Is there any middle-path available between the extremes?
Well, precisely a quarter of a century has passed-by since January 1990, and we are still burdened with a profound confusion; what is the path to salvation. Most of us feeling deeply distressed find refuge only in rejectionist attitudes.
And the numbed amongst us tend to imagine protection in capitulation. Is there any middle-path available between these two extremes? Is it possible to envision peace as well as dignity? Yes both, peace as well as dignity. That we may arrive to recognize as a dignified peace?
Then there is the innate misapprehension about the idea of middle-path itself. Most of us misconstrue middle-path as a humiliating compromise. Mind it, in the lexicon of resistance, any idea of compromise is regarded as admission of defeat.
Actually, middle-path is to negotiate the complexities between the two extremes. To discern complexities and to discover a right-path indeed is a middle-path. Normally we understand that an extremist position is difficult to adopt and more difficult to pursue.
It’s absolutely an erroneous understanding. Extreme positions are easy to locate hence easier to follow or adopt. Contrarily, determining complexities and discovering where the middle is located, is always a complex process. It entails a process of life-long learning.
Cooking rice indeed is not a rocket science. Yet for any rookie it might be a—wu’tchun, burning and aai`ma, sticky— experience. We seem to be utterly fastidious about the real taste of, our staple diet, bowl of rice.
Perhaps it was October 1989; in a Rawalpindi safe-house few boys from Srinagar were feeling homesick, since their arrival, probably few days back. As the cooks were Pathan, these otherwise well-mannered boys from breakfast to dinner had to negotiate with large Nan—Tandoori Roti.
The boys were not comfortable with Palaav either; they were craving for simple white Kashmiri rice. The woeful cooks, lamenting their inability to cook rice suiting our taste buds, narrated that they consume plain rice in sickness only.
Finding some comfort level with me (as I devoured the Tandoori Roti with some relish) the amenable Pathan requested me to cook plain rice for the boys. I hardly knew the art of cooking steamed rice. Perhaps under obligation, I assumed the duty.
First time it was straight out of pan, boiled watery rice. Embarrassed as boys counselled me; the rice needs to be steamed. They too being naive were unable to explain, the real proper. So the rice next time was wu’tchun and on next occasion, aain`ma—sticky and gritty.
It was really a challenge to discover the secret of well-cooked rice, a middle between two extremes; wu’tchun and aain`ma. When half-done it was aain`ma—sticky and gritty. And overcooked rice smelled wu’tchun.
If one happens to visit a steak restaurant in America, the waiter will ask, how you do like your steak, half-done or over-done. Obviously half-done gives a raw taste but over-done is overcooked. I use to wonder whether they could offer something well-done, while the beef is cooked well but the juices remain.
Neither the half-done nor the over-done, the secret is always to obtain what well-done could be. What we need to survive perhaps we know. What makes us happy; however, most of us are not aware of. A life with abundance, does that make us happy?
A life with meagre or nothing, is that the answer? Chasing the abundance, without discovering the secret of real comfort, eventually sucks the life.
Yet a meagre life is immeasurable pain.
A chase of abundance is evil. An abject existence out of sheer laziness amply connotes absence of self-respect. A self-respecting person will never steal or cheat, yet a true self-respecting will by no means extend his hand for alms.
In between the two-extremes of gluttony and meagre, here the real test is to discover the secret of self-respect. The challenge is to discover equilibrium in life described as self-respect. It’s a middle of the road approach between what is abundance and what that is miserable existence.
It’s the discovery of self-respect; however that reveals the secret of dignified existence, eventually spurring an urge for a sustainable peace. Self-respect without humility only smacks self-righteousness. A notion of dignity without humility is a gross arrogance.
An extreme here trapped in conceit rejects the very idea of peace. That prompts the real question; what should inform our urge for peace, the hate of other or the very ideals of the struggle? Certainly the very ideals of resistance, we ought to pursue the goal of our dignified existence and not the destruction of the other.
What other intends should only inform our understanding not our actions.
Allowing resistance to remain hostage to the actions of other will only lead to the destruction of very ideals, a struggle may claim to pursue. So the middle path here is to pursue dignified existence without getting sucked in the hate of other thus seeking its destruction.
The oppressed aiming a dignified existence also feeling empowered to envision peace, for and with, its oppressor, is the real awakening. Does middle-path provide an escape from the death? The other extreme compelled by the lure of life may tend to find refuge in escaping the death. Can death ever be escaped?
The more one however strives to escape the death the more humiliating human existence turns out to be. The more life is fortified with struggle, the more dignified existence is.
“And thus have we willed you to be a community of the middle way, so that [with your lives] you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind, and that the Apostle might bear witness to it before you. (2:143)