Muslim WomenOnce upon a time, there was this Muslim woman who wore a headscarf and always went on a rant when she saw other Muslim women without headscarves. She thought Muslim women without the scarf were “bad Muslims”. After her husband died, however, she herself decided not to wear the scarf any longer and let her hair hang down. As it turned out, she had been afraid of her husband, her family and the village she used to live in, and that was the real reason why she had worn the scarf. She thought that she would have lost face when she didn’t dress like the other women in her village. All along, she had desired to walk around like Muslim women without a headscarf, but because she hadn’t been able to fulfill this desire, she had convinced herself that she didn’t want to walk around without a headscarf, and she had begun to despise women who didn’t wear a scarf. That’s how she had comforted herself, how she had reconciled herself with her situation. In other words, this woman had been driven by ressentiment: she had developed an aversion towards something she had secretly desired.

Muslim WomanA couple of years ago, I had the privilege of welcoming some Muslim girls in my religion class. Among them were two sisters from Chechnya. Years later I came across them again in the streets of my hometown. One was wearing a headscarf, the other was not. I asked the one without the scarf if she considered herself less religious than her sister. She assured me that this was not the case, and her sister, the one with the scarf, added that it was not really an issue. The latter also wasn’t at all disturbed that her sister didn’t wear a scarf. She was happy with wearing a headscarf, it was her freely chosen way of symbolizing her faith, but she could understand that her sister made other choices.

Makes you think… Apparently, to point the finger at someone sometimes has to do with a desire to uphold a certain reputation or image. If you do things because of love for what you are doing, you are less inclined to judge people who make other choices (within certain ethical limits, of course).

Collegecross SJC Aalst 2016Yesterday our high school (Sint-Jozefscollege, Aalst – Belgium) organized its yearly run. Since a couple of years, our senior year students try to make their run more playful and humorous, instead of competitive. They just want to have some fun together. What I notice, however, is that a few of them do feel tempted to act like a nuisance to other students (or, in the past, to teachers and principals as well). They can’t seem to accept that not every student has the same idea of fun and humor. To those (few) students who point fingers at supposedly “uncool” and “lacking sense of humor” classmates, I would ask: if you are enjoying yourselves and if you are having fun (because of love for… the fun!), why would you care about others and their idea of fun? The thing is, if “having fun” and “being humorous” become serious business, not allowed to being put into perspective and to being criticized, then they gradually lose the fun and the humor. Especially when they become moral instruments for judging others.

This all happens when “having fun” is not primarily a sign that people are enjoying themselves, but is a way of establishing a “cool” reputation or image. Some students seem to imagine that they are performing some “heroic act against an all too disciplined school system” (which is not the case; our school is very tolerating – but maybe some of our students are a bit spoiled?). Their all too necessary “humor” becomes an outlet for frustrations. Although they reproach others with being humorless, they themselves seem filled with bitterness, unable to minimize the importance of their “fun”. Fun at the expense of others is no fun at all. It is often a sign of ressentiment.

In short, like a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf because she wants to uphold a certain reputation, some students “have fun” because they want to be noticed as “cool dudes”. It’s basic narcissism. And like the Muslim woman who wears a headscarf because of her image has the tendency to point fingers at others (she blames Muslim women without a headscarf for “not being true Muslims”), some students who “have fun” because of their image also have the tendency to point fingers at others (they blame the student who doesn’t take part in their particular activity for “not being humorous”).

Charlie Chaplin Quote on Laugh

On the other hand, a Muslim woman who freely wears a headscarf, because of love, will not have the tendency to point fingers at others. She will not bother or harm others. After all, she loves how she dresses. Equally, students who freely enjoy themselves, because of love, will not have the tendency to point fingers at others. They will not bother or harm others. After all, they love what they are doing…

“We want to live by each other’s happiness — not by each other’s misery.

Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. More than machinery we need humanity. You are not machines! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your heart. You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate…

In the 17th Chapter of St. Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” — not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power — the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power! Let us all unite! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth the future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie! They do not fulfill their promise; they never will. Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people! Now, let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.”

– Excerpts from Charlie Chaplin‘s Speech in his movie The Great Dictator.

As relevant as ever.

What are we waiting for? A different kind of King, and a different kind of Kingdom, “not of this world”?

Lent is a season for reflection…

This great video by one of my favourite singer songwriters, Dan Reed, might be of help…