Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Christmas Greeting, the Pillars of Our Conscience and the Meaning of 'face'

My Santa Claus
THE RETIRED MAJOR. It is going to be Christmas in a week's time. Earlier I received a seasonal greeting from my Major(R) Chan, a humble and generous Christian, who used to be the chief accountant of one of the largest banks of this country. He used to say of my father, with whom he worked in the bank, "If he knows something is not right, he will criticize you. But he is an honest and great man, and I take whatever he said as a challenge and a lesson. I am very proud to have worked with him." Both the Major and my dad came from alien fields into banking, Major Chan was from the Army (obviously) and my father was formerly a doctor in the government service. They are both what I call 'ol skool'. They were the product of another generation, when people were brought up with good manners, and most importantly integrity and a sense of 'face'.

FACE. When I say 'face', I do not mean pride in that arrogant and boastful way. To the Major Chans and Abdul Khalids of the world, 'face' means having the integrity and honour not to take what is not yours, not to take what you do not deserve (even if you have the legal right to take it) and not to put yourself in debt to anyone for dubious favours rendered. It is having the sensibility to live within your means, and not to consume ostentatiously. I myself used to laugh about how my father never gives himself any expensive treat whatsoever. I do not laugh about that anymore.

HONESTY. Honesty is not easy. And undoubtedly, my father had grated and offended a number of people because of his strict opinion and unflinching attitude towards what is right. Why, even my late mother (bless her sweet soul) used to complain, "Your father is so unbendable!" This was in response to my father's admission that he had rejected a director's allowance increase which would have earned him more money than even what I am earning NOW. And this was some 15 years ago! So the amount in question was not small by any means. But my father rejected the proposal from the management. My father was the Chairman and this was his view on the matter - I only have meetings like once a month at the most, and perhaps 2 general meetings a year. Why should I be paid so much when I spend so little time for the company? And of course, my father also refused because had he accepted the proposal, he would be in debt to the management of the Company, thus losing his moral authority for 30 silver coins (to use a Biblical reference, this being Christmas season and all).

A CHRISTMAS GREETING. Integrity, honour, honesty and simple good manners, these are all little bricks, stones and mortar of your conscience, or as some would call it, the Pillars of Our Conscience. Something that was touched on in the festive reply to Major Chan...

Dear Major,

Merry Christmas. May you find strength in the morning, happiness during the day, solace in the evening and rest at night. May the tribulations that dog your step give you wisdom and strength. May the blessings that rain on you bring you contemplation and gratitude. May you see success and failure as the illusions that they truly are, and that in Truth, it is the Lord speaking to you, and you accept both with humility and courage. If at times, people question your conviction, rest your doubts on the pillars of your conscience… for don’t you know that the pillars reach to the highest firmament of human conjecture, halting its ascent only at the door the Divine Presence? At that point where all thoughts end, returning as little drops of light to the Ocean of God.

From one tiny drop to another, I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Pax Taufiqa.

Norman Rockwell's Santa Claus
Have a wonderful Christmas, and may God bless you with His Mercy, Love and Grace always.

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

No comments: