve to post them here but I have really enjoyed making them and I am hoping I can improve and learn more each day. We all take our initial fumbling steps with anything new and I am taking mine too.

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Tropical Beach Sunset

The Wisteria Tree and the Sailboat Sunset Seascape are both paintings from ‘theartsherpa’ tutorials. The Moonlit Forest Landscape is from ‘Ryan O’ Rourke’s’ tutorial. The Tropical Beach Sunset is my first original from photo to canvas…..was giddy with joy over that one and the last one is a copy of Fog Alley by Leonid Afremov. I absolutely love Leonid Afremov’s work, all his paintings are colourful, vibrant and pulse with energy and this zeal for life that I find so irresistible.

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Copy of Leonid Afremov’s, ‘Fog Alley’

I don’t really know if this fascination with painting is a just a phase or something I might hold on to and work on further but I know it adds something very rewarding to my life. If you really want to learn a new skill, an art form, a language or a field of study then there is no stopping you. The more we learn, the more fulfilling life becomes. It’s like adding new colours to the canvas of our life, each subtle hue adds more substance and value to it. And it doesn’t really matter how big or small your new learning adventure is or whether it’s for a short time or a lifelong quest, what matters is the fascinating journey of learning it encapsulates, the things that we take from it and the people we become through it.

Feel free to share your thoughts and do let me know about any of your new learning adventures. And if you have any useful tips about painting for a beginner like me please share them.

Something For All

 

Something simmers,

In a world that glimmers.

A waiting mob;

A broken sob.

Hopes that sink;

All in a blink.

Tears dry;

We cannot cry.

All those lies;

Severed ties.

Hearts of gold,

Driven cold.

This land’s so new;

Nothing’s quite true.

Yet somethings endure,

And promise to stay pure.

A smile that flickers,

Despite the nasty snickers.

A sense of life,

Through every strife.

A spirit that mends,

At every bend.

An honest will;

Sturdy still.

Sweet prayers that stall;

The fall of all.

And faith that steers

The faint-hearted  to cheers.

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‘Something For All’, is an attempt to capture what little I understand from one of life’s innumerable lessons. It’s about the mixed platter that life is. All magical and unique elements tossed together at random; the pleasant, the not so pleasant; a little sweet, a little sour; the pain and the soothing comfort; each bite extraordinary with its own nuance to add a flavorful punch to this ever so busy mad, mad infusion of our existence. Can’t help the food flavoured language, I just got back from my vacation in India; the perfect gastronomical dream destination for every foodie.

So somewhere in between succulent morsels of spiced up goodies and meeting the equally amazing people from my incredible home country, I got a slight whiff of what mortal contentment is all about. It’s not about finding perfection in an imperfect world, it’s about finding pockets of endearing comfort and joy that dot our journey through life. It’s about accepting with compassion all people and all places the way they are.

We aren’t all tailor-made to suit each other’s palate and neither is life cut out to fit our desired shape. But when we acquiesce to what comes our way and make the most of it, we can truly find pleasure and make each moment memorable.

The pursuit of happiness isn’t one I fancy too much because it’s rather fleeting. I feel contentment is more lasting and being grateful for every moment keeps one content in all situations. If I expect life and people to be perfect, I’d be fooling myself. If I insist that there’s only positive energy and I will always flash my flag of positivity then again I’m only cooking up a dream that has no place in a real world.

There’s a lot of good here, some bad and some downright obnoxious stuff all plated together. You can’t just ignore the things you don’t like. Any disassociation from the unappetising elements creates greater discord and breaks the harmony of life. Acceptance doesn’t imply that we shouldn’t work toward improvement or positive change. I feel everyone and everything undergoes slow reform but we can’t change people, systems or situations through alienation or downright aggression. Change requires consistent kind effort and gradual coercion and it definitely happens. It’s a slow process, one that is a little difficult to fully appreciate in this new world of instant everything but it’s something that has endured and probably will pull our generation and the ones that follow through all trying times. No Utopian ideals here just what my observation tells me. There’s hope in every quarter and it will enlighten the way to a more fruitful life.

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Hopefully we will all gradually learn to live with greater tolerance, compassion and harmony and embrace life with all its oddities.

Any thoughts on my poem, the write-up or what you have learned from your observations through life are welcome. Your opinions really matter and add to my understanding.

Social Pressure : The Norm to Conform

They Say It All

 

They say you gotta cuss; you gotta play rough.

Your attitude’s just not cool enough.

They say go bold; gotta strut your stuff.

Your modest garb ain’t cool enough.

They say, “Being ‘You’, is a huge drawback”.

It’ll only earn you a lot of flack.

They say, ‘We got your back’;

‘We’ll cut you some slack’.

If you walk their walk;

And talk their talk.

And tick to their tock;

And click to their clock.

They say, ‘Follow the herd’;

‘Ain’t easy being a free bird’.

They say theirs is the only word;

So tag on; can’t risk being unheard.

They say, ‘Try to blend; stay on trend’.

‘Bend backwards or simply pretend’.

They say, ‘Ain’t any good if we do not commend’.

You need them all to help you ascend.

Now all you care is what they’ll say.

Throughout your life, they’ll have their way.

You need their approval to make your day.

Striving away just to hear, ‘Yes you may!’

You’ll do just fine staying true to yourself.

You’re not another trophy upon their shelf.

Tell them, ‘My coolest version is being myself’.

“I’d rather be ‘Me’, than your second best self”.

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Are we really hardwired to conform to the dictates of an imposing crowd? Is our individual trace not strong enough to assert itself? Weren’t we born distinct with our inherent qualities and exceptional talents? Why then do we fall prey to social pressure? Why do we feel the need to fit in?

Social pressure or peer pressure isn’t just something that kids or teenagers deal with, it’s something that even adults struggle with. There’s a strange longing in all of us to belong. We want to be part of a group where everyone finds us acceptable and gives us that much needed sense of security. It’s not strange then to see to what extent people are willing to go to match up to the standards of others. They often end up completely stamping out their own individuality and losing all sense of self.

In schools and universities one can easily see how peer pressure works; it’s an explicit model of how the world functions at large. We have the popular kids groups, the Jocks, Preppies, Goths, Emo, Nerds….there are probably more and the existing groups might evolve further. You need to tune into the attitude, behavioral patterns and values of a particular group if you want to share the label. It’s a real challenge and kids are sometimes willing to do anything to get accepted. We might shrug off this issue as something that only affects insecure and immature minds but we give in to social pressure too more often than we would like to admit to.

The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the words we use and even the people we associate with are sometimes a result of the influence of society. People dress to conform to the expectations of others or simply because it’s the ‘In Thing’. It might not be the most comfortable or decent apparel but it gets them within the circle and saves them being treated as a social misfit. We even end up altering our opinions based on what’s trending. Social conformity is definitely not just something that defines our physical identity but it works deeper to displace our beliefs, value system and ingrained ideologies.

It’s really easy to keep talking about believing in yourself and doing the right thing but it’s only a great deal of persistent effort that can help us retain our individuality. We were not born to conform to other individuals, there is more to our existence. We are stronger only by our convictions and faith; designed to stand our ground and shine out with our own unique stature in this world.

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Do you find social pressure alarming? Did you face any peer pressure challenges at school or work? Do share your thoughts.

It’s Not Always Dark

It’s not always dark.

From dull, earthen breast,

Rise sweet songs of the skylark.

It’s never always pale and withering.

In cold, dead winter’s bosom,

Beats the heart of spring.

It’s not always so stark.

Wildflower blooms do blushingly brighten

The fallen and forgotten old tree bark.

So much to achieve even at life’s rim.

Feverishly hungry flames still burn,

In lantern’s long past brim.

Life’s too short to lose that spark.

Just a spot of sun after the rain

Brings forth the rainbow’s arc.

You can always make a new start.

Chaste, humble morns after a dark stormy night

Are all part of nature’s spectacular art.

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I wanted this poem to be about hope and the silver lining that we are constantly looking for while under a dark cloud. When things don’t go our way, or circumstances lead us to a dark place, we sometimes tend to fret about our luck. Everything seems bleak and  we just can’t see the light. We feel helpless and overwhelmed by our state of affairs.

The worst storms sometimes however carry the greatest blessings. Just because we don’t see the light, doesn’t mean it’s not there. If things aren’t going the way we planned them, doesn’t mean they are not working in our favour. The fact that we can’t see the bigger picture provides me with the greatest relief because I know my limited vision cannot perceive how bright the future really is. Our creator witholds something at times perhaps to offer it to us at a more opportune time in the future, or He gives us something better instead.

The fact that we are blessed with the ability to trudge on in the face of adversities is evidence enough that we are heading towards refuge and comfort. We were born to survive and stand the test of time. If we take the time to look around and immerse ourselves in the natural world, we might get better attuned to the way life works. There is healing and comfort close at hand and light will eventually dawn over darkness. Nothing stays the same and as do the seasons, our time shall change too. Spells of joy, sorrow, comfort, abundance, scarcity and contentment will chase each other throughout our transient life on this planet, but faith and hope will keep us going stronger than anything else.

What gives you hope? Do you have a hope inspiring anecdote to share?

The Fear Monster

It holds me back.

It folds me back.

My fear often goads me back.

I wonder when, and linger long.

I ponder on what might go wrong.

All my dreams, it dares to throttle.

I tell myself, “I am mere mortal”.

I wish for strength, I wish for luck.

When action calls, I choose to duck.

I like to play the waiting game.

Then all else, I seek to blame.

My spirit’s curbed; deep lines of pain.

My reflection mocks; drives me insane.

Can’t let it override my senses to flight!

Can’t let it destroy me in such clear sight!

One day I will strive to banish this demon.

This vicious bandit that seeks to steal men;

Of dreams of glory, of joys unchained;

Of strength and valour, of skills unclaimed.

I will find my voice, I will find new skies.

To claim myself; one day I will rise.

Fear is one of the most frequent visitors in our subconscious. Even if we choose to deal with it squarely or ignore it completely it still hounds us. And for those who often fall prey to it, the vicious little creep tightens his reins around their faculties to the extent that they no longer have the will to shake it off.

Our inner fear is probably the greatest hurdle to any sort of forward movement in life. It is the annoying little pesky voice in your head that says, “Don’t even think about trying for that job, you aren’t qualified enough”, “Don’t make that call, they won’t entertain the likes of you”, “Don’t even bother with that silly idea, it won’t work”. No matter what you attempt to do, it gives you hundreds of reasons why you shouldn’t and highlights how miserably you would fail if you go ahead with it.

I have realized that the more I acknowledge its presence, the easier it is for me to shrug it off. I try replacing the negations with positive assertions. If it conjures up limitations, I strengthen my belief that I have been blessed with life and the ability to do wonderful things with it. I might as well have a good go at it than hang around the periphery like a spectator and wonder what it must feel like to be a big game player.

Fear will always be an integral part of our life. We do need it to a certain extent to propel us to work harder, to be more prepared and to sharpen our instincts. But it is important to avoid falling in a perpetual trap of doubts and imagined failures.

How do you handle your inner fear?

Now Is the Right Moment!

I have been wanting to blog since a very long time but have been putting it of for someday in the near future. And that near future kept dwindling farther and farther away from my conscious thoughts. Perhaps the fear of putting myself out there makes the the concept of ‘Someday’ a brighter option. However, today I have decided to dive right into it because I have realised that someday will never materialise unless I grab this moment today.

We find ourselves perpetually playing the waiting game. Hoping that something or someone will deliver us from our suffering which is most often self-inflicted by our non-enterprising disposition. We are irresolute in terms of everything except for waiting for that opportune moment when everything shall magically fall in place, and until that happens the plot of our life will not develop.

We keep waiting for something or someone to kick-start our life. It could be an event, a fortunate circumstance, a special person or divine intervention that could activate our stagnant state. Ridiculous as it might seem, we are completely happy to wait, after all it saves us the trouble of facing our fears and trying to take that first fumbling step into independent action.

Time of course flows rapidly in contrast to the frustrating futility of our indolence, and because we have decided to stay in this vacuum, time flows right out of our grasp. We fail to benefit from its movement which could have led us to ascend in the journey of our life.

We tend to put forth endless excuses for not doing something and the vice of procrastination embeds deeper into our consciousness. That supposedly right time might never arrive and the opportunity to live our life fully will get lost forever. We forget that we have to bring that moment to life. We ought to take prompt action, make that tough decision, take that daring risk, and just jump on that dreamboat and sail off. Sometimes you have to grab that shy dream by the lapels and pull it centre stage.

WE HAVE TODAY! Tomorrow is a beautiful possibility, but this moment right now is PERFECT. It is just the time to unveil that dream and let it soak the radiant sunlight. It deserves the light of realisation. Give it a chance. Give yourself a chance!

It does not have to be a groundbreaking idea or a fantastically marvellous project. Something big, something small, something crazy, something droll……just get on with it. We can set it in motion today itself and that will be quite an achievement.

Perhaps you want to campaign for a cause, apply in a prestigious institution, write a book, discuss a business plan with a financier, get a makeover or maybe just learn to roller skate. Do it now. There is no better time for it. Make it happen, even divine intervention favours the diligent go getter.

The tendency to procrastinate takes away the strength of initiative and the lustre of spontaneity. Embrace your fear with hope, it could be a propelling factor; springing all senses to action and igniting the primitive survival instinct. We could either be out there testing our wings in the wide blue skies, or cooped up safe and unruffled in our comfy nesting. The choice to soar and strive, to dive deep and survive should be ours. We have to take that decision because NOW is that PERFECTLY RIGHT MOMENT!