Once upon a time, there was a stone cutter who was unhappy with himself. One day he happened to pass by a wealthy merchant’s house. He saw many luxurious items and important –looking visitors inside. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stone cutter. He grew envious and wished he could be a powerful merchant too.
Amazingly, he found himself as merchant not too long after. He had access to more luxuries and power than he had ever imagined, but on the flip side, he was the victim of much envy and was detested by those less well off.
Then one day he saw a high official who was carried around and accompanied by his own personal staff and always escorted by security personnel. Everyone was expected to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be like that!”
Soon he found himself instated as a high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around. It was a hot summer day, so the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun!”
Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!”
Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!”
Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, feared and hated by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it – a huge, towering rock. “How powerful that rock is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a rock!”
Then he became the rock, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the hard surface, and felt himself being changed. “What could be more powerful than I?” he thought.
He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stone cutter…
Many of us fantasize about the future. We build castles in the air and have hopes of attaining them some day. Now that is all well and good – except when the fantasy fails to materialize on its cue!
Our daily existence and the way Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’aala takes care of us down to the marrow in our bones is amazing. Yet, when we hold this up to our fantasy world, we are thrown down by disappointment because, naturally, reality doesn’t always meet expectations.
Interestingly, our fantasies are not just movies about the future that we play in our heads. We also have over-the-top expectations from the external world. We seek contentment in that new iPhone or a red handbag. We seek contentment in the “ideal” spouse – until we actually get married and learn the true meaning of loving compromise!
We fantasize about how wonderful life will be with these things. “When I have this, my life will be complete and I can be truly content and at peace….”
Yes… and hippos will fly too?
Creative advertising and social media spews are very effective at stirring this soupy cycle in our heads without us even being aware of it.
Do I hear you say that you’re a practical down-to-earth sort who doesn’t waste time fantasizing? The truth is that we sometimes don’t even realize that we’re doing it. When we get something in life, or fail to get it, and we feel disappointed that it’s not as good as what might have been – that’s a clear sign that we have indeed been having idealistic fantasies about what we want.
And thus appears an entry point into that dark world of discontentment we talked about in Part 1 of this series. As long as our reality fails to measure up to our fantasy, we are unhappy with life and blind to all the blessings that it has to offer.
We become unhappy with ourselves when we are unable to attain our wishful thinking. We become unhappy with others when they fail to act the way we imagined them to be. Overall, we are discontent with life because things aren’t as we want them to be – it’s either too warm or too cold, too far or too close, too many people around or too few, etc. And the sad thing is that we keep getting disappointed and we never learn.
Enough about the problems; now how do we find contentment?
I hate to burst your bubble, but contentment comes when you release yourself from the clutches of these fantasies.
What?! Never have hopes?
No, that’s not quite it.
The first step is to realize that there is much beauty in our lives even without these fantasies and then to appreciate them. People don’t always behave as generously or politely as we imagine, but they each have their redeeming qualities. My house isn’t perfect, nor is it spacious and well-decorated, but it’s absolutely amazing as it is – even with the leaky taps and patchy walls. Alhamdulillah.
Nevertheless, your mind is bound to wander in fantasy land even when you’re grateful and appreciate of all that you have. The next step is to catch yourself in the act and then flip the tide with a quick Alhamdulillah for one or many blessings you can think of in the spur of that moment. Easy!
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. So perhaps a little less exposure to commercial-sponsored TV programs and marketplaces (whether online or offline) would do us good too. Let’s overcome this habit of mall-strolling to “kill time” and be more proactive with our days, shall we?
“The parts of land dearest to Allah are its mosques, and the parts most hateful to Allah are markets.” [Sahih Muslim]
Another proactive measure to overcome this pull of fantasies is doing an honest assessment of our needs. How many of those are actual needs and how many are mere wants? How many can we cross off and free ourselves of the burden of having them yank at our heels all the time? Try it – you’ll love the feeling of floating free!
Freedom is an attitude. Let’s not shackle our own feet unnecessarily. I leave you with a closing thought:
“There is enough for every man’s need, but not for his greed.”
Fathima Nafla is an IT-professional-turned-online-Qur’an-tutor who left the corporate world after finding her passion in learning and teaching Qur’an. She also enjoys writing and maintains her blog at www.Believuh.com.