June 10, 2013
How much more can I take?
This question has been at the root of the human experience for as long as we have been able to record it, if not longer. It was the lament of Job — or at least one of them — and is asked with no less frequency today, in response to circumstances ranging from devastating loss and grief to the typical hardships of a trying job or a long winter.
William James’s ‘sick souls’ were more likely to experience the ‘acute fever’ of religious belief.
But where is that actual point at which a person “breaks” or comes to believe not only that her life is devoid of value or meaning, but that the world is, too? The truth is that most people really do not want to ascertain just how much more they can suffer. A vast majority of people would look askance at someone who really wanted to experiment with her limits for suffering. But what if we are to treat it as a genuine question? In some of my recent work in the area of addiction and philosophy, I’ve found that many active addicts of all sorts confront that limit every day, in ways that those fortunate enough to be free of addiction may never know. For some of them, the process of reaching that limit becomes an opportunity to effect radical transformation of their lives.
A broader understanding of this concept can be found in the work of William James, whose famous work, “The Varieties of Religious Experience,” provides significant insight about the limits of misery and its transformative potential. “Varieties” is product of lectures James delivered at the University of Edinburgh in 1901 and 1902. His focus is the experiences of individuals “for whom religion exists not as a dull habit, but as an acute fever.” By “religion,” James does not mean religious institutions and their long entrenched theological debates, but rather something more akin to an individual spiritual state, which may or may not include belief in a god.
James was uniquely suited to deliver these lectures. He was a physician, philosopher and a psychologist before the field of psychology was part of academe, and someone with a deep, abiding interest in psychic events. He was, in all senses, a student of human nature. He explored this question of what we may call the “misery threshold” because he wanted to know if some people were more capable or more prone to experience “the acute fever” of religious belief. His answer: it is those who suffer most who are inclined to experience that fever. These are the people who fascinated him: those who toed right up to and sometimes over the line of despair and meaninglessness.
James claims in “Varieties” that there are two kinds of people, differentiated from where they live in relation to their misery threshold. Each person, he argued, has a threshold for emotional pain akin to a threshold for physical pain. While some people at the slightest physical pain tend to run to the ibuprofen or painkillers, others seem able to tolerate excruciating physical pain. The same holds for misery.
James calls those who live on the sunnier side of their misery threshold “healthy-minded.” Optimism fills their lives, though there are degrees of optimism. Some of the healthy-minded see the glass half full while others see it as half full with something really delicious. These are the sort of people who always look for the bright side and have a soul with “a sky-blue tint, whose affinities are rather with the flowers and birds and all enchanting innocencies than with dark human passions.” Though the sunny-side people can be miserable at times, they have a low tolerance for misery. It would take something catastrophic for them to stay on the dark side of their misery lines.
The sunny-siders are somewhat interesting to James, if only because they constitute a type that is almost completely foreign to him. James knew himself and many of his family members to belong to the second category — “sick souls” and “divided selves,” who live on the dark side of their misery threshold. Sick souls tend to say No to life, according to James, and are governed by fear. Sick souls tend to become anxious and melancholic, with apprehension that opportunistically spreads.
The person with a divided self suffers from what James calls “world sickness.” This sickness is progressive and James charts its development keenly and compassionately. Those with divided self experience a war within; their lives are “little more than a series of zig zags,” their “spirit wars with their flesh, they wish for incompatibles” and “their lives are one long drama of repentance and of effort to repair misdemeanors and mistakes.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, this is an accurate description of addiction. James knew a great deal about drunkenness or inebriety, to use the language of his time. For years, his brother Robertson (Bob) was in and out of asylums for the inebriate and spent his final years with James and his wife. This may explain why some of the most compelling first person accounts in James’s work of divided selves and sick souls who were later transformed come from people who were drunkards. (This may also explain why Bill Wilson, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, was so taken with William James. He was able to see himself in these stories and as a consequence, make sense of his own conversion experience when he sobered up for good in 1934.)
James’s description tracks our knowledge of addiction accordingly. The first stage of world sickness is what I would call “pleasure diminished.” What had previously brought joy or pleasure before now brings it less often and to lesser degrees. For an addict, the buzz just isn’t as much fun. It just isn’t the same yet she will continue to seek it.
“Pleasure destroyed” is the second stage. More and more things are seen as or end in disappointments; pessimism becomes the most frequent response. The pessimism grows though at this point it still attaches to particular situations in life rather than to the whole of life. An addict will take any disappointment as a reason to use. As more things become disappointing, the more a person will understand herself to have reasons to use.
The final stage in this world sickness is best described as “pathological melancholy.” The progression in this final stage is significant. First a person is no longer able to recognize joy and happiness. She experiences a melancholy and dreariness about life that makes her incapable of generating any joy for herself. The next phase is a melancholy in which a person generates an acute anguish about herself and the world. In this stage, a person feels self-loathing and acute anxiety. Her entire being, James would say, is choked with these feelings. Quite significantly, not only does the person see herself as having no meaning or significance, but nothing in the world has meaning. This melancholy leads to a kind of utter hopelessness about the particular conditions in which one lives and the meaning of life in general. With this hopelessness, the drama of repentance and effort to repair will end. It would take too much energy and it just isn’t worth it. Nothing is worth anything.
The person in the grips of the worst melancholy experiences a frightening anxiety about the universe and everything in it. At this point, panic and fright completely govern a person. James describes a man who admitted that a “horrible fear of my own existence,” came upon him one night. The man suddenly remembered an epileptic patient he had seen in an asylum who had greenish skin and sat “like some sort of Egyptian cat or Peruvian mummy, moving nothing but his black eyes and looking absolutely nonhuman. This image and my fear entered a combination with each other. That shape am I, I felt potentially … I awoke morning after morning with a horrible dread at the pit of my stomach, and with a sense of the insecurity of life that I never knew before, and that I have never felt since.” In a letter to a friend after the publication of “Varieties,” James admitted this was his very own experience as a young man. He himself had walked right up to the edge of a yawning abyss. James scholars debate the exact date of this crisis, but most locate it some time when James was in his late 20s.
Read previous contributions to this series.
Nietzsche recognized that “when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” Kierkegaard realized that some people were more afraid of jumping into that abyss than falling. James understood this fear and saw the potential for transformation “through a passion of renunciation of the self and surrender to the higher power.” It is after this renunciation that one can experience “the acute fever” of a spiritual life.
The terms “surrender” and “higher power” and “powerlessness” are apt to leave some people uneasy (they are key phrases and concepts in 12-step programs everywhere). To surrender, in more Jamesian terms, is to make oneself open to new possibilities. To surrender is to stop clutching core beliefs or parts of one’s identity so tightly. When one loosens her grip, she makes it possible to hold something — perhaps very tentatively — in her hands. In the case of a person whose self worth or humanity has been decimated, it is a matter of being open to the possibility that just maybe she is worthy of a little dignity and respect. Surrendering can be simultaneously liberating and terrifying.
The when, where and how of surrender depends on a person’s misery threshold. Someone with a low threshold cannot suffer long and so is willing to make changes. Others will be able to suffer enormously and not surrender until there is nothing left to lose. Each person’s “rock bottom” is the point where misery can no longer be tolerated.
“Higher power” may leave even more people uneasy. James, however, uses the term in an elastic way. He does admit that “we Christians” call this higher power “God.” But to illustrate what he calls a “higher and friendly power,” James uses Henry David Thoreau’s description of walking in the gentle mist at Walden Pond. Thoreau wrote, “Every little pine-needle expanded and swelled with sympathy and befriended me.” Higher power can be nature, moral principles, patriotism, or a sense of fellowship or good will to others. For some, higher power is “enthusiasm for humanity.” Each of these, James might say, takes a person outside or beyond herself and connects her to others and thus can be a higher power.
It is easy to identify the ways that “the acute fever” burned in the Christian saints who engaged in all sorts of acts of self-mortification. But it is not easily spotted in someone who has surrendered to and embraced a higher power about their addictive behaviors; there is no equivalent of sack cloth. There is, however, a unification of a previously divided self. People who know addicts in recovery often see this before the addict herself. A person with the acute fever of sobriety or recovery comes to have a firmness of mind and character. She has clear beliefs and principles and acts from them. She also has stability that is achieved and maintained by keeping various relationships with relatives, friends congruent with personal history, commitments, goals and beliefs. Each of these helps to hold the others steady. Finally, a person who burns with the acute fever of sobriety has equilibrium. She is able to strike the balance between opposing forces, some of which are in her control and others not.
No one person will be immune from all suffering. However, the acute fever transforms a person’s life so that the drama, chaos and despair are, as James says, “severed like cobwebs, broken like bubbles.” And this, James would proclaim, shows that hope and redemption are just as much part of the human condition.
June 10, 2013
Though the birth classes my wife and I took last summer while we were expecting our daughter were almost painfully thorough, they did not answer a few pressing questions: What is one to do if the imminent arrival of his first child engenders nothing but fear and dread? If the creation of new life turns his morbid mind to the inexorability of death? If the mere notion of bringing an innocent creature into this malevolently entropic world fills him with an anxiety that is like a persistent, unreachable itch?
The iPad is a perfect nightlight. It is the fatherly reassurance that Freud says we all crave.
Some take drugs, prescribed or not. For others, a stiff drink is a favorite (not to mention traditional) self-medication. Fair enough. But when my own neurons get overheated, I prefer to chill them in the soothing currents of the digital seas.
As a journalist, I can justify my e-obsession by claiming that following Twitter feeds these days more or less passes for original reporting. But even by that measure, I am like a bartender who pours himself a tall one a little too frequently throughout the night. The guy who is never really drunk, but never quite sober.
I don’t want to call it addiction, to trivialize the suffering of alcoholics and compulsive gamblers. It is more like reliance, a psychological craving that will only be satisfied by the calming swipes of my finger across the smooth, shimmering screen of a device.
Thus, as my wife was going into her 10th hour of labor, I was blasting through my Instapaper reading list, making sure I was fully informed about both the future of Syria and hipster mustaches. The next day, the first day of my daughter’s life, I was back on Facebook, wallowing in inanity like a pig in mud.
I am far from alone. Some researchers are pushing for inclusion of Internet Use Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which would effectively make it a mental illness. And a recent article in the Web publication LiveScience noted that “The Web’s unpredictable payoffs train people much in the same way Ivan Pavlov trained dogs, which were conditioned in the 19th century to salivate when they heard a bell they associated with food. Over time, people link a cue (e.g., an instant-message ping or the Facebook homepage) with a pleasurable rush of feel-good brain chemicals.”
The thing is, I love the Internet. I need my gadgets. I don’t want to be cured.
Ever since my own birth, it seems, I have dreaded nightfall and the silence of the evening dark. As an adult, I have been granted some solace. The iPad is a perfect nightlight. It is the fatherly reassurance that Freud says we all crave. Mine comes from a man named Steve.
I push a button and, as the argentine glow washes over my face, my dread begins to recede. The image of an apple appears; it has been bitten and I can not help but think of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden. But in a moment the apple disappears, and – lo! – is replaced by salvation: orderly rows of apps, bright columns of faithful soldiers in my own private war against solitude and disorder and oblivion.
The dread is gone.
I am a child again, I regard red notification balloons with excitement; they bring updates and news. I scroll through a slideshow on Buzzfeed — huh, that corgi really does look like Richard Nixon — and check Epicurious for a recipe for vegetarian pasta carbonara, because one day I really would like to make vegetarian carbonara for my wife, and wasn’t there a gift on Amazon I wanted to buy her, and look what’s finally in the Kindle store…
Maybe it is merely distraction, the oft-reported undoing of the focused, sophisticated mind. But I think it is something more. The philosopher Thomas Carlyle once called our planet “a hall of doom” — a diagnosis all too easily confirmed by most days’ news. But the terror that the outside world so frequently engenders can be neutralized — by YouTube videos of dachshund puppies, Facebook updates from “friends” I do not know, Instagrammed chronicles of exotic meals I am too timid to ever try and too cheap to ever pay for, the Twitter wisdom of @KimKierkegaardashian, not to mention that one Tumblr about how dads are the original hipsters. For thrills, I visit places on GoogleEarth that I am unlikely to visit in reality. I go on CollegeConfidential and pretend that I, too, am, deciding between Swarthmore and Cornell. All I am trying to do is turn Carlyle’s hall of doom into someplace more bearable, a digital cocktail lounge with a rotating cast of characters who do not mind being observed and who are always engaging and appropriately loquacious and are never bothered when I choose to go converse with someone else.
I would never claim that we live in a digital utopia. But might we take some comfort in several minutes in my completely unremarkable Facebook news feed: Someone (I don’t know her or how we became friends) has asked fellow users to support a program that allows poor young women in the Bay Area to experience the outdoors; someone else has posted an image of an Emily Dickinson manuscript; a journalist whom I respect has linked to an article about the dangers of generic drugs, appending the post with her own insightful views on the incompetence of the Food and Drug Administration. On Twitter, intelligent people are debating Benghazi, bike lanes and the Miami Heat. On Kickstarter, millenials allegedly weaned on apathy and irony are earnestly trying to save the world.
Read previous contributions to this series.
This pretty much strikes me as the public sphere celebrated by Immanuel Kant as the paragon of enlightened society, updated to fit the requirements of the modern world. It is people using a common language and reason to proffer ideas, promulgate competing causes, agree and disagree, foment and undercut.
To go even further, the digital domain fulfills one of the basic promises of any organized religion: it offers a path to immortality. Paper fades and buildings crumble, but what you leave behind on the Internet is pretty much forever. It is a polytheistic religion, its gods bearing monosyllabic names like Jobs and Gates, Brin and Page. All — well, all who are able to afford it —can enter its exalted domain.
None of this, of course, is easy for my wife. Within three months of my daughter’s birth, a frequent and annoyed call resounded through the apartment: “Can you put the iPad away and play with the baby?” And sometimes, I have learned to shut the thing off and read “Goodnight Moon,” because it is true that man cannot sustain himself on Facebook “likes” alone. But there are other times when, for whatever reason, there is a tightness in my gut and only a few brainless minutes on Gawker will relieve whatever inchoate and irresolvable existential anxiety is its cause.
It could be the birth of my daughter and all it implies that turned my head to such thoughts. But no matter. Because I am certain that there is reason to fear. I take my cue from Pascal, who wrote in his “Pensées,” “When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in an eternity before and after, the little space I fill engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces whereof I know nothing, and which know nothing of me, I am terrified. The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me.”
But by the grace of modern technology, I can fill at least some of those infinite spaces with the luminous procession of tweets and shares and updates – all of it inconsequential, all of it wonderful.
March 31, 2013
It is often claimed Islam has no institutionalized authority but if we honestly look at history we can see that there have in fact always been certain ‘centers of authority’. The first khalifs, the Al-Azhar University, the scholars of Damascus, the Ottoman Sultan,… they have all been examples of concentrated authority. Today, however, it seems very difficult to find such centers or to assess the authority of the many different groups, institutions and individuals. Would you say then, that today’s situation is an anomaly in the history of Islam?
March 31, 2013
the conscious muslim .
For some reason my inbox is often filled with questions about love and marriage. I get questions that are about love for a man, or a woman and how it will kill them if they don’t marry. A tad dramatic.
They often make me chuckle, I shouldn’t, but it does.
In my humble opinion people rarely understand what love means, what it entails and what it evokes. Loving someone simply for yourself isn’t really love, love is pain. Love can be test of endurance, of patience and sometimes even the mind. It is a longing, it isn’t always suppose to work out. For this I blame films and TV culture, it has allowed people to get carried away from reality and more importantly meanings. I met Amir Sulaiman a couple of weeks ago and he was speaking about loving the messenger of Allāh ﷺ he explained that learning to love him ﷺ had broken his heart, it had caused to him to want to meet the Messenger ﷺ so much that he was besides himself. Subḥān’Allāh.
Shaykh Ḥamza Yūsuf once explained that Arabs of the jāhilī period had a better grasp and understanding of what love is than many people today, and he quoted some poetry from Layla Majnun. I too will share my favorite passage from their tale, move over Romeo and Juliet! Let me just set the scene. Majnun loves Layla dearly, his father takes him on a pilgrimage to “get over” her and this is what enfolds.
“They say, ‘Crush the desire of Layla in your heart.’ But I implore Thee, oh my God, let it grow even stronger, Take what is left of my life and add it to Layla’s. Let me never demand from heras much as a single hair, even if my pain reduces me to the width of one. Let her punish and torment me. Let her wine alone fill my cup, my name never to be spoken without her seal. My life shall be sacrificed for her beauty, my blood shall be spilled freely for her. Though I burn for her in agony, like a candle, none of my days shall be free from this pain. Let me love, oh my God, love for love’s own sake, and make my love a hundred times as great as it was and is.”
Such was Majnun’s prayer to the Almighty as his father silently listened. What could he say? He knew now that he could not loosen the fetters binding his heart, could not find a cure for its ills. There was nothing to do but leave Mecca and start on the voyage home, where they waited impatiently in sorrow and fear. And when they arrived, his entire family surrounded the Sayyid. “How was it?” they cried. “Tell us, has Allāh helped? Is he saved?”
But the old mans eyes looked tired and sad, “I have tried, I have told him how to ask God for relief from this curse, this Layla. But he clung to his own ideas.”
“What did he do?” they asked.
“He cursed himself and blessed Layla.”
December 19, 2012
November 25, 2012
Canada Tour of Habib Khadhim!! http://www.muwasala.org – Program Event posted here.
November 25, 2012
“I wept until my tears were dry
I prayed until the candles flickered
I knelt until the floor creaked
I asked about Mohammed and Christ
Oh Jerusalem, the fragrance of prophets
The shortest path between earth and sky
Oh Jerusalem, the citadel of laws
A beautiful child with fingers charred
and downcast eyes
You are the shady oasis passed by the Prophet
Your streets are melancholy
Your minarets are mourning
You, the young maiden dressed in black
Who rings the bells in the Nativity
On Saturday morning?
Who brings toys for the children
On Christmas eve?
Oh Jerusalem, the city of sorrow
A big tear wandering in the eye
Who will halt the aggression
On you, the pearl of religions?
Who will wash your bloody walls?
Who will safeguard the Bible?
Who will rescue the Quran?
Who will save Christ?
Who will save man?
Oh Jerusalem my town
Oh Jerusalem my love
Tomorrow the lemon trees will blossom
And the olive trees will rejoice
Your eyes will dance
The migrant pigeons will return
To your sacred roofs
And your children will play again
And fathers and sons will meet
On your rosy hills
The town of peace and olives.”
October 25, 2012
Eid Sayiiiiid =)
Laa Illahaa Illa Allah
Wa lillahil Hamd!
September 30, 2012
One controversy subsides; another worse one begins. After the Danish cartoons, the Dutch video “Fitna” and several low-grade irritants, a short, crudely executed—and scrupulously insulting—film has inflamed deep-seated resentments. Several hundred furious demonstrators gathered in front of the American Embassy in Cairo and the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. In the confusion and violence, a U.S. Ambassador and three diplomats were killed; elsewhere embassies came under violent attack, with many wounded and serious material damage. Literalist Salafis succeeded in mobilizing a relatively small number of demonstrators; over-excited young people and ordinary citizens who, firm in their intention to protect the Prophet’s reputation, joined in to express their rejection of the American government and its policies. The demonstrations were the work of a tiny minority, but media coverage and the rapid spread of the protest movement has destabilized the region, and may well have substantial consequences for the future of the Middle East, and for the process of democratization and normalization. The violence must be condemned unconditionally. To attack innocents, diplomats and to kill indiscriminately is anti-Islamic by its very nature; Muslims cannot respond to insults to their religion in this way. On this principle there can be no compromise.
Still, there is every reason to ask what lies behind such vulgar provocations (whose intent is clearly to set off a reaction by mocking Muslims’ unanimous respect for the Prophet of Islam). Here we have individuals, or interest groups (and not the American government) that make cynical use of the noblest values—freedom of speech—to attain the most poisonous objectives, promoting hatred, racism and contempt. Well-established and protected in their rich and comfortable societies, they pretend to celebrate critical intelligence and wit at the expense of a religion practiced by much less fortunate people, many of who are struggling with numerous social frustrations and are barely surviving. But behind the celebration of freedom of speech hides the arrogance of ideologists and well-fed racists who feed off the multiform humiliation of Muslim peoples, the better to mock their “crazed” and “backward” reactions, thus to demonstrate the clear “superiority” of their civilization or the validity of their resistance to the “cancer” of retrograde Islam. In criticizing this ideological stance there can be no compromise either.
In the light of the contemporary Muslim conscience, while deploring and regretting the emotive reactions of the populations of the Muslim-majority societies of the Global South we must take into account their social and historical reality. Economically and culturally disadvantaged, their political and cultural sensitivities are sorely tried by deliberate insults to the sacred symbols that give meaning to their perseverance and their lives—the very symbols invoked by leaders or Islamist tendencies to nurture resentment and to give voice to anger. This reality in no way justifies violence, but helps us to understand its source and seek out possible solutions. It is the task of the elites, the leaders, of Muslim religious scholars and intellectuals to play a leading role in order to head off explosions of anger and mob violence. They bear three kinds of responsibility.
1. First, they must turn their attention to education, and work toward a deeper understanding of Islam, one that focuses on meaning and ultimate goals, and not simply on rituals and prohibitions. The task at hand is enormous, and requires the full participation of all schools of thought.
2. Second, Islam’s extraordinary diversity must be accepted and celebrated. Islam is one, but its interpretations are many. The existence of literalist, traditionalist, reformist, mystic, rationalist and other currents is a fact, a reality that must be treated positively and qualitatively, for each of them has its own legitimacy and should (must!) contribute a multifaceted debate among Muslims. Unfortunately, today today’s Muslim religious scholars, and the leaders of various trends, are caught up in ideological confrontation—and often a clash of egos—that create division and transform them into dangerous populists who claim for themselves the title of sole and authentic representatives of Islam. Within Sunni Islam, as within Shi’ism, between Sunnis and Shi’ites, scholars and schools of thought lash out at one another, forgetting the fundamental teachings and the principles that unite them and instead splitting along doctrinal or political lines that remain secondary at best. The consequences of these divisions are serious. Populism pushes people to vent their emotions blindly in the guise of legitimacy. The attitude—or the absence of attitude—of such scholars perpetuates among the Muslims nationalist, sectarian, and often racist postures based on their particular school of thought, their nationality or their culture. Instead of calling upon individual egos to control themselves, and upon minds to understand and celebrate diversity, leaders and scholars play, in their rhetoric or in their silence, upon people’s emotions and sense of belonging with catastrophic consequences. The Great Powers, West and East, not forgetting Israel, easily exploit these divisions and internal conflicts such as the danger-fraught fracture between Sunni and Shi’a. Instead, it is imperative that voices from the two traditions collaborate on the fundamental principles that unite all Muslims. Whenever considerations of belonging threaten to replace principles, religious scholars, intellectuals and leaders must to return to shared principles, must find common ground between these considerations, in full respect of legitimate diversity.
3. Third, scholars and intellectuals must have the courage to expose themselves further. Instead of encouraging popular feelings, or to use those feelings to further their own religious identity (Sunni, Shi’a, Salafi, reformist, Sufi, etc.) or their political ideology they must face the issue squarely, dare to be self-critical, commit themselves to dialogue and—more often than not—tell Muslims what they may not like to hear about their own failings, their lack of coherence, their propensity to play the victim, failure to understand and to accept responsibility. Far from the feverish rhetoric of the populists, they must put their credibility on the line to awaken consciences in an attempt to counter emotionalism and mass blindness. The educated elites, students, intellectuals and professionals also have a major responsibility. The way they follow their leaders, as does their status as intermediaries makes their active and critical presence imperative: holding the scholars and the leaders accountable, simplifying and participating in grassroots dynamics is an absolute imperative. The passivity of the educated elites, looking down upon inflamed and uncontrolled populations far below them, is a grievous fault.
Ultimately we end up with the leaders—and the peoples—we deserve. Without committed and determined religious scholars, intellectuals and business people aware of the critical nature of the issues, there can be little doubt that we will be heading for an upsurge of religious populism among the leadership, and the emotional blindness of the masses. The words and the commitment of the leaders must set the highest standards: beginning with knowledge, understanding, coherence and self-criticism. They must abandon the notion of victimization by appealing to responsibility, by freeing themselves from the illusion that opposition to the “other” can lead to reconciliation with one’s self. Make no mistake: the violent reactions to the insults uttered against the Prophet have driven many Muslims to behaviors far removed from the principles of Islam. We become ourselves not in opposition to someone else, but in accord and at peace with our conscience, our principles and our aspirations. In the serene mastery of ourselves, and not in the aggressive rejection of the Other. Such is the message the world’s Muslims need to hear, and most of all, put into practice.