Tread Softly

imageToday, I spoke at a session at Engro, where the employees of all the companies are being sensitised on the inclusiveness of the physically impaired in the work force. While I had not really thought or prepared a talk, but as I spoke, the realisation of the sheer human value of the topic was such, that I felt there is more to be said. So it occurred to me, that I should write a corresponding blog on the subject.

We as humanity have functioned disgracefully during our existence, with tiny little spots of successes here and there. Through history we have massacred, raped, pillaged and for millennia created slaves out of major sections of the population. For humans, success should not be about conquering territory, subjugating free people and living a life of luxury, while the so-called ‘great unwashed’ scrape a menial existence. So in acting the way we do, we fool ourselves to our great detriment. We are functioning more like animals, than a thinking, talking and feeling human.

Mans success has come in great Prophets projecting humanity, or a philosopher bringing out a massive truth, or advancement in science which has benefited the whole of humanity. Eradication of small pox was a great achievement. When Jonas Salk gave away the polio vaccine for free, it was a great success for mankind – one mans selflessness benefiting billions over half a century. Sometimes prosperity has been achieved for the masses and that is a great victory. During the Cyrus period, the first 25-30 years of Islam, the 1950s of USA, Sweden for a period in the 60s-70s. Contrary to popular thought, the democracies have rarely achieved overall prosperity. USA has a horrible disproportion of wealth in a few hands. The world has an even worse disproportion. Some 200 people own almost half the world.

On the other hand Man has stamped destructively and left an enduring footprint. We build concrete jungles, populate them, cut trees, carve roads out of mountains, pollute the air and seas. We eat like gluttons and waste as much out of sheer negligence and lack of thought. Man has brought the world and its nature to its knees, but we do not realise it and continue merrily on our way. In Surah Isra’ it is said “Do not walk proudly/exultant on the earth; you can neither tear the earth apart nor can you rival the mountains in height.” (Qur’an 17:37)…We mankind have just done the opposite and have walked proud and exultant and the results are very visible.

So what to do? Surah Rahman mentions ‘meezan’-balance. Balance in all facets of life. No extremes and that includes the art of living. Humans need to reduce our footprint. We walk in this world as if we own it. We don’t! The world has been lent to all humanity by Allah. The millennia before has used this earth (billions of humans) and the millennia after will need to use this earth too. So we have to live and use it, so that sustainability is maintained. Therefore, tread softly.

Part of treading softly, is inclusiveness. We need to cater for all. The poor, the weak, the women, the children, the old and also the ones who are physically challenged. The ones who are physically impaired are Allah’s gift to us. They are the beautiful people, yet we know this not! By being good to them and treating them as equals we create ‘barkat’. Our organisations and society need to help these people and make them productive, give them the self sustenance and self respect, which is a right of all the human race and individuals within it.

Tread softly! Go out there and be different to the rest of mankind and show the way of compassion and inclusiveness. Work with and give respect to these people. Be more human than most.

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A Web Called Life

imageLike you I too have pondered long and hard about life. Why what happens, does happen? And where are we going and to what end?

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The easiest is to take a leaf out of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and say the answer to life is 42. That shows our understanding and level of contribution to what happens…wish it could suffice.

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Surah Ankabbut focusses on the web of life and how it engulfs us. Taking this further Surah Rahman talks about the inherent balance in the universe and our lives. The combination of the two is the belief that souls are interconnected in a web, as are places and events. We simply move on the surface of this web, maintaining some sort of universal balance. Events and actions cause this balance to shift, but it is our lot to live within that frame.

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It hits us in the face, when a random co-incidence occurs. Walking along a lonely path in a foreign land, you meet someone known decades previously. Out of 7 bn people, how could two people decades apart meet? The odds are so humungous that it is unfathomable. Some people meet an opposite gender person in a passerby event, come together due to maybe eye contact and then spend a blissful lifetime together. Does that not seem eerie?

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Paulo Coelho has written on these co-incidences and how the universe conspires to make things happen. How can people who have known each other long and have no spark, just blandness, suddenly come together; one feels circumstances push them together and lo and behold they make a blissful life of it. Others apparently fall in love and are together for decades, but somehow never are able to make things work.

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Such events happen with places and objects also. People happily settle in a place where they had no idea they would. The strange events which conspire to move them, leave them astonished. Same with jobs. I remember a strange case of an acquaintance eating food and a waste newpaper, used for absorbing oil from a paratha ( as used in our country), was actually a job advert. He applied and spent 30 years in that workplace. A whole lifetime was carved out, because he went to eat at that eatery. The eatery itself did not last those 30 years, but it did become an instrument in delivering one fulfilled life.

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We are caught in this web (mesh) together. Beyond the physical. There is a meta physical connection and these connected souls do gravitate together and no amount of worldly barriers will allow these connections to disconnect. It’s as if this was meant to be. Whether for good or bad is less relevant. It just happens.

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So what of those who struggle to connect? Whether as two humans, or in a community or organisation? Sometimes we call it chemistry or cultural fit. Again surely the web (mesh) works! Relationships are formed on connections and friction happens among the unconnected in this web. Many times they are opposites; attract in a fiery short spasm and then differences widen; others are totally uncomfortable right from the start. But this is fine! If everything was connected we would have a mighty cocktail which would be dysfunctional. To know what is connected we must have the contrast of the unconnected. Just as we know we are happy, because of the contrast of unhappiness.

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Therefore what is the lesson one can derive for this life? There are some who have allowed these  connections to happen. If one lets instinct prevail and also live an intuitive life, there will always be myriads of these connections. However, the practice of intuition is not natural to many of us. We just have to inculcate it. In modern society we have become more insular and insecure, and we tend to suppress these instincts, unlike the old Red Indian or the desert Beduin.

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Finally, at the end just to register this thought with the reader. An effort to connect with others of our humanity, can lead to friendships and loyalties, passion in life and can be a great reward through the course of this one existence of ours.

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*photo is taken from Wylio a free picture site.

The sun might as well burst – mans environmental story

Bursting sunIn Surah Rahman it mentions Meezan, “balance”. Man is to live in a balance; the world was built in a balance. Mans footprint in this world should maintain neutrality.

For the age of Man, the ancients kept this balance, Whether it was self taught, gained through experience or just plain luck, it happened through thousands of years. The population was generally maintained below 500-600 million and man was sustainable.  He plowed the land, lived in localities, wasted little and was happy to be at one with his environment. Man never cut useful trees, or made large dams, stored more than his needs and ended his life more or less as he was born. Maybe 0.1% of the population, the Lords and the Ladies, lived it up. They had large castles, scores of attendants, many clothes, lots of food. They even aspired to travel to large towns to meet others like them and also were greedy enough to try to grab more. But this small proportion of population did not effect the balance of the world.

Sometime between 1750-1800, this changed. Three specific events changed us.

The Industrial Revolution came home to create mass production, storage and movement. Then the French Revolution taught the common man, he has as much right as the Kings, Lords and Ladies.  Lastly The American Revolution taught the same common man the route of how to get from the bottom of the pile to near the top. The story was complete and man went after his right to live an independent and good life with all speed and strength. He now consumed as much as he could, science provided him the wherewithal to do so – production, movement and storage. The large city was born. Population multiplied and consumption increased further. This never ending spiral of the good life, hence more consumption, more need, therefore better science, and with better living come more people (better health and longer lives) and eventually more consumption, continues till today. The population which was a steady 600 mn, will peak at 9 bn in 2045. And the earth is operating at more than one earths level and that is not a sustainable model. We have lost that balance, which was maintained by our ancient forefathers.

So did we know about it? Well back in 1872 they discovered acid rain and therefore had an idea that they were doing adverse things to the environment. But we soldiered on. Through the radiation discovery of the Curies, the two World Wars, when Oppenheimer blew the bomb and the ensuing carnage of testing, the baby boomers love of gas guzzlers, the travel boom, the digital age and now the nano technology age. We have continued to use more, more and more and despite all the hue and cry, we still every year continue to consume more.

Now what is really happening out there to show things are changing. Continuously we keep getting hotter years, but we brush that off. The unusual weather patterns, like freak tornadoes, cold waves, hurricanes, floods and untimely weather are all the signs of change, but we look the other way. The oil & gas, consumer  and airline lobbies are too powerful to allow change to happen. Sometime in the 50’s a sadhu at the foot of the Himalayas, who saw change, started photographing himself against the snow line every five years. Eleven pictures and a lifetime later (55 years), this same sadhu had traversed up the mountain side and the snowline had receded rapidly. The satellite pictures comparing Arctic and Greenland in 1970 and 2010 show a massive change, the ice is fast disappearing. Film crews have captured live huge chunks of ice pack, some 50 sq miles, breaking off in Greenland. Similarly whole lakes are seen to disappear within less than an hour, as the ice melts and a hole created at the bottom, allows the lake to flow below the ice pack, grease the bottom and make the flow of ice pack to the sea even easier.

Once the ice pack disappears in the Arctic and Greenland, our goose is cooked. This is the premier reflector of suns rays and it will cause a huge jump in the heat. The sun might as well burst and hit us. It will be faster and quicker. We are consuming our endowment for living, and unless we stop, think and reverse this process, the legacy we leave our children will be a legacy of heat and lack of resources, like food and water. We don’t really want to do this surely? We love our children too much, to allow this to happen. Do something…..

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