The Color of the Painting

Dec 30th, 2012 | By | Category: Latest, Pakistan, Social

The painting was absolutely stunning. It carried a latent meaning which was profound and deep. It was both intriguing and complex. No single narrative or interpretation could really sum-it-up. It was colorful; you could see all sorts of colors of all sorts of variations and shades.

And there stood the painter gazing at his work and wondering how complex the human mind could really be. It was then that a rather blunt man walked right in the gallery. He saw how people were being fascinated at the sight they were beholding. He too looked at the painting, and, wondering what was so special about it, asked, “Umm… what color is this painting?”

How exactly was the painter supposed to answer this query? Well, he chose not to entertain a question that destroyed the purpose of discourse.  But then his “ignoring” started to be confused with “ignorance”. People started to doubt the validity of his work. Someone from the crowd stood up and with an inspecting look in his eyes, proposed “I think it’s blue”. “Nah… It looks green to me” commented another. And as soon as you knew it, the audience was arguing about the color of the painting. The painter realized soon enough that joining the conversation would be the worst way to tackle the matter. He knew quite well that when you argue with idiots, they bring you down to their level and beat you with experience. So the painter decided to leave the place quietly and search an audience elsewhere.

The states of affairs that run our everyday discourses are not so much different at times. ‘Keeping things simple’ as it goes. We want to see the world in binary terms; true and false, good and evil, us and them, and so on. Boring descriptions of things that take place around us don’t do much entertaining. So we choose to overdose reality with a lot of perspective, and a lot of they-are-out-to-get-us and we-are-the-center-of-the-world narratives.

This has led us to conveniently create a world around us that explains everything easily. The world becomes an obvious statement as soon as it is revealed to us. We know that the world is full of conspiracies and plots, and a whole bunch of stuff, and all the while these conspirators and plotters are busy in their twenty-four hour meticulous schemes just to make sure we can do nothing about it.

But alas, it is the notion that ‘nothing can be done about it’ that leads us to a state that we desire most; a state of zero action. We are betrayed by ourselves into a seat of passivity and helplessness. We are then silent spectators of history waiting for it to unfold as time passes by as if some script has been pre-written by “them”, and everything has already been decided by the big guns.

So why not, I ask, should we indulge ourselves in conspiracy theories, simplistic formulas, and populist rhetoric. After all, it suits our inherently lazy character. Taking charge of our destinies, being participants in a greater scheme of things, and, most of all, being responsible for our fate, aren’t things that one would actually want to do. They require too much blood and sweat.

But all the while that we layback and create convenient narratives about the world, we are also inflicting harm upon others and ourselves. By conceiving enemies we are also creating hate. And worse still, we let ourselves be defined by that enemy and by that hate.

One just has to look at the walls of our cities to see such slogans that say “What relationship do we have with India, but of hatred and revenge” (Bharat saye rishta kiya, Nafrat aur Inteqam ka). But really, can we consider this a healthy attitude? Does our religion teach us to hate other human beings from the bottom of our hearts and hope that they end up with the worst of fates? Is this the message of peace and compassion, as well as universality that our religion teaches?

In the process of our hate-generation, we often forget, as Muslims, that we are actually losing subjects of dawah. Human beings, despite their beliefs, or historical-cultural presence, are all common creations of the Almighty. None are creations of Satan. Neither is anyone essentially evil, as we are all human and the Almighty hasn’t made us that way.

Now enemies need not be looked only for outside, but even in our surroundings, and within ourselves. Have you heard of the Yahood-o-Nasaara theory which can be applied to everything you can put your eyes on? I heard it from a friend. I was wearing this shirt that said ‘Smile it’s a Sunnah’, and I asked his opinion on it. His response was that I was being misled by the Jewish lot as they must be laughing their heads off now that I fell to their diabolical scheme of having me wear a shirt that will sooner or later get dirty and hence insult the Islamic message it portrays.

This line of thinking stems from superficiality and results in irresponsibility. Such irresponsibility is equally demonstrated when we start talking of politics in utopian terms. We start looking for a savior of some sort or a newer ‘system’ based on some fancy word we learnt. And then we talk of change.

Talk of radical “Change” and “Revolution”, and thinking that all out of nowhere, and with the help of one person, party, political movement and so on, things would all become A-OK, is fundamentally misleading and inherently irresponsible.  It’s irresponsible because we shift the focus from ourselves and portray the responsibility on others. Others here being all those things stated above.

To take hold of our destiny and our persons, we must put some responsibility on ourselves. Iqbal talked of the Khudi, or the Self, but have we ever realized such a thing. Is it not an appeal to the individual to change and overcome himself? But be not confused for I’m not talking about the ‘individual’ in the superficial sense. I talk of the individual in the all-encompassing sense; the personal individual, the social individual, the economic individual, the political individual, and so on.

It is the individual who matters. If he decides to make a contribution then it is he who is making a difference. He has to take hold of all spheres of life and reach out to many other individuals. He must learn to be an active participant of history. But all this requires for him to look at the world more deeply. It requires for him to ask the right questions even more so than to reaching the right answers. He must realize that the color of the painting cannot be changed from green to blue. He must realize that if he likes blue that much he must add it to the color of the painting.

Saad Lakhani

About the author

Saad Lakhani is a student of Social Sciences based in Karachi. He tweets @Saadlakhani12

Leave a comment »

  1. Very pertinent and reflective post. Not only Pakistanis, but especially those who too deluded with power also need it.

  2. well said!

  3. […] people see change as a one-time event. Many more view change as something that happens, not always something that is […]

Leave Comment