Friday, January 19, 2007

Materialism vs. Spirituality

Human beings are often described as having two opposing (and complementing as well) elements: flesh and soul. We all strive, to a certain extent and according to everybody's ability, to reach a level where we are satisfied with both elements. This satisfaction is actually an ideal one, and seldom do we find people who reached that level. But, how does the environment and the societies in which we live affect our strife towards this goal? Are there more tendencies towards reaching spirituality vs. materialism?

Well, what might be strange is that we often categorize the East as the starting place for acquiring spirituality, whereas the West is the place where materialism is dominating and there is no place for any spiritual lifting whatsoever. This categorization stems partly from reality, partly from our imagination, and in more cases from our involvement in the world of Hollywood and its depiction of both cultures and how these cultures are affecting us as human beings.

As a person who has had the privilege of living in both the East and the West (though this geographical categorization owes greatly to the colonial influence, I will still stick to it just for the sake of being consistent for the time being) I am more inclined to say that this materialism vs. spirituality thing in the East and the West are, to a great extent, true. I know that a lot of people would definitlely disagree with me, and some of them might even criticize me for living in a spiritually-decadent society, but this time i tend to be subjective on this matter and try to avoid being objective (with all the hazards that "objective" carries).

Two years of living in the West and I have probably missed the basic and the core elements of lifting my spiritual being. If you go to New York for example, all you see is the tremendously-tall buildings, with a wide array of people from all ethnicities and backgrounds. The thing about such a metropolis is that you feel it deep within yourself that something essential is missing, something that might even drive you crazy. All they say about civilized and modernized countries applies to New York (I am just using this city as an example), but what lacks is what I believe to be a very important part of our lives, the soul.

The other example which I am using on the opposing side is my city, Aleppo (again I am using it as an example because I know how it feels in there). It might be very naive to compare both New York and Aleppo because there is no comparison in terms of the level of technology and civilization that New York has got as opposed to my city. Again this fact might be a minor one to me because i tend to value spirituality a great deal. It is true that Aleppo, which is an Arab city of a long history and civilization, has got many bad things in our present time. Corruption, ignorance, dirty streets, cheating, dishonesty...etc, are spreading so rapidly that people have gotten sick of it. What is interesting about this city though is that its people are still very generous, very nice to others, very social, and they like having fun. If you walk down the streets of Aleppo, you will smell the fragrance of history in every single corner of it. You will feel like your heart is jumping with happiness and satisfaction because you know deep in your heart that you are spending wonderful moments in this lovely city. Everywhere you go, you find people greet you and welcome you to their shops and houses. Probably I am being too nationalistic, or even too proud of my home city, but this is the truth and this is how i feel now after two years of living in the West.

So, why am i writing this? In fact, it is very important to always remind ourselves that we cannot ignore this essential element in us, THE SOUL. A balance between flesh and soul is required provided that no one part dominates that other, and this is what Islam teaches us: Be balanced and fair to your body and to your soul, and do not torture any of these elements because you will be torturing your being.

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