Before the Lights Go Out

Presently, my 15’ x 8’ living room window set is a gaping hole, as we are replacing the front window assembly. This is a day long awaited, for it is a major improvement and milestone of progress we have established in the preparation to ready our home for sale. Still dreaming of California, there has dawned the reality that we will probably be here for at least another year, but that will allow the completion of high school for one child and undergraduate degree for another. After that, we may arrange for our eldest child to maintain the home for realtor showings as he completes his nursing degree by the end of the second year. Should it sell before his matriculation, he can easily move to an apartment. Transitions are never easy; and with a household of six, it is especially complicated.

This is also the third day of fasting in Ramadan, and the fast is extremely long beginning about 4 a.m. and lasting until about 8:20 p.m. with outside temperatures humid and hot, around 90 degrees. We’ve been mercifully able to sleep-in late and somewhat shift our schedule so that we sleep around 4:00 a.m. The past week had been chock-full of last minute business, so that there was scant time to write and do things of my own choosing.

Now that our overseas guest has left, and two of the three articles I have agreed to write are complete, I’m content that there is significantly less stress and I do not feel the time is my enemy. Another article I wrote, that was posted in a magazine, was picked up by a blog http://halalfocus.net/2012/07/15/opinion-keeping-fit-while-fasting-in-ramadan/

In glancing through the same blog, I noted a submission that confirms some of the research I enjoyed from reading The Phytozyme Cure  http://halalfocus.net/2012/07/20/opinion-what-happens-to-your-body-during-your-fast/ . It basically supports the concept that the produce we eat greatly aids in providing the body with vitamins, phytochemicals, enzymes, and minerals that fuel the repair of the body, especially from disease. In the book, mention was made that sometimes an overconsumption of protein in the diet may be taxing the body to the extent that it results in autoimmune responses and allergies. Ironically, the potential cure for disease is to incorporate more raw foods, but also to practice fasting as a means to boost the healing potential of the body.

In many ways, Ramadan is a time for healing. Naturally, one reflects back on the past year, and this year has been particularly painful and challenging, in retrospect. It affords one the chance to cast aside all worldly concerns, and the veil of the ghaib, the unseen, is not so obscure. It is said that the gates of Hell are chained, and the Devil is blocked from flexing his influence. For a fact, many mothers I know note a change in their children’s behavior and household climate after Ramadan…for the worse. It can be felt, that the peaceful spirit of Ramadan has evaporated once this time is done each year. With that, we are reminded that these days should not be wasted on superficial activities. Although, I do spend significantly more time in the kitchen preparing multi-course iftars or dinners, my mind does wander into the spiritual reflective mode.

The first day of fasting, I’d been in the kitchen from 3:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. doing prep work, serving iftar to my family and two additional relatives, and cleaning up. Seven hours of kitchen work with a sore lower back, and frustration that I did not have time to read a few pages of the Qur’an, I intended to try again the next day. However, that day was consumed—funny that I chose that word—with partial meal prep of soup, hummus, and tabouleh salad before I had to race to a distant non-Muslim relative’s wedding. Riad stayed home and cooked a mélange of fried okra, round steak, onions, and tomatoes with allspice, serrano pepper, and Himalayan salt. When I returned home, I preferred his meal to the wedding fare, which was scant and stretched out from 7:30 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. I ate a second dinner!

Although much of the time at the wedding, my Dad and I shared the sentiment, “Good to go out, Great to come back home,” I did enjoy learning about the bride from her father’s sentimental address to the guests. She was a first born, and as he was an English teacher, and she a teacher, he described her as “A Girl of Words.” She was loquacious as a toddler, and had an ebullient passion for words, books, poetry, and crossword puzzles. Ever ruled by her heart, she gave love and was love, and so the father was very content to acquire a new son-in-law who also was a teacher with a soft heart so kind that his daughter had reported to her father that her new husband even shed tears over his own students at times. The resonance of the father’s description struck a chord in me, reminding me of my love for words, and the power and beauty inherent to them. Gifts from above, we understand everything better when enriched with ample tools of vocabulary and ability to express. The profession of teaching yields little respect and is rife with criticism. Yet, it is gratifying when well done.

My interest in learning more languages has hit a roadblock, as Riad stated that our attempts to learn Spanish did not really work well for him…by the book and traditional. In one of my newsletters, I’d read about Alelo (www.alelo.com ) and found the concept of using game technology with artificial intelligence to be quite the solution. Unfortunately, at this time it is only available for military and government participants, and is limited to very few strategic languages. One day though, this will be the ideal way to learn language and cultural protocols. Another intriguing approach to math instruction is highlighted by this TEDx video http://youtu.be/2VLje8QRrwg . With smart resources like these, I am hopeful that education in America will advance. Boredom and a lack of relevance need to be banished from the classroom. Then connections between corporate hiring and curriculum need refinement so that minds are not wasted, as many are now with unemployed college graduates.

Even though there is need for STEM graduates, I still contend that there is a need for liberal arts in each person. The value of “a well-rounded education” is immeasurable, in my estimate, because there is relevance in developing a richly immersed human with capacity to experience and express the subjective as well as the concrete aspects of humanity. The ephemeral comprehension that students experience from poetry and Shakespeare, even without specific indoctrination in vocabulary of the period, gives a dimension to living, like art. It is part of what makes us human, and in kindling that spirit, I maintain hope.

An extension of this is one’s relationship and acceptance of a Higher Power, and so liberal arts may also be considered the bridge to that. As the Bible and Qur’an have instructive analogies, Man’s journey through life gives insight to the reality of the larger scope beyond. We are like the grains of sand; yet, each has been created deliberately and with purpose. As a wise friend once noted, “People are important.” To do justice to our relationships, no matter how seemingly insignificant some may be perceived, is a significant task. If we can only serve well those within our sphere, I think we have lived with merit. Let that suffice. For to try to extend beyond for self aggrandizement, may be fraught with danger. Best to wait for clear invitation and signs of definite needs that one is reasonably certain that one can fulfill.

As the construction job continues on my front window, I sit comically guarding my home from a couch peering out over my neighborhood, typing this on my laptop, with hope that the hole will be closed up with new windows set before dark. Likewise, I hope gaps I need to address in my spiritual, professional,  and family life are secure before my lights dim.

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