The Evil Powers are Well at Work and I’ve Lost My Spirit… by Valentina Khan


Valentina KhanIt has been over a year now that I haven’t been actively a part of my interfaith community. I find that especially odd since I graduated last May from the Claremont School of Theology with a Masters in Religious Leadership. I had hopes that I would be empowered by new education to go out and do more for my community, be invited to be a guest speaker at local houses of worship, or sit on panels; all the things I used to do more frequently and now have all stopped.

I am mostly to blame. Although my personal life has definitely changed with the birth of my son, two new businesses for my husband and me, and the ongoing pressure I put on myself to study for the bar exam any free moment I get (I really don’t have any leisure time to study, but thinking about it takes a lot of energy!), and now expecting my second child, I stopped attending my monthly meetings– whether it be with the Interfaith Youth Council of Orange County, the Muslim-Jewish forum of Los Angeles, or my own beloved organization “I Am Jerusalem.”

It’s easy to put blame on my new role as a mother, or my lack of energy because I am a mother to a toddler, and being pregnant, but I know that my disconnect with this part of my life stems from something greater than just being busy. I have lost my spirit. That spring in my step is missing. I’m disenchanted and discouraged. The world events over the last two years from the Palestinian-Israeli war, to Syria, Muslim Brotherhood, Boko Haram, Da’esh and not to mention our own problems at home with the 3 students murdered over a parking spot, to the most recent incidents in Texas, and ongoing hate crimes, has just made me shut down.

Interfaith Friends

Interfaith Friends

I am a peace promoter, I am conflict resolution supporter, I am the person who wants to build bridges and have lots and lots of dialogue– today I just want to do nothing and be still.

When there are forces so much greater than I am at work to promote all things evil, the goodness I have to spread seems dim. Of course I have colleagues who are of the same frame of mind and collectively we can combat the evil of the world, and normally I would be willing to link arms and continue toward achieving the goal of peace, but it’s not happening. There is no peace to be had at this time. It’s the harsh reality for me to face. I hate even admitting it.

But I need to take the rose colored lenses off. This world is not at peace and there are lots of bad people leading the way.  There will come a time when the peace promoters of the world can rise up again and continue doing the good work within their communities but right now it just seems like my voice of peace is lost to the voice of fanatics who get more media attention than I ever will.

I’m not throwing in the towel, I’m not giving up my hope of peace and understanding between people, cultures and communities, I’m just more interested in being quiet. Sometimes through the act of intentionally being still and letting things just happen can make a bigger difference than always facing things head on. I’ve sat on panels, defended my faith, have explained why Islam is a religion that promotes peace and co-existence, but at this time it’s falling on deaf ears. How can an unfamiliar person really believe what I am saying to be truthful? The actions they see from so called Muslims on the news go against every grain of what I am saying.

So at this time, it’s best for me to be still. Just allow my actions as a human being not as a Muslim speak for themselves. I don’t want to be identified just as a Muslim, but first as a human. So that a non-Muslim can see me at face value with no preconceived notions or judgments. Through that interaction of starting on a level of humanity first, we can begin, start to talk. Until then, I don’t see too much value in being actively involved when my audience is doubtful, judgmental, scared or uninterested.

 

Valentina Khan received her Masters of Arts in Muslim Leadership Context at the Claremont School of Theology.  She is also a law graduate and candidate for the California Bar Exam.  Valentina is a co-founder of I Am Jerusalem, an interfaith organization which promotes friendship, understanding, and striving for the “greater purpose” by dedicating time to community service and social justice. She spends her time at UpLift:body, life, community where she is the owner and teacher of all things positive for the mind, body, and soul.

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Categories: Activism, Belief, Islam, Peacemaking, Violence, Women for Peace, Women's Voices

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13 replies

  1. Very honest and because so honest very moving post. I too often wonder why go on trying when the forces arrayed against us are so great. Just on Friday I told someone with a new interest in saving the wetlands of Lesbos that we have been working to save them–Greeks and foreigners together–for more than 15 years, but with little to no success. Part of me is saying, why continue?

    And I am hesitant to get deeply involved with the refugees arriving in their hundreds every day in or near our village, because I see the problem as too big to even want to think about. Unless wars stop people will continue to flee their homelands, and the Greek government does not have the money or will to deal with a humanitarian crisis when “austerity”programs mean that 60% of our own youth are unemployed, Greek families lose their homes every day to the banks or landlords, and and and.

    Yet we must continue. We can take time out and sometimes we need to. Life is a process not a straight line.

    What made me sad in reading your post was the connection you made with your pregnancies. I wonder how many actively involved (in whatever) women make their children their focus, not so much because they couldn’t choose to do more than one thing, but out of despair that doing anything else to change the world is doomed to failure.

    As long as you keep thinking about all of these things together you will find your way. Whether any of us can defeat the forces of evil is another question–and I think the wrong question. Why? Because I think “it is likely” that things are going to get worse rather than better in any future I can imagine. So we have to find another reason for doing what we can to make things better. As I wrote in one of my books the reason to hope is not based on rational calculation of outcomes, but on a deep inner knowing and conviction that it is right to try to make the world a better place.

    xxx

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    • Thank you Carol. Which book are you referring I would love to read it, and may actually need to read it at this stage of my journey. It is that deep conviction which was what started my desire years ago as a young child to find that human sister/brotherhood that lived in all of us, and I feel I have stayed true to my childhood instinct. Now as an adult, I have been working at making it more than a utopic dream but a reality that can be achieved. This blog post came from the feeling of despair, running in circles and being defeated by who know… All the crazies out there. But I love what you are saying, and it’s the type of motivation I was hoping to receive from writing a post like this. Thank you!! xo

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  2. Thank you, Valentina, for your honest, heartfelt words and thank you Carol for your profound response.

    I believe there is power in quiet and stillness. I don’t know how to articulate what its effect might be, on the person who embodies it or on the world. Images come. A clear pool that mirrors the sky. A fallow field, the soil growing rich again in nutrients. Original (as distinct to conventional) thought arises from this place. Heart with you, Valentina.

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  3. Our lives tend to move in cycles or waves. Think of the sine wave that flows up and down. Sometimes we’re in the up curve, sometimes in the down curve. Is this where you are now? You know that things will change. Hang in there. Enjoy the quiet while you’ve got it.

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    • The quiet at least in this compartment of my brain right Barbara? ;) I need to compartmentalize because that’s the only way to be efficient with the things I care about. I suppose I’ve been sad about not have much action or desire from the heart as I used to have when it come to this important part of my community persona. But I will definitely appreciate this stillness and quiet because im sure it will bring something to me later on.

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  4. I support the wise words from Carol and Elizabeth, Valentina, and add three little hugs, make the four, to Carol’s x’s. Sometimes “our spirit” seems lost when really, it’s just as Elizabeth says: “there is power in quiet and stillness”. We need to honour this time as well as the active ones. They enable us to see in new ways, go on our journey to the same goals by different paths, deepen our perceptions and plan our future actions.

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  5. Thank you for your thoughtful and sincere words. All we can do is respect each other.

    Is that the beautiful Blue Mosque in your photo..?

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  6. This is very much what I’ve been feeling lately. Thanks so much for it. I appreciate the comments, especially Carol’s. I’ve been trying to work on balance. I find so often that I run into people who have a nearly Christic model of activism in that total sacrifice, total self-emptying into the cause of another is the ideal and anything less is selfish. But I am also surrounded by people who are, like Carol, activists for the long haul and they advise finding a balance which includes self-care. There is a lot more to be said, but I’m trying to find the middle path in all things.

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    • One of my touchstones as I think about the Christian model you describe is Simone de Beauvoir: “If we do not love life on its own account and through others, it is futile to seek to justify it in any way.” Ethics of Ambiguity.

      Beauvoir was criticizing Marxist ideologues, but her words apply more widely.

      To me this means we can and must enjoy our own lives and leave time for that. If we become so committed to saving the world that we don’t enjoy the world in our bodies and with others, we will become fanatics who put ideas before embodied realities–and this is dangerous and often does great harm. Moreover, whether we are privileged or not, we have a right to enjoy life’s simple pleasures: to sing, to dance, to enjoy good food, to love our friends and family, to give and to receive in our daily lives.

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  7. i have seen evil, and sometimes quiet in the face of it is all that can summoned, and can even be wise. i look forward to your journey, and to your voice. Call or text me whenever you wish ~

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