Sunday, April 18, 2010


"The superior man has a dignified ease without pride. The mean man has pride without a dignified ease."

"Our validation of ourselves is so precariously suspended upon our self-image, so that we are safeguarding it as best we know by either parading an inflated psychological demeanor or lying low to evade confrontation - humility as inverted tentative pride. Little does one know most times that one is not only deceiving others but oneself."
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

I have noticed lately that the smaller a person's world view the more likely they are to be indignant about trivial matters. This was brought home to me recently in a fairly benign manner. I was at one of the many four way stop intersections that abound in Scranton. I waited for one car on my right to go and was about to go myself when I realized that the car on my left was also moving into the intersection, so I stopped. For some reason the young woman driving the car thought I had challenged her I suppose and I could see her yelling at me, though I could not hear the words. Obviously, in her world, I had committed an unpardonable sin even though it was a very simple thing. I didn't mind letting her go. Her passenger, as they were passing in front of me, made a rude gesture, which we are all familiar with. My impulse was to return it but that was instantly supplanted by humor and I smiled at him, which I suppose was disconcerting. Well I don't really know what his reaction was to my grin but this tiny incident was the source of my idea for this article. There was really no reason for the young woman to get upset. This kind of misstep happens all the time at these four way intersections and most people accept that occasionally it will occur and someone will have to give way. Usually one person will make a small gesture and the other driver will give a thank you wave and go through the intersection but not this young woman. And that caused me to wonder why?

Obviously I have no idea if my analysis of the young woman's motivation is correct or not. Maybe she was just having a crappy day and lashed out at the most convenient target. Still it was a place to launch this article.

The most important part of any observation like the one above is when you look at yourself and see if you exhibit similar behavior. It may not be at stop signs but do you find yourself getting annoyed or downright indignant over meaningless circumstances? That is what I found myself doing after the incident. How often do I find myself irate over something relatively insignificant? I had to admit that I do, not all that often, I am much better then I was when I was younger, but I do. Once again I am secretly embarrassed and now am displaying it for all to see. I wonder if this is the inverted pride that Pir Vilayat speaks about. Whew, it certainly does get complicated doesn't it?

We, as humans trying to live our lives, are constantly assaulted by all sorts of opportunities to be smaller then we really are. My teacher used to say that we see ourselves as lowly worms when we are really magnificent celestial beings. Be that as it may, we still look for validations of all kinds. And sometimes our validation comes with false indignation. What to do? The very first thing to do is to simply admit that your self image might need a tiny bit of rearranging. I think that a major mistake that people make is in thinking that, because the work looks impossible, to attain some kind of elusive perfection, then it cannot be done. I hear it from people all the time. It's a kind of wail, "I am a mess and will never get better!" Such thinking will remain true as long as you feel that you cannot become the being you have always been intended to be. The good news is that you get to keep some flaws.

Muhasaba, the practice of self examination of the Sufi's, is not intended to embarrass you, though it will. What it is intended to do is to give you perspective. It is as if you stand outside of yourself and watch this silly person attempt to get it right and you notice what it does. That's it. Beating yourself up is optional of course but not really all that effective because then you get into the afore mentioned inverted pride thing. So, just notice, be aware and slowly, slowly you will begin to shift who you think you are to who you really are – a glorious vice-regent of the creative force of the Universe.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir