This is a story of passion, so let’s begin by using one of our passions as a way of easing into the story…
I was watching The Matrix Revolutions the other day. Not as bad as people remember, but as we all know, the third film in trilogies have a habit of leaving some people very disappointed. ANYWAY, on this particular viewing, I was struck by the last meeting between Neo and the Oracle. Like Luke Skywalker before him, Neo gets petulant when his mentor has seemed to deny him vital information that she knew all along. When Neo is stunned by her response that he wasn’t ready for the information, the Oracle points him toward a sign that’s been hanging over the door from the first time he met her: ‘Temet Nosce’ (Know Thyself).
I favor that analogy alot as of late. As most of this calendar year has been spent pushing my abilities to their highest possible level, I’ve used this Ramadan to recognize how much of my natural laid back attitude I have allowed to seep into the core of who I am. In plainer terms, I’ve felt that I’ve been a good Muslim for most of my life, but I certainly haven’t been the best Muslim I can possibly be. The easy comeback is to blame it fully on a lack of maturity, but in ‘knowing thyself’ I know that is far too simplistic an explanation.
So, in the spirit of the comic book persona I’ve co-opted for so many years, I set a goal this month to rebuild ‘Malik Aziz’ from the ground floor. Instead of simply trying to ‘correct’ bad habits that would be hard to break in a few weeks, I wanted to rebuild the entire foundation. My goal for this Ramadan was to learn the Arabic alphabet; (I learned my prayers in Arabic many years ago, but I was/am still entirely too dependent on translation in other areas). It’s a little embarrassing to admit this, but I didn’t have the ability to read or write my own name in its original language. All of that has been corrected. As the foundation of the house has been rebuilt, the other aspects of my life are on much stronger footing. Still, that was essentially an educational goal.
The stars aligned this Ramadan for me to be a part of a study group, with other minds like mine who sought fellowship and a better understanding of the religion (and of ourselves). This, in turn, opened the door to more iftars; some large events sponsored by organizations, some much more personal and domestic. Not to go all Malcolm on you, but as an American Muslim it is one of the great advantages. It’s a virtual Thanksgiving every night, with different specialties depending on the native culture of the host. One of my goals for my next Ramadan is to host an iftar of my own. No matter what Hank Williams Jr. thinks, I assure you the President of the United States is not a Muslim. But for Obama to host an iftar at the White House, and for to not host one of my own now feels strangely out of place. As I said though, that’s another thing that’s easily correctable. My naturally open mind and free spirit hasn’t changed I assure you, but my renewed discipline is a welcome counterbalance to where I’m at now.
I’ll wrap this up with another old story. Way back when we first came to this town, I remember vividly having a conversation with another classmate who was new to the City of Angels. We were trading notes about our dreams. He seemed impressed by the clarity of what I wanted: Part One is simply doing what I ‘do’, hopefully providing some positivity along the way. And Part Two was not having what I do also become the defining characteristic of my home life; ideally it will provide for my wife and my children, but it won’t be something I have to ‘bring home’. I can leave ‘work’ at work, and my ‘home’ would be my sanctuary.
And now, on the other side of this Ramadan, I’m 90 percent complete on my dream. Or Islamically, I suppose I’m 50 percent (inside joke). Either way, I’m a better man today than I was 30 days ago, which is an accomplishment unto itself.
A final Eid Mubarak to my Muslim brothers and sisters around the globe. All praise is due to Allah, only the mistakes are mine.