Sunday, September 23, 2012

Two Orientations

The New York Times features an interview today with the president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi. Mentioned in that article is a plaque on Morsi’s desk that says: “Be conscious of a day on which you return to God.”

The words derive from the second chapter of the Quran, The Cow, verse 281. “Fear the day when you shall all return to Allah; when every soul shall be requited according to its deserts. None shall be wronged” (N.J. Dawood translation). Another translations uses the word “fear” as well (‘Abdullah Yusu ‘Ali); two others use the words “guard yourselves” (M.H. Shakir and M.A. Haleem Eliasii). That “be conscious,” therefore, is a sort of modernization.

There is an orientation to the beyond and an orientation to the here-and-now. Call them other-worldly and this-worldly. Got to pondering that. Got to wondering about genuine change. The prevailing this-worldly view is that real change requires collective action; hence there is a continuous attempt to persuade the masses. The other-worldly view is that change comes about when an individual becomes aware of the greater whole, invisible from here. The two orientations also have a different time scale. The this-worldly is here-and-now; the other-worldly is mindful of the last minute of an individual life; it is more expansive. And real change, it seems to me, is when we move from one orientation to the other, either way, as individuals. The rest is just detail; it will take care of itself. Morsi’s stance, therefore, based on that plaque on his desk, appears to be other-worldly. Oh, my. 

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