Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim
Allahumma solli ‘ala Sayyidina Muhammad wa ‘ala alihi wa sohbihi wa sallim.
It’s been a long time –six years, in fact– since I last published anything on this site and for the newsletter. Six years since I last really wrote. Perhaps I could offer excuses like I was travelling a lot to destinations sans the Internet, but if I were to be brutally honest with myself, reading and writing were just habits I fell out of as I stumbled into the bottomless pit of online content.
In the past few months, however, as I made friends with people who are readers and who spend much of their time trying to make sense of the world, it became clear to me just how much I’ve allowed my mind to atrophy, and as a consequence, how little a chance I gave myself to grow.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like I don’t read. Like most people today, reading is still a huge part of my life. In fact, maybe even more than before! Fortelabs’ research showed that every single day, the typical Internet user consumes more than 113,000 words; approximately 174 newspapers’ worth. Yet, even as I was still reading on the net and writing on Instagram, why do I have this nagging feeling that my mind has become a place of desolation where only negative and half-baked thoughts and ideas retire?
A clue lies in Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows:
As McLuhan suggested, media aren’t just channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.Nicholas Carr, The Shallows
I remember how, as an undergraduate, reading one book after another and churning essays was an easy thing to do (Light Upon Light was written then). Leave me in my room with nothing but a good book and I’m perfectly contented. Now, even reading for ten minutes without an overwhelming itch to tap on the red dots on my phone’s screen can be considered a miracle!
Another metaphor to accompany Carr’s depth-of-the-ocean comparison: If a tree’s roots are barely beneath the ground, how will it not expect to be uprooted when the world above bellows winds of chaos?
Make no mistake. We are now, each day, living in a storm of chaos. A storm of misinformation, of moral relativism, of a rainbow of agendas trying to persuade our thoughts and decisions that are suitable to their gains, one data point at a time. Any tree without roots that furrow deep into the ground are at risk of just getting thrown off to whichever direction the wind blows.
It is only when we take the time to understand, to see clearly, to let our roots sink in, that we can have greater faith that we’ll remain standing as we wait for the storm to blow over.
And so here I am, writing. Clunky. Awkward. Struggling. Still shallow. But writing, nevertheless, with the intention to slow down my mind, to be able to focus, to concentrate, to contemplate. To go back to the mind that once was, before the torrent of information I allow to drench myself in each day, drowned out His voice and the voice of my soul. To be able to once again, read, rest, and reflect.
Because if what little I’m already picking up is an indication of the times we’re in, then finding peace and clarity in the chaos of the world and of our mind, suddenly becomes of extreme importance. Not just for understanding, but for our eternal salvation.
For the akhirah.
Allahumma ariniyal haqqa haqqaw warzuqniyat tiba’ah, wa ariniyal batila batilaw warzuqniyaj tinabah.
O Allah! show us the truth as true, and inspire us to follow it. Show us falsehood as falsehood, and inspire us to abstain from it.