“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
The heart of this ancient region has been captured by many names in the past five thousand years. She has been called Ariana, Bakhtria and Khorassan and now goes by the name of Afghanistan. Throughout history this land has served as a battlefield for the major empires of the world to spill blood over simply because of its strategic geographic location. There were different reasons for the wars, different beliefs as to who was right and why. The fact remains that throughout history, the seed of war has been furrowed in her soil and brought misery and suffering to her residents. Over this wide vista of time, nothing has changed.
At various points in history, many approaches have been taken to resolve the issues of unrest in this region only to be successful for short periods of time and come at an extremely high cost. I have come to the conclusion that to free Afghanistan’s residents from further suffering, only the Afghan people—especially the younger generation—can save themselves. They cannot do it with the help of any foreign government, nor with the promise of any religion or any social system. Only by seeking the truth through our own hearts, in our own homes, through the words of our own philosophers and scholars can we ever hope to be free. So many of the figures of the past understood, thousands of years ago, the plight of this region better than we understand it today. Many of them still have the power to enlighten the hearts and minds of millions, from East to West and from North to South, in this twenty-first century.
The Arab invasion centuries ago did not change the life of the people for good in the region; Great Britain acted as any other super power—in their complete self-interest—as did Russia and Pakistan in the 80’s and 90’s. The recent hope offered by NATO and the U.S. has been just as quickly drowned in disappointment. Afghanistan is yet again the playground for the super powers to install corrupt individuals to serve their own interests in a foreign land and at the cost of millions of lives. It is not that the Afghans no longer know the game and how it is played; it is the world community that falls again and again for the same old government tricks delivered through the media. The information takes different shapes and forms in different eras; but the promises are given as before and including the promise of freedom, women rights, democracy, health-care, education, and a better life. Unfortunately, the cost is not negotiable and in most instances the cost is unknown not only to the Afghans but also to the people of the invading countries. How is it possible that the geographic location of Afghanistan serves the national-interests of so many countries in such a way that they cannot resist having a hand in her? The goal has never been to bring a system that serves the interests of Afghanistan or her people, but to create a corrupt system that can be easily manipulated to serve the interests of those who only play by their own rules.
Afghans of recent years have broken away from their tradition-centric ideologies and thoughts surrounding their tribal, linguistic, religious, and other associations. This is a difficult thing for elder members of society to bear. Almost sixty percent of the population of Afghanistan today is comprised of a younger generation of Afghans. It is time for this generation to stand up and realize that their lives, their children’s lives and their grandchildren’s lives will continue in misery if Afghan society continues on the path it is on. This realization can only be come to by revisiting the ideas of the past and by tying themselves once again to the ideas that have kept the country whole throughout its long history as the world’s never-ending war zone.
The solution starts by not blaming any other nation for our troubles, but by bringing the world community to our cause—by becoming part of the world community as our ancestors did.
As Rumi wrote:
O pilgrims where are you, come here?
The Beloved is close to here.
The Beloved is your next door neighbor
You are lost in desert without border.
See the faceless face of the beloved once,
You become pilgrim and kaaba with sense.
You tried hundreds homes for proof
Yet, you have not looked once at own roof.
If desire to see the home of soul,
Polishing that mirror first shall be goal.
Where is the bunch if you saw the garden
Where is the pearl if you were in ocean.
With all your efforts still in suffer
You are the veil to your treasure.
Hidden in soil is that treasure
Watch how moon deals with cloud pressure.
O pilgrims where are you, come here?
The Beloved is close to here.
Rumi so aptly acknowledged that we are trapped in our prison, lost in our own home, and do not know where we come from and where we go. Decade after decade and century after century we have been offered the seeds of hope and the seeds themselves have proved infertile. Rumi says we have tried—hundreds of times different homes and different options, but we have not once tried to look at our own rooftop for the solution. We have not looked in our own hearts. We have associated ourselves with a tribe, a religion, a specific linguistic community, or with a system (socialism or capitalism) which has not in itself brought us the happiness we seek; therefore, let ourselves fly free and for once look beyond those options and find the truth in our own hearts. Rumi says that Truth is hidden under the dirt; we must courageously remove the dark cloud as does the full moon in the sky. Courage is required by this generation as much—or more than—as in any generation before us. As Rumi tried in the 13th century to answer the hard questions of cultural identity and came to his own conclusion that being free means not being in the trap of a religion, ethnicity, language, border, theology or ethereal and political systems; so too must we come to an individual conclusion about our place in the world. This is only possible when we look beyond all of the above trappings and remove the veils that separate our hearts.
The solution may not ever come from super powers and foreign governments intent on serving only their national interests. It is up to us to recognize the seed of a new hope for our future or to see it as yet another trap that binds us to our own prison. Afghans don’t need to search for their peace in the desert of Saudi Arabia. They don’t need to search for their peace in the system of socialism or capitalism. They don’t need to shed blood for their neighbor’s border protection to bring peace to their homes. They don’t need to search for their peace outside of themselves. Comfort, peace, stability can be found only in their own home, in their own hearts. No invader will ever be able to divide us when the people of Afghanistan are one in their hearts.
The ancient land of Afghanistan is the birthplace of Zoroaster whose thoughts and philosophy, Zoroastrianism, have been identified as one of the key early events in the development of philosophy—the mother of knowledge—that has in essence interpreted the meaning of our lives and the way we live. The ancient land of Afghanistan is the birthplace of Rumi whose thoughts from the thirteenth century have enlightened the path for millions throughout human evolution and still continues to do so in our modern time. The ancient land of Afghanistan has kindled the fire of enlightenment, revolutionary thought and transformative knowledge throughout her 5,000 years of history. While the rest of the world removes the dusts from those ancient books that have the potential to change generations of lives through philosophy, literature and spirituality, and turns those pages in order to transform their words into modern solutions for sharing and finding truth, peace, and prosperity in life, we Afghans are sinking in a sea of ignorance and grasping at straws to hold ourselves above the water.
It is time for the world community to come together with one heart and take the conscious, ethical risk to save a nation that has suffered not for a decade or a century, but for millennia. What would Zoroaster and Rumi say if they were alive today to see their homeland and her children under constant fire from both internal and external sources?
Perhaps Rumi would once again call to mind this ancient verse, and perhaps we would listen at last:
Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu
Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion
or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up
from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,
am not an entity in this world or in the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any
origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.
I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,
first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.