• Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

A REFUSAL TO SUFFER



WHENEVER we analyze suffering, we find that there are two main features to it. One is the thing which causes the suffering and the other is our own reaction to it. We should take courage from Thelma Thompson’s example, and so control our reaction that suffering is finally eliminated. The Mojave desert in California is a place of dust, fierce winds and unbearable heat. The Mexican Indians who inhabit this area lead a life apart and speak no English. Into this situation came Thelma Thompson, a young American soldier’s wife. She had decided to start living in a village at the edge of the desert to be near her husband who was stationed, during World War II, at an army training camp in the vicinity.

Within a very short time she began to feel that the environment was too hostile, particularly because of the climate and the impossibility of making contact with the local people, thanks to the language barrier. And it did not help to have her husband away most of the time on military maneuvers. Finally, she wrote to tell her parents that she would be coming back home. The reply she received from her father consisted of just two lines:

“Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw mud, and the other saw stars.”

She read the couplet over and over, then, feeling ashamed of her decision to leave, she made up her mind to see ‘the stars’ in her situation, rather than the ‘mud.’ It was a decision which was to alter her entire life.

One is the thing which causes the suffering and the other is our own reaction to it.

Making friends with the natives, she learned their languages and culture, and began to see desert life in a new light. She watched the magnificent desert sunsets, and studied the Cacti, the Yuccas, the scrub bushes and the Joshua and other trees growing and reflecting nature’s fascinating diversity. She even hunted for sea-shells that had been left there millions of years ago when the sands of the desert had been an ocean floor.

Gradually the region began to exercise such a fascination over her mind that both she and her husband decided to stay on after he had retired from military service. She later wrote a novel, ‘Bright Ramparts’ which expressed all the excitement she had felt over her new experiences and discoveries. Her book proved very popular and ran to several editions.

A wretched experience had been transformed into an exciting adventure. But how exactly had this transformation taken place? Neither the desert, nor the natives, nor any other element in the situation had changed. Whatever change had taken place was inside the mind and heart of Thelma Thompson. Her own change of attitude had given her a new life.

Whenever we analyze suffering, we find that there are two main features to it. One is the thing which causes the suffering and the other is our own reaction to it. We can take courage from Thelma Thompson’s example, and so control our reaction that suffering is finally eliminated. The best lessons are often learned in the most trying situations.


Source: Spirit Of Islam

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