Friday, December 14, 2018

Heart Flowers : Chapter Eleven

As I said before, I live in the port-city of Mohammedia. Seen from my city, the sun usually sets somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean. But in mid-November it sets jyst over the city of Casablanca, which, seen on the map, lies a little below Mohammedia. Also the map indicates that the capital city of Rabat lies a little above Mohammedia. The common man in the street would tell you Casablanca in the south and Rabat in the north. In fact, they’re in the west and in the east respectively. So what ? Well, this only shows that, once again, we don’t care much about a lot of details as long as they don’t affect our lives in a direct manner. But the Koran does. Why the Koran? Well, many people believe in the Koran. So let’s see what’s in there.

In the Koran God presents Himself, among other things, as the  Lord of the East and the West.” (73: 9)  But He also says of Himself the “Lord of the two Easts, and Lord of the two Wests! (55 : 17)   He even says the Lord of the rising-places and the setting-places of the planets.” (70 : 40)  What does all this mean? Objectively, and scientifically speaking, all those descriptions are correct. But to what degree is the difference relevant? It may not be relevant to most people if there’s one, two or more sun-setting places. But to some people such details are very important. To such people, God says in the Koran: “Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, and we made every living thing of water? Will they not then believe? (21 : 30"See they not how we visit the land, reducing it of its outlying parts?” (13 : 41)

But what about most people? Shouldn’t they think, too? If most people don’t notice the difference in the setting-places, we all notice our own differences: in colour, in shape, in wealth, in literacy, etc, etc. Who is behind these differences, and why? Couldn’t these different be in sign that there is some kind of life after death; otherwise, the one who designed this world, in such a “discriminate” way, giving to some and depriving others, should be reckless. If it’s – furthermore – a god, whoever it might be, he can’t be reckless, or he CAN’T be God.

In the Koran God calls Himself Allah. He says it’s Him who made Man. And yet He “agrees” to argue with man. “And argue not with the People of the Scripture unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender.” (29 : 46) “Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way. Lo! thy Lord is Best Aware of him who strayeth from His way, and He is best aware of those who go aright.” (16 : 125) “O mankind! if ye are in doubt concerning the Resurrection, then lo! We have created you from dust, then from a drop of seed, then from a clot, then from a little lump of flesh shapely and shapeless, that We may make (it) clear for you. And We cause what We will to remain in the wombs for an appointed time, and afterward We bring you forth as infants, then (give you growth) that ye attain your full strength. And among you there is he who dieth (young), and among you there is he who is brought back to the most abject time of life, so that, after knowledge, he knoweth naught. And thou (Muhammad) seest the earth barren, but when We send down water thereon, it doth thrill and swell and put forth every lovely kind (of growth). That is because Allah, He is the Truth and Lo! He quickeneth the dead, and Lo! He is Able to do all things.” (22 : 5-6)

You have certainly, as I have, heard or read existential questions as to why God did this or that, questions about Lucifer, about evil, about punishment, about free will, about Fate, about disaster, etc, etc. Such questions are anything but new : they have always been asked by believers and non-believers alike. Let me add one more question : Is it easy to believe? The Quran says : "And though thou try much, most men will not believe."  (12.103) "And most of them believe not in Allah except that they attribute partners (unto Him)." (12.106) 

I, the author of this book, am a Muslim because I was born into a Muslim family in a Muslim state. As a kid, I was used to seeing people around me perform their daily prayers, recite the Quran, observe the holy month of Ramadan, etc. I mean, everybody can be a Muslim. You only have to testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad (pbuh) is His Messenger, to perform salah (ritual prayer), to pay the zakah, to fast during Ramadan, and to perform Hajj (pilgrimage) to the Ka`bah at Makkah, if you can afford it. That’s Islam. It's only when you start asking questions that you enter the area between Islam and Iman:  when you want to know why you should be a Muslim and not something else. It’s at this critical phase that a Muslim can either move up to the level of Iman or leave the Faith altogether.  One who, through personal experience and more knowledge, succeeds in discovering the truth and the beauty of Islam will move up, gradually, step by step, to the level of Iman and become a moomin (a believer), not only a Muslim, (a submitter). This person would want to live and enjoy a peaceful Iman experience: to live as a moomin, always trying to improve his Iman in an attempt to reach the level of Ihssan, the highest level.  This is a long process that starts with "Guide us to the straight path –"  (1 :5-6) The personal experience and the necessary knowledge will come afterwards. You first build the house (that is Islam), then you put in the furniture (that is Iman), then you add in the home decorators (that is Ihsan).

I wonder whether you have ever seen a little child or teenager draw something in an old copybook that he wouldn’t show to anybody. The copybook is full of drawings of horses or pets or movie characters or imaginary or real persons –why ? You, who can’t draw, would say WOW ! You are amazed at the child’s creativity. But to him that’s quite normal, it’s natural. And suppose he wanted to show his "work", who would be interested ? Don’t you know of painters/writers…who were recognized as such only after their death or very late in their life ? Don’t you know of artists who died poor while their work brought lots of money to other people ? Does such an artist necessarily have someone in mind (an audience) when he creates something ?

You know, it’s springtime right now, and the other day I was walking in the nearby wood when suddenly my eyes fell on a beautiful wild flower. As I was looking at that particular flower I noticed other flowers just beside it –maybe much less beautiful, but each with a different colour, each with a different shape. Once I was leaving a school where I gave evening classes when a 17-year-old female student of mine waved to me and said in a voice filled with awe : "Teacher, look over there !" She pointed with an almost trembling hand at a car that was parked across the street. Between us, my heart leapt when I saw the car. It was just marvellous. (Didn’t I say temptation is so powerful !) I understood why the girl was looking at the car with such reverence. Well, I too went around in that wood, walking slowly, going from path to path, looking with such wonder at all those wild flowers, examining, like a passionale botanist, the shape, the colour, the peculiarities of each flower. When you are in such a place, looking with your heart rather than with your eyes, you can’t help asking : But why did God make this flower grow here, at this particular place, where nobody would see or care about it ? How many people would come and spend half an hour going from flower to flower and looking at their colours and shapes ? Well, is the number so important ? You remember those verses at the beginning of this book ? "And though thou try much, most men will not believe."  (12.103) "And most of them believe not in Allah except that they attribute partners (unto Him)." (12.106) 

Imagine we just were not here. Imagine there were only dogs and pigs and donkeys roaming about where we now study, work, play, live. Imagine there was no such thing as the tele, the cellphone, the car, the chair, the bed, the trousers, the glass, the cooking pot, the bike, the knife, the book, the garden, the asphalt road, the neighbourhood, the people, the nation, the country. Imagine there was no such thing as the eyes, the ears, the mouth, the nose, the hands, the feet, the brain, the heart and the rest. Imagine there were only dogs and pigs and donkeys in this beautiful world.

Where did this beautiful world come from ? In the past many Muslims were killed because they believed the world was created from scratch; many others were killed because they believed God created the world from something that existed before. At the end of the day, both believed, as I do, that the world was created by God. Science is no doubt interesting, but my life is too short. I may not live to see the results of scientific research as to whether there actually was a Big Bang or whether there’s life in another planet. I won’t be there, anyway. I have a book that explains to my small mind enough things for me to understand where I came from and where I’m heading. When historians tell me about my country’s history they often start at BC 1,200. They say the first known (Amazigh) kingdom dates back to about BC 280. The Quran quotes the prophet Moses (pbuh) as saying to his people :  "Hath not the history of those before you reached you: the folk of Noah, and (the tribes of) A'ad and Thamud, and those after them? None save Allah knoweth them." (14 : 9) Contemporary historians say that some historical records were falsified at the demand of some rulers. They also say that several peoples (tribes) simply disappeared in the wake of severe drought or disease and of whom we know absolutely nothing. Before Edwin Powell Hubble (November 20, 1889 – September 28, 1953) scientists believed the world was made up of one galaxy. They now talk of a billion galaxies. The Guardian Newspaper quoted astronomers as saying that the Universe has 2 trillion galaxies ! All that remains details to me as long as I have a book sufficiently detailed and clear to shed lights for me. I am not supposed to know everything. I can’t read all the newspapers, all the magazines, all the blogs and websites, all the books and anthologies and encyclopedias of the world. I can’t read all Facebook or watch all Youtube. I can’t see all the TV stations or listen to all radio stations. Suppose the Truth was dispersed across all this plethora of sources of information, how could I piece  together the story ? If you have a problem with your tele, you call someone who repairs TV sets. If your eyes ache you, you go to an ophthalmologist. That’s why I can only rely, for this matter, on my God Who says to me : "And whosoever believeth in Allah, He guideth his heart. And Allah is Knower of all things." (64 : 11)  "He giveth wisdom unto whom He will, and he unto whom wisdom is given, he truly hath received abundant good. But none remember except men of understanding." (2 : 269) "As for those who strive in Us, We surely guide them to Our paths, and lo! Allah is with the good." (29 : 69)

IbnJareer Al-Tabari (224–310 AH; 839–923 AD) lived 86 years and he was one of the shaykhs who never got married. He devoted all his life to teaching and writing. According to one of his students, Al-Tabari wrote 40 pages per day. That’s more than 80,000 pages. I wish I could read all that work. But I can’t. All I need is good faith.

When I believe in God and the Hereafter that means I’ll have to do things that may require a lot of sacrifice on my part. Why should I make such sacrifices for something I am not sure of ? God says in the Quran : "And when Abraham said (unto his Lord): My Lord! Show me how Thou givest life to the dead, He said: Dost thou not believe? Abraham said: Yea, but (I ask) in order that my heart may be at ease. (His Lord) said: Take four of the birds and cause them to incline unto thee, then place a part of them on each hill, then call them, they will come to thee in haste, and know that Allah is Mighty, Wise." (2 : 260) Ibrahim (pbuh) asked that question in good faith. You and I would have no problem asking questions, but in good faith. This question of intention, of good or bad faith, is essential to all of us. A premeditated crime is not treated like an unwanted offence. It’s clear if I want to understand, to clear off doubts, or I just want to argue for the sake of arguing. In the Quran we read : "And they say: O thou unto whom the Reminder is revealed, lo! thou art indeed a madman! Why bringest thou not angels unto us, if thou art of the truthful?" (15 : 6-7) "And they said: Whatever portent thou bringest wherewith to bewitch us, we shall not put faith in thee." (7 : 132) So what do they want ? One has to be consistent with oneself. Abu Sufian, the powerful man in Makkah in the prophet’s time, had no doubt that Muhammad (pbuh) was a Messenger, and that a man like him, who had never lied to a human, would never lie on God ; but Abu Sufian did not want to believe because he feared for his social status. When he believed, finally, he became a Muslim like others, but the prophet (pbuh) allowed him to retain a certain importance in the community, and his son, Mu’awiyah, later became a governor, then a caliph. The prophet (pbuh) said: "People are like gold and silver; those who were best in Jahiliyyah (Pre-Islamic Period of Ignorance) are best in Islam, if they have religious understanding." Being a Muslim will only make me a better person, it will not lower my social status. On the contrary ! "And had We willed We could have raised him by their means (Quranic verses), but he clung to the earth and followed his own lust. Therefor his likeness is as the likeness of a dog: if thou attackest him he panteth with his tongue out, and if thou leavest him he panteth with his tongue out." (7 : 176)  "O ye who believe! when it is said unto you, Make room! in assemblies, then make room; Allah will make way for you (hereafter). And when it is said, Come up higher! go up higher; Allah will exalt those who believe among you, and those who have knowledge, to high ranks. Allah is Informed of what ye do." (58 : 11) The prophet (pbuh) said : "I was sent to perfect good character." Islam was not entirely new. It only came to help new believers perfect their conduct. Muslims are not the guardians of virtue. There’s good and bad everywhere. A non-Muslim ruler can be a thousand times more useful to his people than a Muslim ruler to his Muslim people. Islam will show me the rules, and it’s up to me to obey or disobey those rules. Would social justice in a non-Muslim society be different from social justice in a Muslim society ? Not at all. A corrupt ruler is a corrupt ruler, a dictator is a dictator, a drunkard is a drunkard, a prostitute is a prostitute, be they Muslim or non-Muslim. The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) tells us the story of that prostitute who went to Paradise because she watered a thirsty dog. “Allah had once forgiven a prostitute. She passed by a dog panting near a well. Seeing that thirst had nearly killed him, she took off her shoe, tied it to her scarf, and drew up some water. Allah forgave her for that.” The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) sent a group of his companions as refugees under the protection of Abraha, a Christian king. The Quran did not prohibit Muslim men from marrying Christian or Jewish women. So it’s all a matter of faith. My intention is the foundation of my Faith. If my faith is good I will be a good person. The Quran is there to guide me, to show me the limits within which I behave in the best way possible. If I do wrong, even in bad faith, the Quran will still be there to help me correct my faults. The Quran helps me elevate my nafs from ammara (literally, the soul inciting to evil) to lawama (The soul which blames itself) to mutmainna (the soothed soul). Angels are constantly rating me, upgrading or downgrading me according to my work. If I stand out with my work, as a believer, individually or in the midst of a group, my angels will invite other angels to see what I’m doing or listen to what I’m saying. And that’s the problem ! I will not see even my angels (until the hour of my death). I have to think in a different way when it comes to Faith. I have to believe in al-ghayb (the invisible).  "Who believe in the Unseen, and establish worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them; And who believe in that which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee, and are certain of the Hereafter. These depend on guidance from their Lord. These are the successful." (2 : 3-5)  My body is alive no doubt, but there’s not just my body. I have feelings, I have thoughts, I have memories, etc. It’s a totally different being from my physical being. My physical being, my body, can be alive whereas my "unseen being" can be dead. Just think of Alzheimer, for example. Faith fills up the most precious part in my body, my heart, with something that makes me feel that my body is not just flesh and blood, but much more important than that. It makes me feel that my body is something sacred, something that should be clean from inside and from outside. That’s why I make ablutions to clean my body from outside and I perform my prayers to clean what’s inside.

There is no Faith without belief in the invisible (al-ghayb). God could have ended the life of anyone who disobeyed Him in any way and spared only those who obeyed Him. But God does not want to compel us. God wants us to believe out of conviction, out of love. That’s why the Quran speaks of "error" (addalaal) : "He said: Verily ye and your fathers were in plain error." (21 : 54) It’s like you were lost in a desert, but if you could know the way you would reach the place where you would be safe. It’s like someone flying in a helicopter and indicating the way to you. The prophet (pbuh) said : "Allah is more pleased with the repentance of one of you than a man in a desolate, barren, destructive wasteland, who has his mount carrying his provisions, his food, and his drink and what he needs with him. Then it wanders away. So he goes to find it until he is on the brink of death. He says: 'I will return to the place where I lost it, to die.' So he returns to his place and his eyes become heavy (falling asleep). Then he awakens to find his mount at his head carrying his food, drink and what he needs."

Life is like work. You get tired when you work, but at the end of your day you take a shower and have dinner and do all the rest…happily. Except that, for life in this world, this "tiredness" will last until you get a place in Heaven. "And they say: Praise be to Allah Who hath put grief away from us. Lo! Our Lord is Forgiving, Bountiful, Who, of His grace, hath installed us in the mansion of eternity, where toil toucheth us not nor can weariness affect us." (35 : 34-35)

But life is also a feeling. Despite all my tiredness I can feel happy. Like a mother who spends two hours close to the heat in the kitchen, but once at the dinner table, with her husband and children, all that tiredness is forgotten! Like a bricklayer who spends hours working in the sun, but once back home in the evening his wife and children make him forget all the tiredness. So despite all my trials (all my depravations) my Faith will make my life enjoyable. When the prophet (pbuh) says: "The world is the believer's prison and the infidel's Jannah (Paradise)" that doesn’t mean that my life as a believer will be hell on earth. It only means that I’ll have to make “sacrifices” that a non-believer would not make. The feeling that God is with me will certainly alleviate my sufferings, physical or emotional, and my sadness will only break the routine of my life, will make it more enjoyable, less boring. If some people don’t become happy unless they get lots of money (or material things), I, as a believer, can be happy with as little as a smile, a phone call or a look at a rose in the garden. It’s all a question of faith.

If I want the life of the world only, that’s a problem. But if I want to be happy in this life and in the Hereafter, then no problem. All trials are about that. God does certainly know what I want. He will only subject me to trials, He will put me to test, in order for me to show with acts, with words, with feelings, whether I want Him or I want myself, my ease. Do I want to serve God or do I want God to serve me? God says in the HaddithQudsi: "I am near to the thought of My servant as he thinks about Me, and I am with him as he remembers Me. And if he remembers Me in his heart, I also remember him in My Heart, and if he remembers Me in assembly I remember him in assembly, better than his (remembrance), and if he draws near Me by the span of a palm, I draw near him by the cubit, and if he draws near Me by the cubit I draw near him by the space (covered by) two hands. And if he walks towards Me, I rush towards him." And in the Quran: "Your Lord is best aware of what is in your minds. If ye are righteous, then lo! He was ever Forgiving unto those who turn (unto Him)." (17 : 25) All I need is to be an (awwab), one of "those who turn (unto Him)". I have to have a good relationship with my Lord. I don’t need to ask existential questions as to why God does this or that or about Lucifer or about Fate or whatever. I just have to have good faith. I just have to smile and be optimistic. Optimism is part of Faith. I don’t care if there are around me any people who are luckier than me.  "And covet not the thing in which Allah hath made some of you excel others. Unto men a fortune from that which they have earned, and unto women a fortune from that which they have earned. (Envy not one another) but ask Allah of His bounty. Lo! Allah is ever Knower of all things." (4 : 32) "He will cause you to enjoy a fair estate until a time appointed. He giveth His bounty unto every bountiful one." (11 : 3)  "Is he who relieth on a clear proof from his Lord like those for whom the evil that they do is beautified while they follow their own lusts?" (47 : 14) It’s all a question of faith. What matters is not my work or my unemployment, my being married or my being single; what matters is my intention, my good or bad faith; what matters is what I have at heart. The prophet (pbuh) said: "You will not get the taste of the reality of faith until you know that what has come to you could not miss you, and that what has missed you could not come to you." When I lose my job God knows in advance the job I’ll get afterwards and when and where and how. When I lose my love, God knows in advance the person I will love afterwards or who will love me, the person I will marry and what will happen between us. It’s what I feel, the way I will do what I’ll be doing (while looking for another job, a person to marry, another home to live…) –it’s that what matters. One of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) reported: "My father set aside some dinars for charity and gave them to a man in the mosque. I went to that man and took back those dinars. He said: "I had not intended you to be given." So we went to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), and put forth the matter before him. He said to my father, "Yazid, you have been rewarded for what you intended." And he said to me, "Ma'n, you are entitled to what you have taken." The Quran says:  "And as for him who hoardeth, he hoardeth only from his soul. And Allah is the Rich, and ye are the poor. And if ye turn away He will exchange you for some other folk, and they will not be the likes of you." (47 : 38) "Whoso looketh forward to the meeting with Allah (let him know that) Allah's reckoning is surely nigh, and He is the Hearer, the Knower. And whosoever striveth, striveth only for himself, for lo! Allah is altogether Independent of (His) creatures." (29 : 5-6)

When I hear an ambulance siren, do I stop eating and drinking, even for a second, if only for solidarity? When a funeral procession passes near me, do I stop, if only for a second, if only for solidarity? If I stop eating and drinking, that will not help the victim. If I stop for a second, that will not bring the dead back to life. It's just a matter of faith. A companion of the Prophet (pbuh) narrated : "We were with the Prophet (pbuh) when a funeral passed and he stood up for it. When we went to carry it, we found that it was a funeral of a Jew. We, therefore said: Messenger of Allah, this is the funeral of a Jew. He said: Death is a fearful event, so when you see a funeral, stand up."

And there are, fortunately, many people in all nations, in all religions, who want to act in good faith. If good faith does not always work with humans, with God it does.  "Lo! Allah loseth not the wages of the good." (9 : 120)

Friday, October 12, 2018

Heart Flowers : Chapter One

I am not a great reader myself. But I have read History books, among other things. History teaches us that life is so beautiful for those who understand it. It teaches us that, in normal circumstances (i.e. no war, no natural disasters…), one can live happily with the bare minimum if one can define one’s essential needs from the needs imposed by society.

By taking a philosophical look at life from a historical point of view we can overcome many difficulties of psychic nature. Today we see the glamour of others, we see how “lucky” people live, we see the growing gap between the poor and the rich ... and we just cannot understand all that. And what do we see when we take a close look at History? Well, roughly speaking, we see that there were before us, in those ancient times, as well as in more recent times, people who enjoyed some glamour, too; there were handsome men and beautiful women who loved each other, who had children, who lived in beautiful mansions, who worked (for some), who listened to music, who walked in beautiful gardens, who said sweet things to each other, who made love, who dreamed of better days, who fell ill, who divorced, who waged war, who killed each other, who got injured, and who died. People just like us. Are we therefore simply a continuation of the human species? Where are we heading? Will we always have the same so-called pleasures, the same frustrations? Why are we here on this earth? Will there not be a day when misfortune disappears forever? What’s life worth if one does not live it fully, in joy and quietude? What’s the use of History, what’s the use of philosophy, what’s the use of literature... if historians themselves, if philosophers, if male and female writers take their own lives sometimes to escape their terrible realities? I do not have answers to that. However, I just notice that there are many people who do not commit suicide. They confront life with the few means they have. That means that, at least for these people, life is worth living. Now, is life really worth living – whatever our sorrows? To try to answer this question, it is necessary, I think, to see how people in all corners of the planet are leading their lives.

We have been led to believe that man has gone through several stages. We were told about pre-history, where man was rather wild, and about the Bronze Age, and so on. But in some parts of the earth there are still humans that could be called 'savages', according to historical terminology. There are people who could be said to be still in the “Bronze Age”. Why aren’t these people “like” us? But who has the right to say that these people are not like us? At least they have eyes, mouths, ears, feet, sexes like us. At least they get hungry like us. At least they marry, laugh, dream... like us. Are we therefore like animals? What about animals? They too have eyes, ears, feet, genitals... They too make love and give birth to little ones... They too eat and die as we do. What about plants? They too live and die like us. They cannot live without water, just like us, and like animals. They too are of different colours, different shapes, different degrees of beauty... They grow everywhere. Where there are men there are plants and animals. We all need water and oxygen. The same water from the Seine (River), or the Nile, is drunk by plants, animals, whites, blacks, Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists ... This water does not stop at the borders. It has no nationality. Provided there is water for all! Sometimes there is none, or not enough. People are dying of hunger or thirst. Others migrate to flee famine. They go to countries where there are humans like them. Some of these migrants are beautiful, for beauty, like ugliness, is everywhere. Some of these migrants settle where they arrived. They marry people from the host country. There will follow mixed children. Mixed but not so different, because all remain human after all. All eat vegetables and fruit, bread and cheese. All want to grow up, work, get married. All will have the same problems and the same pleasures. A mere continuation of the human species? Americans of Irish descent may not be exactly like their ancestors who had to leave Ireland after years of scarcity. There is some progress, nonetheless. Both at the material and intellectual level. These brave Irish children have contributed to the emergence of one of the greatest civilizations in the world. Some of their American brothers had to flee persecution in Europe. Together, the Americans built a fabulous federal state governed by strong democratic institutions. However, evil is still not eradicated from this country, nor from any other country in the world, for that matter. Is that a frustration? Should we, even if we could, completely eradicate evil? Is it possible, for example, to dispense with military means for national defense, since it only serves war, and war is evil? Yes, it may be necessary to go through this to be able to answer strictly personal questions.

Now, let’s have a quick survey of History. Whether we read History books or ancient tales or poems we can easily notice that people have always been more important than their dwellings, mounts, money or anything else they might possess. Man has always been afraid of sickness, death, poverty, among other things. Man has always needed to feel reassured, protected, safe. Man has always made peace after the war; he has always created courts to do justice; he has always built schools to educate future generations; he has always built cities and villages to enable men to feel close to each other, to create all kinds of healthy relationships, to join hands, to exchange services, even when personal relations or between immediate neighbours or clans are not perfect. At times man may suffer from the cold, heat, hunger, thirst, fatigue, fear, loss of loves ones ... But then he would enjoy the pleasure of eating after hunger, the pleasure of drinking after thirst, the pleasure of rest after getting tired, sexual pleasure, etc.

In the past people brought knowledge – in their heads – from their old people, and then they passed it on to the next generations. Each time new palaces, schools, roads, gardens, factories, etc, were built. Man’s knowledge of the world expanded. And each time there was a new kingdom, good or bad. The question is, why didn’t those "good" kingdoms last forever? Why were there "bad" kingdoms as well? That’s a hard one to answer. But, interestingly, History gives us some clues.

Many of the things we use today were invented by different peoples in different places at different times. Bronze, for example, was invented by the Chinese, glass by people in Mesopotamia, paper by the Egyptians, alphabet by Phoenicians, and so on. Each people learned from the other peoples and made their own inventions, thus expanding man’s knowledge of the world. This knowledge spread through trade and conquest. The conquerors inherited the knowledge of the vanquished people and took it home or spread it to other places. At the same time, the conquerors brought in their own way of life, their thoughts, their arts and their religion.

The interaction between so many powers, so many civilizations and so many ways of life made it necessary for each people to defend their own existence. Each people had to defend everything that was at stake for them. That included their culture. So those who happened to believe in a deity, any deity, had to defend their own faith by using all the tools available, including those that had been invented or developed by nations who did not share their faith. Such tools may have included Phoenicians’ alphabet and Greeks’ logic. Thus all nations were anything but "redundant". They were just as useful to one another.

It is also interesting to notice that most of those early interactions between various contending nations took place just in or around Palestine. The Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Hittites, the Greeks, the Romans, and many more in between – all had a foothold there at some point in history. And then came the Arabs, from Makkah. Those Arabs found themselves thrusting in every direction, going towards nations who had known impressive empires, and ended up building their own empire stretching across most of the then known world.

There followed a magnificent world interaction. The Arabs borrowed old, dormant knowledge from the Greeks, the Persians and other nations, and updated and enriched it, and then spread it in every direction. Baghdad emerged as the world capital of science. And in the West there was Cordoba, where Arab science was passed on to Europe through translation. Averroes spoke to Muslims and non-Muslim Europeans of God using Aristotle’s logic.

Baghdad was destroyed, but Islamic knowledge survived. It survived because it was not only in the books that the Mongols threw into the Tigris River, but also in people’s hearts and minds. Like the destruction of the Alexandria Library in antiquity, the loss of Baghdad libraries could have been a much more awful tragedy had there not been what I called interactions. Marrakesh, which was built and made their capital by Morocco’s Almoravid dynasty, was deliberately and completely destroyed by their Almohad successors. These rebuilt the whole city in the most beautiful way possible, because they had already "received" the necessary knowledge from their predecessors. As long as knowledge is intact, it does not matter how beautiful or big a destroyed place was. It can be rebuilt.

Even the rebuilding of a whole nation is possible if there is the necessary knowledge and will. Europe milked the Arabs of their knowledge and rebuilt itself in a matter of generations because its own people had the will to do so.

But the Arabs’ knowledge was "poisonous" somehow. Averroes’ lectures taught Europeans how to look at religion differently. This led to voices rising against the way the Church taught religion. The Church defended itself by persecuting people of knowledge such as Galileo.

The conflict between the Church and new scientists resulted in new thinking. Some clung to their religious beliefs, defending themselves by use of logic and philosophy. Others broke with the Church altogether and called their way "Secularism". They defended themselves by experimenting with their knowledge of the world, excluding any reference to the Invisible.

The new knowledge of the world, based on experimentation, led to the Industrial Revolution. The boom in industry led to the spread of knowledge on a phenomenal scale. But this knowledge remained confined to where industry was thriving.

The Church made good use of that thriving industry. Wherever there was a new industrial site there was a large church. Moreover, church men paved the way for their respective industrial states to seize new lands on other continents. Both church men and those who were only interested in wealth agreed on a magic word: civilization. That civilization had to be spread through colonization.

Colonization made it possible for more people to go to more places. Africans "went" to America, taking with them their religions, including Islam. Other Muslims were taken into Europe, where they continued to practise their faith, at a time when large numbers of Christians ceased to go to Church. Orientalists (from Europe) went to the Arab and Islamic world to "return" part of the Arabic and Islamic heritage to the newly awakening Arabs and Muslims.

Now that imported material is being re-exported with a value added. It is done through the Internet and satellite TV stations.

Islam has become the fastest growing religion in America, which invented the Internet and satellite TV. There are now American-born imams who know the Koran and the Haddith by heart and are authorized to issue fatwas. All the Islamic literature is now everywhere, thanks to the Internet. This was made possible by American technology and Arab oil money.

Arab oil money has contributed to the building of large mosques, big Islamic institutes and libraries, and to the printing of the Koran and other religious books in large quantities in many languages in many parts of the world.

Even within the poorest Islamic states Islam is growing as fast as demography. Wherever you go, there is a new mosque and a new school because there is a new village, town or suburb. Small towns are swelling into big cities, and so small mosques and schools are becoming bigger and bigger.

Modern means of communication and transportation together with modern educational systems have made world interaction incredibly easier every day. More and more people are coming out of illiteracy. More and more people are learning more and more about each other. More and more people are coming towards each other. Migration, tourism and business travel are playing a great role in the ever-increasing exchange of human experience. Globalization has pushed this exchange even further.

It is again interesting to remember that Islam entered many parts of the world without having to draw the sword for it. Indonesia and parts of sub-Saharan Africa are such places where Islam was introduced through trade rather than war. Similarly, lots of Western things (the ways of dressing, eating, learning…) have been introduced to the Arab-Muslim world through trade rather than war.

When, in the 7th century AD, Islam reached the lands beyond the Arabian Peninsula, non-Arab Muslims (who learned Arabic for social, political, professional and scientific reasons) shared the Arabs' astonishment at the wonderful language of the Koran. If Romans and Persians had hitherto expressed their aesthetic tastes and know-how through the way they adorned their palaces, churches and temples, the Arabs had expressed beauty through poetic descriptions of every beautiful thing they could find or see around them: horses, camels, gazelles, human bodies and faces, landscape... Putting the same Arabic letters together, the Koran did unimaginably better than any Arab or non-Arab poet. The Koran came with something simple and sophisticated at the same time for both Arabs and non-Arabs. Those non-Arabs used tiny pieces of wood, glass, stone, etc, that they put together in basic geometric forms (in imitation of flowers, stars...) to adorn gates, domes, walls, floors, thrones, etc, in the best beautiful way possible.

In a way the history of Islam cannot be different from the history of ancient Egypt or Greece or any other civilization or empire. They all reflect human nature one way or another. Islam was a victim of its own success. Islam appeared in Makkah, then moved to Madinah, then spread in a matter of years to virtually the whole of the Arabian Peninsula. Madinah became the Capital. There was so much money coming in, an ever-expanding territory, and plentiful opportunities for ambitious people. This could only lead to rivalries even amongst Arab Muslims. This is human. This has happened in all nations throughout History. In all nations kings killed sons and brothers and princes killed their fathers and uncles – for the sake of power. The Prophet Muhammad’s grand-sons were both killed for political reasons: Hussein was beheaded and Hassan poisoned. That happened under the Umayyad dynasty, the same dynasty that built the beautiful Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and brought Islam into Spain. The last Caliph of the Abbasid dynasty was, according to some historians, “rolled in a carpet and trampled to death” by the Mongols, the same Mongols who later built the beautiful Taj Mahal in India. The Mongols not only massacred countless people during their conquest of Iraq, they also destroyed the libraries of Baghdad, which contained books of Greek philosophy and sciences, books of Indian and Persian wisdom and arts, books of the Islamic theology: all was thrown into the Tigris River. But those “barbarian” Mongols gave birth to greatly civilized Mongol rulers who brought Islam to lands stretching from India to China to Russia… Most of the old mosques in those places were built by Mongols – the same Mongols who committed atrocities against not only Arabs, but many other nations as well. It’s them who sold into slavery free men from Central Asia, men such as Baibars, who became one of the greatest rulers in Egyptian and Syrian history! The Mamluks, Baibars’ dynasty, had their part of “barbarism”. They too committed atrocities, but people remember them more for their beautiful legacy than for their ‘barbarian’ side. Cairo, Jerusalem and Damascus are full of beautiful Mamluk monuments. The Mamluks were succeeded by the Ottomans, who brought Islam deep into Europe and built a great empire including most of the Arab world.

In my Baccalaureate year, I was assigned to give a lecture in Arabic on Mahmoud Sami Al-Baroudi, an Egyptian poet of Turkish origin. Some classmates were avid readers and they read almost everything, especially philosophy and literature. I knew I would have hard time once they began asking me questions, no matter what  my lecture might be like. Their questions were very hard indeed and I was embarrassed, but I had a trick up my sleeve. When I felt defeated, I offered to read excerpts of Al-Baroudi's poetry. I read out one of his love poems and there was loud applause in the classroom! Even those hard-talkers, who had never been convinced by anybody's answers, were bewitched by the beauty of Al-Baroudi's poem. Al-Baroudi was a soldier who loved the Arabic language. He gave it his heart and it gave him fame and glory. His time marked the beginning of the so-called Arab Renaissance. This Arab renaissance began with Arabic poetry. Ahmad Shawqi, who was nicknamed "Prince of Poets", was of Turkish origin, too. His poems sung by Umm Kulthum 'united' the souls of so many Arabs and Muslims around the world. Those "new Arabs" realized how much important Classical Arabic was even in their time. Cairo, Beirut and Baghdad revived that beautiful Arabic language. As a student, I used to hear the saying: "Cairo writes, Beirut prints and Baghdad reads"! But there were Arabic readers and writers even in the Americas! In fact, Christian Arab writers, such as Jubran Khalil Jubran, Elia Abu Madi and Mikha'il Na'ima, who lived in the U.S.A., further enriched the Arabic literature with their poetry and prose in Arabic. So many old Arab and Islamic books were snatched from oblivion (by Arabs and Orientalists) and broke into print, for the first time. Cairo became the Makkah of Arabic-language writers and translators. The number of Arab schools and Arab literate people started to  grow by the day. But not all Arabs were proud of their history, of their language, of their religion, of their civilization. Many Arabs were impressed by the colonizers. Ibn Khaldun, the famous Arab sociologist, had pointed out in his Muqaddima that the vanquished peoples tended to ape the victors.

A century ago, most Arabs lived in the countryside, most were illiterate, most lived on agriculture and grazing. Under colonial rule, many Arabs drifted to towns, many gave up agriculture and grazing to work as blue-collars in factories or as artisans in small shops. Their children went to school and, when the colonizers went away, became white-collars in franchises. Some became state-employees in the new Administration. More and more people tasted the pleasures of lifelong jobs; youths became financially independent, then socially independent. Anybody could lead the life he/she wanted in his/her new home. Within a few decades, villages became towns and towns became cities. A lot of jobs with the state, a lot of factories (mostly franchises), a lot of workshops, a lot of shops of all kinds and sizes. Prosperity was within reach for so many people, literate and illiterate. It was easy for many people to build a home, to send children to school, to set up businesses, to live in the city. Those who went abroad, mostly as blue-collars, sent money back home, then built their own homes, set up their own businesses. Their children became very successful. In newly independent oil-rich Arab states opportunities were much, much more important.

Then, the first economic crisis (in the 1980’s). Then, the ever-worsening problem of unemployment. Then, the ever-growing crisis of housing. Then, all sorts of problems. Life is no longer as rosy as it was. People are now worried about their retirement pensions, about the future of their children, about the consequences of pollution… People have less and less faith in the State. Fewer and fewer people dream of lifelong jobs and comfortable retirement. And in the midst of all this, in the midst of the so many newly constructed neighbourhoods, apartments upon apartments upon apartments, you see a new mosque every year or so.

What happened in the Arab world also happened in other parts of the world. The Welfare State was created to give people a certain sense of security. Some are still nostalgic for the communist era when they could, at least, find with the state a safe haven: housing facilities, schooling for children, free medical care, etc. Neither the welfare state nor the communist state nor the best democratic state in the world can now reassure anybody any more. Globalization has surpassed everyone. Nobody knows anymore what the future will be like. Hence the fear of the unknown. This fear could translate into chaos, as we’ve seen in some Arab countries in this decade.

Heart Flowers : Chapter Two

A British trade unionist of the 19th century (whose name I do not remember) said: "To solve the problem of unemployment of our young people, we have only one solution: imperialism." This was possible in the 19th century. But now that young people can make bombs with the help of free web-sites, it's increasingly difficult to think of such solutions. What to do, then? Multinationals are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with each other as purchasing power crumbles around the world. Education systems go bankrupt even in many developed countries. The morale of households and young people is not at all brilliant. Young people went bankrupt even before they started working because they were too indebted for their higher education. Others turn to prostitution to fund their studies. In short, there is a problem.

An Arab Revolution broke out in Tunisia in 2010, then in Egypt, then reached my country, Morocco, on February 20, 2011. The February 20 Movement called for a new constitution. The King promptly ordered one. The new constitution was hailed as a “revolution” in its own right. But people didn't want a new constitution for the sake of a new constitution. They wanted social justice. But then they didn't want social justice for the sake of social justice. What they wanted, in fact, was a better life: jobs, housing, better schooling, better health services, better infrastructure, stadiums... and a lot of freedom. All this is now in the new constitution. The question is, where do we go from here?

In his wonderful book about the British people and their culture, Understanding Britain, published in 1981, John Randle wrote: "The British were inclined to think they had avoided upheaval by virtue of their glorious constitution and their acceptance of gradual reform. This argument may have had some merit, but Britain's wealth increased dramatically in the nineteenth century, and though its distribution was highly uneven, the increase in prosperity among the working class was sufficient to give its members a growing feeling of betterment and security." This kind of prosperity is unfortunately hard to imagine in the foreseeable future in this part of the globe, North Africa.

In his book, "Dreaming of Damascus: Arab Voices from a Region in Turmoil", published in 2003, Stephen Glain wrote: "One of the most potent threats to Middle East stability (...) is chronic illiquidity – the main source of rising unemployment and stagnant economies in the Arab world. The problem is not merely weak revenue, but a lack of modern banks and financial tools to lure cash out of burgeoning black markets and into the faltering daylight economy. From Syria to Morocco, Arab financial institutions are too primitive and regimes too inept to meet their economies' basic need for capital". That may be true for other Arab countries, but not as much for Morocco. The Moroccan state itself has its own wholly or partly owned ultra modern banks which lend a lot of money.

But here's one of the real problems. Morocco is a Muslim state and Islam prohibits usury based banking dealings. In an article entitled "Paying More for Money", George J. Church wrote in TIME Magazine (March 8, 1982): "In the past three years, interest rates have shot up higher than anyone could have imagined earlier, and they have suddenly become Topic A in the beleaguered American economy (...) Bankruptcies around the country are beginning to rival those of the Great Depression." Twenty years later, in October 2002, Fareed Zakaria of NEWSWEEK quoted Al Gore as saying in a speech to the Commonwealth Club: "(...) what worries me as much as the Middle East is the Middle West. The American economy is dead in the water (...) Every day we hear of a new round of lay-offs, a new bout of cost-cutting, a new set of economic numbers – all worse than expected. Profits and business investment have fallen more sharply than at any point since the Great Depression. This year the average American household's net worth will decline for the third year running, which has not happened since World War II. The traditional optimism of Americans is being replaced by nervousness and gloom." Nine years later, in 2011, I heard Ralph Nader, who ran for President several times, say on Aljazeera English: "This country [the USA] is heading towards Third World status"! Then three European Union economies (Greece, Ireland and Portugal) were bailed out to save them from bankruptcy. What to say of my dear country's economy whose GDP is about 100 billion dollars US and whose job-seeking population is ever increasing?

And it's not only the State that has a debt problem. Many, many thousands, if not millions, of my fellow citizens bought houses on credit and are purchasing all kinds of consumer goods on credit. Many of these people are living on a tight budget. The question is, why do those people hurry to borrow from usury based banks? The answer is very simple and very clear. With their salaries, they believe, they can pay for just anything they want, even interest on loans. Samuel Smiles claimed in his book Self-help, published in 1859, that success was the product of four virtues –thrift, character, self-help and duty. I know of no one here, in my hometown of Mohammedia at least, who has ever heard of Samuel Smiles or his book. But when I speak to people, what I hear is paraphrasing of those four virtues. Very seldom do I hear someone quote the Koran.

Now, what about those who don’t have money to spend? In my country, we often hear business people, economic analysts, and even government officials, say that if tens of thousands of our youth can’t find work it’s because their training is inadequate for business. People with degrees in Islamic Studies, History and Geography, Arabic language, Philosophy, etc., have nothing to do in the business world. They only wasted their time at Faculty. Business wants competent people. It wants engineers, managers, specialized technicians, etc. If you have a degree in the Arabic language, why don’t you be a poet? You’d do well to sell potato chips to kids in front of schools by day and write poetry and love stories at night.

So what to do? Will you study what business wants so that business will be pleased with you? Will you sell chips by day and write poetry at night? Will you join sit-ins in front of Government buildings to pressure the Government to find you a job? Will you wait for economic recovery or better economic growth? Will you use heroin or cocaine to forget all about these problems? Will you turn to religion? Can you wait more and be patient when religion asks you to do so? Can you decide for yourself? Can you defy all people around you? Can you trust yourself? Do you trust yourself in the first place?

One source of our unhappiness is our anxiety about the future. How long will I keep my job in this time of crisis? What about my children? How will I be able to give them the appropriate education if I lose my job? Horrible nightmares. Childless people are anxious, too. Who will look after me when I grow old? I don’t have any social security, will I have anybody to feed me when I grow too old to work?

We live in a world where precariousness and vulnerability no longer really surprise anyone, with young people not knowing what to study, for how long, for what business opportunity; parents do not know what to make of their meager income, if they still have some. Chronic unemployment, divorce, children born out of wedlock, abandoned children, single mothers, homeless people, drugs, prostitution, pollution, fierce competition in all areas, excessive individualism, fear of the unknown... We are reduced to dreaming of what we are not or what we cannot be. But at the same time we do not want to resign ourselves to witnessing our helplessness, however helpless we are, however crushed, devoid of any tools of change. Even our cherished democracy guarantees us nothing more than what we can and should receive from our happy elect. Nothing can be done. The system is stronger than us. We only have to manage our anger, our weakness, our fear. And if only we could understand what is happening around us! But how can we understand a world full of wealth, full of castles and Limousines and where we are told that's it, it's the end of work. Your jobs today will be worth nothing soon.  You're on your own from now on…! We are constantly being told about restructuring plans, job protection plans, unavoidable relocation to save national companies and jobs; we are being lectured on public deficit, public debt, global crisis... We are bombarded morning and evening with alarming statistics. Come on, you're on your own! Needless to mention war and terrorism. Needless to mention consumerism and loneliness. How to get out of this?

Well, anger and indignation do not seem to make any more sense. Even strikes and protests do not seem to be able to bring forth any good fruit in recent times. We have seen what revolutions have brought about all around us. What to do, then? To endure one’s distress and depression without acting? To continue to suffer in silence? If STATES no longer have answers, what could a mere dreamer like me suggest as a solution?

But what are we looking for, in reality? Well, we are looking for our well-being. Some pray Buddha, others pray to Ram, others pray to Jesus or Allah, to get from them what we all aspire to: work, a spouse, good health, good children... But wait a minute! Why, one would say, endure the pain of patience and sacrifice for something of which one is not really sure? So people turn to those who they believe can provide them with what they want. Hence the WELFARE STATE. We did not have this in our Oriental cultures before independence. Now, we are witnessing scenes of socio-economic miseries in countries that are supposed to be havens of social peace, where the destitute and the needy should not normally have to worry about their future, since there is a Welfare State that is out there. to provide for their needs and to ensure that everyone is equal before the law. Before now it was Greece, today it is Venezuela, tomorrow it will be another country.... And these young unemployed who sew their mouths in the streets of Tunis, etc, all this shows us that there has a certain limit to what man can do for man. There may be some need for a stronger force than Man: why not God? More and more people are looking for “the truth”, for a solution, on that side. States struggling with the burden of debt and deficits are powerless. People cannot wait a generation to see an improvement in their lives. So in this context that does not inspire confidence, there are people who are ready to try out something else. But what?

The blame game is part of human nature. We all blame others for our misfortunes. When there’s nobody specific to blame, we blame bad luck. But let’s be objective for a moment! The best intentioned, most competent government can’t guarantee jobs for all. The most compassionate, most patriotic business establishment in the world can’t guarantee lasting economic growth. There will always be a minority of “unlucky” people. Even highly educated people (doctors, engineers…) may be surprised not to find suitable jobs. Even governments of developed countries plead with other governments of developed countries to do better for their national economy. The French want Germans to do more for German economic growth. The Germans want the French to do more to reduce their budget deficit. The U.S. appeals to Europe to do more to get out of recession.

Now, suppose we have work, we have a salary. We can buy what we need. We can purchase what we want. Is that the end of our problem? Well, pay is money received in exchange for work. Volunteers apart, every worker expects to be paid. Some even refuse to work unless they get holidays with pay, a right to sick leave and a pension. What more could a worker ask for?

Some workers do negotiate their pay with their employers. Highly skilled people with prestigious university degrees usually get the best salaries. Some job hop for better pay or more comfortable work conditions. Less qualified workers can join unions to ask for pay rise or other rights. But, still, is that all?

Interestingly, some people downshift for the sake of peace. They give up positions where they were rightly paid and take jobs meant for people with less qualifications. The reason, they say, is stress. They were willing to sacrifice some of their original income so as to save their nerves, they would tell you.

There is yet another category of workers. These are people who do not “work” and yet get their pay each month. They just go to their place of work, report for work and sit idly in chairs while others work long hours so as to get the same salary at the end of the month. Curiously, those who “work” are much happier than those who “do not work”. The last-mentioned are not happy at all because their “working” colleagues tease them always, saying something like, “You useless people, we work to feed you. You steal our money…”

Many of those who do work before getting paid are not happy, either. The reason(s) could be stress, harassment, bullying or any form of injustice. The employer could be just, but not thoughtful enough. He may not care if you have personal or family problems. Your problems are your own problem; they must not affect your work.

Other workers just take it easy and seldom, if ever, protest. Some work in dangerous mines or in steel industry, where fire is a daily sight. Others work in the fields in the blazing sun. Others work far away from home, leaving spouse, children and relatives behind. Some are migrants, others are in the army or sailors on the high seas. They do all that as uncomplainingly as possible because they cannot be paid if they don’t.

Hard work is much better than unemployment. A worker can pay for things a jobless person cannot. It makes a big difference when you cannot borrow money to fill an urgent need because you cannot guarantee paying the money back, while a worker with a steady income can. Worse, it is absolutely painful when you see yourself unemployed at the age of forty or older, while younger friends and relatives are already well-off.

But once you get a job you become like other workers. You too start suffering from new/old problems. You start thinking of holidays, among other things.

Holidays are the opportunity for many to rest and have fun. In France, for example, as soon as people come back from the annual holiday, they start preparing for the next, which obviously won’t come before eleven long months. One reason might be the French like boasting about their holidays. Another reason might be they simply get fed up with work between four walls.

The British, too, take holidays. Some holidays are long, others short – fortunately. Many Brits get bored by the end of Christmas holiday. Some claim that January is the month when so many people in Britain consider divorce. It is perhaps a silly assumption that Brits are anywhere close to work-addiction. But one just cannot help asking why there is so much quarrelling in British homes over Christmas. Does that not have anything to do with work between four walls?

Some people do dream of holidays, but they just cannot afford it. The City Authorities in Paris, France, thought up a brilliant idea to solve this problem, many years ago. They turned part of the Seine River banks into something like Moroccan beaches. So those who cannot come to the golden beaches of my town, Mohammedia, can enjoy themselves there, in Paris.

What has stricken me all the time as strange is that most of those who fill tour operator buses here are old folks. Far be it from me to suggest that senior citizens should stay at home and help their grandchildren with their homework. But this, however, sets me wondering whether a large number of people do not really look forward to old age and retirement. Couldn’t this be, for them, the time to make up for the “lost time” spent “between four walls”?

Now let me scream: why should one wait so long? After all, work is not a curse. Indeed, work is something wonderful. Yet the pay that an employer gives to an employee is but a nominal – say, moral – compensation for the effort made at work. This pay just cannot compensate for all the effort that a worker invests in his work. Every physical, mental or psychological effort you make to fulfill whatever task your employer expects you to will certainly have some (negative) bearing on your body or on your psyche at some point in later life. Whatever money or privileges you may get in exchange for your work will not replace any part of your body once damaged. Money cannot replace a lost nerve or a burn-out lung.

Smoking, obesity and high blood pressure are some work-related problems. If you add to this harassment or bullying, for example, what would your life be like? How would you behave towards your family? Would it be alright for you to shout at your loving spouse at home and smile at your bullying boss at work? How would you bear the stress of formality and etiquette if your child is suffering in hospital?

Things get worse when yours is not a steady job. As long as your work is precarious, anxiety will hardly let go of you. If you cannot provide for your pension in later life, what do you do?

Your children too will suffer if you lose your job. They will shun the company of their closest pals because they just cannot pay for the same little things, a sweet plus. What do you do then? Will you wait until the next elections to vote for the party promising more jobs?

Even if you do get a job after years of waiting, that will not “wipe out” the effects of your unemployment. The fear of losing your job will stay with you. That fear will affect your health at some point in later life.

Almost all workers lose something as they do their work. The peasant working in the fields in the blazing sun will have to deal with his aching head one day. The constant fear of bad crops will add to his problems. Idem for so many other workers.

One might imagine that some “workers” do not have anything to worry about. One would imagine that, say, an artist, for example, is someone who is free, who can work at his leisure and have a successful, enjoyable work life. But artists too do suffer. (As a novelist, I can tell you so.) An artist may have to weep days and nights, maybe years, before making you smile for a few seconds. An artist too does experience such things as stress and anxiety. An artist too needs money and stability. He too has his own social relationships. He too fears poverty, if he is not poor already.

Even those stars out there have their own “work problems”. It is not easy to become a star. The glamour of fame and opulence may not last a lifetime. And, for artists, this is painful. As soon as a star becomes a has-been, his problems will start piling up.

It’s not unusual to see a writer with a happy smile on his face after finishing a long novel. It’s not unusual to see a woman smile blissfully after delivering a baby. It’s not unusual to see a student on top of the world after obtaining a degree. But that novel has yet to be sold, and that baby has to be brought up, and that degree has to be accepted by an employer. Meanwhile, each of those may have to suffer.

Scientists say that if your head cools down after a heatstroke, that does not mean that you will escape the long-term effects of that heatstroke. The pain will go, but the effects of that and any subsequent heatstroke will pile up so that they may – God forbid – develop into something worse in the future. By analogy, all work-related problems will only accumulate over time.

So what to do? Well, at least do understand life and the world around you.