An Interlude and a Dream
As I mentioned in the “Introduction” here, I made it a point to start reading my Journals cover to cover beginning last Ramadan (2011/1432). I was going at a good clip until I went back “Home” (Springfield and the “Happy Valley” (Amherst-Northampton area)) last October. I felt like I had been in exile for the past 17 years or so. Each autumn I would intend to go back Home to see the fall foliage and breathe my native air in my native land,1but circumstances just wouldn’t line up. Maa-shaa’ Allahu kaan, wa maa lam yasha’ lam yakun (Whatever God has willed to be shall be and whatever God has not willed to be shall not be.)
After the trip Home (and I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself here) I gained all the more resolve to do something about these Journals. Nonetheless, within a few weeks, I went ahead and got involved in my semi-daily blog and put my old Journals to the side. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did mean that I would probably not be dedicating much time to plowing through the old Journals.
In the spring, I got the idea to keep a blog about my Journal reading—which is what you are reading right now. I like to do my “creative” writing outside, and this spring provided me many days to sit on the Porch absorb the green of the trees and unscrew the lid off the wig and just expand my mind. Contrary to seasonal custom, I didn’t do a lot of fishing in the spring. The warm weather came early here—it was the mildest winter and spring I had experienced since being in Dubai—the local Memphis crappie spawn snuck up on me, and I only caught the tail end of it. I had a few decent days at a nearby pond, but that was it. This year, I wouldn’t be doing a whole lot of fishing… and I didn’t feel any regrets about that.
Furthermore, I didn’t have an Internet connection and/or a computer for much of the spring. A couple of days a week I would go to the Southhaven Library and check Facebook and my e-mail and download some sites on self-development and alternative health, but my access to a computer (with Internet) was limited. I found myself getting a lot of useful reading done. The weather was beautiful, so sat outside and wrote in my current (spiral notebook) Journal.
By the time late spring came around, I hit a slump and I wasn’t being very productive. I was hoping that the Camp would rescue me from the morass I had been in, but in that regard, it was somewhat of a let down. I did enjoy the classes, and I had the opportunity to talk to my teacher and get some personal advice, but I didn’t get much time to be alone at the Camp and write in my Journal, as I had done the year previous. Cie la vie—we don’t always get what we want. After the Camp, we were welcomed back to Dixie with weather that was daily pushing 100 degrees. Not exactly the best circumstances for me to sit out on the Porch and get into the writing zone. Praise Allah, the following week, the weather was much better; I had a nice dream about being back Home—and I was getting excited about the approach of Ramadan.
My other blog has kept me busy as of late, but recently I kept telling myself, I need to arrange things so I can get back to In This Journal. I need to get back to connecting the loose ends and fragments of my life for greater self-clarity and greater self-understanding, in-shaa’ Allah. This morning, while grabbing a post-sahur and subh2 nap, I had another dream that made this desire all the more clear.
I was at some sort of luncheon at Amherst College—but it was near a lake, that I sensed was in Western Massachusetts (perhaps, Red Bridge—my favorite lake to fish in the Springfield area). I was among some students who were being recognized for their academic achievement (which seemed strange—i got by at Amherst, but I certainly wasn’t Phi Beta Kappa). I saw one of the guys I knew from back in the day. I didn’t know him very well, but we were always amiable. The next thing I knew we were inside a campus career counseling office. My friend asked me: “Are you looking to find a job?” I told him, “No, I’m looking to find myself.” I didn’t intend—in any way—to be snappish or rude with my response. I was just stating the reality of what was in my heart. I wasn’t ready for a career when I had too many questions about life (and the Afterlife) that needed answering. I asked him what was he going to do now that he had graduated. He said he was going to work at the United Nations. I told him I had wanted to do the same [when I entered Amherst, I had the desire to go into international law] but that I had become disillusioned with political science (because of all the corruption in politics) and had become the angry resentful black guy on campus.
In the dream, I had a few more courses to take before I could get my degree. I was confounded. Soon I would be graduating, but the greatest questions about human existence still had not been answered. Who is God? What happens to us after we die? What is the true religion—or at least who are the Muslims genuinely following Islam? Those questions, as well as, questions related to metaphysics, ancient history, conspiracy theory or “what had happened to the black man” wouldn’t be answered in corporate America and probably wouldn’t be found in academia, either. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, and I didn’t know where to turn to for answers…. Then as my friend was walking away, he asked me something—but it wasn’t clear. It was either: “Did you find what you’re looking for?” or “Are you grateful?” I could not make out what he said, so I asked him several times to repeat (which he did). Then I answered adamantly in the affirmative—still not being clear about he asked. I said: “Yes,” pausing for a moment and then saying, “I’m grateful…” and I had found what I was looking for.
I was grateful in that Amherst had expanded my world up far beyond anything I could’ve imagined while living in Springfield. Amherst provided me with the time for solitude and the time to be close to Nature—and to discover some things about my nature. And, although I had not completely found what I was looking for while at Amherst, I was not lying or equivocating when I said I had. Amherst had greatly accelerated the process of elimination in helping me realize what I wasn’t looking for, and that was, in a sense, the beginning of finding myself. With that said, while I was scrolling through my Facebook feed a little while ago, someone had posted a quote—a quote that I was unfamiliar with although it was from my favorite American writer, Henry David Thoreau: “Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves.” At Amherst I had begun to find myself, and for that, I will always be grateful.
Praise and thanks to Allah Lord of the Worlds.
1Technically I was born in New Jersey, but I consider Western Massachusetts to be where I am from.
2Sahur is the late night meal (or snack) that Muslims traditionally take during the month of Ramadan. (During Ramadan Muslim fast from food and drink from dawn until sunset.) Subh (or Fajr) is the dawn time prayer.