THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
If the stages of human civilization throughout time could be illustrated, an arc would certainly do justice to the expression of volatility in human thought. An arc similar to a pendulum’s arc. Humanity has, in a continuous search for balance, travelled back and forth from extremes and in this journey there has always been a time when the pendulum of our existence on its way back from one extreme has bought forth minds; unique, progressive and visionary. Minds who went on to become the greatest sources of reform and reconstruction throughout human history.
It’s quite significant to note here that what sets these minds apart from an average mind of their time is the flexibility of thought in dealing with truths, events and circumstances. Being progressive is actually more of an approach which makes human beings sift through all the lies and reveal the truth in a way most pertinent to that time. An approach which grounds human thought firmlyonto a universal plane of existence. The eternal. An eternalrealm too great for a single mind to ever comprehend or see. A realm where all truths merge in to a greater truth. Where all differences end. A realm intangible even to the human mind and intelligible only to those who dare to believe and have faith.Iqbal asserts that
“the eternal gives us a foothold in the world of perpetual change”
It is this world of perpetual change which constitutes our reality. A reality transient in its essence. This very nature of our reality makes selective vision and incompatibility between different modes of human thought an inevitability. This inevitable limitation becomes a requisite to grapple with our transient reality yet without a grounding in the eternal, this very limitation has the capacity to drive humankind to extremes.
Ours is a time when human thought has evolved yet again to an extent unprecedented. Technology and globalization have not only affected our modes of living but our modes of thinking as well. Modern modes of communication have our minds hooked onto instant stimulation and response. Rewiring our thought process completely. Instant gratification makes us yearn for more and quick. Since the objective reality is bound by natural factors which slow down instantaneous response, the modern human mind encounters stress and anxiety when not gratified. In consequence turning our minds into media dependent addicts for instant gratification. The vicious cycle continues and the human mind becomes a tool to project a reality controlled by manipulative mindsets.
This kind of thought process has made hatred, discrimination, violence and oppression widespread. Selective vision giving birth to selective ‘isms’ and other “schisms”; recreating and destroying simultaneously.
“What we need to do is respond to them with reason and wisdom, an effort that might help us revitalize the intellectual dynamism of our earliest generations”
professes Mustafa Akyol to those who desire to deal with abhorrent ideologies in a manner most dynamic, tolerant and peaceful.
This is where the reconstruction of human thought becomes essential. Human thought reconstructed to encompass a peaceful union of all reformative forces in the modern world. Religious and non-religious. A renewal of thought resulting in a reformation of reality A reality cognizant of the natural, the universal. A reality constructive and progressive without a need for monopoly.
The selective/biased nature of human thought compels us to reconcile with diversity in opinion. We come to terms with the realization that the main objective of reconstructing thought is not in the resolution of all differences rather it is in an acceptance of equitable co-existence with them. This plurality of thought translates into a more uniform reality, urging us to look deeper. To go beyond this ephemeral world into the eternal.Tariq Ramadan expresses this with a distinct profundity:
“We are heading for that realm of consciousness and mind where all wisdoms remind us that it is its shores that make the ocean one, and that it is the plurality of human journeys that shapes the common humanity of men”
This unique plurality of thought grants humankind with a flexible, tolerant and surprisingly a rather powerful insight into a monotheistic reality. It compels humanity to surrender to a belief in one supreme entity responsible for such a beautifully harmonious yet diverse existence. In a single benevolent God.
Again, the concept of unity, oneness becomes an essential prelude to even a slightest semblance of political, social tolerance and justice.
This is where Muslims can play a vital role by providing a flexible, progressive and unifying forum; inviting humanity to unite on equity and justice. A unique assembly of diversity into one for one.
Indeed, thinking of unity and oneness in a world riddled with apartheid, hatred and war sounds simplistic yet often the most complex of problems have simple and obvious solutions if one dares to believe. This is the path that all reformists chose throughout history to lead humankind to peace and progress.
In the beautiful words of Robert Frost:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”