There is a great deal of evil in the world. As we go about our daily lives, we hear about genocides, terrorist acts, and threats of nuclear war. Yet we go about our days mindlessly, as if this could never happen to us. We have forgotten our humanity. Meanwhile, the earth is crying through earthquakes, droughts, and storms.
Here I am rocking in a rocking chair outside a cabin, on a mountaintop surrounded by oak trees. I’m sitting here, writing. The ancient oak trees are weaving their silhouettes of leaves against the ebony dark sky filled with brilliant, poignant stars. The sky is cloaked with the white silkiness of the Milky Way. The sound of the buzzing of crickets rubbing their tiny legs is sacred music. I want to go out into the meadow, to see more of the stars. My husband warns me against it; there are mountain lions. Down below, you can see the various colors of the lights of the city, and it all seems very peaceful. I am in awe, like a child, at the majesty of this scenery.
Here, it seems like those terrible tales we were told of as children, when one thinks of war and genocides. How can that happen when there is so much beauty in the world to witness? We feel it can’t happen to us; we will never be victims. We feel empowered somehow, by being a certain color, nationality, or religion — that nothing can happen to us and destroy our faith in humanity.
We have forgotten the Beauty around us. God is always there, consistently with the rising and the setting of the sun, the existence of the universe, and the changing of the seasons. We have forgotten. How beautiful are the laws of physics: One part of the universe goes by the same laws as another part of the universe. Gravity holds us together on this earth.
We are too numb in our own worlds — numb by our smartphones and social media. We put up our own concrete walls and disconnect from other human beings, and in doing so we fail to have sympathy or empathy for others.
I always wondered how someone could set out to kill another human being. There is so much richness in even one human life. So much experience, such significance of the soul and mind, and so much meaning in what has brought it to life. It is out of love through two human beings. It is such a miracle, life. Once a child grows up into adulthood, think about how much knowledge it has… Its life is so rich. The body is such a miracle, and loved by so many.
Many times I wonder how death can even exist. There must be some kind of afterlife, because our lives are so vital, they must continue to exist. How can we take a life, or abuse or torture something so sacred, a temple within itself. Those who plan wars must be so out of touch with Reality and the sanctity of life. They must be dissociated from life if they can abuse a human being and let him or her suffer. Where is the empathy? This is sheer mental illness, to numb ourselves enough to take a life or harm someone. As if someone else’s body was not sacred or real, like that of a doll.
Sometimes I wonder how, in everyday life, we can inflict emotional or verbal pain on another person (which can be even worse than physical pain). Its effects can be passed from generation to generation through scars. We can pass emotional abuse and suffering around us like an infectious disease spreading to others — like a chain reaction, like dominoes from one person to another.
Perhaps if there is an afterlife, the real emotional torture or Hell is to see what affect our actions and tongues have had on one another, and the consequences of our actions through the generations. We are numb to the abuse that we cause. We can easily take advantage of or use someone without thinking, and hurt him or her without a second thought. This also a form of abuse.
We can destroy someone with the most sacred part of our lives: our sexuality. It can be the most beautiful thing that God has given us, yet it is used like a weapon to destroy children and women. Nothing makes one feel less than human, or debased, more than sexual abuse or rape. It destroys and humiliates, causing intense shame, and dehumanizes, whether it is used in war or in peaceful cities.
I sit here, pondering and debating all these things, surrounded by the utmost peaceful beauty of the world. I wonder how many people truly take the time to look around and notice what is outside, all around us. To be aware of the signs of nature.
Even in our most desperate situations, there is always the hope of a new day after the darkness of the night.
I myself have been hurt like everyone else who has experienced living. Sometimes it makes me feel so bitter that I don’t care. My sky is clouded over. My vision is blind. The people around me that love me are ignored. Nothing satisfies me except my obsessive fantasies, and the wounds of being a victim going on in my head. Many times I neglect the important signs around me, and go through a type of depression.
We are too numb in our own worlds — numb by our smartphones and social media. We put up our own concrete walls and disconnect from other human beings, and in doing so we fail to have sympathy or empathy for others. We are disconnected from nature because of the urban environments around us. I notice no one smiles at anyone anymore. Each person is caught up in their own pain. Many cannot wait to talk on their cellphone, avoiding human contact and touch. Life becomes meaningless. Mental illness and suicide is on the rise because we feel so alone. We do not value the richness and beauty of our lives. We feel threatened by others.
I ponder this, thinking of all the tragedies that have have happened beneath the stars. Many of those who have suffered had to escape within the beauty of the night, so as not to be seen. Yet some of us are comforted by night, and feel safely enveloped in our own homes. Many feel threatened to be out at night, out of fear of being attacked by another human being or a beast. Others feel their depression and other mental illnesses are made worse by the darkness of night, especially in winter when evening comes so early. Night can both increase our joy and desperate sadness. It can touch us or make us feel mentally vulnerable and alone.
I go to bed beneath the stars and sleep a deep sleep, comforted by the night. The next morning, we rush into the open meadow to see the sunrise, the night give itself to day. The places where we were afraid to go the night before are now surrounded by the golden tinged old oak trees, and the sound of small birds, and the movement of sounds in the brush. The mountain lions have gone to sleep. Little by little, the sun comes up, paints the surrounding mountains with gold and white rays. An orange ball makes its grand entrance over the horizon. The edges of the mountain are now shining with a line of bright light.
Even in our most desperate situations, there is always the hope of a new day after the darkness of the night. The system of the universe does not fail us. We always wake up, if it has been destined for us to wake up. Life changes every day — a chance to start anew, an opportunity, a new beginning, so we might finally not look back. We have the hope that we can always make a new world, a new day.
“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding.” [Qur’an 3:190]
Stephenie Bushra Khan is a converted Muslim, a poet, and local artist in Temecula, California. She is originally from Winchendon, Massachusetts.
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