Sunday, November 6, 2011

11/6/11: When You Find The Balance You Have Peace

Science Meets Religion 

Perhaps one of the most exciting things about being a graduate student is the educational content we now have at our disposals. The wealth of information we are about to gain is unfathomable, and when it is a subject you are truly passionate about (like I am with the Middle East) there is nothing more thrilling than expanding your knowledge. I feel like the readers of my blog will be getting a Master's degree along with me since I will be talking so much about the meat of the content we are studying. I hope you find it as thought provoking and interesting as I do! 

Tonight we were assigned a short story to read for our Islamic studies class, and it was a beautifully written short story by Yahya Haqqi called "The Saint's Lamp". I won't be writing everyday about all of the interesting things that we read in our seminars, but this story struck a lot of nerves and brought up some very relevant issues and situations in terms of Islam, Eastern culture vs. Western culture, self discovery and so on. First of all, though the religion of focus is Islam, this story could be relevant for someone of any faith and so I recommend it to anyone who wants a thought provoking story of a man's journey to find the balance between his life growing up in "Eastern" Egypt, and his adulthood studying medicine in "Western"  England. 

The Saint's Lamp 

Since I think everyone should read the story for themselves I won't go into too much detail in terms of the plot, but instead I will offer my thoughts and relate them to my own personal struggles and experiences. A major theme in this story is the struggle to find the balance between a religious life and a secular life (which also then branches out into the theme of religion and science which I will touch upon later). It is hard to truly understand this struggle between Eastern and Western life until you live in a country with ideals different than your own. I am about as Westernized as the come being a native Californian, and I wouldn't call living in Tel Aviv living in an Eastern country with Eastern ideals, however, the month I spent in East Jerusalem (and even the few days I spent in Jordan) gave me, at least, an idea of what it would feel like to live in a Muslim dominated country. The religious aspect was what was so appealing to me, but was what I also had a lot of struggles with. I am so deeply rooted in faith, and I love that in certain countries and cities faith and religion reigns supreme, however, being secular, there were many aspects of my life that would not be deemed appropriate for such places, and finding the balance between a desire to live in places dominated by religion, while still holding on to my secular ideals, is struggle that I hope to find a comfortable balance to. This situation is similar to that of the main character in the Saint's Lamp who is trying to find his balance and comfort between his Muslim upbringing, and his Western education. 

The issue of science and religion was also touched upon and I think it is a fascinating discussion. I have studied science, and love how things can be proven true through this institution, however, this is both a blessing and a curse for those of us who are religious in the sense that we have ties to our faith and God. Many people use science to justify that there is no God because you can't prove that he exists, and for a person of science this is a convincing argument. How do you know if you can't prove it? To this question I have no answer aside from the fact that I feel God everyday of my life, and if I feel him he must be real. That is what faith is; something that you believe in even in the absence of proof. This, of course, is not a profound explanation of my feelings on the topic, and doesn't offer a very good argument in terms of the science/religion question, but the point is that I believe in science and I believe in God, and I think that they compliment each other. When the times comes for a more in depth look into this question I look forward to further, in depth, analysis and study, however, tonight is not that night. I merely wanted to illustrate that this is an issue brought up in this story and it is very thought provoking.

At the end of the story the main character rediscovers his faith and finds harmony and balance between his larger internal conflicts. I won't deny that I became a bit emotional reading the end of the story because I do feel there is such a power in faith and belief in God, and through that faith one can find a great deal of peace even in the wake of extreme hardship and tragedy.  It is an extremely inspiring story and I hope that everyone will take the time to read it. It is very short and very worth the little time it will take to read! 

Tomorrow I give my first presentation on Jordan and I have continued gathering resources and contacts for my future presentations and thesis! I am so thankful to all of the Jordanians, and people from around the world, who have begun to help me on this amazing journey to learn more about this fantastic country! I would also like to take this time to wish any reader who is Muslim an Eid Mubarak and a very meaningful Feast of the Sacrifice! I can't wait to learn more about this fascinating religion, and I now know that I will have many people helping me expand my knowledge along the way! 

Until Tomorrow! 
Jordana Simone

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