Friday, September 16, 2005

The Persistence of Memory: Undone

This is one of the many posts in a "series" that I am going to make. If it ends or starts abruptly, look for the thread. It rolls on like a Qissa Chahaar Dervesh. This is the last post of the series, which itself is part of larger Quest & Lust.


Will you now look at Silvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory differently? I do not know what Dali thought when he painted The Persistence. But I feel that this phrase means something deep and relevant to me, and to us all who are a world apart from what they are reminiscing about, but still there, in their minds, persisting in a state in which they are no longer. Stuck in the past.

It was this persistence of what-I-no-longer-am that I did not feel while I performed my Umrah. I am above 21 and quite below the next cycle of life that begins at 28. When I let my past walk up to me and held the future back, gelling them into one present, I knew that I was ready for turning 28.

To be able to enter the next phase of my life – which, by virtue of still not being lived is more valuable than my past life with which I have no chance but the opportunity to learn lessons – with this mindset has to be the happiest, and the most beautiful moment of my life so far. Even if I do not reach that age, I will have the satisfaction of knowing that no memory persists, and I have no desire for creating a future I have no control over. I am ready to take my life as it is, in the present, in every moment. And I have the freedom to make the best of it, so that my future is consequentially beautiful.


The ways of our ancestors/ the ancestors of our ways

This is one of the many posts in a "series" that I am going to make. If it ends or starts abruptly, look for the thread. It rolls on like a Qissa Chahaar Dervesh.


A close friend or form of Fear is the Fear of Change. It is the most blatant but surprisingly prevalent form of human stupidity. In the Quran and other Scriptures, it is referred to as “the way of the ancestors.” To a casual reader it appears to be a story of people who asked wood & clay dolls (idols) to supervise their lives – and their descendents just followed the practice. This is a reductionist view, and I hope that with the now widespread interest in Islam and religion/spirituality in general, people have seen deeper already.

This isn’t merely a story of bowing to the dolls humans carved with their own hands. It is about people’s stubborn misbeliefs. What the ancestors did was their own deed. There is no balance carried down. The tragedy or the lesson of this oft-repeated notion in the Quran isn’t about doll-worship*** either. It is about how people – when they can see something sensible with their own eyes – still refuse to believe in it. Still refuse to change. It is not just following the ways of our ancestors, but the ancestors of our own ways. Ever heard that the old is the enemy of the new?****

The infinite wisdom of the Creator knew just that. Thank God, I was going to get yet another body at 21. Think about it! Another body! The construct of our being remains the same, and all the components change. Ever wonder what holds a person together when parts of our bodies are falling apart and replacing all the time and in seven years we get a new physical being? What remains the same then? Our minds. Our hearts. Our souls.

*** "Idol" is a much wider term than “doll,” which is more suitable in this context. Idol is more psychological. Dolls mean a lot to those who worship to them, but it’s easier in the case of a physical idol (doll) to step back and see the uselessness of it. Intangible idols are much tougher cookies. (And I am not "politically correct" - which is a phrase serving the prime example of the distortion of fairness through coercive language.)

**** It might be a surprise that I have gained deeper insight into this matter from business literature, specifically the writings of Tom Peters. His book Re-Imagine! is about destroying the old ways to always, persistently create new methods. I do not have a complete round-up on Tom’s philosophy, and I may not agree with him 100%, yet on deeper level I agree with his basic notion: stop living the ways of the past and create your own today! And TOMorrow :).


Body: Reloaded

This is one of the many posts in a "series" that I am going to make. If it ends or starts abruptly, look for the thread. It rolls on like a Qissa Chahaar Dervesh.


I turned 14 and got a new body. Life changed in many ways after that, and so did I. I had remarkably good beliefs since I was a child and an outlook that I didn’t find among my peers. I had a lot of intelligence and wisdom, but most of it was natural and untested. I am not proud to say that it was tested through my own will. If I had my wish now, and if I were wise enough then, I wouldn’t put to test what I knew was a good thing. Who would smash a glass of resilient crystal to test how strong it is? I did.

But I never regretted. After all, in the grand scheme of things, it was to be, and I knew it. (Quite simply, whatever is to be is in the natural inclination of each person. Resistance is futile!) There is a fake belief, and a real belief, and I felt that mine won’t be real until I see the “Dark Side.” So I paid a tour to the Dark Side. There I saw many, many things. I saw Envy, and Lust, and Greed. I saw Vanity, which seduced me for a long time because I thought it was going to last. I saw Fear, which is the thing my nature hates most. I don’t think anything in the history of Mankind killed as many good intentions and produced hurried bad actions as did Fear. Complete, irrational, stupid fear.


Sacred 7even

This is one of the many posts in a "series" that I am going to make. If it ends or starts abruptly, look for the thread. It rolls on like a Qissa Chahaar Dervesh.


Speaking of phases of life, did you know why 7 is a sacred number? I figured out. I learnt a long time ago that in seven years, every cell of the body is replaced. You get a new body in seven years. Early this year, a fortune-teller* told me that the hand lines change every seven years, too.** I understood it was because we get a new body. And if there is any truth to the destiny lines – and I think there is, but they are only a distraction – then the destiny changes with the change in body too. Every seven years.

Also, if you notice, every seven days give a person a complete cycle to discharge any variety of regular duties. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey called a week the best planning unit as against a day. It’s longer than a day, and gives freedom of adjustment. And it’s shorter than a month or a year, and forces action. (I see this para has some potential for a voodooish pass-around email on the powers of 7. I plead respect.)

I was around 12 when I discovered the piece of information about the reloaded body, and I couldn’t wait to turn 14. That would give me an entirely “clean” body, a tabula rasa. Then, I thought, whatever I consider to be my life will only be a part of my head, my imagination. I could control that. My body would literally be a new body. As for the soul, I knew that the soul does not get contaminated. It is some other layer of us that is spoilt. At any rate, it was harder to salvage a body, to me, than to salvage a soul – over which a person has his or her own control. The body can be enslaved by others, but neither the heart nor the soul. On this lasting freedom, I have forever based my optimism, hope, and faith.

* May I just suggest that do not be influenced by this writing enough to consult a fortune-teller. Ever. I will never, ever do that again. I warn that whatever the fortune-tellers say, comes true. And their art and science isn’t perfect. So do not think that the fortune-teller knows what will happen. But if they say something will happen, it will happen because they said so. Life is short; do something else. Stay away from these people.

** If you really need to look into future, consult a wise man or woman who is above the age of sixty. After the age of sixty, it is said, there can be no way that a person hasn’t received the message of God. People will not be forgiven at all if they make the excuse, “But I never knew!” after this landmark age. I take it to imply that by the time a good person reaches 60, they have een enough and seen it all (as far as they are concerned). A good person of this age would *know*. Consult them without fear, but know that it is upto you to realize their words. Remember the Oracle of Delphi? And the character Oracle in The Matrix?


The most beautiful thing that happened to me

This is one of the many posts in a "series" that I am going to make. If it ends or starts abruptly, look for the thread. It rolls on like a Qissa Chahaar Dervesh.


The most beautiful thing that happened to me is the Umrah that I performed during August 8 – 16 this year (that’d be 2005). It now makes for a quick answer to the question, “What was the happiest thing in your life?” Earlier, I had to tax my memory – not because of want of a good moment, but actually because several wonderful little moments happened and most of them are intensely private. Don’t let the mind wander: many of them were between me and my God, and others between me and I.

Why is the Umrah the happiest and the most beautiful? Because for me, it was one long moment in my life when time stopped. There was no past; and no future. For a pattern-reader, this is an inexplicable joy: to be in the present. Not reading the past, not construsting the future. Just being.

It was like one of those times when you step outside the car to enter a wedding reception, but before you enter, you wait for the one driving to come and join you. And you beckon the hurried ones accompanying you to wait back, until the family have gathered to make an appearance together. The whole family, in one step, makes a “joint entrance” (for want of an un-Pakistani term).

My Umrah is the time when I have stopped, and waited for my life to catch up with me, the life that was behind me, and life that was ahead of me. This was so that I could make a smooth transition in to the next phase of my life.