Saturday, May 28, 2011

Is This Really LIFE?

The other day my nephews and nieces asked me if they could play a board game called LIFE. I don’t know if all of you are familiar with this game, but for those who are not, it’s basically a board game reflecting “LIFE”. It starts where you have to make the choice between going to College or Finding a Career. Then you move through the various spaces of the game, borrowing money from the bank, getting money for things, receiving a salary, having to pay taxes and other expenses, getting money, losing money, getting married, having children, buying a starter home, then when you have enough money, moving on to a bigger house, then a mansion, getting divorced, getting married again, winning things or money, getting a pay raise, changing careers, going back to college, owing more money, having more expenses, getting more money, then paying for something new..... Eventually you end the game by retiring, with your fancy cars and big mansion (that is of course if you’re lucky enough or wise enough to have played the game well).

As I sat there watching these young innocent children, so eager and excited to play and so fascinated with the game, I honestly couldn’t help feeling completely freaked out! This isn’t what I want my innocent nieces and nephews to think life is all about. In fact, a more appropriate name for this type of game would have been “RAT RACE”. Really, where’s the meaning, the human interaction, the spirituality and religion. Where are the wonderful feelings you get when spending time with family, or the good you accomplish by giving charity, or the positive impact you make by doing volunteer work to help others. Apparently all these things have no value (that is no monetary or material value), and they don’t even deserve to be a part of life. So just like in the game, activities that don’t bring in the money are simply just not worthwhile and you basically end up being the loser. I have to ask; Is this really LIFE? Is this how we want our children to see life? Do we want them to think that life is all about material things and experiences, that our value at the end of the day depends on how big our houses are, or how smart our cars are and how much money we have in the bank? Are these even positive messages at all?

And of course, just like these things have been glamorized in the game, so too have they been made to look wonderful in real life. I know that we need money and a career and so on, but what happened to the essence of life? A life like this has no meaning; it’s a mechanical movement through time where people don’t even have to love what they do, just as long as it gives them the material things they need. What about having a passion for what you do, or doing something because you honestly want to make a real difference? The people who manage to step out of the “rat race” are very few, and they are the ones who are regarded as “odd”, “different”, and “eccentric”. In the meantime, there’s this system in place that has strategically managed to enslave us all in a world that has no meaning and value; a world of materialism, where money is the central part that makes the entire machine work. So people continue to work to get money, and before we even get our pay cheques at the end of the month the money’s already gone. And the house we live in will only belong to us after twenty years of hard work and regular payments. And similarly the car we drive can easily be taken away from us if we are unable to uphold payments. And prices of things continue to go up, and we get extremely tired every day, as we work just to pay for things. Is this really LIFE?

I was happy when my niece decided she wanted to be a teacher in the game instead of a computer designer, despite the fact that the teacher got paid much less. She loves school and teaching and always talks about how she wants to be a teacher. It was refreshing to see how innocent children still make choices based on meaning and value instead of money and materialism. Still though, the sceptic in me can’t help but wonder how long will that last? At what point will this enthusiasm and passion for wanting to do something you really love be drowned out by the glitz and glamour associated with a fancy career. I wish that I could say this will never happen. I wish that I could our future will be built on things that have values and meaning. I wish that I could say money will come to mean very little, it will be a means and not an end. I wish that I could say the definition of life will include meaningful experiences instead of a race through materialism. Perhaps one day my wishes will come true and people will discard the world of materialism for a world full of things that actually mean something.

In the meantime though, we can start with ourselves, we can try to make the difference, we can be different and re-define the definition of LIFE. For me, LIFE is not about a constant rat race, gaining wealth and possessions as we go along. I don’t care about the big house or fancy car. I don’t want the glamorous job in the Top Company. Inshaa Allah, through the mercy of Our Most Magnificent Lord, Allah Almighty, I wish to continue searching for meaning wherever I can find it. And Inshaa Allah, I wish to be able to only do actions that will please Allah, because one day when this material world will no longer exist, then what will I have to show? When money means nothing and all the fancy homes and cars are destroyed and useless, then what will I have to show? When a fancy career in the best company holds no value, then where will I turn? And when I stand before my Lord and have to answer about my life, what will I be able to say then? Who will really win the true game of life?

PS: Before people tell me that I'm spoiling all the fun and taking things way too seriously, I'm really not saying that we shouldn't play games or have fun. Its fine to even play this game for fun, as long as we don't start believing that this is all that life is about. That's all I'm trying to say here!  

May Allah make it easy for us all, Inshaa Allah

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  1. I remember playing this game a while back. It is obvously not the best representation of life, values are out of the picture.

    It is true LIFE,is not about the material. I think money ruin a lot of our human life and we easily found ourselves trapped in a path that does not make any sense but because everybody does it, so we have to fit in.
    I hope your wishes will come true Zarina and will continue to pray for your wise words to touch as many lives as possible, for us all to understand we can make this difference.
    And one day maybe...........the world will see LIFE dfferently!

  2. Thank you Marie, we really can make a difference, even if its very small. Who knows what that small difference can achieve in the long run.

    Hope that you've had a good weekend- Take care.

  3. "In fact, a more appropriate name for this type of game would have been “RAT RACE”" - this made me laugh!

    But really, I appreciate the way you brought this to your audience's attention. It's so true, what you said, that money is what rules "LIFE" or the life of this world at least. It's scary how a kid's game can be so harmful to our psyche. I remember playing this game without the perspective you are presenting, back when I was a child, and I never thought twice about how this was the way you went through life - career, marriage, house, retirement. Very little inbetween. This is a shame for our youngsters to be subjected to this at such a young age.

    I feel hopeful for individuals like your niece, who still recognize that money is the means and not necessarily the ends.

  4. lonlon558

    I agree, it's terrible that young children are subjected to these type of "values" without even being aware of it. I pray that we can all see the truth about LIFE and work towards true goals that will mean something in this world and especially the hereafter.

    Stay well