Since enrolling into the university’s news team, I noticed a peculiar thing happening to me.
It started innocently enough; an action born out of necessity even. As I walked through the hallways on campus, my head began to automatically turn to face the notice boards lining the walls. With every step, I would scan the boards in their entirety, looking for noteworthy events that my team and I could include in the next day’s broadcast.
Unsatisfied by the lack of physical posters, I did the same in the virtual world. Like a perpetually turned-on detector, I would scour the internet for hours sifting through online groups, websites, twitter lists and even Google alerts to get the pulse of the university. Then the scanning slowly spilled into reality. Every single waking moment, every step I take and every moment I experience, my mind asks only one thing – “Is this news?”.
I began to see the world in two shades: news, and non-news. And because of the nature of the job, anything non-news would register in my mind only as blank spaces — irrelevant and unimportant.
A second tale
My lecturer, Dr A, has been teaching media production for tens of years. On top of that, he produces video content for the university — coverage of official events, recorded interviews with the prime minister, that sort of thing. Just as I was giddy looking for news, he was constantly looking for the right angles to shoot his videos.
“I had to watch Titanic twice to understand it,” he said to my classmates and I one day.
“When I watched it the first time and stepped out of the cinema, my wife started discussing the film and I realised that I totally did not understand what she was going on about; I had missed the entire plot! Instead, the entire length of the film, all I saw was the cinematic quality of the production – the different angles they used, the effects, the movement of the cameras; I was blown away!
Only when watching the film a second time – this time forcing myself to concentrate on the storyline – did I realise that the entire story was narrated by the Titanic survivor Rose.”
The third and final tale
Derren Brown, a british illusionist and mentalist, conducted an experiment on a small town to further understand the concept of how luck works. Amongst his subjects were a woman who believed herself to be “very lucky”, and a man who believed that he has “the worst luck in the world”.
In the experiment, Brown laid out a series of opportunities for both the man and woman (without their knowledge). If they noticed these opportunities and took them up, they will get to keep the reward. If they did not notice these opportunities, then, well, the opportunities will remain only as undeveloped potentials.
It was obvious mid-experiment that the woman who counted herself lucky had her eyes constantly peeled for opportunities. Thus she sees them everywhere and gets the reward that follows. Subconsciously, because she deems herself as lucky, her mind constantly looks out for “lucky” things.
On the other hand, the man who considered himself unlucky totally switched off his brain from looking for “lucky breaks”. Even as Brown’s crew dropped a winning lottery ticket in his path, and later, even cold hard cash, the man just couldn’t see the opportunities that were thrown at him. Because he deemed himself unlucky, his mind only looks for unlucky things for his life.
Our brains are wired in such a way that it sees what it chooses to see.
Unwittingly, I had wired my brains to detect only news, and so everything that is not news is filtered out. Dr A had wired his brains to analyse camera angles, and so everything that does not serve that purpose goes unregistered. The man in Brown’s experiment wired his brain to accept that he was unlucky, and so even when opportunities are thrown at him, he was unable to see any of them.
“The most miraculous thing about God is that to those who seek Him, they see Him in everything around them. But if someone who denies Him sees the same things, they will never be able to find Him.” – Unknown (Paraphrased)
The principle applies to everything in our lives.
If we choose to see His mercy in every event that unfolds, good or bad, then we will always be able to see His mercy. If we choose to see the good in others, in every single person we know or come across, then their good traits will jump at us constantly. If we choose to see the future with hope in Allah swt’s plans for us, then we will live our lives in the security of His promises.
Likewise, if we wire our brains to think negatively of Allah swt, of others, and of our future, then the brain will configure itself to see only that. We will see only His wrath, only the bad of others, and we will see only fear and worry for the rest of our lives.
So today, as we go about experiencing life, let us ask ourselves, “What do I choose to see?”
May Allah swt open our eyes, ears, and heart to see the realities of this world, and the meanings behind all things.