It was one of those ritual trips to KLCC that students take while trying to deal with the short-semester boredom. As the LRT rolled on, the three of them sat watching the rain battering against the train windows… trees swinging wildly in the wind, cars caught in the jam below… and they began to talk about the train. What could possibly have existed a 100 years ago along the same route they were travelling on? People moved about on foot, rode animals, primitive carts maybe; taking hours to cross distances that we now cross in minutes. Their clothes, technology and food would have definitely been different from ours… ours developed, exotic and stylish; and theirs quite dull and monotonous. But what if, for a moment, we were one of those people who lived a 100 years ago that these bored friends were talking about on a train? Where exactly would we be as they spoke?
Somewhere deep below the ground, walked upon by millions of busy people. Rarely or never thought about. Our faces nameless, our positions taken over, our institutions and houses destroyed, our contributions ridiculously insignificant, our lifestyles outdated… our entire civilization buried. Our once existence on this earth would be imaginary.
Caesar’s dead for all you could care to know about him today. The mighty Pharaoh lies lifeless in a box somewhere in Egypt. The affluent Ottoman Empire has crumbled. And we would never ever know the multitudes of common people that lived during those generations. So too, we will one day be. Meaningless to those that live when we are dead.
If to learn from the past is to realise the true insignificance and temporariness of everything that humans have always cherished, it is also to marvel at the timelessness of the lives of revolutionary people throughout the ages.
He walked on our earth more than 1400 years ago, leaving not a picture or a statue of himself, but an example of such supreme character for which he is till this day remembered every hour of every day of the year in every corner of the world, our most beautiful Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace. In the midst of the pain of death, he said with deep sorrow: “My people, my people”… he cried for you and me, for our guidance, for our happiness; though he knew nothing about us, but his love for us has reached us through the barrier of time. Before him came more beautiful people; Noah, our father Abraham, Moses, Mary the pure. Except Jesus, they all rest here today in our same earth, so imagine where they must’ve once been, sat, walked or prayed. Let’s think about before and beyond us for a while.
As you live out your future, you get closer every day to becoming part of the past. Choose to give something great to this world, choose to make a change that you are remembered for, or choose to join the billions of the forgotten.
[First published in 2009]