Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Big Questions

Every once in a while I think of something that I really want to teach my nephew- some sort of life lesson or amazing fact. Usually it leads to him thinking deeply about it for a moment and then asking follow up questions, none of which I know the answer to, making my knowledge of the world less and less credible in his eyes. So I have learned to deliver the information confidently and as if I have read a whole book about it. And sometimes I have - like the infamous "Armenian Genocide" incident of 2006. I was enrolled in the Politics of Naming, one of the few courses I will actually remember, and really into that week's reading. Also, I thought it would be funny to hear a four year-old say "Armenian Genocide." And so he did. And then he wouldn't stop talking about it. And then he started drawing pictures of what he thought it looked like- black clouds mostly.

But I did learn something from it!

Each time I deliver one of these impromptu lessons, especially the scienc-y ones, I end with, "that makes sense, right?" to get out of the way any lingering confusion that could later be translated into drawings. The question encourages him to agree with me and accept the gift of useless knowledge I am trying to impart.

And sometimes I really do need to ask myself if I am using the right terminology for a four year-old, or making it more complicated than it has to be. The thing about little kids is that their brains are like sponges. They can, and will, quote you at a later date.

Up until last year we mostly talked about outer space, but once he turned six he became much more concerned with his Aqida, and he asks me all of the questions he has about Allah, the prophets and comparative religion. The younger one also asks about the "Christmas people," but the older one will sit thoughtfully for a while and then ask an impossible question that is poking holes through his story; the one where everything is right with the world, and everything is black and white.

I hate that I will be the one to have to break it to him.
There is a lot that we have to take on faith, without intellectually understanding it.
But providence was rooting for him when he was born into a Sufi family. Inshallah, he will be taught the appropriate vocabulary to articulate the black and white, and then he will teach it to his own children some day, without the least bit of uncertainty and using all the right words.






Friday, October 11, 2013

Hello, out there!

At the end of each prayer, we turn our head one time to the right and one time to the left to say our salaams. They say: "this is not exclusive to those who are actually present: it encompasses everyone on one's right side [when giving salaams to the right, and everyone on one's left side when giving salaams to the left], even if far, all the way to the furthest point of the world."

Hello, out there!
They say that it’s okay to cut out just one hand waving because it is only one small part of the body and cannot sustain life on its own.

So there is a paper chain of different colored hands taped on the walls of my classroom. They are stuck there by way of a tack in the middle of two of the hands.
There are big ones and little ones and brown ones. They are all saying salaams to every one of each thing on their right side, and salams to each thing and everyone on their left side.

They say we’re all connected, like a paper chain of male and female figures holding hands strung up as a decoration crossing continents.
The whole world is having a party.
The women are wearing dresses. Nobody has eyes.

Are we connected? Are you thinking about me?

Oh, it’s you again! Asalaamalaikum.

Yes, it's me. Oh- yikes. Sorry-
I can't shake hands with you. But woah, look! - you know what I just noticed? Your pants are connected to your boots. And your pants are connected to your shirt. Are you the janitor here? Are you here to clean up my mess?