Gratitude and patience
I look back at the past few months.
As COVID-19 with its little crown staged its coup d’état and took over our lives, there was talk of a resurgence of inwardness, of spirituality, of solace through holy scriptures.
Social media was sinking under the weight of good intentions and poetic quotes. People were reconnecting with their religious roots they said; yoga and meditation sessions through zoom were soaring. ‘I am looking for my real self’ some claimed, their genuine humility to be welcomed in many ways.
‘We are entering a new world. We need to rethink our consumption patterns. We need to take care of Mother Earth, look how hurt she is. We are all responsible and we must act in unison.’ These sentiments could be heard everywhere you turned. A miracle was in the making. While most houses had their doors closed, the planet was about to become an wide-opened church, mosque and ashram all at once.
With all the uncertainty and the real probability of death, people looked for solace anywhere they could. The modern world’s spiritual vacuum had to be filled. If only they knew, as the wise incessantly tell us, death is the only absolute certainty (Yaqeen), so why fret?
I was skeptical from the very start, while most of my friends accused me of being a pessimist, failing to see how sincere their will to change was, brandishing an Instagram snapshot of homemade bread as proof.
And what did we see?
Profits amassed by online store giants have exceeded all expectations. I even read somewhere how an online store based in the UK selling false eyelashes begged customers to limit their shopping because they could no longer keep up with the demand. The consumption of plastic also soared, as everyone feared surface contamination.
And then lockdown was lifted in many countries. Streets filled up once more, and planes to sunny destinations were taken, and bars were filled, and shopping took off. Finally, people could go back to ticking items off their bucket lists.
Just to cite one example, the day the contingency was lifted in Seoul, a line of customers formed outside the Chanel luxury good store at dawn waiting for the store to open, because the price of their Chanel bag was expected to go up a week later.
Where are yoga and transcendental meditation and taking care of Mother Earth and finding oneself? You tell me, because I cannot find them.
Meanwhile, for many, strife continues, refugees still die on fragile rafts, explosions kill and maim because of stupid incompetence or cowardliness.
COVID-19 with its minute crown is still sitting on its wall, and we do not know when it may fall. It is still wrecking havoc.
Do not worry. Materialism is not in jeopardy. Even our Humpty Dumpty king could not defeat it. In the past few months, the very rich have gotten richer and as for everyone else, well… they might manage, they might not.
Even the fear of death failed to wake up the world. Even the staggering number of people getting sick and still dying from COVID-19 is failing to shake the world out of its materialistic slumber and force it to reach beyond itself.
Gratitude and patience
But all is not doom and gloom, I keep telling myself.
In a beautiful Hadith, Prophet Mohammed tells us, “When a believer experiences something pleasant he is thankful […] and if he comes across adversity, he is patient, and both are good for him.”
Gratitude and patience. Shukr wa sabr. This is what we have at our disposal in these times of agitation and uncertainty. They are our treasures. And here I am, cautiously optimistic that most of us know that.
Gratitude for being alive, for having a roof over our heads and food on our plates. Just think of the Syrian refugees in Beirut, who have even less than nothing after the explosion, and you may understand.
Patience – in the true sense of the word, the kind that makes us trust that all is as it should be. Real patience – not fatalism and despair – but rather the kind that enables us to remain aware and seek knowledge, so that we may act appropriately and consciously in our everyday activities, and towards others.
As Rumi tells us so gracefully, the lovers are patient and know that it takes time for the moon to become full. And then, we may add, they are grateful for its silvery light on a serene late summer night.
Thank you for reading.