Saturday, June 23, 2018

IN THE SHADE OF HISTORY Chapter Eight

Even a great emperor would be afraid of losing his throne. More than fear, which may not always be justifiable, there are many undeniable realities. Age is a fact : nobody remains young and strong forever, and there's death at the end of the road. Even at the height of our youth and physical and mental strength there’s sleep, for example, and this sleep is a form of total helplessness.

The world does not work in a mechanical or automatic way. Certainly, a wheat grain will always give a grain of wheat and an egg will always give a hen's chick. That's the rule. But it is not because there was sexual intercourse between a man and a woman that there will inevitably be a child. It is not because it rains that the land will yield fruit and vegetables. It's not because it's the same father and the same mother that the children will have the same size or the same facial features...

A baby could be born in the best birthing clinic or in the best palace in the world, but for him, at birth, it's not like in the womb. That's why he cries! What does this mean? It simply means that man should expect danger before quietude, problems before solutions, boos before applause, suffering before deliverance ... Even if we started thinking about it in the most complex way we would never be able to understand everything. We cannot even understand who built Stonehenge or how or why, yet it is seen on earth and specifically in England. All we know about it is only assumptions. Scientists still do not fully understand  how quantum physics works, yet it is thanks to it that we had the Internet and other applications. Scientists can send humans onto Mars but cannot ward off earthquakes or hurricanes.

We more or less made good use of this land we live on: we have built cities and kingdoms, built splendid civilizations, developed political, economic, social ... systems . We gave free rein to our imagination, with all the inventions we know, the technology, arts, lifestyles, etc. We did all that and more.

People see things in dreams that materialize ten years, twenty years later, and science, which wants to put everything under the microscope, cannot explain this.

We can’t count the deities to whom man has attributed the privilege of having created the world. Logically, there can be no more than a single creator. When we agree on a single creator, we credit him with several religions or cults. When we agree on one cult we differ as to the details, we speak of multiple versions of the same cult that are all attributed to the same God. Despite wars and disasters that have always been caused by these differences, there are still among us followers of this cult or that one, of this version of the cult or that one. At one point in history, a third of the German population was decimated in religious wars. Yet one of the most influential German political parties still carries the attribute "Christian". Similarly, in England, half of whose  history is made up of religious wars, it still being said "God Save the Queen". Even the president of the United States say "God Bless America." Even in many of these countries where people fought for the sake of God the common man is still baptized and marries and is buried according to religious rites. Sould we therefore position ourselves in relation to this reality? Would it not be necessary to choose? Whether we have to choose to change or keep one’s father’s  religion, it's not always easy. Speaking only for myself, there are many Muslims like me for whom I pass for an ungodly for the simple reason that I do not wear a beard and I dress in a manner other than their own. So what do we do? Well, we choose, each according to one’s personal beliefs, and then we assume responsibilty for our choices. Our choices, active or passive, free or coerced, can move us away from each other as they can bring us together where our human intelligence can only bring us together.

We are invited to make use of our intelligence to discern right from wrong. It’s up to us to see this beauty in humans, in birds, in streams, in animals, in the starry sky, in the sea, in poetry, in music, in arts, in our clothes, in our differences: physical, cultural, civilizational and other. It’s up to us to appreciate this chance we’ve been given to feel and sense beauty in all its forms.

Should we be content to be inspired by birds only to make an aircraft and not see the beautiful plumage of these birds or their incredible migration? Should we be content to distinguish colours and shapes and give them names and not  think about where all these colours and shapes came from?

We're all human. We're all fragile. We have the same fears, the same aspirations. We have the same eyes to see the beauty of the world. Hunger is the same for all. Unemployment is the same for all. Death is the same for all. Compassion is the same for all. Life is the same for all.

Our eyes do not always have the same colour. Even eyes with the same colour are not identical. Why ? Well, everyone is a separate being, regardless of his beliefs. Everyone has his/her own fingerprint and his/her own eyeprint, and it's not because he/she is Christian, Muslim or Buddhist. Everyone has his/her own voice, own heart, own brain, own life.

Without a doubt, the world could have been a better place with neither poor nor beggar, no widow nor orphan, no war nor famine. But what would be our merit, we humans, if we did not show our humanity at the moment of earthquakes, droughts, floods, volcanic eruptions, economic crises, etc. ?

Why, in our worst adversity, do we see incredible mutual aid, solidarity, compassion, and, at the same time, we see thieves and robbers? Why, in times of war, do we see those who slaughter the innocent, who rape women, and, at the same time, we see people who take incredible risks to save lives? Why should we not therefore see in these events and in our own personal problems kind of alert, a reminder that we have perhaps forgotten too much that we're just passing on this earth and that it is high time that we prepared for some eternal life after death? It is man who dared to kill humans. A man killed his brother for a matter of jealousy. That same jealousy is still making war and putting on the road millions of refugees. It’s up to us humans to see what is wrong with us. It is not any deity who burns down hundreds of tons of wheat or throw them into the sea in order to raise prices. It is not any deity who imposed to anyone opting for the nuclear or allowed anyone to exploit people. The air is free for everyone. The sun is free for everyone. Life is free for everyone. What to ask more?

We’re all like actors on a stage : a handicapped person on a stage, or a blind person or an orphan or a wretched beggar or a homeless old woman on a stage may be people in good shape and far better off in real life. They may sit at a posh dinner table outside of the theatre and laugh at what they were doing on stage. The play is for them just a good memory. It’s the same with us Earth people. That homeless person you fed on a bad Winter day, that blind person you helped cross the road, that orphaned child you helped with food or clothes, that old man you extricated from under the rubble in the wake of an earthquake, that jobless widow you helped find a job,… all these people might become friends of you if you met after death. It’s like having a good experience while in exile before returing home. You can’t build roads and bridges, but you can help rebuild broken hearts.

So next time you see or hear of a hurricane, an earthquake, a war, a famine, a period of harsh unemployment… next time you see an orphan, a blind or homeless person or an obese person…. then think of how you can make real life better than life on a stage.

For love some people lost their lives. Others went bankrupt. Some became philosophers. Others went mad. Some wrote books. Others versified. Some hated the whole world save the beloved.

From inside the trenches, surrounded by the smell of blood and the fear of an unseen enemy, young soldiers wrote home to say how much they missed the smile of their women (wives and fiancées), how much they longed to go back home and kiss their lips and fondle their breasts.

From the plane taking them far away, some pick up their mobiles and say to that dear person back at home, “Don’t forget, Katy. I love you. See you soon.”
Some stop somewhere to pick and choose a postcard and words to write on the back of the postcard. Others buy flowers or pullovers or whatever they think would make their beloved happy. Others just don’t bother to buy anything. Not because they are mean. But simply because they cannot find anything that would translate what they feel more than a smile from the bottom of the heart or a tear long held back.

For love some get so happy that they start doing what they never did before. Mean people become generous. Proud people become humble.

But not all people love people. Some people love things rather than people. This kind of love brought in the past and still brings today hate and war.

The Prophet Muhammad was offered the opportunity to be the Bill Gates of his time, but he just refused to “seize” that opportunity. He slept on a harsh bed, lived on bread and dates, and once he had to roam the streets at night simply because he felt too hungry to stay at home. And yet his followers managed to build great (ambitious) empires. He could have made for himself a heaven on earth had he so willed, even if it meant waging bloody wars.

The Prophet Muhammad wanted to be with al-Masakeen “the have-nots”, not with the rich. He wanted to be a man of the masses, not of the elite. He wanted to set an example. Once a governor came before Caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab and offered him cakes. Umar said to him: “Do all people in your region eat such good cakes?” How on earth could a close companion of the Prophet Muhammad eat cakes which only the haves could afford?

Mohamed Ali LAGOUADER


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