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 the Message Continues ... 7/206


   Newsletter for January 2019


                            Article 1 - Article 2 - Article 3  - Article 4 - Article 5 - Article 6 - Article 7 - Article 8 - Article 9 - Article 10 - Article 11 - Article 12

Confronting adversity

The other day, during an extended after-dinner conversation with Yasin Malik, Chairman, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, the discussion turned to the impact of adversity on human character. 
In other words, the concept of qut (rhymes with put), the Punjabi term for absorbing punishment and enduring a beating. In this connection, Yasin Malik alluded to the great Sufi teacher Ibn Arabi (1165-1240), who had keen insight into the human experience; in Syria today, his tomb remains a significant site of pilgrimage. According to Yasin Malik, Ibn Arabi had this to say about adversity:
Trouble, difficulties, and hardships are three great teachers. Fortunate is the person who keeps company with them, which in turn teach him valuable lessons.

Adversity does have a make-or-break impact. In many instances, it debilitates resolve, saps confidence and leads to a resigned acceptance of the unfairness of life and the unlikelihood of a positive change. There is an addiction to failure and an allergy to success. But in a few cases, adversity can be a tremendous character-builder. Bouncing back after setbacks and suffering reinforces faith in the capacity to survive in the human jungle with clan. If success is seen as fleeting, so, too, can be failures.
The history of great lives is often the story of the human spirit maintaining its dignity in difficulty. It is a tale replete with disappointment and heartbreak. The common denominator is the unwillingness to accept the permanence of a gloomy situation. Sometimes, setbacks are a stepping-stone to success. The poem, Invites by William E. Henley talks of one unconquerable soul being subject to adversity and emerging bloody, but unbowed. This can also apply to those resisting superior forces backed by overwhelming firepower, and yet dauntlessly fighting on. By not quitting, they are winning.

A qaum, which can endure qut, can never be written off.

Materially well-endowed societies with massive technological superiority are sometimes vulnerable and fragile from within. Caught between fear and desire, they are more prone to panic and paranoia and, consequently, overreact to adversity.

Similarly, parents who rear their children in overly protective environments are not doing them any favor. A case in point is some of the molly-coddled children of the wealthy. Their education, career paths, and even matrimonial choices are often steered by their parents, thereby robbing the children of the experience of qut. Their power of independent decision-making remains shriveled and initiative limp. Over-pampered from the outset, they are unprepared to face the unavoidable blows of life and lack, thereby, the resilience to overcome life obstacles. Openly materialistic and self-absorbed, they seem disinterested in the wider world. 

And, when saddled with responsibility on big occasions, they may not be mentally tough enough to perform under pressure or to respond to challenges. Having not endured qut, they have little empathy for those on the receiving end of life. This may be a partial explanation for the huge disconnect between the elite and the street, which currently destabilizes the Muslim world.
Despite the culture of affluence, Western society has its strengths. The progeny of the affluent are encouraged to seek part-time menial jobs like waiters, laborers, clerks, to enable them to absorb the work ethic. Business Week magazine reported that 81% of college students from the top one percent of America wealthiest families were working part-time in college. Work can be a humbling experience and teaches that one cannot competently rise to the top on the basis of recommendation being the sole qualification. It also sends a message that what you know counts more than whom you know.

Those wired to a protective sifarshi grid sometimes find themselves insulated from the chastening shocks of one of life greatest teachers qut.

It has been said that it is not a sin to be knocked down; it is a sin to stay down. The process of coping with and triumphing over adversity is one of life great character-builders.

The lacerations of qut are the smiling wounds which give one the fortitude and faith not to fear the long night as something endless, but to hope for the inevitability of dawn.




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