A few years ago, I heard a civil protection officer tell a Moroccan TV this little anecdote. "The other day, I found myself in front of a father and his son, a little boy, both had fallen into a deep hole, and my heart sank when I saw the unfortunate boy. However, when I wanted to extricate the boy, his father interposed himself between him and me, begging me, 'Please, sir, save me first!' It’s a little shocking, but hardly surprising. Historians tell us that during a certain blockade of Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, mothers had to eat their babies in hope of staying alive. During the blockade of Marrakesh, by the Almohads, we are told, the prisoners had to eat each other. It's atrocious, it's disgustful, but we can be quite reduced to that. When one is struck by a misfortune one thinks only of oneself.
Let us take this example. A car hits a motorcyclist and knocks him off his bike, seriously injuring him. The ambulance arrives right away, the police too. The victim is transported to the hospital as a matter of urgency. Doctors and nurses welcome him into the emergency room. His family learns the sad news by telephone and soon joins him in the hospital, offering him flowers. A lawyer comes to inquire about the facts. He wants to know whether the victim has the right insurance. Meanwhile, a mechanic arrives to repair what he can. Then a sweeper comes to clean the area of the accident. I'm not telling you anything new. Is it not said that the misfortune of some makes the happiness of others? Why don’t we think of this when we think of God? When someone works in an SME that manufactures cables, computer systems, or other, for military aircraft. Does he think for one moment of the potential victims of the planes equipped with his cables, etc. ? What would the doctors, nurses, pharmacists ... do for a living if there were no sick people? What would the mechanics, the lawyers, the insurers, the paramedics, the courts people, the flower vendors, the telecommunications operators, the sweepers… do for a living if there were no such problems?
Now let us take this other example. Who can count how many people would 'live off’ a wedding? Well, a lot of people live off it! The same goes for the education of a child, and so on.
If we say that our misfortunes and our happiness are intimately connected, it is not far from the truth. Human life is like that. We cry when we lose our father, we smile when we receive our share of the inheritance. It is because one knows that he’ll be hungry that he goes to the grocer’s. The hairdresser is there because there are necessarily people who will need a haircut. It’s always humans going to other humans, either to deal with them or to chase them away. In Casablanca, the economic capital of Morocco, many people suffer during the period of the aïd-el-kebir, because many traders and almost all craftsmen (plumbers, mechanics, electricians, repairers of refrigerators, etc. .) disappear from the city. They spend the holiday with their families in their towns or native villages. They return ten or fifteen days later, to revive the white city. These people came here to live and to support their families. The barber (tooth puller) needs someone who has a toothache but does not have enough money to go to the dentist ; the shoe repairer needs someone who has torn his shoes but cannot buy new ones ; the mechanic needs someone who has had a car accident, and the list is long. It goes without saying, you would say. But when X or Y has such a terrible night time tooth pain, does he think of all this? Does he put himself into a 'philosophical' exercise ? Apparently, few people do that. So, let's do it together, here!
By taking a philosophical look at life from a historical point of view we can overcome many difficulties of psychic nature. Today we see the glamour of others, we see how 'lucky' people live, we see the growing gap between the poor and the rich ... and we just cannot understand all that. And what do we see when we take a close look at History? Well, roughly speaking, we see that there were before us, in those ancient times, as well as in more recent times, people who enjoyed some glamour, too ; there were handsome men and beautiful women who loved each other, who had children, who lived in beautiful mansions, who worked, for some, who listened to music, who walked in beautiful gardens, who said sweet things to each other, who made love, who dreamed of better days, who fell ill, who divorced, who waged war, who killed each other, who got injured, and who died. People just like. Are we therefore simply a continuation of the human species? Where are we heading? Will we always have the same so-called pleasures, the same frustrations? Why are we here on this earth? Will there not be a day when misfortune disappears forever? What is life worth if one does not live it fully, in joy and quietude? What’s the use of History, what’s the use of philosophy, what’s the use of literature ... if historians themselves, if philosophers, if male and female writers take their own lives to escape their terrible realities? I do not have answers to that. However, I just notice that there are many people who do not commit suicide. They confront life with the few means they have. That means that, at least for these people, life is worth living. Now, is life really worth living –whatever our sorrows ? To try to answer this question, it is necessary, I think, to see how people in all corners of the planet are leading their lives.
We have been led to believe that man has gone through several stages. We were told about pre-history, where man was rather wild, and about the Bronze Age, and so on. But in some parts of the earth there are still humans that could be called 'savages', according to historical terminology. There are people who could be said to be still in the 'Bronze Age'. Why are these people not 'like' us? But who has the right to say that these people are not like us? Do they not have eyes, mouths, ears, feet, sexes like us? Do they not get hungry like us? Do they not marry, laugh, dream ... like us? Besides, the Red Cross and MSF, to name but a few, make no distinction between the 'savages' and 'civilized', do they? What about animals? They too have eyes, ears, feet, genitals ... They too make love and give birth to little ones ... They too eat and die as we do. What about plants? They too live and die like us. They cannot live without water, just like us, and like animals. They too are of different colours, different shapes, different degrees of beauty ... They grow everywhere. Where there are men there are plants and animals. We all need water and oxygen. The same water from the Seine (River), or the Nile, is drunk by plants, animals, whites, blacks, Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists ... This water does not stop at the borders. It has no nationality. Provided there is water for all! Sometimes there is none, or not enough. People are dying of hunger or thirst. Others migrate to flee famine. They go to countries where there are humans like them. Some of these emigrants are beautiful, for beauty, like ugliness, is everywhere. Some of these emigrants settle where they arrived. They marry people from the host country. There will follow mixed children. Mixed but not so different, because all remain human after all. All eat vegetables and fruits, bread and cheese. All want to grow up, work, get married. All will have the same problems and the same pleasures. A mere continuation of the human species? I do not think so. Americans of Irish descent may not be exactly like their ancestors who had to leave Ireland after years of scarcity. There is some progress, nonethess. Both at the material and intellectual levels. These brave Irish children have contributed to the emergence of one of the greatest civilizations in the world. Some of their American brothers had to flee persecution in Europe. Together, the Americans built a fabulous federal state governed by formidable democratic institutions. However, evil is still not eradicated from this country, nor from any other country in the world, for that matter. Is that a frustration? Should we, even if we could, completely eradicate evil? Is it possible, for example, to dispense with military means for national defense, since it only serves war, and war is evil? Yes, it is necessary to go through all this to be able to answer strictly personal questions. The word 'evil' and the word 'good' come from somewhere. For some, it is Man who invented these concepts. For others, these words have their origin in religion. Where does religion come from? For some, it is a purely human invention. For others, God sent messengers to teach us religion. If this religion is a human invention, those who invented it have unfortunately not left us a reliable book to explain what we want to understand. If, on the other hand, religion is a message from God, then let us see what He has to say to us in this message. And we will not lose sight of the question we posed at the beginning of this article.
Not being Buddhist or Hindu, I can only talk about my religion, Islam. When I say God it is Allah.
Reading our religious texts, we learn that God first created the earth, then the sky (the seven skies). He then created the angels and the djins. The angels remained up there in the seven skies (also called heavens by some). The djins have inhabited the earth. Satan, the first of the djins, was promoted to the rank of angels, and so he lived for some time up there among the angels. During this time God created Paradise, then Adam and Eve. The latter committed a grave error which cost them the banishment from Paradise, just like Satan. Satan knew the earth already. Adam and Eve discover it for the first time. They realize that the earth is much less splendid than the paradise from which they were driven out. They discover cold, heat, hunger, thirst, fatigue, fear, death ... But they also discover new pleasures: the pleasure of eating after hunger, the pleasure of drinking after thirst, the pleasure of rest after getting tired, sexual pleasure, etc. They also discover new realities: their life on earth makes them responsible for themselves and their offspring. They must work to be able to eat, to dress, to guard against all danger. And in addition to that they have to remind their children that they must do things if they hope to return to the lost paradise. Adam was the first messenger of God. He had to talk to his children about Paradise, a perfect world that only he and his wife had seen with their own eyes. The children, on the other hand, were asked to believe in what they could not see. Some have believed. Others saw paradise only in the world that surrounded them. And history has been repeated since.
If we dissect all this a little, one can see, on the one hand, a certain god who does what he wants, at his will, and on the other hand, a human being who bends to the will of this god. God creates Man, brings him into a sublime world, Heaven, then expels him and puts him in a planet earth where he must do everything to live or survive, and, in addition to that, has to deny himself certain pleasures and, on top of that, chant the praises of god. How is it that a man who makes every effort to perfect himself, who is educated in the best universities, who gets the best jobs, who builds himself a beautiful dwelling without asking anyone for anything, etc, etc, etc. –how is it that this man should prostrate himself before a god whom he does not see, whom he does not know, and, moreover, to whom he does not feel indebted in any way whatsoever?
First of all, it is because God knew that this Man would be able to learn, to educate himself, to perfect himself, to surpass himself, to take charge of himself, that He created him in the first place. The Qur'an tells us of this episode in which the angels ask God what’s the use of creating a man who is only going to commit corruption and make mischief in the earth. Divine pedagogy makes Adam demonstrate that he is worthy of God's trust. Adam demonstrates to the angels that he knows things that they do not know and, consequently, that he can undertake things that they cannot yet imagine. The Qur'an also reminds us that this Man cannot do anything as a kid. He must be breastfed, first, then fed, then protected, and then educated. It is God who makes parents (instinctively) take charge of this stage of the life of each one of us. The Quran says that "2.233. Mothers shall suckle their children for two whole years; (that is) for those who wish to complete the suckling. The duty of feeding and clothing nursing mothers in a seemly manner is upon the father of the child. No one should be charged beyond his capacity. A mother should not be made to suffer because of her child, nor should he to whom the child is born (be made to suffer) because of his child. And on the (father's) heir is incumbent the like of that (which was incumbent on the father). If they desire to wean the child by mutual consent and (after) consultation, it is no sin for them ; and if ye wish to give your children out to nurse, it is no sin for you, provided that ye pay what is due from you in kindness. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is Seer of what ye do." The Quran says: "16.78. And Allah brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers knowing nothing, and gave you hearing and sight and hearts that haply ye might give thanks." This being said, there are things you can learn at school. Maths, Physics, this can be learned at school. But there are things that require inspiration or intuition. An ordinary worker in an industrial firm could solve a technical problem to which a hundred engineers could do nothing. Where does this inspiration or intuition come from? Where do our dreams come from? There is a mysterious part in our lives that must be taken into account. Logic cannot explain everything. Even the best prognosis may be wrong. There are things beyond our imagination. Hence the importance of remaining open to all possible explanations.
God is God. Man is Man. To each his greatness. Even among us humans greatness varies. A minister cannot give orders to his president or sit in his chair or stand on the same level as him. Even in the United States of America, the Vice-President and the Secretary of State stand somewhat behind the President. But when the minister is at home, in his office, he is the boss. So to demonstrate His Greatness, God wanted Man to be in the earth, far beneath Heaven, the seat of the Divine. Nevertheless, He wanted the whole universe to be at the service of this Man. One cannot humiliate someone and at the same time give him the tools and the means to grow. In other words, the earth is the natural place for man in relation to God, all the more so because it is of the earth that God created Man. In addition, God spent four of the six days of creation preparing the earth for human life and He only spent two days creating all the heavens. This is to say the interest with which God treats man. Better still, God made the angels prostrate to Man (Adam). Better still, God says in the Qur'an that He loves (some) men and values them.
Translation underway @ my blog