Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Saving a Country's Dying Soul

It is time to sleep, but something has brought me back to my writing desk. I want to share this. Right now.

Before slipping into bed, I felt like practicing a calming ritual. I sat on the floor, put my forehead on the bed, and prayed like a child. Within a few instants, I felt that reassurance, the power that prayer has been giving me. Evermore since I have learned the true meaning of prayer...

Then suddenly something welled up inside my chest... something that has been there for some time, that I have been trying to grapple and understand. Up, and up, and up the feeling surged - until it broke away through my eyes as tears.

I cried for Pakistan.

I was not in the country to witness when the camel's back was broken with Benazir's murder and the ensuing riots and mass mania. But I've been there through the 2005 Earthquake, the Red Mosque Showdown, the former Chief Justice's ups & downs. I've been there seeing my family be the victim of violence, robbing, and harrassment - and feeling completely frustrated with the frigid system of justice.

Since I have returned from a journey of my personal transformation taken in Africa, I have needed time to let the mood of fellow Pakistanis as it is now, sink in. There is a visible, eerie silence. There is a tangible, fragile fear. There is a complete break-down of sense and sensitivity. There are lying and never-learning politicians and their blind worshippers. There are men and women of good intentions but deeply flawed actions. Then there are the clear messages in the voices of Pakistanis: it has ended. All has ended.

Isn't it strange how the currents of life seem to be synchronizing? The small and the big tides all travel together - in one direction - within one fathomless sea - towards one shore. I felt that in that moment of prayer, somewhere, my personal history just merged with Pakistan's...

I had bent my head to pray purely for personal reasons. I wanted to talk to Allah about my health, healing, my hopes.

Within a moment, the story of my life rose in tides of hundreds of images in my head, and broke on the screen of my consciousness.

In that story was a message for Pakistan.

More than three years ago, one night, I had written in my blog:

"I am afraid for the first time in life. Afraid of myself, afraid of life, afraid of past, present, future. I feel despair. But beyond the end of every limit lies freedom. If it's not passion that drives us to go beyond that limit in a leap of courageous faith, it's despair."

Miserable in a high-rise career that had trapped me, heartbroken by a lie of a relationship, carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, and unhinged by the general crumpling of my life and vitality - there came a long time in my life when I had no idea of why was I to live and how come I was still alive thinking and feeling. Nothing worked. Nothing stayed. Everything I held on to gave away. In those moments, I knew I had met and escaped some kind of death - but it touched me so deep I lost notions of what Life is.

It was at that time, that a will took control of me - I began to write. Each day, I would ponder over why was I "dying," what was the cause of my deep unhappiness, and, most importantly, was I going to survive? How?

This became a vast quest. One night, I broke up crying bitterly. After having a good birthday celebration in the day with close, caring friends - I tried to repair a broken relationship at night, and received a cold lack of response. That night, several things happened.

First, I cried my bitter heart out. Second, I made a pact with God to safe-keep my heart. Third, I asked myself: "Why would a person, who is so loved and cared for by many, seek to get the attention of one individual who makes it clear they dont' care?" I started counting my very good friends (recall having tallied at least 16 true-blue souls), and was actually surprised I hadn't been valuing them instead.

I made a note in my blog about that experience:

"[Last night,] I took my most precious assets - my heart - and entrusted it to God. He can safe-keep, until I can have it again, and He can have it again, and I can have it again.

Acts of faith are not easy, but they are part of the cycles of life. It is strange. For all eternity, humans have travelled towards an unknown future. What do we know? We only have theories of what lies ahead, and some stories and divinations that help along the way. What have we seen beyond this very second? Nothing. What do we have for the future? A little vision, and a tremendous amount of faith."

I learned that night that my heart is safe as long as I surrender it completely to where it belongs. That we get wrong answers as long as we ask the wrong questions; we meet the wrong people as long as we seek them; and that we can stay alive as long as we have faith - or when death truly comes calling to set us free.

Tonight, when I started praying, I realized with joy that I have friends who pray for me - who care enough to contact and let me know simply that they have thought of me and prayed for me. They touch my life unconditionally, even briefly, and I am bathed in a glow of love. What a contrast from the night - that endless, bleak night - when I couldn't understand why a pointless phone call wasn't being returned?

Tonight, when a feeling rose up and up in my heart, it was the heart of a Pakistani who cried for Pakistan. Three years ago, that night, I died in many ways. The death of deluded old me was imminent, and necessary. At that time, I did not even have the power or will to make a decision, or the foresight to make sense of what could happen to me.

I can't think of what's going to happen to Pakistan. Is it - the words that we dare not say - going to break? Will there be civil war? Will there be draught and inflation? Will there be more political assassinations? Who can rescue us? Why are we, the people and the leaders, all one nation, ending up in the wrong place? What's wrong with our seeking?

I don't know. Pakistan doesn't know.

But my heart knows just one thing. It knows that it's life was saved one night when I simply held onto the only things I could still see:

Faith, and Prayer.

There is nothing that is going to hold Pakistan together. There is nothing that gives a clue to what is going to happen in this country tomorrow. Yet there is something infinitely powerful still in the hands of people - something that no oppression or folly could take away from humans - the power of their prayer to transform.

A prayer is not a senseless uttering. At times of utter misery, it is a persons' encounter with Truth. It is a person's admission that their schemes aren't working and won't work. It is, paradoxically, also the staunchest form of promise that one makes to themselves - it is not a state of inaction. It is a word of honor that we give to ourselves - allowing the Universe to favor us.

So, despite all my lack of sight about my country, I will save its soul, in as much as God empowers me to do, with that which saved my own soul, and brought me alive on the other side - smiling, strong, vibrant, and alive.

I will pray for Pakistan.

Long live!

(Published on 29 December 2011, pulled up from a draft last saved on 13 Feb 2008)

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