A Race Against Time

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“Another world is not only possible, but she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear breathing.

Arundhati Roy

Time is running out. I keep hearing this from friends fast approaching forty and contemplating parenthood. They volley back and forth between cautious optimism and despondent resignation as they relay all the circumstances that led them to where they are now. It’s also the same phrase I hear spoken by environmentalists. We’re running out of time. There is a theory that once the Earth reaches a point beyond no return, it will begin to reset itself, with no guarantee of Homo sapiens securing their place. We’re in this together, I keep hearing. We’re in the same boat, say invisible voices. I ponder for a minute. Should the word ‘boat‘ be exchanged for ‘storm‘? Then I realise there’s no need. The storm has already taken a nasty turn and revealed our different means of travel. Not only are we not in the same boat but we seem to be heading in different directions. One side is continuing to follow the signposts leading towards extinction, a well-maintained route that has been regularly policed with ships loaded with firepower over the last 400 years but leads to nowhere because all the places that could have been colonised have already been colonised. Just as the short term pleasures of cigarettes and sugar help us to forget the delayed risk of repercussions to the physical body, only now are we able to feel the pain of the legacies of tobacco and sugar plantations. Pain travels down families until someone is ready to hold it.

Slavery has an ancient history, existing long before it underpinned Greece democracy, passed down to the Romans and formed a common bridge between Christian and Islamic Empires with their European, Arab and Black slaves. But somewhere along the line, existing injustices and inequalities took a sinister turn and became super-sized when conquests for more land led voyagers past the seas into the oceans. Horsepower was replaced with immense power in hands poorly trained to serve humanity. A sacred balance was lost and became toxic. The feminine had to first become divorced from the masculine, so all around Europe women were rounded up and burnt at the stake. The men could relax, their conscience and any feeling parts of them went up in smoke with them.  Women thereafter learnt to become silent or become like men if they wanted to be heard. Racial superiority overtook religious exclusivity, the former often masked in the latter. Honouring cycles of nature became replaced by linear growth measured by clocks and calendars and economical growth. Machinery became more reliable and worthy than the natural world which was never quick enough to meet demand. Still, there remained those connected to their hearts and used their privilege to speak out against their own people. Nonetheless, slavery came back from the ashes as indentured labour, which in turn gave rise to migrant workers. My grandparents were some of the lucky ones. They flew in by air, through their own free will.

It has been said of economic life in Europe that ‘What made it extraordinary was less the capacity to invent than the readiness to learn from others, the willingness to imitate, the ability to take over tools or techniques discovered in other parts of the world, to raise them to a higher level of efficiency, to exploit them for different ends and with a far greater intensity.’

The East In The West, Jack Goody.

Slow down my heart tells me. Emotions are running high, my head can’t keep up with my racing heart. Each day brings a new revelation of old running injustices. This is my  tenth  eleventh attempt writing today, I’m not sure it’ll be the last. All that I read and see is nothing new, and yet what is new is that voices familiar to me have shifted from the fringes to the mainstream. The collective efforts of many hands over many centuries has finally led to the tipping point where opposing teams are beginning to unite for a common cause. A small virus of unknown origins has swept the world and pushed populations and communities from scapegoat status to sacrificial lambs. For all of our technological advances, the primitive rituals of human sacrifice still pervade our world.

Retreats are meant to be a time for going inwards to come to terms with how we harm ourselves and others with our actions before we go back into the world of activity. Having had over forty days to breathe, rest and recuperate their senses, the newly awakening inhabitants of industrialised nations are starting to realise that they’ve been treated like racehorses chasing a fake rabbit to make them run faster and earn more money for those betting on a divided world. But the odds seem to be against those hoping to earn a fortune from the misfortune of others. The veils are lifting. In a world where disease and war are more profitable than peace and health, a visible backlash has begun against the industrial-military complex that informs much of modern healthcare.

But there is hope. A network of groups that are ahead of the curve that began locally, are starting to get more attention and love. Like economic systems rooted in the life-giving properties of the earth, grounded in equity and respect. Food production methods that give back to the earth and reap back the rewards in added nutrients and vitality. Less becomes more because energy is optimised. However, it would mean letting go of a dominant health model that promotes masking and suppressing symptoms for one that is centred on curing disease through self-responsibility and support in releasing personal and collective trauma. Maybe only then will we stop treating the Earth and its resources as horrendously as we treat our own bodies and those held down at the bottom of social hierarchies.

Time is running out. Watching Black Americans walk to the streets and unite the world into supporting their cause, I know a seismic shift is occurring when groups facing similar oppressions hold up banners of #BLM in solidarity. As a South Asian, my position is somewhat precarious between the two. Collaborators of white supremacy, ambitious South Asians were strategically placed in colonies as alien masters of indigenous populations. To this day, enormous wealth was and still is held in families sourced from natural resources. Nepotism keeps the spirit of colonialism alive in tinted bodies kept brown enough to be accepted as natural as the earth. In the journey from West to East, racism morphs into casteism, religious exclusivism and a toxic strain of tribalism. It takes a bit of effort and searching but behind the shadows there remains a richness of spirit of traditions preserved in art and culture born from shared timeless knowledge and techniques balanced and kept in check by opposing views.

Slow down my heart reminds me. When money, resources and wisdom flow openly, it naturally attracts abundance and health. Disease is often likened to disharmony when trapped pathogens, intoxicants, emotions and memories build and accumulate around energy centres in the electromagnetic field of the body. If not resolved at the energetic level, symptoms mark the physical progression of disease but it can be some time before it manifests as bodily changes. There’s a fine subtlety around chronic ill health in the early stages that cannot be caught or measured by blood tests or radiographs, much to the mutual frustration of doctors and patients alike. There are limits to a worldview based on rational empiricism over clinical intuition, and these limits are causing needless suffering. I wonder if COVID has come into our world as the catalyst to push us into the waiting world of quantum physics, where innumerable realities and potentialities exist. Harmonies are not created by one voice, they’re created by many different voices complementing and blending together.

“The destruction of biodiversity translates into the destruction of the diversity of the livelihoods of the large majority of Third World people who make their living as farmers, fishermen, craftspeople and healers. The diversity of life forms is also fast becoming ‘green oil’ or raw material for the next industrial revolution based on the emerging biotechnologies. Industry is reorganizing itself as the ‘life sciences’ industry, changing property laws, environmental laws and trade policies to create markets for genetically engineered products and to establish monopolies in the vital sectors of food and medicine.”

Tomorrow’s Biodiversity, Vandana Shiva

Energy needs a conductor and love of humanity and of this world and what it could be and already is, seems to be uniting many. It seems almost inevitable that the conversation will soon turn from equity and justice to discriminated communities leading the way to economical and ecological justice. A problem can never be resolved at the level it was created. Until dominant populations can become humble enough to accept that they are the driving force behind climate change, the 100 companies creating 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions will continue to create distractions and hide behind the mask of denial. 

If there are shadows, then it must pre-suppose that there is light. If there is light, it must be that ancient wisdom still remains alive. Even when people become forgetful, the elements are always there to remind us of our origins. Ancient cultures all talk of human beings connected to the elements around us, that we are composed of a mixture of earth, fire, water, air and a mysterious fifth substance hovering above us. With the first spark of life ignited, the heart is the first organ to form in an embryo and begins to beat in as little as 22 days. The necessity of prioritising an organ needed to exchange nutrients and waste right from the outset stands testament to the importance of cleansing the spiritual heart in a world overflowing with toxicity and dangerous leadership. It’s in our water, our soil, our food and medications to keep people separated from the seat of their soul and from each other. Arrogant leaders may find ways to try and circumvent justice but they only delay their own downfall and sometimes under their own noses. Having rounded up all the Israelite men from their wives on the advice of his astrologers foretelling the conception of the Prophet Moses (AS), the Pharoah fails to prevent an act of love at the very gates of his palace.

Pharoah left, Emran slept then by the gate.

His wife at midnight came, though it was late.

She kissed his lips and lay down, pressed so tight

Against him, rousing him from sleep that night.

Emran woke up and saw his own wife there

Kissing him fondly in the open air.

Emran asked, “Why did you now come to me?

She said, ‘‘Out of desire and God’s decree.”

Masnavi III, 876-883

The whispers of the heart are like gentle flutters, they guide us to actions, places and situations that can have profound effects on ourselves and those around us, in the tension between Divine will and free will. Instead of listening to it, we can push down uncomfortable feelings with more effort until we get sick. The toxicity overwhelms our heart and organs and we have to choose between the expectations of society or our health. Ten years ago to this day, I stood and declared ‘in sickness and health’ despite not knowing what health actually was, having suffered from chronic disease all my life. When I woke up in ITU a few years later, I was given a new chance in life. I happily took it. My material wealth lost its value and unhealthy relationships became non-negotiable. Dis-ease became my route back to ease and so, as I watch the world struggling to breathe, I take a moment in gratitude for having had a headstart in making the journey back to health. Sometimes we have to be pushed into the shadows to know the value of light.

Shadows may be a sign of the sun’s presence,

But only the sun offers life-giving light.

Shadows bring on slumber, like evening talk,

But when the sun rises the ‘moon is split apart.’

Maqalat-e-Shams

Light and air, so many in our world are denied these basic needs in life. I was taught to honour and respect my elders but I increasingly find myself redirecting that respect to generations younger than me. My hope and faith lie in them. They have the least to gain and the most to lose. They’re like the child in the fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes, while the crowds cheer on the Emperor to celebrate his ‘new clothes’, a lone child is the only one willing to state the obvious, that the Emperor is in fact naked. As hierarchies begin to falter, I wonder where it all went wrong, when Divine justice was put on hold for a world beyond this one. As I watch communities turn to each other in solidarity, I see them taking it upon themselves to ensure social responsibility, away from the poster boys of religion, politics and science with vested interests. 

I have to go further back into history if I want inspiration, at a time when even kings knew their place in the Divine order. Like King David (A.S) and his relationship with a freed African slave considered by some a prophet, Luqman the Wise (AS). In the human challenge between governance and arbitration, the struggling King bound to his kingdom sought the assistance of Luqman to help him govern, but the wandering wise man refused the task.

“The selection of an ex-slave to reveal David’s shortcomings addresses an important contradiction. At one level, Luqman’s actual socioeconomic position at the bottom of the social hierarchy is compensated for by his unreachable spiritual status. Such a plot restores equality to a society that had only recently begun to experience the phenomenon of stable, visible political and economic hierarchies.”

‘Mind, Economy, Discourse; The Social Origins of Islam’, M.A Baymeh

As worlds and realities collide, I see those with worldly power coming back into union with those embued with spiritual wealth, perhaps the Luqman’s of the world are finally ready to join forces now when they’re the most needed. The outer coming together with the inner in concentric circles, as in some indigenous cultures where the women were traditionally protected during rituals by a circle of male members of the tribe. Imagine, a world where those who have the knowledge and devotion to restore our world back into balance, are given protection by those who have the power to protect them. It’s a telling sign that this momentous year began with the Australian bushfires that reproduced the Aboriginal flag in the burning skyline. In between the narratives of ‘them‘ vs. ‘us‘, are fine graduations of inner darkness and light ultimately merging into One, each playing a vital unique role in the journey from the relative to the Absolute. The catalysts, facilitators and stewards acting as midwives for an emerging world.

I can’t breathe.” “Mama.”   Time is running out, my mind tells me. Slow down my heart tells me. 

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Author: Wandering Wayfarer

A wandering wayfarer having a human experience. ‘’A mystic is wide-awake, yet capable of dreaming when others are not and capable of keeping awake when the rest cannot keep awake. A mystic strikes the balance between two things, power and beauty.’’

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