Something about the quiet pain in Lior’s Bedouin Song as he cries, ‘Heading East/Turning into calm seas/Like a river release’ has made me homesick. Amidst the sudden bout of patriotism my countrymen have been struck with lately (what with Merdeka flag-waving and all), and the frequent calls from home (often made in a spur of the moment by my empty-nested parents) have got me thinking a lot more about home. I know that a bare few months ago, I had doubted being able to fit in back home, in Malaysia. I never had. Maybe never will.
But something Lubna said in reply to my soliloquy struck me as true – that I have to return home, at some point, if I expect people like me to ever feel like they belong.
Ah. A few months ago I thought I was so worldly-wise, hypocrite that I am. It was all about comfort and belonging and finding that little niche I could fit in, like repressor proteins in the transcription factors of an eukaryotic gene regulation system. It was about relinquishing responsibility. It was about being able to stay in a far corner of this small, small planet and wipe my hands off the whole mess and say, “Not my problem anymore.” And being content to relegate myself to the egotistical role of distant analyst.
I once told a friend (who was formerly an acquaintance) that criticism was easy. Too true. It gives one the fallacy of feeling as if something has been done, despite the fact that even when those words are oft-repeated, they are nothing without action.
And I am that hypocrite, in the annoyingly selfish way that I talk, and that my brain accepts it as already settling whatever issue I had a problem with. And it is also annoyingly selfish the way I say things, and then I do not do them. Subconscious self-damnation, if you will."O you who believe! why do you say that which you do not do? It is most hateful to Allah that you should say that which you do not do." (64:2-3)
When someone I love dearly told me, in what medium as may be called the epistle of brutal honesty, of these very flaws, I was, as Australian colloquialism put it, cut. I was hurt. I wouldn’t say righteously hurt, but I felt like I had been peeled raw. Because I don’t think many things chill you or shake your core as much as seeing things you’ve only suspected of yourself, pointed outright as fact. It’s distressing, because who likes to be shaken off one’s personal pedestal, especially in a time when self-confidence is an endangered species?
And so, in this cut, self-indignant cloud of emotion, I went about the rest of the noon. Slightly more determined, because nothing spurs one on like being proven small. On my way, I bumped into another loved one, who, upon seeing me in a state other than cheerful, thought that my father had gotten run over by a car (or something). And when I confessed to her the source of my distress, I could see that she was slightly torn between laughing out of relief and being a comforting friend.
I love it when someone else makes my quibbles less significant that my ego says they are.
And when I was about town, doing my own chores and still enveloped in my force field of misery, I was halted by a girl in a walker. Her legs were limp and unassisting, as she pressed onto the shaking metal frame at hip-length and dragged her feet forward to move. Her father lagged behind, his eyes keeping watch at her feet, hoping to catch her before she stumbles. Her mother moved ahead, blowing her semblance of nonchalance by the regular glance back.
I love it when God reassures that my quibbles are less significant than I think they are.
After seeing that wonderful resilience, I couldn’t be cut anymore. Not barely.
And so, there you go. I am a hypocrite. And yes, although I barely acknowledge it in my subconscious, it still hurts when someone says I am.
But things need to be said. And words are not the end of the world.
It took a metal walker and a heart of gold to prove it to me."Nay! you prefer the life of this world, While the hereafter is better and more lasting." (87:16-17)