Life and Times Blog

Corridors of deception.

I wake up on a soft double bed, in a nicely carpeted room. I wobble to a nicely tiled bathroom, with bright fluorescent lights, munch my muesli breakfast and get into my car.
Switch on the aircon, set off to work.
Along a very well maintained highway I drive, past areas that are mostly developed. The highways are bordered by massive billboards, selling me stuff. Lucky for me I find shopping too much hard work to get down to, but it still reminds me of the big comfortable consumer world out there.In here.

Closer to the office there are sometimes beggars at the traffic lights, I smile and shrug my shoulders in an “Eish, Angeeena” sort of way. Which is a lie, well the eish isn’t, but the Angeena is, because I do have.

I walk into the office, shout out a hello to the aunty’s who work there, sit down on my high-back chair (its a pretty cool chair), switch on the fan, open the computer-box and go through the day. I communicate with various people during the day, all of whom went through the same relatively comfortable routine that I did.No one speaks about anything outside the normal context we find ourselves in.

The day comes to a close, I get back in my car, I drive to meet some friends at a mall, or at their comfortable homes. We chat, laugh, maybe we’ll touch on some all important current topics, but mostly its just casual banter.

I get back in my car, go back to my comfortable double bed, and repeat the next day.
My week passes, my month passes.

This is my corridor. The Comfort Corridor.

What I don’t see, and it doesn’t take much not to see it, because the comfort has been built to hide it, is that not far behind these billboard borders, and behind the trained smiles of waitresses at malls, is a world whose reality contradicts the comfort of my corridor, of my apparent reality.
It is a world of poverty brought on by a 30% + unemployment and HIV rate. A world where the citizens are products of a multi-generational program designed to rip their collective and individual sense of dignity, ability.
A world where adults can’t read, little kids don’t have the basic toys that would so impact the formation of the physical brain ability.
A world where tea-lady’s and cleaners support families of 8 on salaries that are only slightly higher than my petrol bill.

This isn’t a minority world, its the world where the majority of the people in this country live, with little hope of climbing out. Instead, in their natural desire to improve, an imposed consumer society convinces them that improvement lies in buying things, forcing them beyond their means, and thus deeper into the mire of an unimproving future.

But this is a world that lies outside of my corridor. I don’t see it, I don’t have to see it. I just need to focus on my corridor and everything will be peachy, well not peachy, because those billboards tell me that the other car is really what’s peachy.

Now I don’t mind this at all, if I really believed that it would all be relatively peachy. Only I don’t.
I can’t possibly believe that a situation like this, a stratification of people in front of and behind the billboard can possibly be sustainable in the medium to long term.
Further I can’t possibly believe that my Just Lord will allow me to have lived all my life in front of the billboard without a sever reckoning.

Also, I know without a doubt that a life in front of that billboard will quickly bore me, or even worse, cause me a lifetime of perpetual dissatisfaction, hooking me to riding along that highway, chasing the next billboard refresher.

But what do I do about this, it’s like exercise and healthy eating, and reading, I know I should do more of it, and its good for me, but actually getting down to it, thats tougher.
Good news, there are packaged options out there, we all like packaged options, because convenience is nice. There are many many organisations or initiatives that already have an established infra-structure for you to simply plug yourself into. It will allow you to escape that corridor, for the purposes of your own psychological refreshment, and hopefully spiritual salvation.

Even if you don’t plug yourself into some liberating cause, at least be aware that the lady cleaning your office, or serving you behind the counter, probably comes from that other world, and it can’t be much fun for her to cross over your corridor and help maintain it. If nothing else, smile and say a kind word, so she knows, and more importantly so you know, that she’s not a cog in the machine that keeps the corridors comfortable, but rather a human being with whom you can share a moment of solidarity with, based only on human kindness and goodwill.
But most of all don’t be hypnotised by a narrow version of reality, that tranquilises you into a botox brained existence. A plastic world leads to a hardened heart, and a putty brain!

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November 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 10 Comments

Not in it, unless you’re in it!

I have always placed empathy high up in the arena of noble traits that God has given us as humanity.
I appreciate empathy on all the levels, on the big drama events in life, but also on the little awareness in the details of living with others, like keeping a window open, or parking inconsiderately. Not paying heed to the reaction of the other just makes for rude living.

On the big drama events: sympathy is more of the act of feeling for somebody,whereas empathy brings that feeling closer, feeling WITH somebody.
However, as far as we are able to extend ourselves in this matter of co-feeling, it still comes up severely short. It is impossible to feel to the same extent, because it is impossible to know all the thousands of thoughts, experiences, reactions that an individual may have in the context of a specific event or action.IMPOSSIBLE.
We are prepared for our reactions from the day we are born, our characters and personalities, and thus responses, are the result of years and years of interaction, experience, processing. This extensive background to who we are and how we react means that no one person can “step in” to your situation to truly co-feel at the same depth.

There have been occasions when friends have gone through an experience that required my empathy and where possible I always try to provide that empathy with sincerity. However, at the times when I have also experienced something similar after their event I always feel like my empathy to them was shallow and uninformed. I feel like going back to apologise to them for being so deficient in that empathy. Going through something similar brings you somewhat closer to appreciating the persons context, not all the way, but closer.

It’s saddening to consider this though, it implies that we are always alone beyond a certain point. That we are unable to truly share tragedy or joy with others. Of course there is plenty of space to share up to that limit, but there always will be that limit.
God is our only companion in all of this because He is the only One who can grasp everything that happens in our psyche. He is the one being to whom we can turn and communicate without words, but with a depth of emotion and full coherence through our feeling, and our submission. Like every other, the richer our relationship with God, the more we are able to draw strength and solace and inspiration from Him.

Extending ourselves in empathy does prepare us better for going through similar experiences, but more than that it opens our hearts and our eyes to more of the complicated tapestry of life It makes us aware of our vulnerability and of life’s unpredictability.

The Quran says in Surah Tin, “We have created man in the best of moulds…”, empathy is a trait that is an example of this excellence in mankind. Empathy motivates us to deeds of goodness.

As lonely as this all may seem let us aspire to a day when there will be no loneliness, a day upon which we will find our home of peace, only peace :
Surah Bayyinah – 98:7 Those who have faith and do righteous deeds,- they are the best of creatures
Their reward is with Allah. Gardens of Eternity, beneath which rivers flow; they will dwell therein for ever; Allah well pleased with them, and they with Him: all this for such as fear their Lord and Cherisher.

November 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 10 Comments