Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Day 26 (Cont'd): Library

Today we went to visit the library for western children living in Tarim. Basically, it's just a small room with bookshelves split up into approximately a dozen categories.

It's cute. There's a couple of books by Enid Blyton (and my favorite one of hers—The Faraway Tree), a couple by Roald Dahls, a couple by C.S. Lewis's etc.

Visiting the library and seeing how proud they were of the small collection of books made me realize how lucky I was. My library at home is at least twice the size of theirs, and I always complain about how I have no easy access to English books, since we don't have libraries in Cairo and there were no proper bookstores until a couple of years ago. So I would end up buying all my books from Amazon and elhamdulela I've built up quite a large collection which I never really appreciated until today.

I love books. Always have, always will. I've always thought it was a travesty that so few people really read any more. And I especially believe in the saying: "Ummat iqra' la taqra'" (The Umma (community) of Iqr'aa (recite, the first word revealed in the Qur'an) does not read).

I grew up on a steady diet of Sweet Valley Twins and Goosebumps books, and although now I don't think they're exactly the best things for young kids to read, they turned me into a bookaholic who devoured books and read them from cover to cover. Now, I read at least a couple of books a week, anything I get my hands on—heavy socio-political texts, my little brothers' sci-fi books, newspapers, anything basically.

But since I've been here I haven't really read much. I finished reading all our assigned books the week I got them, and I've been filching books from my housemates but other than that I haven't really read anything.

So when the librarian kindly allowed us to each borrow a book to read, I got really excited. I was really craving a book to read but at the same time I didn't want to waste my time here reading a children's fiction book or wading through a difficult adult biography of Malcom X. In the end I decided on Aesop's fables. I hadn't read them since I was in grade school and not only are they short and easy to read, but they're full of useful morals and lessons. And, as it says in the introduction:
"One might say that the fable created its own philosophy: the character of a being is its fate. [Aesop] realized long before Darwin that man is an animal and that his ideals, motivations, and rationalizations are nothing but a wolfish dialectic."

So in a curious way, it kind of meshes with what we're studying: changing your character and purifying your self.

Today's Quote: People come to Tarim to escape from the pressures of their lives and to live an easier life in terms of spirituality. I don't want this for you. La taqoono farareen, koono qarareen.[Do not be fleers, be those who come to prepare themselves to leave]. Habib Ali.

Another Quote: Most of us busy ourselves with mohasaba (critiquing) of other people who we will not be asked about in this life or the next—celebrities, football players and the like. These people do that and never haseb (critique/ take themselves into account) themselves once. He's the fool. He has files open for people and not one for himself. He should close those files and open one for himself, because if the entire world sins then it's not a problem for you, but one sin that you commit is a problem for you. Habib Umar

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