Of September 11, 2001

19. "Catch That Dream"

Some dreams are so beautiful that I do not want to wake up as some realities are worse than the nightmares.

On the evening of August 12, 1999 I entered into one such dream. I was taken to a heaven on earth, where I met the representatives of Buddha, Krishna, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and Mother Nature. For the next 5 days I lived with them, sat with them, ate with them, and walked side by side with them. We sang together, prayed together, cried together, laughed together, and above all, shared with them the stories of over 5000 years of human civilization on earth, the agonies and joys of being on earth, with their fears and tears, with a storm of trial and tribulations, with challenges and pains of suffering and then the rainbow of hope and the promise of new beginnings of a new life after the apparent death.

They all told me the same stories of the same illness with different manifestations, affecting different patients at different locations and times. The illness being that man has eliminated God from life and has become his own God. He has lost the purpose of his life on earth and the message of God.

This in spite of the fact that due to the advancement of means of mass communication and transportation, the earth has become a global village. People still live in small huts of their own, afraid to open their windows to show their own face (faith) to others, or open their doors to allow others to visit them, or to venture out to see how others look, live, and believe in.

This apprehension of others has lead to our inclusive and exclusive behavior when we exclude others from our own joys and blessings because of race, color, language, ethnic origin, faith, education, economic, social, and gender disparity.

This satanic superiority complex that "I am holier than thou", "I am right and you are wrong", "I will go to heaven and you will go to hell", or "I am richer than you" has divided mankind into those who have and those who have not, into north and south, into white and colored, into the majority and minority. The real war in the world is not between Arabs and Israeli, Hindus and Muslims, Serbian and ethnic Albanians, but between the believers and unbelievers, between the blind and the seeing, between the knowledgeable and ignorant, and between love givers and hate mongers. When I as a physician remove the skin from a human body I find that the muscles, bones, and vessels are of the same color, so why do we fight so much about the color of the skin covering.

The fire of hatred, racism, biases, complexes and classes have burned down the beautiful rain forest and garden of Eden. The storm is over and the rain has stopped. The rainbow on the horizon has appeared. The dream is over and my eyes are open. I am awake and back to earth and am now wondering what should I do.

On August 18th I will descend down from the mountain. My people at the bottom of the mountain are impatiently waiting. They will ask me "what have you brought down for us"?

Before I tell my people what to do, I must ask myself how I am changed now and how will I behave differently. The change must begin with me that they can see. I will stop calling the Jew, the Christian and Hindu as my enemy. When I meet new Jewish people I will see in my friends, Jerome, Bary, Tamah, and Deborah. I will love all Hindus I meet now in the same way I love Raj, Arumina and Sita. I will respect all black people as I respect Ron and Tee. I will listen to my fiery Imams as I listen to Fawaz, and honor all Muslim women as I honor Nahid. All my Christian neighbors, colleagues and workers, will remind me of John, Jay, Mary, Patrick, Don and Minerva. I will revere the wisdom of all Buddhists not just Srivan and Kayo. I will love all native Indians and feel their pain because of what I saw in Ernie. If I meet a so called atheist, I will see down inside him and will not condemn him to hell as I saw God in his heart. They all are beautiful people and manifest the beauty of God.

Now that I have blessed the house of Patrick and his wife, I will bless each house I enter as God is a resident of each of them. I will pray for each worker in the office as I prayed for Delores.

When I meet my pious wife I will see beyond her beauty. I will see in her the love and beauty of God. When I meet my children I will see them as gifts from God. A gift with the responsibility given to me for nurturing them, preserving them, upbringing them and shaping them as responsible citizens and loving believers. I will tell my children to preserve their ethnic and faith identity and not melt down in the heat of American materialism. I will consider all children as my own children, all men as my own brothers, all women as my own sisters, and all elders as my own parents. I will love myself as well. Because of the retreat I am now a better human and a better Muslim.

But what about my community?

My community is not just my Muslim community around the mosque, but the whole city starting with my neighborhood. I must visit them, their houses, places of worship, education and politics. With the help of fellow believers I will organize programs to help my people. I will help the programs already in place and start new ones already tried in other places that those representatives of the prophets told me in the dream.

These programs may include sharing faith with each other, feeding the hungry, health care for the homeless, clothes for the under privileged, refurbishing the homes of the elderly, planting new trees, cleaning the neighborhood, helping the illiterate to learn to read, guiding to youth to create a drug free society, and above all inoculating the love and respect for fellow human beings out of love and respect for the same God we worship. I will not keep God imprisoned in the house of worship, but allow Him to enter my home and my life, and live with me in my heart.

What about my nation?

I will stop calling the U.S.A. "The great Satan" or Pharaoh's land, (I never did anyway, but some do). I will thank God for making me a citizen of this land of opportunity, the land of freedom with fertile soil to sow seeds of love and belief, not of hate and racism. I will tell my representatives in congress to fight for human rights, social justice, gender equality and against racism all over the world, not just in the U.S.A.

The world at large

The world is now my village. To protect and preserve its people and environment is my own personal responsibility. The last millennium has seen much bloodshed, wars in the name of God and race, ethnic cleansing, holocausts and concentration camps. In the new millennium we will work toward the gift of peace with peaceful talks and action, of equality of races, gender and faith. We should have clean air to breathe and a beautiful place to live in.

I believe that if I sow good seeds today and nurture them right, tomorrow my children and their children will enjoy the delicious fruit thereof. I will then smile looking down at earth from the heavens above. The earth will become a heavenly place to live. I will promote and propagate my message the world.


Reflections on an interfaith retreat

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Shahid Athar, MD
8424 Naab Road
Suite 2D
Indianapolis, IN 46260