Plaxo Badge

About Me

My photo
Vancouver, Washington, United States
Click here To read a short biography of myself.

Subjects covered:

Monday, October 31, 2005

"me first", is it as selfish as it sounds?

     Well it’s been quite a while since I’ve written here, mainly because … well, what kept me from writing is what should have caused me to write in the first place.  I’ve done a bit of traveling in the past few months since my last post here, but I guess either the trips were boring or I just didn’t have the patience to write whatever I had on my mind.  Come to think of it, I think it was more the latter than the former.

Perhaps what overshadowed everything however was my health.  I’ve been feeling tired and short on energy almost all year long, and I brushed it off, as I always did, blaming it on a hectic schedule, hard work, or just plane laziness.  I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to be distracted by anything, including such things as feeling tired, sleeping, taking meals and other such mundane tasks.  This is the way I’ve always been, and this has served me well through out the years.  This is also why, I believe, I should cease and desist right now!

In the Islamic tradition, and in a Hadeeth (saying) attributed to the prophet Mohammed, peace and blessings be upon him, he states that “your body also has a right”.  In other words, you have to comply with the demands of your body, and it is compulsory for you to do so just as it is compulsory for you to follow every other obligation placed on you by the articles of the religion and the requirements of your society, such as work, family, friends, etc etc.  “Great” I thought to myself, “one more picketer just joined the queue, now where do they go to get a number”?

Those who fail to take time to look after themselves and see to their well-being, myself included, cite many reasons for their failure to do so.  Such reasons include being busy with work, extracurricular activities, family and friends, school, and sometimes noble causes such as saving the world (yeah, right)!  What we all tend to forget, however, is that the corner stone of all of this, whatever it is that’s keeping us busy that is, is, well, us.  If we’re unable to function, we won’t be able to attend to work, be there for our families, complete our schooling or even save the world, assuming we’re naive enough to think we can do that last one.

If you think about it, it’s not that complicated.  Jesus Christ, peace and blessings be upon him, captured it very well in his teachings to his disciples.  I don’t remember exactly which book in the bible and what chapter it is written in (I’m too busy saving the world to research it at the moment(), but he simply states that, if there was a piece of wood in your eye and a plank in your brother’s eye, you are to take out the piece of wood from your own, so that you may see enough to even know that there is a plank in your brother’s eye.  It never ceases to amaze me how often we tend to forget that, pretending instead to be so selfless and dedicated as to ill-treat our bodies and sacrifice our health, presumably for the sake of those things that are so dear to us.

Most important to me personally are my family, my work, my friends and the community causes in which I believe and for which I have chosen to dedicate a great deal of my time.  With an illness that left me almost handicapped for the better part of a month, I failed all those I mentioned above.  I couldn’t travel home to attend my brother’s wedding and see my family at a desperate time of need, I failed to fully and effectively capitalize on the momentum created by the various conferences and shows I attended this past summer for my work, I practically disappeared from the lives of my friends and loved ones, and lost track of many extracurricular activities to which I dedicated so much time and effort over the better part of two years.

  When you take the above, and add it to the sense of guilt and failure which, for most people like me, is usually multiplied under such circumstances, you will come to clearly see the terrible situation in which I managed to put myself, one for which there is no one else to blame.

I guess the lesson from this is clear:  it is not a selfish act to look after one’s self, in fact it is a very selfless act.  In my opinion (as if you really care), it’s as selfless as saving a total stranger from an inevitable calamity (which to most people is almost as selfless as it gets these days).  Failure to do so, the argument can be made, is the selfish act, as it clearly demonstrates our selfish desire to enjoy the short term euphoria of an accomplishment, rather than make the required sacrifice in time and effort to insure its long term continuity.

Oh, what was wrong with me you ask?  You know, we each have enough trouble of our own, and I’m not exactly sure you’d want to sit here and waist your time listening to mine, but suffice it to say that last month I came to see first hand what a true handicap really meant.  Terrible as it may have felt at the time, and despite the lingering effects which I think will be with me for sometime to come, I must say I now fully realize that being blind has nothing to do what so ever with a handicap.  Those who think otherwise, in my opinion, still have a lot to learn about the world, let alone blindness.

From this point on, I’m making a pledge to make a conscious effort at taking care of my own needs.  Time for myself is most important to me, more important than work, family, friends and whatever cause I happen to be involved in.  I don’t think this is selfish at all, it is in fact required if I am to be the good friend, the perfect family man, the exemplary worker and the great philanthropist I’ve always dreamed of being.  It’s time for me to get      my Oud out and play some music.  Yes, the reports and emails can wait.  The phone can wait.  My friends can wait, and the whole world will have to wait, for if I don’t replenish my supply of health, I’m afraid I may not be able to catch up.

I played the Oud since I was 10, and fell in love with it at an even younger age.  It is a centuries old fretless string instrument consisting of four double strings, with a fifth single string which was added to it in the latter years of its majestic history.  The closest western instrument to the Oud is the Lute, but I find that mentioning it confuses everyone but the music connoisseurs, as I don’t think Britney Spears used the Lute in any of her recent albums.

It is narrated that centuries ago, Ziriab, a master of music in his time, took the Oud to the palace of the Caliph, the title typically awarded to the ruler of the Muslim empire at the time.  He played a tune for the Caliph and his staff which made them so happy that they all started laughing and dancing.  He then played another tune which made them so sad they all started to cry, and played yet another tune which put them all to sleep.  It is said then that he walked out and left his instrument behind for them to see when they got up (believe me, such honesty can  come from a musician, despite what you learned about Mozart and Richard Wagner’s characters).

I could bore you with an exhaustive narrative of the instrument’s history, but you can do that to yourself without my help merely by searching for it on the Internet.  Instead, sit back and relax, and enjoy with me a wonderful Oud duet played for us by what I would have hoped would have been me, but since I was out saving the world, the honor was instead done by the Iraqi brothers Munir & Omar Bashir, who are well-known for their mastery of this incredible instrument.  The piece is a variation on the well-known theme from the Iraqi song “Fog El-Nakhel (Above The Palm Trees)”, which was sung by, well, every singer that ever sang in Iraq.  It combines this beautiful melody with a number of other equally well-known ones, creating a magnificent flow of heart capturing music.

If you are reading this article in a Podcast enabled  RSS reader, then the piece is already on your computer.  All you need to do is follow the instructions to find and play it, and as a bonus, you can even get to keep it!  If you don’t know what I’m talking about and don’t even care, then just click here to listen.  Either way, I truly hope you enjoy.    

No comments:

Post a Comment