We awakened them that they might question one another. A speaker from among them said: How long have ye tarried? They said: We have tarried a day, or some part of a day.
(V. 19, The Cave)
Let’s see. For the past five working days, I have been walking out of the exam room sullen. Owing, in part, to the fact that I did not do well, and also to that disturbing instruction every question paper began with: Attempt all questions. Never mind they’re only two. I’d rather attempt four out of twelve, than be forced to attempt all two out of two. There’s nothing interesting in a question paper like that and, consequently, nothing interesting in the answer sheet either.
It’s 11:15 p.m. as I write these words. Provided I start studying right now, I have less than twelve hours to prepare for tomorrow’s exam. No, they aren’t over yet. There’s one more to go. But UN Peacekeeping will have to wait. I owe some cathartic services to my brain. For a long time now, it’s only been taking in. It’s time it let something out.
UN Peacekeeping will have to wait
Why do some things matter so much? Why does it matter that I pass every test, ace every exam and excel at every competition? Must I always try? I must. Must I always win? I mustn’t. But how, then, do you separate aspiration from reality? How do you separate what you wish would happen from what actually happens? How do you work toward something, and then be content with its not working out? How do you do that?
The answer is simple. You don’t. Rather, you need not. For what I know, aspirations are self-fulfilling. We aspire not for making something happen, but for the sake of it. Aspiration. It is both the cause and the effect. Hope. Dreams. Desires. They’re inherently fulfilling – independent of reality. But they need reality to seem real just like light needs dark to be light and pretty needs ugly to be pretty. You don’t get the essence of it until you see the opposite. Or feel it. Happiness needs sadness to be happiness.
It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting, Paulo Coelho told us that. Not the coming true but the possibility of coming true. That’s not something we’ve never experienced. It happens all the time. How long do we take to jump to another desire once one has been fulfilled? You want love? You got love. Now you want to get married. Now you want to have kids. Now you want a better job because you want them to get a good education because you want them to grow up into responsible citizens because you want them to contribute to society but you also want them to find love and you want them to get married and on and on and on.
It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting
Stop. Breathe. It’s not going to be that way. There are going to be perks and there are going to be pitfalls. And if you keep imposing on life what teachers impose on students: Attempt all questions… If you keep telling life: Realize all aspirations, it is not going to work. You’re going to purge life of all things interesting. Life is going to walk out sullen. You’ll continue to live, all right. But you won’t be alive.
The same applies to reality. Reality is also self-fulfilling. So long as it is spared the villainy of being seen through the I’d rather lens, reality is self-fulfilling. What pushed me to write this was a megaphone announcement from a nearby Mosque, some time ago.
“Hazraat! (Gentlemen!) “Aik zaroori aelaan sunein… (Hearken to this important announcement…)
“… raza-e-Ilaahi say wafaat pa ga’ay hain. (… has passed away, by the will of God.)
“Un ke Namaz-e-Janaza… (His funeral prayer…)
“Namaz-e-Janaza mein shirkat farmaa k, sawaab-e-daaraen haasil karein (Earn reward in this life and the hereafter, by joining in the funeral prayer.)
“Inna lillahi wa inna il’ayihi ra’jioon.” (To Allah we belong, and to Him we shall return.)
Somewhere, life has ended for someone. Somewhere, not far from where I sit writing this, someone just breathed his last. I wonder, what was the last thought that figured in his mind? Did he celebrate his grades, or regret leaving the world with a bad GPA? Was he content he’d bought that car? Or aggrieved that he hadn’t? What about the cellphone he’d got that all his friends had lauded? Did these, or any of this, occur to him? Or did it all appear futile to him? As if it had all been an illusion. As if even reality was not real. As if he were a visitor, and life a transit. A day, perhaps. Or some part of a day…
It’s 12:45 a.m. and I still haven’t opened my notes. I cannot miss the exam tomorrow, but I can keep myself from fussing over it. My faith being weak as it is, I cannot say I do not know, I do not care, and it does not make a difference. But that I need not know, I need not care, and it need not make a difference. Yes. I might fail trying to achieve that, but try I must.