Saturday, July 09, 2005

Everything Is Relative

Been thinking a lot about something that happened on Friday. Walking round in Meena Salam we came across a bookstore. Like always I found myself drawn to the religious section. There was a good selection of books in Arabic & English by various well-known names. Most of them I already read or heard of. But that wasn't what got my attention. There was a nearby stall full of these little religious booklets & glossy pamphlets that are written by these obscure-sounding ElMarhooms & Sheikhs usually on one topic only. Like whether listening to music is halal or haram. Or wearing hijab. Or imitating non-Muslims.

Don't know why am always curious to read them. Maybe it's just vanity. Because I see them as the work of inferior minds so I like to look at them & think well thank God am smarter than that. It's weird but sometimes I think ok I might not have the right answer yet but at least I know these are wrong answers. And the more wrong answers I find the more optimistic I feel that by elimination I must be that many steps closer to the right answer.

Most of them are so shallow & so intolerant & so downright stupid because they make the most grandiose claims like guaranteeing you a path to heaven if you follow 4 or 5 steps that they specify or curse you to Hell if you deviate from another 4 or 5 steps.

K. asked me why I read so much about religion. Was surprised. Of the two of us I would have thought he was the more traditionally religious one(because he prays regularly). And yet he's right. I do read a lot about religion. Not just Islam either. Am curious about anything that sounds like a religious philosophy.

Asked him if he didn't. He said no. He was over that phase. I said well maybe I was still searching. He said but how does it help to read books about other people also searching even if they think they have all the answers?We're all lost. It's the nature of life. The more you read, the more you realize that everything is relative. He said that that scares some people. They need a solid ground - some absolute values.They don't want to face the fact that we are actually on our own in this world. He said that we invent imaginary restrictions because we find them reassuring. In reality we are completely free - free to make our decisions & live with the consequences.

He shocked me. For a minute in there I thought I was talking to an athiest. So I asked him if this is how you think then why do you practice religion?He said religion tells us that God will help those who help themselves & he prefers to read something that has practical use rather than a lot of theories about things we can't really do anything about.

I said so the answer is that if you can't understand something just put it out of your mind & pretend it doesn't exist?He told me he just thinks that spending too much time speculating about the nature of life just keeps you from actually experiencing life, that God is in everything & life is too short so make the best of it.

I don't know. Am not sure I understood him correctly. Haven't had a chance to talk more deeply about it. But something in me is disturbed by hearing this from someone who in outward appearance seems to be pretty well-balanced & disciplined religiously. I think am one of those scared people he mentioned who need the absolute values. Even if I haven't found them yet at least the hope that oneday I might keeps me going. I find no comfort in thinking everything is relative. Quite the contrary infact.

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27 Comments:

Blogger Twosret said...

Loulou,

If your relationship with K. is long term, I think it will be very important that you discuss your faith more often. Once you have children you would really want to have a solid more importantly common understanding of the religious descipline you will introduce to your children.

I think it will be worth discussing and understanding his point of view but try to keep an open mind as we all come from different backgrounds and our past and experiences forms our opinions pretty much.

I'm not good at giving advice as I don't know you both, I'm just giving you a piece of my mind based on what you wrote.

7/10/2005 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger haal said...

I actually agree with K. There is no absolute reality, religion and God is very subjective. Everyone wishes God to be this or that, or was taught so.

I am not really getting what is your problem with K.'s attitude. He prays and this means that he 'recognizes' that there is God, but his definition and approach to him is different than yours. Maybe he is more practical than you, less into 'searching', which I think is fine.

'he just thinks that spending too much time speculating about the nature of life just keeps you from actually experiencing life, that God is in everything & life is too short so make the best of it.'
I think it is a pretty good answer. I personally won't do or think like that, but it is another person's pov.

I think, Take it easy.

7/10/2005 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Mohamed said...

I actually agree with K. Even if you keep searching, you'll never reach the absolute truth, so we (or I, like K) live with the fact that many things will remain unknown.

7/10/2005 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger doshar said...

loulou, i know from your posts that maybe you do think and worry too much. but that is the way you are. i don't totally agree with K though

it is our duty i think to try to understand things correctly, becaause that is what would guide you in a difficult test. maybe it is easy to do as K says when the world and tests are all too clear, which they are not. we need to learn about religion properly to be able to do what is right as much as possible.

if you read and know something is wrong, it would be easier to avoid it. also it makes you solid when doing the right thing. and claimng ignorance as an excuse for doing something is no good when the resources are there for us but we do not want to be bothered to read it.

. I find no comfort in thinking everything is relative. Quite the contrary infact.
i agree with you loulou, el 7ak 7ak, and i think is absolute. we may not be able to find our way all the time. that does not mean that there is no one straight path out there. we pray 5 times a day and each rak3a ask God in the Fati7a to guide us to "His straight path". there is a staignt path and we all should work hard to find it. there are people who are on the right path and those who are astray and think they are on the right path. read souret el kahf, verse 103-104.
we pray that we are on the right path and ask God to help us stay there. and we do need to search for it.

and we are not all alone in this world el hamdo li Allah, God is there to guide us if we ask. and he has given us the quran to guide us too.

agree with tworset, maybe you need to talk with k a little about how he views his faith, but slowly and gently, in little increments.

7/10/2005 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Al Sharief said...

Hi Lou, I can understand how K shocked you: "K said that we invent imaginary restrictions because we find them reassuring. In reality we are completely free - free to make our decisions & live with the consequences". When a loose a statement likes that from a person who appears to practice religion, I would naturally be concerned. I would further require a qualification of such a statement. K should know better.

If K is referring to the people who are "scared" from the concept that "Everything Is Relative", I may be able to ease most of the concern for the sake of discussion. But If K's opinion refers to "We" [invent ...]as people in general following (God) [via prophets] who produced some religious restrictions??? . Then K, like a lot of people is just practicing
Routine religion(Myself included at some times.)

Here it's a matter of "Faith" and the degree of the strength of one's Faith is what will help to understand and interpret such a delima/statment.

One faith guided way to look at this that God restrict people to reassure them.

Or per K:/ People restrict themselves to reassure themselves.

It's a bit clearer if you take fasting as an example. You restrict yourself from food & water,..Etc, for then you are reassured(yourself) that you exercised self control.
You can choose Not to fast, fast only for your health and Not because your Religion, or fast because your "Faith" on God and that God will reassure you and Reward you among other benefits.

The degree of "Faith" will make "Everything Relative". This does not negate the need for "Absolute Values" at all. The Absolutes are necessary for any moral system.
Absolute values are important references for people in "Relative" to God and Prophets.
The Complete Absolute Perfection is only for God, and Man/Women are ever trying to catch up.

The degree of Faith on any given Absolute Value would determine the "Relative" trait & feature of that "Value" on an Individual compared to others (that could be stuck on the world of restrictions, the DOs & Don’ts).

Or One could reach a "Relative" Higher State of being close to the realization of an Absolute Value to the point of generating joy, pleasure, content, and eventual satisfaction. This may lead to the gate of spiritual pleasure.

How one could reach this Higher State? is entirely complex question. For some, it is pure blessings - reads High Degree of Faith and closeness to God. For other it may means years of practicing restrictions. Again "Everything Is Relative"

7/10/2005 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

twosret,

Am not sure if it's long-term yet. I hope so. I love him. But we haven't known each other very long. So far it's been a classic, textbook case of opposites attract. We do shock & surprise each other a lot - not just about faith. Don't know what that will mean in the long term though. Only one way to find out no?


Haal,

"I am not really getting what is your problem with K.'s attitude. "

It's not about him.It's me. He's made me have second thoughts & they're not comforting second thoughts.Am just trying to get my inner balance back.

Mohammed,

Don't you sometimes meet people who tell you that they used to be very far from religion & then they had an experience or someone told them something or they read something or they went to Umra & suddenly they saw The Light?Don't you get a little jealous & wish that would happen to you?

Always assumed it would happen to me oneday too. With age, wisdom, with more research whatever that a time will come when God will give me some sort of sign or guidance & everything will fall in place. Just hate the idea of living & dying still lost without ever really knowing why I was here in the first place.

7/10/2005 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger haal said...

'Just hate the idea of living & dying still lost without ever really knowing why I was here in the first place.'

But you dont need a miracle to know that, and need not a 'light' to see that.... You need nothing to know why you are hear. It just needs you to 're-see' what is here. You will live and die not knowing why you were here if you insisted on seeing what others are seeings, or waiting for 'others miracles' to guide you.

7/10/2005 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

doshar,

I agree with what you wrote generally. Except the bit about finding guidance in the Qura'an. Religious texts are open to interpretation & can be read differently by different people. It's just not that simple. If it was, why would we even have to look for the right path?It should be all written down in the books. And no one should ever have to wonder about anything.

No we still have to think for ourselves. And it's like a test. You do your best but no one comes to correct your paper & tell you your score. At least not in this life.

7/10/2005 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Hi AlSharief,

Thanks for your input.

"The degree of "Faith" will make "Everything Relative". "

So what you mean is that everything is relative to Faith?Do you mean the level of faith reached by a certain individual or the conventional Faith that we're all supposed to share?In other words could something that is right for me to do be wrong for someone else who has a higher level of faith or who has more faith?(How do you measure Faith anyway?Against what?)

7/10/2005 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

haal,

"It just needs you to 're-see' what is here. "

So you feel you know?Why we're here I mean.

7/10/2005 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Mohamed said...

Yes Loulou, I do get jealous. Many times I do get jealous from the very devout Muslims actually, and at times wish I could have that strong a belief. But I kinda know it'll never happen to me. I'm more like the guy who stands in the middle and keeps turning around himself, looking around, not having strong belief, nor lack thereof.

7/10/2005 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger haal said...

I 'know' why I am here at this Moment, but next moment I might discover something else and will change what I mean, and in the process of changing my 'knowing', I smooth my boundaries and reshape my rigidity....and on and on and on..... Allah is a Wajid (constant foundings), every moment HE has 'Sha'in', and so is the universe and so is everything in it.... so be like a drop of water (u read poetry), formless yet containing all the secrets and essence of the ocean. As long as you are in the ocean, forget about the shapes and the boundaries.....

7/10/2005 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger haal said...

Define 'strong belief' and define 'devout Muslim.'

7/10/2005 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger haal said...

'...there are people who are on the right path and those who are astray and think they are on the right path....'

Define 'right path'?!

7/10/2005 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger Mohamed said...

When I look at those I call devout Muslims, the main distinction I see is strong confidence in what they believe --which might very well be wrong, and this confidence pushes them to do and do and devote themselves. That confidence in their belief I think is what makes those devout Muslims so consistent in performing the rituals, and makes them push those rituals a long way. Its out of fear as if they see their afterlife destiny if they don't perform, and out of connection to what they believe in as if they see that Whom they're connected with.

For me, I'm more like; I have to see it to believe it. I've been raised with very limited imagination, and that doesn't help either.

7/10/2005 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

"I'm more like the guy who stands in the middle and keeps turning around himself, looking around, not having strong belief, nor lack thereof.
"

Me too. I have a doubting, enquiring mind. Always wondering & open to any new idea. The perfectionist in me needs a 'perfect' answer though.Not easily satisfied. Don't like loose ends. Want everything to fit together.

7/10/2005 07:09:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

"so be like a drop of water (u read poetry), formless yet containing all the secrets and essence of the ocean. As long as you are in the ocean, forget about the shapes and the boundaries.....
"

You know haal that is really beautiful.

Am thinking back to Rumi's "A Fool's Errand'.

What wisdom was this, that the Object of all desire
caused me to leave my home joyously on a fool's errand,
so that I was actually rushing to lose the way
and at each moment being taken farther from what I sought--

I do feel like am on a Fool's Errand. Just wish I can accept it & be joyous about it like Rumi says.

7/10/2005 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger haal said...

again Loul, not like Rumi said, but as your 'essence' calls for. Empty to be filled....

7/10/2005 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger Twosret said...

Loulou,

If you felt that there is a red flag you need to address with K. follow your instinct, it is part of knowing each other, I'm kind of different when it comes to everything is relative.

I personally stand on solid ground, Know what is right and wrong and very happy and content with it. I don't float between the maybe's and if's and grey is not my color :)

I recall a very popular sign in Heliopolis on top of one of the tunnels that leads to airport and it reads "Aqsar el toroq ella el eqna3 el sed2" honesty, straightforward and transperancy in my opinion is what makes relationships successful.

Best of luck to you and him and hope your relationship will become stronger and please continue to have an open line of communication with him.

Beselama (winking@ya)

7/10/2005 11:06:00 PM  
Blogger Al Sharief said...

Gracefully put by Haal & Rumi.
Beautiful indeed!

Loulou, Be joyous & embrace with Wisdom.

Fair questions Loulou,
Believe me I wanted to attempt answering them first but I could NOT resist the “Faith” that the “Beauty” of Haal & Rumi words generated. I wished I had easy answers! And sure I felt like chasing a task I sought, almost lost in words, but
Faith kept it going. Thank you for the Joyous Opportunity. Hard Questions.

You comprehend poetry, rather you realize, capture the meaning and I bet you that most of time you get very close to the originator’s intended meaning. When you call the communicated verse, "Beautiful", momentarily the "truth"/ named "Beauty" shows itself to you and along come the joy of "Believing", in "Beauty", defining a "Belief". The intensity of the joy that comes along recognizing "Beauty" is then what defines a "strong belief". This is a single point of “Faith” – being in a state of a recognition and appreciation of a given value. In the same time, the value itself gives us the recognition of our “Being”.

"Beauty" is one single value among other many values like Freedom, Security, Integrity, Pride, and Inner-peace...etc. A harmonious,( I hope), collection of these values is what constitute a moral system that lead us in life, interacting with others , and could even govern our relationship to organized religion. This is a more complex and mature “Faith” that requires constant enhancing, reaffirming and reassuring to sustain a balanced being.

Most individuals operate with a prioritized set of 5-8 anchored values. Simply to stay sane, but that’s another topic. It may be that practicing religion and the repetition of rituals, and at times a set of “Restrictions” that may be needed to regulate the harmonious dynamic values as it is some times necessary for survival in a form of optimized set of priorities. Take Fear, an instinct value, as an example. At time of danger it probably becomes a dominating value instinctley to recognize danger.

Now back to your questions:

- Is everything relative to Faith?
It sure could be, but Not necessarily but that is radical in my opinion.
Every “Belief” in a value is relative to Faith. Faith is a strong Belief (Please see above)
I’ve resorted to Faith to understand K statement as abstract as it is and as best as I can, Faith enlightens and is far less restrictive than it appears, and beside that restrictions are sometimes real and are NOT invented.

- I mean the level of Faith of an Individual is what matters the most. The supposed to share conventional Faith is for organized religion, where usually restrictions apply for societal conformity. Remember that the cycle closes when you know that it is the individual who will be judged & rewarded given that the Individual has rights and responsibilities from & towards the Society at large.

- Could something that is right for me to do be wrong for someone else who has a higher level of faith?
It should NOT be wrong, I’m assuming that we are speaking of the Right and Righteousness. Because the “someone” who has a higher level of faith in a “Right” given value knows that when he integrates with the lesser faith, there is a better chance for “Righteousness” to prosper.

- Who has more faith? (How do you measure Faith anyway? Against what?)
Though I did not venture into “Faith” as a quantity that need to be measured or compared for Jealousy or contempt, rather I would look at “Faith” as a qualitative sincere deeds that is ever reaching for “Righteousness”. The intensity of the joyous reward that comes along with realizing or recognizing a given value is how Faith could be appreciated. Faith is a strong “Belief” on a Value, it is a Virtue and it is ever reaching Righteousness only against wickedness. Moreover Faith is Confidence, Trust, Reliance, Assurance, and Conviction. I’d add a “Moral Compass”.

7/11/2005 12:23:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Al Sharief,

"This is a more complex and mature “Faith” that requires constant enhancing, reaffirming and reassuring to sustain a balanced being."

Ok I can relate to that. The constant need for enhancement I mean. Because it means a dynamic, evolving "Faith". Fluid like Haal's drop of water. Am not looking for a rigid or static state of equilibrium. It would feel too contrived, too artificial. Nature(and life) is all about growth & change & development.

The question that comes to mind here is how you would go about this process of enhancement though. Is it a conscious process?Do you go out looking for things to reaffirm your Faith?What is it that you reach for when you are having a crisis of faith(like I am now)?Is it a knowledge inside yourself or something that comes to you from outside(life, books, other people, organzied religion etc...)?

Interesting thoughts on values & the moral system btw.

7/11/2005 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger haal said...

Everything is indeed relative to a relative.

7/11/2005 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Al Sharief said...

Loulou,
Regarding the "Process", I've already touched upon on my original post when I already wrote:

[ How one could reach this Higher State? is entirely complex question. For some, it is pure blessings - reads High Degree of Faith and closeness to God. For other it may means years of practicing restrictions. Again "Everything Is Relative"]

The process is a combination of all what you've mentioned already. You have the answer within, yet you also seek closeness. K is right : God will help those who help themselves and I would add with far much more generosity especially when it comes to Faith. If you will walk toward God, God will RUN toward you.

I can only say that You Are your own best Faith doctor.

Try your own "Creative Praying" , by Praying here I mean "Do'aa`~a" with the clear objective of getting out of the "Faith Crisis"

Pray is to: Ask, Request, Call upon, Plea, Urge, even Demand (politely).
For some Pray is simply is to Hope. For some others, Pray is to Meditate, which is to Contemplate, Ponder, Think, Consider, Deliberate, Turn over in your mind, Think over, and to Reflect.

A good thing to know is that "Do'aa`~a" is also worshipping that you get rewarded for it while you are asking for What you want! Good Deal !Eh?

Some people are grat with "Do'aa`~a", I'm sure that you could find the exact fit for your need in a vers or a text. Thera also collections of good "Do'aa`~a" by the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH)for a lot of situations. Second Best is to make your own.
Cheers.

7/11/2005 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger Al Sharief said...

Ok haal,:-)
"Everything is indeed relative to a relative." OK ,Faith is relative, and even that is relative.

But God is NOT and should NOT

I know you wrote:
"There is no absolute reality, religion and God is very subjective. Everyone wishes God to be this or that, or was taught so."
Are you saying that religion & God is one thing? I can understand how an organized religon is subjective. But how God is subjective?

I congratulate you for the "constant foundings" business as it is almost: all answers are inclusive...
"Allah is a Wajid (constant foundings)"

...as your 'essence' calls for. Empty to be filled....

If you believe that the "Wajid" founded the 'essence', founded the "Filled essence", and founded the "filling stuff", you have it made. That is Faith. No? Almost Absolute! The quantum here is discreet. Either Full, or Empty.

Al Khalek ( The creator )is more of a core static, precise, and in control and total command than "The Wajid" as more dynamic and flexible mode of creation. Each Quality operates at different states of energy that governs a set of restriction to create and "fill" an essence. Is it an essence, "The" essence, a Super essence or "The End of essence" Too much for me, Now I'm Happy with the Ocean ;)
Cheers :-)

7/11/2005 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger haal said...

Sharif,
Can your re-write your last paragraph of your last comment.

7/12/2005 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger ألِف said...

"For a minute in there I thought I was talking to an athiest."
LouLou, as much as I hate to label anybody, I would have thought of Agnostic, instead of Atheist. Specially one of the milder varieties of the earlier. :)

"...As long as you are in the ocean, forget about the shapes and the boundaries."
Well said, Hall. Well said indeed.

7/12/2005 08:17:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Alf,

"Agnostics may claim that it is not possible to have absolute or certain spiritual knowledge."

Uh-huh. That sounds familiar alright. Thanks for the tip. I'll ask him.

7/13/2005 08:01:00 AM  

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