Humans. Adjectives and adverbs. Are we the only created beings that craft our identities based on adjectives and adverbs? Does a chimpanzee think himself a clever chimpanzee? Does the cheetah call himself a speeding miracle of velocity? Or does the peacock call himself beautiful?
Our world begins with awareness of self. We stick a thumb into our mouth and begin to tune into the sounds outside of our floating existence. We make our appearance with a howl and our parents bequeath us with a name but after that initial breath of life another remarkable thing happens. For about an hour, we observe the world. All of our sense organs are active. We are busy forming opinions. Out of these self-generated opinions we create our identity, one adjective and one adverb at a time. My favorite is ‘Tammy the Magnificent’.
The grammar that most heavily impacts our identity is within the arena of our faith. Everyone has faith. Period. An atheist has a faith-based model of the world. It just does not include a deity. The atheists’ faith is in themselves. They are God. Who has need of another? An atheist makes that daily strut to the altar of self. The rest of us bow or kneel. Marxists, Ba’athists, Mormons, Catholic, Protestant, Shia and Sunni, the list goes on when it comes to an expressive function of faith. However, it is strength of faith that propels men towards human initiative. This strength is aided by our sense of self, based on internal narrative. The interface of faith and human initiative causes some men to rise to moments of enviable greatness. Conversely, men also stoop to acts of incomprehensible evil in the name of faith.
My own Christian faith is vibrant, but I have noted a curiosity over the years. There is a trap door installed. The more wondrous my sense of faith — Martin Luther style — the more my likelihood of nailing a mandate on a wooden door. Yes, the just shall live by faith! But not all of us are destined for greatness. About seven billion of us remain within the domain of mundane existence. That includes me.
My own identity is crafted within a conceptual field of my generation’s. I see my life as part of a mosaic. I have strong memories of great-grandparents. I look forward to the day I will have grandchildren. Decisions have been made based on how my actions may reach out to affect my third generation. The echo of my life is already here. It will be heard, long after I am gone. That is my hope. However, in the meantime, life is mundane. There are dishes to wash, floors to mop. However, back to nailing mandates on doorways! I remain careful with the adjectives and adverbs attached to my humanity. Excessive usage can strip me of the very things that make me unique. Mother Teresa? Yep. Joan of Arc? Nope. Mahatma Gandhi? Yes. Stalin? No way!
The Taliban are busy nailing their mandate on the door of a nuclear state. It is quite different from the mandate of Martin Luther, a man who declared that faith could be delinked from liturgy. Faith could be expressed with greater liberality — man, under the shadow of God — not under the shadow of another man.
The men who threaten Pakistan are liturgical masters of political gain. This human initiative, this attempt to link the liturgy of the Taliban to the activities of the state must be resisted. The Taliban are men with a heavy investment in the adjectives and adverbs that craft their identity. This strong religious grammar strengthens their sense of destiny and importance in the greater scheme of things. However, they have tipped the scales from destiny to doom. Act by incomprehensible act by criminal act, they have tipped the scales.
If religion is the opiate of the people, these men are hardened mainliners. However, there should be a high index of suspicion that the end game is not truly about piety but rather it is about power. Most individuals can live in a pious manner within the confines of their homes but when the state deliberately moves across the threshold of a home and sets up shop in the living room, it is all about power. You should fear the Taliban because you do not know when and where they will accost you in the street but you should tremble in fear when they cross your family threshold without permission. Texans have a name for that problem — it is called ‘shotgun’.
The goal of a healthy state is to keep life peaceful for the citizens. We all have our own list of adjectives and adverbs to define our identity during this journey known as life but what we need most of all is the predictable stability, which allows us to complete our daily labour, care for our generations and welcome the darkness of each new night without fear.
I remain grateful that my nation has policies in place that keep my own life tranquil. Power is for the greedy few. Freedom from abuse of political power allows me human initiative to live my own faith and make a few beautiful memories along the way.
I have never attended a White House dinner but I have knelt in the dirt next to a village chief in Ghana. My fingers held the syringe that squirted normal saline into a fistula on his diabetic leg. I have snuggled a baby on a remote riverbank along the steppes of Mongolia. I kissed the baby’s cheeks and ran my fingers through his obsidian-coloured hair. This was all about catching happiness by the wings!
How is it that such beauty can be found in simple tasks? Is it because when we divest ourselves of the adjectives and adverbs that confirm our greatness we find our true core — the person we are meant to be? Faith and human initiative are a wonderful combination when expressed with graciousness.
The writer is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Arsenal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org