DAY 1. 27 March 2020
You act like mortals in all that you fear but like immortals in all that you desire. – Seneca
The panic buying that preceded the national lockdown scheduled to start at midnight of 26 March 2020 reverberated on the airwaves, clogged social media and infested the open spaces that we know. It was like scenes out of a movie and we were all actors. Actors to the world because we all wanted to be protagonists and oblivious to the world around and in so doing we became tragic heroes save that; we did not even know it. We roam the streets like mortals with COVID-19 loose upon the world because our desire to have more stuff of need overwhelms our sense of reason.
Day 1 of this pandemic made me reflect on yesterday and my thoughts set me to add this category in my blog. The images of the supermarket I went to 25 March 2020, the dropping off of sanitizers at our mosque in Sharpeville, running a few errands, finishing tasks that cannot be done at home, and the purchasing of a few items at the local shopping area played in my mind like a ayah (verse from the Holy Quran) or a song one does not want to forget. Like an ayah’s or a song’s refrain will get you to read or sing along the images of the what I saw had the same effect. My thoughts became this pensive indulgence.
If I knew that at midnight of my present day; my life was to begin its shut down after 21 days of quarantine what would I do prior to that? In essence I know that I have 21 days before I leave planet earth through the door of death but, the spanner in the works is that I have just about ten hours left to get ready for my quarantine that will prepare me for that. What do I do? What do I buy? Who do I meet? Alas! The list is just too long and too immense to pen down and then to read it and action each.
Today I learnt the power of routine that we establish in our lives and how it actually comes to the fore to leverage strengths, gives perspective of weaknesses, opens eyes to opportunities and gives clarity on what your threats are. The reflection made me understand that people in the main lack a sense of routine that can be tweaked to suit extra-ordinary situations. To illustrate the point because of the lockdown, there are people who are posting challenges on the social media spaces ranging from following the ten most popular people or posting your ten best ayahs of the Holy Quran with no other real meaningful objective in mind. Therefore, the daily routine you have did not discipline you enough to immediately plan a new routine that is flexible enough for this circumstance to give you a sense of order. Edmund Burke’s statement that, ‘Good order is the foundation of all good things’, rings true in light of the fact that we don’t have good order. Due to the fact of a lack of order, non-sensical pass times become a routine that have no significance.
So today, the Jumah prayer (Congregational Prayer) was within our complex comprising of just a few men. It was the second Jumah like this and the feeling of emptiness was very palpable. The mood was sombre but hopes were up because everyone shared the belief that COVID – 19 is something we can save ourselves from if we obey the rules and do what is right therefore, this prayer will have to be curtailed too. A bitter pill to swallow but necessary step in the right direction.
The day was filled with so many meaningful things that were routine but this time done with a different sense of urgency. From reading to writing having lunch and finish chores, it became clear that life is simple and religion is easy but; we have complicated everything because ‘we act like mortals in all that we fear but like immortals in all that we desire.’ I was not bored nor looking for something to do and used the time also just to sit and have that silence. Oh! the ‘Sounds of silence’ is serenity personified and something we have cast aside for the love of social media that has corrupted our silence to the point that we silence the alerts but become boisterous with every message and post or repost. Oh! the sounds of silence is destroyed and yet, its really needed! We have forgotten silence.
In the course of the day whilst sitting after finishing some work I asked myself about what I would be running around doing if I actually knew about my impending end in 21 days time. My thoughts meandered to the ideal:
I recalled the anecdote heard from a scholar who said that when Ali (r.a) the fourth Caliph of Islam spoke about the hereafter; he said that if heaven and hell were brought before him, he would continue to live the way he lived. This startling anecdote made it clear to me that he was so in touch with a routine of excellence in service to Allah (swt) and the people that he would not change his routine to suddenly reform. His daily routine was a reformation of the self and a deep engagement with life through navigating trials and tribulations. What was within his influence and control he managed it; what was not he did not allow it to cripple his life. However, he made more than necessary effort to ensure that measures will be taken and put into place to deal with that which is not within his control and influence. This leadership of the self gave him leverage with the world and more so with those who understood life as a transition into a next one. We are mortals behaving as if we are comic superheroes unmindful that we are foolish to realm of life’s greatness when we compare ourselves to the likes of Ali (r.a)
John Mann in his book, Genghis Khan, says something striking. He writes that: ‘The quintessence of foolishness has five essences:
This brought me to realise that generally we have more the quintessence of foolishness in our daily routine than sincerity of intention and purpose because we have become what we have given attention too. You make that list of all that you give attention too and note just how much of time and energy it has consumed of your life and how it will affect these days of lockdown. Do the math and ask yourself of your investment is worth it.
Let DAY 2 have a routine that is sound and far from the quintessence of foolishness. Plan your day with an early start and give yourself that silence for in it lies your answer to what you really want for yourself in this world and the next.