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April 1, 2017
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April 29, 2017

About Life and Living

Methuselah lived 986 years and all they said about him was that he died.
~ Francis Behymer

One of the classic stances of today is to talk about the ‘sanctity of human life’. I put
that phrase in inverted commas because if we look about ourselves at all the millions
dying due to deprivation or war or oppression, we can see that human life is about
the cheapest commodity that we have today. However since hypocrisy is the universal
virtue of today, it is only appropriate that we at least talk about the sanctity of
human life. Never mind that sanctity really depends not on whether the life is human
or not, but on which human it is. Some humans are more expendable than others.
When we kill them we call it ‘collateral damage’. But when the killers are killed, it is
called ‘murder most foul’. And yet they were both human and they both died.

The question therefore is not about life itself but about its real value. I ask myself,
“What is the value of my life?”

In my view my life can be as valuable as I want to make it. It is not how long I live,
but how I live
which is more important. It is not what I do but the intention behind
that action which determines whether that action is worthy of appreciation and
emulation or an illustration of something to avoid at all costs. A life that is lived
creating value is a valuable life. One that is lived indulging oneself and one’s desires
or worse, creating negative effects is a life wasted. After all animals also live and do
whatever pleases them. But they leave no mark of their passing. They live, they
reproduce, they die. Most humans do the same, with as much effect on their
environment, society and time such that when it is mentioned that they once lived,
one is tempted to ask, “So what?”

We only live once. During the course of that life, a large part of it is spent in growing
up and growing old. Between the two is a brief period where a window opens. A
window of opportunity where we have the chance to make a difference. Whether we
are able to take advantage of this window depends on whether we anticipated it and
prepared for it. Every one of us has this window in our lives. But some of us, when
opportunity knocks, we complain about the noise.

Now, if the value we add to our lives determines how valuable our lives are, then we
need to be clear about what the most valuable thing for us to do is.

There are many things that add value to life. But the individual’s decision about what
to do depends on two factors:

1. The talents we have been gifted with
2. The most important thing that needs to be done at the time we walk the earth

What we do or choose not to do, determines whether we are remembered and how.

In my view there is one thing that takes precedence over all else when we look at the
things that add value to human life. That is the establishment of justice. It is the rule
of law that distinguishes human life from animal existence. It is the practice of the
concepts of justice, that none must be discriminated against, that oppression is not
legal and that crime attracts punishment which determine the maturity of a
civilization. Barbarism is defined as a state where such rules are not apparent in
practice, though in some societies they may well be spoken of, even with reverence.
When Islam came into the world, these were the issues that attracted the worst
opposition from the entrenched establishment because it is the establishment of
justice that shakes the foundation of despotic rule. So therefore in my view, the most
valuable thing in life is to establish justice.

At all places and in all times, it is the establishment of justice that is the most critical
underpinning to all other activity. A mother who brings up her children with a focus
on establishing justice creates harmony in the home and brings up good citizens. A
teacher who focuses on the establishment of justice in his or her teaching creates a
society that is free from discrimination and which encourages merit. A manager who
focuses on the establishment of justice creates a work atmosphere that rewards
genuine effort and enables employees to find fulfillment in their work. A government
that focuses on the establishment of justice ensures that the talents of all citizens are
allowed to flower for the benefit of the nation and that strong groups support the
weak instead of oppressing them. So the establishment of justice is the single most
valuable goal that anyone can work for.

There is one key ingredient that is needed if one wants to establish justice and that is
courage. Nobody is born with courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the
willingness to go on. Courage is an acquired virtue. And how is it to be acquired? By
practicing it. Courage comes when we take a stand for justice. It is the result of
taking a stand for justice. We don’t take the stand because we have courage. We get
courage when we decide to take the stand. When we first stand up our knees are
weak with fear, our breath is short, our eyes mist over, there are cramps in our
bellies and our voice is choked. But when we stand, it is as if a door opens and a cool
breeze blows in our face that takes away our fear. We suddenly find steel being
inserted into our spinal cord. Our legs become firm and strong, our voice powerful.
And all because we decided to take the stand. Because we had faith.

Credit & Reference: Mirza Yawar Baig

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