Today, September 21, 2017, marks the Islamic New Year for many Muslims like myself around the world. It’s different for us because we follow the moon, not the sun.
The Islamic Calendar actually began in 622 AD, the year the Prophet and his followers migrated from Mecca to Medina in the Middle East to escape oppression many moons ago. So today actually marks the start of our commemoration of that glorious moment of freedom in our history.
On this very day as well, fellow Filipinos will be staging protest rallies to commemorate the declaration of Martial Law in 1971, when then President Marcos ruled with an iron hand all over the country. Today will be a different kind of remembrance for Filipinos who suffered the deadlier brunt of his rule.
But today, allow me to share something more philosophical rather than political. I’d like to talk more about this universal concept called Time, and how huge swaths of humanity are operating on a totally different calendar.
I’ve been governed by both these two calendars, or timelines as you may, as someone who practices Islam in a non-Islamic society.
I’ve observed that time moves very differently in this paradigm. When I get up, I’m not going to rush to work. I will go through my rituals of ablution, of rolling the prayer mat, of bowing, prostrating, and being grateful for yet another day I’ve been given, yet another chance to stand before Allah. It’s a deliberate slowness which, frankly, is really very difficult to cultivate when people around you are observing a different calendar.
I see life like a turtle. Of course, I’m not a turtle but I look at the world as though I will be living for a hundred more years. Because if a turtle can live for a hundred years, why not us? As human life gets prolonged more and more each day by inroads in science and technology, we are becoming more and more like the turtle in terms of its lifespan. Maybe millennials would prefer the life expectancy of handsome, twinkly vampires more than that of turtles. But you get my point.
When you operate on that turtle or that Twilight kind of timeline, it changes the way you live your life. You become more soulful, more loving. You appreciate everything around you even more. I love it. I love surveying everything around me. I love looking at the mango tree in the backyard ripen every summer and observe how it ripened a little later this year. I love laughing about how the mangoes fall on our roof at night, waking us all up. I love following the seasons and witnessing my little girl complaining of growing pains in her leg. I love being in tune with the earth, with nature, with the fruits of my womb as a mother, and savoring every second.
The timeline that most people are on these days is too fast for me. Everyone is wired and interconnected. The instagramming of time is really a big deal these days. Capturing every moment, seizing it as quickly as possible, and moving on to the next moment. It’s all so breathless.
I’m not at all concerned about accumulating moments. I can never scroll through an Instagram account without falling asleep midway, for example. I’d rather just take a classic snapshot and look at it over and over, so to say. I’m all about stretching a beautiful moment into infinity.
I need my breath. I really like taking my time. When I pray five times a day, this is what I’m really doing. It’s my refuge from the relentless ticking of clocks everywhere. Prayer is where I can safely be slow and not be penalized for it.
I truly lament the tacit penalization of slow people in our society now. When you’re not fast enough, you’re replaced. When you’re not fast enough to respond, you’ve “missed out” on an opportunity. I’ve seen it happen to people in the media industry where I work. Some are literally dropping dead like flies from overwork. It’s really sad, but because our society has chosen to operate on a different timeline, these unfortunate things occur.
These days, the only way for most people to get their time back is to “buy” it. If they are wealthy, they can literally buy time. They can hire laborers to do the heavy lifting so they can enjoy life at a much slower pace (or faster pace, if they’re into sports tourism). Or they work like flies for 6 months to make the kind of money that would allow them to “buy” the rest of the year. I don’t have anything against this, but I’m really idealistic, if not somewhat naïve. Because I’d really love for all of humanity to operate on a similar timeline without having to buy anything. Yeah, I’m a kumbaya kind of girl, I am now realizing!
One option available for me is to simply move to an Islamic country where the pace of life matches my own. Right now, however, that choice is very difficult to make, with our children currently enrolled in programs here in Quezon City and with me doing much of my work in my current environment. Also, I am in an interfaith marriage, which is an example of diversity at work. I really embrace this in a very personal way, no matter how tremendously difficult it is. Without this challenge, I can never be a better turtle, after all.
So to everyone today, happy new year from me, a person who is always late to everything. But thanks to people like me who are operating on a different timeline, you are actually enjoying a holiday today, mader-PAQers!