We are at the tail end of yet another year and I am moved to pick up my pen to write and reflect on the lessons the year has taught me. I guess you could call it a personal yearly tradition. At any point I find myself feeling a sort of overwhelm and helplessness amidst my tangle of thoughts, tethered to the thrum of unproductive afternoons heavy with languor, I take out my pen and diary and scribble away pages after pages. I open my laptop and tap on my keyboard keys to translate my emotions into something decipherable. Something tangible. Something I can finally make sense of.
Sometimes, when I can find no words to best translate these thoughts, I listen. I listen to people who can articulate my thinking and form images with such stunning arrangement of words, and offer their valuable perspectives and prescient views. I have been listening to On Being with Krista Tippett; a podcast which discusses big questions in spirituality, on finding purpose and what it means to be human. A recent conversation with poet Jane Hirshfield had me listening on repeat, over and over again, strikingly mesmerised and enlightened as I tried to internalise some of the wisdom she has to share in such poetic language. I urge you to listen to the brilliant conversation in full. This part resonated with me profoundly:
“I have been given this existence, these years on this Earth, to accept what has come into my lifetime — wars, loves, trucks, betrayals, kindness. I must take them. I must find a way to live in this world. You can’t refuse it. And along with the difficult is the radiant, the beautiful, the intimacy with which each one of us enters the life of all of us and figures out, what is our conversation? What is my responsibility? What must be suffered? What can be changed? How can I meet this in a way which both lets me open my eyes the next day and also, perhaps, if I’m lucky, can be of service?”
“…every inch of ground on this Earth has seen unfathomable suffering, some of it human, some of it not human, but there is no inch of Earth which is not soaked in suffering. But there is also no inch of Earth which is not soaked in joy and in beauty and in radiance.”Jane Hirshfield
What struck a chord with me is how much her words reflect the truth of our living. Of responsibly owning our existence and discovering our abilities in order to pursue our purpose and bring benefit to self and others. All of life is learning to masterfully tread this earth lightly yet fully in its glorious transience. Acknowledging that joy comes with sorrow, that grief comes with hope, is the only way for us to embrace the fullness of everything, the wholeness of our every day. Regardless of our differences in faith, humanity will eventually come to understand that we are put on this earth for a specific purpose, distinct from the living of forest trees and sea creatures. We are given our bodies and our minds and our souls to do important work. Every single one of us carry within us a a great deal of significance. We are not data and numbers; we are flesh and bone, souls, we are emotions, we are art, poetry, language, we are matter. We matter. We matter a huge deal in this terrifying and beautiful universe. And we must not refuse and deny its catastrophes the same way we must not refuse and deny its brilliance.
Earth has been a silent witness to simultaneous suffering and sweetness. I am reaffirmed that this is the way she has been designed by Allah (SWT) in maintaining balance and teaching humanity by means of opposites. Every single thing on this earth and beyond is fully purposeful in its pairs.
everything He creates
exists in pairs –
the sun and the moon,
day and night,
the skies and the earth,
darkness and light,
women and men,
happiness and sadness,
slavery and freedom,
health and sickness,
past and present
wealthy and poor –
for what’s the value of one
without knowing the other?
In that fashion, so is this life. There must be another life that awaits us after this. Perhaps this is why life brings us disappointment and despair; they are here to teach us the value of joy, of love. And that is just the way this world is built to be. It gives us previews of the life in the perpetual hereafter – pleasant moments and breathtaking scenery give us glimpses of paradise, while burning fire and agony resides in the other. A way to let us remember that we are not to strive for perfection in the fleeting, but to believe that we are all on this journey for a while to attain something surer, and bigger than this, in a place eternal.
“Exalted is He who created all pairs – from what the earth grows and from themselves and from that which they do not know. And a sign for them is the night. We remove from it the [light of] day, so they are [left] in darkness. And the sun runs [on course] toward its stopping point. That is the determination of the Exalted in Might, the Knowing. And the moon – We have determined for it phases, until it returns [appearing] like the old date stalk. It is not allowable [i.e., possible] for the sun to reach the moon, nor does the night overtake the day, but each, in an orbit, is swimming.Qur’an, 36:36-40
I like to believe that hope is ever constant, but hidden. I like to believe that there is still so much of this universe we do not know. Like a whole undiscovered continent sequestered underwater, discovered only centuries later. Nevertheless, in all that we know and do not, in all of current earth’s seemingly endless pain, there is always healing, there is always hope. As much as there is grief. There is always hope.
From my viewfinder, the world around me has been constantly shifting, moving, changing in its language, in its landscapes. The world in me is similarly experiencing a shifting, a readjusting, a relearning. 2021 has brought about a multitude of change, significantly in ending a phase of my life and entering the new. In the beginning, the unfamiliar feels daunting, the changes feel uncomfortable. To have to live with someone new in my life in an ordinary instant has been an adventure. Over time, as the shifting settles in a steady rhythm, it suddenly feels natural to be with a partner, as though my previous years of living in solitude, I can never imagine going back to. It has been nothing but surreal, these shifts I am grateful to experience. Like the moon, I am moving in phases; I am remembering how happiness feels like while grief coexists and says to me, you are allowed this lightness. Like every sign in this universe, I have learnt that never is our God imperfect in his plans as he creates everything with its balance; everything exists on an equal scale, in perfect measure. In perfect time. Like my husband and I, we are both swimming in our own orbits to complement each other, and learning from one another to live the phases of our lives as they come, with tears, fears, but always, fully and unapologetically, with laughter.
This beautiful life is short and long. All at once. Instead of counting the days with anxiety and worrying about the things that will not matter when we breathe our last breath, may we remember to find a way to live in this world fully, with the time we are given. As the year comes to an end and another year begins, may we ever remember our purpose, be constant in renewing our intentions, and believe in the power of our prayers. May we ever be patient with our personal storms, and may we ever be grateful when the sun shines its light on our faces.
And may we ever remember to live in the fullness of our every day.