Sunday, June 5, 2011

Roda Viva / The Wheel of Life

As salaam alaikum,

A gente quer ter voz ativa, no nosso destino mandar. Mas eis que chega a roda viva e carrega o destino pra lá...

We want to have an active voice, command in our own destiny. But here comes the wheel of life and carries destiny far away...

I like looking at maps. I pride myself at being able to look at a map once, figure out my route and be able to get there with little more direction than looking at the map once while walking on foot. Driving is a little bit more complicated...there are too many twists and turns for me to be able to look at the map once, but luckily GPS makes it so much easier to travel while mapping your direction. This may be the most hackneyed metaphor I use, but I wish there were a map for life, for the straight way.

My aunt posted a quote on her facebook that I just remembered that I think applies to what I want to say, and is a dictum I'll take with me for the rest of my life, actually.

"Why do people ask the question, 'what is my purpose on earth?' instead of asking, 'what values, beliefs and morals do I want to uphold while I am on earth?" You answer the latter and then you will get the answer to 'What [is] your purpose on earth?"

I liked that...and I liked it on facebook, but I like this. And I'll carry it with me for the rest of this entry.

We want to have an active voice, em nosso destino mandar, we want to have the road map so we can get to the end goal, heaven, life's ultimate attainment, wherever our spirituality is at the time, but the fact of the matter is, there has never been a road map for life.

Okay, yeah yeah, scripture. Yes, my guide to life is Qur'an, but the Qur'an tells me the basics of following the straight way. The Qur'an does not tell me what to do as a single Muslimah who wants to marry but has a Christian father who has his misgivings about my being Muslim, for example. Yes, the Qur'an outlines a way of life...

If I may stretch this metaphor to the limit, Islam for me is like drivers' ed. I learned to buckle my seat belt, drive the speed limit, not turn on red, merge into traffic, not drive in the left lane or on the shoulder or too long in the turning lane, rules that I know will serve me well. I won't avoid all accidents, because sometimes the other person is at fault. Sometimes I will make a mistake. Sometimes I'll bend the rules and speed a little, pass on the shoulder sometimes. Sometimes those will result in accidents, sometimes not. Somethings I do may hurt my vehicle. But I have my guide in my drivers' education, and I trust in God as I drive that I will survive the trip.

The metaphor breaks down because Islam also gives you ultimate destinations. Growing up, honoring your parents, sustaining oneself with honest work, marrying, having children, carrying for family and the needy, the hungry, the orphans. Death.

But there is no map to these destinations. No scripture gives you that, and our jobs as humans were not to create a map to these destinations as some have tried to do too many times and end up making our lives miserable or too difficult. I understand now.

I used to wish finding a husband were like applying to medical or graduate school, as if there were a process with deadlines and interviews and decisions and choice. Quero ter voz ativa, I want to have an active voice, and I do to a certain extent...and then, I don't.

Eis que chega a roda viva...

No religion tells us why we are here, ultimately. Some Muslims say that it's to serve Allah (swt). I think that deserves more explanation. I mean, even the angels ask (I think that's a name of a book), which is a powerful concept:

(2:30) "Behold, I am about to establish upon earth one who shall inherit it." They said: "Wilt Thou place on it such as will spread corruption thereon and shed blood -whereas it is we who extol Thy limitless glory, and praise Thee, and hallow Thy name?" [God] answered: "Verily, I know that which you do not know."

So why are we humans on earth? We don't know. God knows what not even the angels that serve him and bow to us know.

I'm pretty comfortable in thinking that our purpose on this earth is to help each other through life. Serve Allah (swt)? Of course! But God does not need our devotion...our devotion to Him is for us. So part of serving Allah (swt) are doing good deeds that will help our souls, and the other part of serving Him is doing good deeds that will help others...zakat in all forms, from feeding the hungry, supporting the orphan as traditionally outlined by the Qur'an, to being in a service career...public service, public health, medicine, etc.

But my personal purpose of life? My story? My stops along the way down the road of life? Insha'Allah, He has it planned and He is guiding me as He did guide me through life. I negate predestination. Predestination is an artifact of the limitation of us to think outside of space and time. God exists outside of space and time, so nothing is written without being currently written and being written in the future all at once. Since God is outside of space and time, God exists in all dimensions of my life, even in those that I'm not able to perceive...

So instead of worrying about what my individual story will be, I will instead, as my aunt said, worry about my values, my beliefs and my morals. I will make some decisions in life, but life also happens and it's all about what values I invoke to make decisions, what beliefs I use to buffer any bumps along the way and with what morals I use to travel through life.

And the truth of the matter is, I don't want to know what the next step is! It seems more comfortable, but from looking at my mentors and role models, it seems as if the best and most important things that happen in life are completely unplanned, are stumbled upon. Instead of saying God has written, I'll stick with the present tense and say that God is guiding me. If I fight God, who is with me in all dimensions, I may get burned now or later, but He's always there for me, fortifying me, building me up to prepare me to be with Him, whatever purpose I may serve. I am not a pawn or any other chess piece. This is not a game.

I don't know why I exist. I don't know what I'm going to do ultimately in life, who I am going to serve, whose wife I'm going to be, whose mother I'm going to be, whose aunt I'm going to be. So many people in my life yet to come to pass. However, I now understand that instead of worrying about the specifics of the destination and the route, I'm going to make sure that I am the best that I can be as God outlined for me, and as life happens, I will be equipped to make the best of decisions, to cope well with hardships and challenges, and to conduct myself with class, dignity and modesty.

The rest, I leave to God, because, verily, He knows what we do not know.

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