Friday, February 17, 2006

Dangerously further below the navel

I was going to just comment in the last comment box, but thought I would write so much it could be a post on its own. So ta-da.

Thankyou everyone for commenting and add your two cents. I will just think out loud again if that's OK. For anyone already tired of this self-absorption please stop reading and find something better to do...

OK now that they are gone (and I didn't like them anyway.... joke...) I will continue.

Why should I try to change? Good question. Not easy to answer, but I'll do my best.
There is the notion prevalent today that everyone and everything has equality. And that's a good thing. We are all equal and if you don't think so then stop yourself from dying - by that fact alone we are all equal by the very mortality we carry around our necks. We all laugh, we all need, we all bleed and we all have been put here for a reason.

But there is an arrogance which has become even more prevalent in today's world which states that everyone can neither be better nor worse than anyone else. That our opinions are as weighty as Divine Word. That we have a right to do and say what we want regardless of how this affects the universe, because ultimately we base our lives purely on ego - me, me, me. And furthermore we are slowly becmong a narcistic nation, where other peoples' lives have no use unless it furthers our own. We believe that no one has the right to undermine this sense of self worth and that we are somehow little gods free to say, do and opine as much as our whims allow.

From a spiritual standpoint this is the very antithesis of what we were created for. In traditional Islamic pyschology the 'self' has always been broken down into various components, one of which, the 'ego', or "commanding self" is seen as the lowest possible rung on the ladder of the personality - a tyrant and a foolish aspect of the biological animal that we are which, unless shackled and restrained will lead us by the nose until we die. It is a foolish self which causes mayhem in its wake. It is reptilian in all aspects. For most part the religious exercises, such as fasting for example, are designed to impact on this lower self so that higher, subtle realities may emerge. Without reigning in the ego one remains, in spiritual terms, at the level of a child or an animal.

Most of us have some aspect of ego and you can never fully erase it - you need it at any rate for survival, but the idea is that you control *it* and *it* should not control you. Once you can truly say you have mastered the lower self you can call yourself 'human' for you (and by that I mean the *real* You, not the illusory 'you' of the ego) are in charge.

This throws up lots of questions about what do we mean by 'you' etc. and from the Islamic perspective the real You is (quoting Saadi) 'that which cannot be lost in a shipwreck'. The ego is false and will always be in a state of loss forever trying to hold back the tide of change - denying death and anything that impacts on its comfort zone and some people are so expert in this denial of anything which endangers their ego/false self that they will cause much harm in the world to ensure its survival.

Muslims, and by that I mean the fullest sense of the word "those who submit themselves to the Greater Reality/Allah", not just people who, by accident of birth have been labelled 'muslim', have historically always chosen the company of people who will act like mirrors to their bad points, rather than surround themselves with sychophants who massage this dangerous ego-self. By surrounding yourself with people who are prepared 'to speak a word of truth to a tyrant' you are more able to erase the badness in the soul better than were you left to your own devices. We are blind to our own defects as this is another way the ego gains mastery over us. True friends in the Islamic sense are people who will show you your defects (in the gentlest manner) so that you are able to rectify yourself before you are brought to Account by Allah.

So, yes it matters that I change if what I base my life and interactions on isn't Divine Truth and beautiful manners but only on ego and unthinking reactions. Because ultimately we aren't here forever, we are merely on this earth for a short while, taking a rest before continuing our journey towards the grave, and thereafter accounting for how we spent our time here. And it's OK to say 'learn to love yourself', but how is that possible when the only way I can love my current self is by ignoring the pain I may inflict on others - to be wilfully blind to how my actions affect the lives of other people sharing this universe?

Perhaps if there wasn't a higher way of living I could satisfy myself with easy answers, that oh I'm not that bad, and others are worse, and I don't kill people and some people are too sensitive, or 'their loss'. But I have seen people, people of such high spirituality who have experienced things I have only read about, whose character is so beautiful, whose life is so noble and generous and whose manners are so humbling that I feel like a complete yokel in their company - I see in them what humanity is capable of, and when asked about how they reached this stage they are ashamed that they themselves are rotten to the core and only hope that one day they can emulate the one who came to refine our characters and beautify our Selves with good manners and generousity, the Prophet (saw) - and if you read of his character and the characters of people of his age who were nothing but bedouins - people whose lives were debauched in everyway, and how he raised them to become the perfect humans in every way, you will realise what it means to be a human, what we were created for, what we are capable of and how far short of the mark we are and how satisfied we are with so very little. I speak of myself here.

In many ways we have a potential and are like beautiful flowers in the making, but somewhere down the line our growth is restricted and we becomes so accustomed to living with weeds that when the gardener comes to remove the weeds and help us grow we protest that we are OK, that the gardener is mad or has bad intentions and that there is no such thing as a beautiful bloom to strive for.

There is a saying that the sign of a hypocrite is that he consoles himself with saying 'others are as bad as me, I'm OK' whereas a Believer should always be worried and never satisfied with themselves, never resting or becoming complacent. Waging war on the ego is like being a soldier on a battlefield - you don't let your guard down until the war is won. And actually, the term 'jihad' refers to this spiritual battle against one's ego, not blowing people up in the world...

Being aware of having a trait is a bit different to getting rid of it though. And it isn't that I have pain or am hurt or damaged in any way. I was just expressing objectively what I see to be the root cause of certain aspects of my character. I love my family very much and there is much good about them. And to be fair, I can see that someone hurt them too and I feel sad for them as well. I am not angry or resentful towards them. What has been has been and gone. Mistakes were made, life was hard sometimes, but others have worse lives so I'm not chewing on it. But still I have certain character traits which are so entrenched as to make them almost compulsive. They are almost at the level of instinct for me. And I want to get rid of them because they are ugly and they hurt people. And not even people I don't like - I mean people I really really love and would take a bullet for...

A sheikh once gave us this example though: your heart is like a glass of water, but at the bottom is sediment and before you drink the water you must remove the sediment. Some people, unaware that the sediment is there will drink it and become ill, but for those fortunate amongst us someone will stir the water up, the dross will rise to the surface and then we can scrape away the rubbish and have a truly clean glass of water.

I am hoping that simply having all this come to the surface means that it will help resolve these issues. I have noticed in the past that whenever I have become aware of certain bad traits and what causes them they cease to be a problem.

Oh well. Waffle over. Normal service will resume shortly insha'allah...


At 7:16 pm, Blogger *~H~* said...

This was a gud'an :)

At 11:50 pm, Blogger Angel said...

Wow, intense stuff really blew my mind and has given me alot to think about.

At 8:23 pm, Blogger 4 girls and 3 boys said...

Wow from me to. Very insightful Debbie. Thanxs


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