A few days ago, I was at the mall. Sitting outside a store waiting for it to open I was absorbed into a book I had just started reading — “The wisdom of insecurity”. The book provided just the right level of deep metaphysical introspection to detach me from my surrounding and ground me into the moment.
Suddenly, a young man walks up to me and asks “Are you Salman?”
“No I am Abdulelah, why?” I replied in wonder.
“Aren’t you the guy who is on social media?”
“No, I am not. I don’t even have a Snapchat or Instagram account” I quipped.
“You look exactly like this guy”. “Anyways, if you were indeed him, I was going to ask you to say something on my Snapchat. You see, I have been thinking of opening up a clothing store. Do you recommend any brands I can franchise?”
At this point I didn’t know what to make out of this conversation but I went with the flow and gave a few recommendations.
“Oh that is nice” he concluded, “ Do you have any other ideas for a business? I have the funds but I want to do something not many have thought of” he continued.
This conversation went on a little before he asked me if I wanted to sit somewhere for a coffee. I wasn’t in much of a hurry as I would have time later to visit the shop I had been meaning.
Slowly I started realizing that the questions this person had approached with were merely a cover for a set of deeper lingering existential questions. In front of me, was a person who was struggling to feel a sense of purpose, a sense of worthiness, and a sense of wholeness, as I would later discover. Coincidentally, as was the case with me.
I knew that this wasn’t your everyday conversation. It was morphing into what may seem like a destined crossing of paths that would alter the course of both our lives. I was driven by a mysterious fervor to help this young man find his way. Was it a selfless intention? Or was it my attempt in finding answers to my own set of existential questions?
Just like most of us, he was struggling to create a sense of worthiness irrespective of others’ accomplishments. He saw members of his family and friends establish themselves as businessmen. Feeling a sense of urgency, he filled the void with anything and everything that would so conveniently numb the pain. Including his impatient determination to establish his own business as a means to level the comparison playing field. He wasn’t looking in the right place though. He wasn’t looking within.
The more we talked the more this beautiful stranger toppled the façade of pretension; the guise we all try so hard to uphold as to not appear in such a way that would instigate the disapproval of others. Like an onion, I was unintentionally peeling off the layers to reveal the authenticity hidden beneath.
He would interrupt in amazement as to how what I was saying represented his life so perfectly. I would chuckle in surprise myself. “Is this really happening?” I wondered. I was sharing my own life lessons to a person I had just met 15 minutes prior, and this person was looking up to a complete stranger himself in admiration, as if I was his long-lost mentor or something.
“This feels like a dream.” He reemphasized. “God sent you to me. I feel like you are changing my life right now!”
Although I would giggle at that, I was in fact quite humbled.
Through all my readings and deep reflections, it seemed that I acquired a sort of wisdom — that I have yet to fully integrate into my life experientially — but nonetheless which was ready to be shared with others who have still to identify their life purpose. It was a wisdom that I came to appreciate through reflecting over my own life situation, over my own pains.
We spent about an hour and a half conversing, but we were so immersed with one another that it didn’t feel so.
I invited him to visit the bookstore that was in the mall to find any of the books that personally impacted my life translated into the Arabic language. Unfortunately, I came to realize that the number of self-development books that were translated into Arabic were limited. Another area that I had thought of seriously. To bring some of the great life changing books into the Arabic language and into the hands of many whose lives are waiting to be changed. At least we found one book I recognized that was translated: “The Secret”.
We exchanged numbers and vowed to stay in touch. I will!
Meeting this person made me realize that maybe helping others in a direct way is what I am really meant to do. Maybe my engineering degree isn’t meant to dictate what I choose as my vocation, but rather to become a single color of many on the pallet by which I would create a self-portrait of true idiosyncratic nature.
My fear-laden past had greatly impacted the decisions I had made so far and consequently, the quality of my life. But it needn’t to be so. I can do great things. All I need is the propensity, or maybe even the audacity, to believe in a future greater than my past. To not become overwhelmed with the how but rather to focus on the what and the who. What do I want? Who do I want to be? And to create in my own mind the image of my future now; as if I were living it at this moment. When I put that energy out into the universe — the energy of emotion and intention through thought — the law of the universe will take care of the how, in ways never thought possible. Everything else will so beautifully fall into place.
As a final reflection on this random encounter, I draw the following:
1- We are not alone in our suffering. As much as we would like to feel a sense of entitlement to our pain and suffering and garner pity and sympathy as validation to this title, someone somewhere had gone through or still is going through the exact stream of emotions and feelings. Of course, under different circumstances, but, quite similar in the underlying driving beliefs. Knowing that we are not alone can be powerful in overcoming the dark forces of helplessness and hopelessness and to push us to seek solace in the journeys of others.
2- Most of us carry around a void, created by the gap between who we appear to be on the outside — riddled with pretenses and hypocritical tendencies — and who we really are on the inside. The only way to achieve a deep and satisfying sense of worthiness is to move toward closing that gap. We all naturally want that gap closed, but one cannot resolve what one is not aware of. The first step of transcendence would be to awaken from the unconscious slumber of past conditioning to the reality of the situation. As Albert Einstein famously said “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”