Sunday, May 23, 2010

If I Can Walk The Rest of The Way Myself

Assalamualaikum warahmatullah.

There is a beauty in travelling that is difficult to describe.

Be the distance as short as ten minutes - from home to my Aunt's place by car, an hour - from Manchester to Sheffield by train, seven hours - from Kuala Krai to Kuala Lumpur by bus, or 10 hours - from Manchester to Dublin by buses and a ferry, travelling tends to soothe me and makes me feel at peace.

It was as if great big wrinkles and crumples in my head (and heart) get smoothed up as the wheels of journey rolled fast, leaving the world behind me, behind. It was as if shreds of worry, of fear, of uncertainties littering my thoughts (and feelings) get blown away by the wind as I allow it to carry me to my destination.

It has always been like that. Travels, no matter how short, soothes me and leads me to feel at peace with myself, with the world, with Destiny.

Perhaps it has something to do with the action of going somewhere, with taking a bit of charge into my own movements - instead of staying still and letting Time do all the work, I took the initiative to move as well.

The wheels of Time never cease to speed forward, and by moving with it, I feel one with the motions of nature. I feel alive.

Perhaps it has something to do with witnessing the world as it moves around, as I sat in peaceful motion in the vehicle of travel.

Witnessing the bright sky that extends into the unknown, the fields of green that breathes praise to Allah, the buildings that stood motionless yet full of life, simply witnessing the world of the last second being left behind, while another world of the next second waiting ahead as one charges forward on this second, riding the wheels of journey.

Witnessing that this life is indeed wide, big, and in motion. That Allah is indeed there, behind all those motion, and He is Witnessing all there is to witness.

Perhaps, it has something to do with realising that there is more to living than simply this narrow life of mine. With that paradigm in mind, it is easier to leave one's personal issues - seemingly massive, but infinitesimally trivial when put in contrast with concerns that plague the rest of the world - behind. Just as I left the world of the last second, behind.

I remembered more than one occasion when I was immensely shamed and put to place, when, when I was consumed with personal woes and mishaps, events came round that reminded me of my actual place in the scheme of things. A small place that is - infinitesimally small.

The only way to gain a larger, more important place - not just in this transient place we call world, but also in the Sight of Allah, is definitely not by moaning and being sorry for oneself, or spending unnecessary time moaning over the little worries of my little life.

A small mind, thinks small things, and gets overwhelmed by small things.

How does one define, what is big, and what is small?

Does it depend on the scale of it... whether it involves an individual (ME and MYSELF), whether it involves others (my family, my friends, my community, the people of Palestine), or whether it involves the WORLD (poverty, wars, natural disasters... let's pack our things and go do relief work!)? Does that serve as the deciding factor whether certain matters are worth worrying, more than other things?

To a certain extent, YES. I admit that right here and now, I don't mind giving up my little life if it means peace in Palestine, or if it means the idiots who govern Malaysia will be replaced by actual leaders. Nevertheless, that's extremely rhetorical, unpractical, and sounds a bit (sickly-sweet) self-righteous.

Does 'big' and 'small' get defined by how it would affect me personally? Like, choosing which particular party to vote for in an election (hence the ruling government) wouldn't really affect me immensely, especially if I am well-educated and secures a good career (inshaAllah), so it is less important than choosing whom to marry, which will affect my own life to an indefinite extent. Or since I am passionate about community service and civil society, it is a big thing, while things like political scuffles and economic turns are small because they don't interest me as much.

But that sounds as if I am still putting myself at the center of the picture. No prizes there for selflessness or being noble.

The answer is so beautifully, ridiculously simple, that it at once explains everything and yet would require tonnes and tonnes of explanation.

Of course the bigger things would be what Allah considers big. What Allah would want me to prioritise over other matters. And while there is no way to know directly what Allah, Most Great, Most Almighty, truly wants and feels, Exalted is He, He did give His Book, His Prophet, to teach us principles that may guide us to make decisions.

Principles that would help me decide, at any particular moment, which direction to take. Which journey is more important than the other. Which issue is big, which issue is small, and which issue is to be abandoned in its entirety for its being too trivial to even consider.

Travels always soothe me. Regardless where and when and how. When I am particularly pressed, or stressed, travels makes me feel better.

Anyway, one thing that affects the enjoyment of travel is the amount and weight of luggage that I carry. Sometimes it is a bit of a pain, having to lug heavy bags with me when all I want is to savour the sun, breathe the air, and live in motion with the gentle passage of Time. Just as when one travels with a lot of luggage, one may have less capacity to enjoy the journey.

Like the life-long travel that we call life, in the transit place we call the world, the more luggage that one has, the more difficult it is for one to let go, to plunge selflessly into causes that truly is for Allah and for Allah only, or to die and leave everything behind.

The more luggage that one needs to drag, the heavier one's steps would be, and the more self-centred one would become.

I like it when I travel minimally - going somewhere with the smallest luggage possible, with just a passport (or a railcard, or both), one or two books, and some other bare necessities. It feels good to know that I have all that I need on me, to feel self-sufficient, as I look on to the skies above and the roads ahead.

Likewise, it would feel good if I can travel on this world with only the bare necessities, and feel content. Able to go anywhere, to give all that I may have while realising that possession is but a fallacious notion, and not fear to lose anything, for one who does not feel the illusion of possession would not fear loss.

Travelling soothes me. And I like it much better when I can travel light, and as flexibly as possible.

When I can wait for a train, and not worry if the train didn't come on time, or if the train comes and it is already full, or if the train suddenly decide not to stop at the station where I am waiting. I will not worry, since I can always walk around, enjoy the skies above and the roads ahead, while waiting for the next train - if I am not burdened by luggage I'll need to drag around.

If I don't have much luggage, I may not even worry if no train actually comes, for I can walk the rest of the way myself.

Like The Cat in Kipling's story, who says,

"But still I am the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to me."

Beautiful and soothing, isn't it?

Must make sure I don't have much luggage first - that'll get me closer to achieving that wonderful dream.