Thursday, March 19, 2009

Leo Tolstoy-What Men Live By? (Part 2)

Finally.. another weekend :D so I can continue the interrupted story from last weekend :P. Anyway.. Where were I stopped last weekend? Oh.. ok I stopped at the three questions

1. What dwells in man?
2. What is not given to man?
3. What men live by?

What dwells in man?
It is love.

At the first encounter with Simon and also Matryona, Michael could only saw and learned their egoistic side. He saw that their face looked terrible and covered with death. However, both of them quickly realized their mistake and start to aware of Michael`s suffering. Then Michael saw changes on their face. Death no longer dwelt on their face and he could felt love that originated from God. Thus he smiled for having found out the answer of the question.

I believe God has created human of the best stature (Qur`an 95:4) and love become an inseparable part of it. But somehow often our prejudice prevail over our sense of love, such as demonstrated by Simon and his wife in their first meeting with Michael. Moreover, more than once we (Especially myself -_-) mismanage our love. Blind love only lead to disaster

What is not given to man
It is to know his own needs (in the future)

In the story, the man who came to Simon workshop had expected that he will have shoes that last for a year. He even threatened driving Simon to jail if his work cannot last for that duration of time. However, Michael knew that the man would die before sunset because he saw his comrade, angel of death, followed the man. Michael smiled because the man hadn`t known his own need in the future. It was slippers instead of boots that he really needed in the future

We often act like the man. We plan what we will do in the future but we forget that the future is still beyond our reach. Does our plan suit our need in the future? Will it be good for us in the future or will it ruin us?

In the midst of this uncertainty, there is a glimmer of hope. A hope that is described as "mellow light coming from beyond pessimism" and "heroic feeling of not of a hero but of an ordinary man who has done his duty and accepted his destiny" by Alija Ali Izetbegovic, former president of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is called submission to God or "tawakal" in other word.

In conclusion, there is nothing wrong in planning our future. It is even said that failure in making plan means we plan our failure. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that after all things have been planned, we submit ourself to God and hope that our plan will suit our need in the future. Or we hope that God will replaces it with the better one.

What men live by
It is live by God

Near the end of the story, we learn that Michael was punished for refusing to take the twins mother life. He felt worry because he had thought the twins wouldn`t survive without their mother. However it turned out that God had other and even better plan for the twins. After heard the Lady`s story, Michael smiled and realized the truth behind the old proverb which says "One may live without father or mother, but one cannot live without God"

The question on what we live by has strong connection with another question, that is what we live for. In every journey there is destination. In every task, there is objective to fulfill. And the same thing also apply to more general case, the human life, it must also has a goal. It might starts with short term goal and then moves to mid term goal, long term goal, and so on. Finally after all of these can be achieved, questions will start to emerge.

"Is it all?"
"have we achieved our goal in life?"

As a Moslem, we should know the answer of these big question in life. It has already been written in our guide book, the Qur`an
"And I have not created the jinn and the men except that they should serve Me"
(Qur`an 51:56)
To be a good servant of God, that is the answer. The goal has deeper meaning more than just doing daily routine prays. It has concern with every aspects of our life. How do we do our work everyday, deal with other people, eat, sleep, make a family, and much more. These activities must be done based on our goal, which is to be a good servant of God. By knowing the answer on how we live for, the reason behind why we must live by God could be more understood.

I found this story is enlightening through the three questions. However it should be noted that according to Islam, angel wouldn`t disobey God`s order. And the idea of "He who has love, is in God, and God is in him" is alien in Islam because the creator an the created one must be in different entity. Nevertheless, it is still a good story to contemplate ;)

Al Qur`anul Karim (English translation by Yusuf Ali, Pickthal and Shakir)
- Izetbegovic, Alija. 1989. Islam Between East and West. Indianapolis American Trust Publications.
What Men Live By in Project

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