On Contrast: Love Thy Enemy…Selfishly
Long ago, I wrote a post on friendship. This post serves as its antithesis.
There is a presence in my life that does not please me.
It may sound vague, it may prompt a “so what?”, so perhaps I should ground this in the context of who I am. It takes a lot to not please me. Indifference is my normal. If I were to take issue with anyone, they rarely are so pervasive in my day-to-day life, in my thoughts, that it is worth even acknowledging that there is something detrimental about their presence. For the most part, I have been blessed. People around me either keep me content, or I am indifferent to them, since most of the time I have the luxury of choosing not to be around them when I like, of choosing to be their friend on my terms.
There is one presence, however, that has remained outside of my control. It has stayed put as a big, ugly rock the stream of life has to pass over and around.
Her acquaintanceship does not serve me in any way that I can conjure even by stretching the limits of my imagination. Her presence does not serve me in terms of my deen or my duniya. She is not a source of personal nourishment in any way. She has the potential to be a positive influence that faintly glimmered a few times before fading–for good.
But somehow, she’s stayed. And I am annoyed. Not at her, but at her presence, at how life is letting it overstay its welcome, at how that presence so blatantly disrupts my pattern of interaction with the rest of humanity. What is this supposed to mean?
I came to the realization that perhaps this serves another purpose.
For when I am in the throes of that annoyance–and that’s really what it is, annoyance and frustration, not much else–everything shines brighter. I am so relieved to step away from her that I find a renewed hunger for the parts of life I am content with. I love coming home to my family in a way I haven’t for months. I murmur prayers of gratitude as I ride the subway to class, to intellectual freedom, to an esteemed educational institution I’m so lucky to be part of. I rejoice in the company of all of my friends even more deeply. When one is mentally in a place they do not like being in, they stop taking for granted the places that provide them with so much support and comfort. A child who is wandering outside all day may become weary and bored; the one who has been trapped at home or at school all day flings her shoes off and races across the field.
The function of this presence, perhaps, then, is to pose a contrast. In the manner of a sage who doesn’t want a painful experience to end in their desire to draw closer to God, I would–for much more selfish reasons–like that contrast to remain, so I can keep feeling like that child breathing in the sweetness of that longed-for fresh air.