Monday, November 7, 2011

Paradigm, Part II

As salaam alaikum,

I'm artificially splitting my entry into parts. They're all written at the same time, but there's so much to say that I wanted to split it into distinct entries.

There is a uniting theme, though: I am more myself now than I have ever been.

I said that it all started with D, but that's not true. It more likely all started with what sparked me to resume my "Center of Awesomeness" and my writing projects. It was the death of Steve Jobs.

I am currently typing on a PC, but I have much respect for Apple products, which I grew up on, using them in school from the time I was in kindergarten until I was co-editor-in-chief of our high school paper. I comfortably alternated between using Macs and PCs in the libraries and computer labs in college. I own an iPod. I always thought that Mac users formed a little bit of a cult, but that didn't keep me from recognizing how much of an innovator Steve Jobs was. I remember the distress that my friend had when Jobs first revealed that he had pancreatic cancer, and how he was worried about what Job's impending death would mean for the future of Apple.

And I almost completed medical school and learned so much about the lethality of pancreatic cancer, and then he died.

His death meant the resurgence of many of his quotes, on facebook, blogs and other modes of social media. I saw this one and it gave me pause:

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

This is from his Stanford commencement speech in 2005.

I pray for a life long enough to realize my purpose in this world and to approximate God as much as I can, but I also recognize that I could die at any time. This is not usually a thought that causes me anxiety because I do not fear death itself, as long as the circumstances of which are not particularly traumatic or painful. However, I am God-fearing and I don't think, if I were to die now, I'd be in the place I want to be before I meet God.

For me, living life as if it were my last has always meant trying to be as pious as I can be in that moment of life so, theoretically, I'll be ready to meet God at any point in time. But I think, as many of us Muslims and in fact, many of us religious people have trouble doing, we have trouble living in this world and for the next at the same time. We're not entirely sure either what that means or how to balance both. Because we were placed on this world with the confines of space and time and this body and its feelings and urges for a reason, and yes, a big reason is that it's a test, but this existence isn't all about denying everything that is on the earth in favor of the next.

So while I do think it is important that I should try to live each day as piously as I can as if I were to meet God next, there is an element of that piety that is focused on how I live my life here on this earth, the things that I do, who I become and who I impact.

"Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important."

I'm still digesting all that this means, because I believe it to be true. If I had a sudden premonition, for example, that I was going to die if not tomorrow, but in say, five years' time...what would my life look like? What would I do?

So many petty and trivial things of this life wouldn't mean that much to me anymore, including what people thought of me. I would be who I needed to be. Like Mahalia, I would live the life I sing about in my song. At the same time, I would enjoy the fruits of this world that God intended us to enjoy, which are more numerous than the little that we are forbidden, actually, and include some of the things that we, in fear, deny ourselves.

That just made me remember this song, which I think I"ll end this entry be continued:

It's a great prayer, actually.

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