In every choice we make, we exercise our consciousness
In Bengal, we call life a leela khela.
An endless algorithmic game created by God.
Perhaps, life would indeed look like a video game if love didn’t shade our sight.
The deep darkness would be another shade of black, and the cows eating water hyacinths would be mere robots.
Love shades even the scents, while sounds announce life’s existence. Life unfurling. Sounds colliding.
We are lucky. Those of us who were born after 1971 most likely did not have to choose between ourselves and our children, as the Rohingya, the Syrians, and the Yemenis are in escaping or trying to survive in a war.
In Elie Wiesel’s Night, Wiesel recounts the separation and imprisonment of his family by the German Nazis in 1944.
It is essentially a story about the systematic dehumanization of (innocent) Jewish prisoners, in particular his father (Chlomo Wiesel) and himself.
The torturous conditions of the concentration camps (Auschwitz and Buchenwald) lead Wiesel to want reprieve from his ailing father, while at the same time feeling remorse for his thoughts. In the following passage, a fellow prisoner tries to convince Wiesel to allow his father to die.
“Listen to me, kid. Don’t forget that you are in a concentration camp. In this place, it is every man for himself, and you cannot think of others. Not even your father. In this place, there is no such thing as father, brother, friend. Each of us lives and dies alone. Let me give you good advice: Stop giving your ration of bread and soup to your old father. You cannot help him anymore. And you are hurting yourself. In fact, you should be getting his rations …
“I listened to him without interrupting. He was right, I thought deep down, not daring to admit it to myself. Too late to save your old father … You could have two rations of bread, two rations of soup …
“It was only a fraction of a second, but it left me feeling guilty. I ran to get some soup and brought it to my father.” (Chapter 8, pages 86-88)
In Wiesel’s awareness of his emotions, and in defying his basic instincts for something more refined, he surpassed the Qur’anic concept of nafsi, nafsi (myself, myself) to continue the essence of Allah’s game: Love.
A Bukhari hadith’s average reaction on the day of judgment would be “nafsi, nafsi,” while Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would say “ummati, ummati” (my people, my people).
The day of judgment is every day. In every choice we make, we exercise our consciousness. Will our instincts be that of love, or will they be uncouth, panicked, and focused on a finite self? For we are indeed infinite.
Who turns this into that? Sound into noise?
Aroma into odour? Taste into pleasure or disgust?
Who turns yes into no? Grace into unkindness?
Who turns the present into the past? Who turns the now into the not-now?
As-it-is into as-it-should-be?
Silence into boredom? Stillness into restlessness?
The ordinary into the menial?
Who turns pain into suffering? Change into loss?
Grief into woe? Woe into the story of your life?
Who turns stuff into sentiment? Desire into craving?
Acceptance into aversion?
Peace into war? Us into them?
Who turns life into labour? Time into toil?
Enough into not-enough?
Who turns why into why not?
Who turns delusion into enlightenment?
Who thinks? Who feels? Who senses?
All practice is the practice of making a turn in a different
-- Karen Maezen Miller
Shireen Pasha is a contributor.