Monday, April 30, 2012

History, Parenthood, Life and the Wall - finding knowledge in the shadows of the past

A 1952 article in the Singaporean newspaper, The Straits Times,
mentioning my father in a story about his school magazine.

1. Alone with You
Alone with You,
Without memories,
With no history,
No tales to distract me,
No thoughts to consume me,
No regrets nor unconsummated promises
To bind me.

Only You.
Beautiful You,
Unforgettable, Undeniable You.

How shall my heart ever be worthy?

Spiritual Infatuation. Thus the sinner recorded, some eight years ago. Such is the impudence of youth (well, youthful-ish at 34). In those days, I was tripping the spiritual-light fantastic, surfing on the wave of passionate discourse, and perhaps suffering from an infatuation for Sufism, Tasawuf (inner reflection), God, Prophet and of course Love. It felt so good, you see.

Realization that comes with age. Now coming to 42 years, I am more circumspect. And I see how the lives of our forefathers, our parents, and the blooming years of our children deeply affect our perception on life, love and the Sufi dream. For it is a dream. Because the moment we realise one aspect of God's wonderous plan He has for us, another door opens, and another... and another.

My father the Silent One? I used to complain that my father NEVER talks to me. Yes, of course we chat, but mostly about current affairs and news (Sometimes I wish he wouldn't read the newspapers... it just seem to put him in a foul mood, looking at the antics of politicians and governments). But he never really like sits down and talks about his past, his story, which is something of great interest to me. But now I realise, I don't make enough time for him. Of course, he won't be sharing his past life with me, not when his youngest son (that's me) is coming in and out, forever in a hurry, forever either on the phone or on the computer. So, it's my fault really. And in a quirky way, I am happy it's my fault because that way I can actually fix things.

So I guess that is why these past couple of weeks I have been spending time with the old man, either chatting over coffee at home, or on weekend excursions out of the city. So as we spend more time together, slowly, without encouragement, he opens up his treasure chest of stories from his childhood right up to his marriage to my late sainted mother. This is one of them...

During his teens (1950s), my father used to stay with his eldest sister. She was married to a
police constable and they lived in a police residential longhouse. The living quarters
were in the middle, a small spartan dwelling area with no kitchen or washroom. To cook
or do your toilet, you need to climb down to the communal kitchen or the communal bath
which is located on the ground floor. Corridors run on the front and back of the living quarters.
The police longhouse also lacked running water or electricity. At night my  father
would use a giant kerosene lamp for him to read his school books. He is a bit
of a bookworm, my father was.
Sometimes, my dad, tired out after a long day, would fall asleep and
leave the kerosene lamp burning all night long. 
He would wake up next morning with his face covered in soot (unburned carbon)
which is the byproduct( along with smoke) of a kerosene lamp in  those days.
Make Time. So if your parents are still alive, if your grandparents, your aunties, uncles and other assortment of elder kins are still kicking about, make time for them. You might go first of course, but statistically the odds are that you will be the one burying them. Do not be like me, who have seen my own mother, and my beloved uncles, aunties, school friends and even my younger cousins and nephews pass by me on their way to the Divine Presence, to rue their passing in sadness. Regretting that I did not make time to know them better, to share their lives - their happiness and sorrow, their successes and failures, their laughter and tears.

Shadow on the Wall. It is Sufi pretension that the world does not actually exist. We in fact do not actually exist. And that real absolute existence is only in the permanent Reality of God Himself. But as one handsome Sufi shaykh (they are all good-looking, you know) recently shared with the Mureeds (students) of his father...

The Shadow and the Wall
God created the World like a wall,
And By a Light Divine,
We are His shadow on the wall,
What tangible thing is a shadow?

But lo, when it is the Shadow of God
It is tangible like the storm at sea,
Like the sighs of lovers entwined,
Like the Nun praying alone in a cloister,
Like a babe in the embrace of his mother,
A shadow like no other shadow...

I think this is a little saucer of thoughts we can all take back home, whatever religion we may be practising. Thank you for dropping by, sunshine.

Have a beautiful day.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way


Denise Emanuel Clemen said...

I think it's more like a giant platter of thoughts.
You are so right about taking time. We don't know how much we have, so it's wise to lavish it now.

Milky Tea said...

Hehehe, you are right. I actually have a problem containing the writing to bite-size easily manageable portions. Sometimes, the thoughts are just left stewing too long and all sorts of stuff come out. Hehehe.

But I do try to keep it real...

Thanks for dropping by!