Realizing it’s been weeks (maybe a month?) since I’ve posted anything of substance, I feel a bit of pressure to come up with something profound to make up for my absence. While I wish I could say I’ve been off in a cave meditating on the meaning (or lack thereof!) of life, all I can offer is the sum of my thoughts over these last few weeks: the human condition is a difficult one, at best.
Just turn on the evening news or open a newspaper, or keep you eyes open as you walk down the street, and you can’t help but to notice how wrapped up we are in our human condition. Our emotions always get the best of us because, after all, we are emotional beings. And that’s not always a bad thing, I guess, except when it intersects with something like religion, which history has repeatedly shown us can be a dangerous combination.
The cover story of this month’s National Geographic provides a gripping glimpse into Pakistan, which may very well be the place where the mix of religion and emotion runs at its highest and most dangerous. The first two paragraphs set the scene for a situation that could effect people across the globe in the next century:
If there is an address, an exact location for the rift tearing Pakistan apart, and possibly the world, it is a spot 17 miles (28 kilometers) west of Islamabad called the Margalla Pass. Here, at a limestone cliff in the middle of Pakistan, the mountainous west meets the Indus River Valley, and two ancient, and very different, civilizations collide. To the southeast, unfurled to the horizon, lie the fertile lowlands of the Indian subcontinent, realm of peasant farmers on steamy plots of land, bright with colors and the splash of serendipitous gods. To the west and north stretch the harsh, windswept mountains of Central Asia, land of herders and raiders on horseback, where man fears one God and takes no prisoners.
This is also where two conflicting forms of Islam meet: the relatively relaxed and tolerant Islam of India, versus the rigid fundamentalism of the Afghan frontier. Beneath the surface of Pakistan, these opposing forces grind against each other like two vast geologic plates, rattling teacups from Lahore to London, Karachi to New York. The clash between moderates and extremists in Pakistan today reflects this rift, and can be seen as a microcosm for a larger struggle among Muslims everywhere. So when the earth trembles in Pakistan, the world pays attention.
I read this story just a couple of days after reading about a different take on the struggle that comes with faith via Mother Teresa’s compelling “dark night,” her five-decade struggle with what she feared was a world where God didn’t exist. As she moved into successively deeper levels of human suffering, it became harder and harder for her to see the light of the God she wanted to love and serve.
Shortly after beginning her work in the slums of Calcutta, she wrote “Where is my faith? Even deep down there is nothing but emptiness and darkness. If there be a God — please forgive me.”
Her work, however, never faltered, even when her faith was at its lowest point.
Blessed Teresa and modern Pakistan: two very different examples of how we struggle to reconcile our faith with our humanity.