We are bestowed upon a great gift by God. The gift of life and one can estimate, quite safely, that life is the greatest gift because all other numerous gifts and bounties take effect if life, in the first place, is granted. We are granted this gift, as we are born, then we go on with life and the business of it all uninterrupted in trying to accomplish something called ‘living.’ We live because we are alive and there is no other choice. Life is a beautiful thing to begin with. But living in the real sense of the term living is something different. This reminds me of our dear old Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) when he said, ‘To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.’ Existing is different from living and that is true. If we live in this world like many of us do, pass our time doing what others do, without instilling the impressions of our own finger prints and eventually pass on than we have merely existed and not lived at all. To live is to be able to contribute and leave a lasting impression. To be someone of high value to others without being corrupted by the corruption of this world.
A person is born, in our understanding, when he opens his eyes and starts to desperately cry. The doctors are relieved to see a newly born baby cry his heart out as this is the sign of a healthy child-birth. So life starts with crying and yelling and complaining perhaps. About what, one would think? Perhaps about life itself given that one couldn’t cry about anything at that time since one does not know anything at all at that stage. So it is about being alive. This happens because life had already started before that time. A person is alive in the womb, he breathes and sleeps and grows and all that. That is the time that can be compared to the time of the grave. A serene sleep that has no recollection on one’s memory even though the brain has fully developed. Then this peace is disturbed with the birth and the baby cries hard to announce in protest that his peaceful sleep has been harshly interrupted and that he was happy before that. Why then is it that one finds it hard to understand that ‘Dualism’ is not a dead concept? Then, with such cries, starts life.
A campaign of happiness and sorrow where one encounters joy as well as despair, delight as well as agony and time passes on within this war between the opposites. Man grows and learns new things, which he didn’t know at all before. He is born in to relationships and then goes on to make new ones. Gets educated, if he does, takes on the challenge of life and within that tries to understand God, if he could, and marches on. If that baby in the womb were asked that he will be born to be someone’s child and grow to make a family and have children of his own; he would laugh the thought away and reply that that there is nothing better than floating in sleep in water and having food on time- all the time, as that would be his definition of living.
Life takes us on a journey, a long trip whose destination is death. This is quite amazing to note that we, down the line, start to imagine that success is the end. If we can have this and maybe a bit of that too we’d be happy and accomplished and successful and that shall resolve everything. In this process we forget that death is what might be there unresolved. Therefore, we do not think about the destination given that our definition of the end alters in the hustle bustle of life that we are forced to live given that birth wasn’t our choice in the first place. This happens only for us to be trained for the afterlife where there is no death but perpetual life. So we do not have any choice, that is to say, to be born in order to die in order to be awakened for a life without death. We are born and then we die. Then we shall be awakened not to die again at all. And then there is no choice within this enigmatic yet majestic plan of the greatest Planner. The poet-philosopher of the east Allama Iqbal (1877-1938) puts it in the best way possible;
Tere azad bande ki na ye dunia na wo ~ Yahan marne ki pabandi, wahan jeeney ki pabandi
To your free man is neither this world nor the hereafter ~ Here is the obedience to death and there is the obedience to live
So a man builds his life out of his efforts. Relations, wealth, success, career, health and all that. He finds himself in the middle of different problems and worries that he lives through throughout his life. Money that he owns, money that he owes, relations that are dear, relations that he spoils, work that he does with pride and work that he leaves unfinished. The sorrow and joys- the agony and delight- both of which are only temporary.
And then he dies. Death takes him with a surprise. And suddenly as death happens, none of his worries mean anything anymore and none of his joys are meaningful anymore. He is sucked down in to the deep emptiness and nothingness through which his journey started off. He sleeps on as if he neither existed nor lived. Then his last remnants in life are swept by the ruthless waves of time. His name is remembered for say another 50-100 years, if he is lucky, without thinking that luck, after death, doesn’t mean anything- and later on even that is wiped off as if he hadn’t been alive at a point in time at all. How many of us know the name of our ancestors or even our great-great-grand fathers? Everything comes down to this emptiness, this nothingness. And yet when we are alive we do things as if we are never going to die. Always clinging on to the notion of striving for a better life till the time that life escapes us.
Nevertheless, this darkness of emptiness and nothingness is quite an interesting phenomenon to imagine given that it is what we were in before life and what we shall be in after life. While this might apparently scare us to imagine and think about but in reality it should not. It should not trouble anyone because the universe started off from the same emptiness and nothingness. While one might argue that nothingness cannot give way to anything and that nothing comes from nothing but to prove that science shall have to dig deep down further in time and go beyond the big bang. The universe, all matter and energy that we call the observable universe today, came in to being from a minute single point in space called the singularity. So singularity started the whole affair originally. What was in this singularity? In fact nothing, but yet everything. So for as far as we know nothing shaped everything and the notion that nothing comes from nothing might not be completely true. Hence nothing is what shaped everything and eventually everything might as well end in nothing.
But hold on, we were talking about something else. I shall not sway. What was it? Oh yes! Death my dear. So when one dies all his troubles and problems and worries related to money, wealth, relationships, crises of the heart and mind etc suddenly come to a complete stop. He has got nothing to do with anything of this life as he passes on. Does this not teach us to carry out the affairs of life in a passionate manner with conviction, truthfulness, kindness and mercy? What else would, if that doesn’t? The child who was born out of a peaceful sleep, protesting against it by crying his heart out, had to undergo a process of complete struggle in meeting the challenges put out before him, without his choice, goes once again in to a deep sleep; only this time it is permanent enough that his problems and miseries do not worry him anymore and his joys and laughter do not mean anything to him. Permanent till the time he wakes up again and finds himself in the middle of trouble again because this time he would not wake up, he would be resurrected to give a clear account of what he had been doing and how he had been doing whatever it was that he had been doing.
Whereas, some would contest, that he has left wealth and money behind for his children to enjoy yet his children, just like him, have their own story to tackle and therefore his belongings that aren’t his anymore might not be theirs after some time. This means that all one can leave behind is his ‘legacy’ in the sense of his goodness and tradition and nothing else. Because that is the only thing that he can not only leave behind but also take on with him to his grave and beyond. During our life we journey through different challenges and hardships and come to enjoy success and happiness in reaching the destination, which we think is accomplishment, however, it isn’t so and the real thing hence is this: “It does not matter where we come to be after the journey but who we come to be in the end.” It is indeed what matters the most. We might become a wicked, ruthless person who has the riches but lives in a moral vacuum and therefore it is important that we must become a person of value and worth who lives by the principle and has a high moral hold that defines his character, even if it is at the expense of compromising the riches.
The choice is ours then. the only choice that we have ever had is to manoeuvre through life seeking good and escaping evil, showing mercy and kindness and escaping intolerance and hatred. We were not given a choice to live or even to die and everything therein happens for a reason. We are born without our permission and die without our consent and hence the only real choice that lies with us is in this temporary phase and that choice relates to how we pass our time. The start and the end are already there, like it or not, but the process of reaching the end from the start is what is our to build. I shall end this here and what better way to end this but in the words of the great Rahman Baba (1632-1706);
Dobara de ratla nishta pa dunia ~ Nan de waar de ka darogh wey ka rikhtia
You will not come to this world again ~ Today is your turn, tell the truth or lie