We are networks of copycats 13 September 2010Posted by MOZAFFAR in Misc.
Despite our individuality, it is in our nature to mimic others. We mimic others in our language, in our posture, in our expressions. You have to wonder what about yourself, if anything, is original. You have to wonder if there is any aspect of your life that, at some point, was not a mimicking of someone else. Thus, your individuality — beyond your individual consciousness — might be that unique combination of the various imitations in the various aspects of your person and history.
Now, we know that you will have what you have earned, whether it comes from originality or from mimicry. Ideally, much of your mimicry is a mimicry of piety, and among those acts of copying, the best would be those imitating the Prophet -p.
But, with this aspect of human nature in mind, the real question is: which of the behaviors of others trace themselves to you? What aspects of your life are others imitating? Be sure that everyone in the world cares even the smallest bit of influence. Who is there who influences more than a parent influences a child? A mother may seem to spend her entire day in the home, being told by society that she is insignificant. Yet anyone with any sight beyond the immediate moment knows that that same mother is among the most influential members of society, because she is molding the next generation. That job is alone a full time job at least as important for the future of a society as any job in society. It is unfortunate that so many mothers, rather, so many parents (mothers and fathers) have pawned off this great responsibility to part-time babysitters, screens (television, phone, internet), and empty houses. For the child will imitate his/her environment.
But, what of your peers? How often do we extol the importance and virtues of good company. With each meeting, you partake of a piece of your friend, and with each meeting your friend partakes of a piece of you.
But, there is a catch in all this: we tend to imitate the people, forces, and ideas we respect. That respect may come from love. That respect may come from intimidation. That respect may come from repulsion: evil acts, harmful acts, repulsive acts also get imitated. But, the point is that if you respect a behavior, you will seek to imitate it. Some behaviors will be within your reach, while others will beyond reach. But, if you respect a behavior, you will seek to mimic it. And if you respect a person, if you love a person, you will seek to imitate that person. You will seek to embody that person.
Thus, we see in the tradition that there is a distinction between the practice of obeying the Prophet -p, and following him -p. You may obey him out of hope, perhaps even out of fear. But, if you respect him -p, if you love him -p, you will seek to imitate him -p. And, then those who respect and love you will imitate you.
And Allah knows best.