The thing about Ramadan is that its a time where being alone isn’t an option. You are surrounded by people in the community, happens that also means being surrounded by your family. One thing though is that Ramadan is also a time where if you don’t have family, you start feeling it. But also, its when you start noticing the things that might be missing in your life, i.e.. a wife or husband.
I been talking about this with a couple of friends who are single like me. What was most interesting was that their is a good degree of discrimination for familial relations, or lack there of in the Muslim community. Being single often means you get excluded from activities. One married friend said that that would be good enough reason to get married, he said its “encouragement to the bachelors”. I disagree with that perception. Everyone seems to think that people “choose to be single” and then on the other hand suggest that its all about naseeb (the concept of divine will). What a contradictory paradigm that seems irreconcilable.
But what of the loneliness birds? What are the loneliness birds, you wonder? Well its a myth from Africa that discusses how stones lying around together in a seemingly nest like situation were placed by “loneliness birds” that scan the earth searching for places to lay their eggs. They are species of the high altitudes and are rarely seen beyond their silhouettes. Humans are tempted to pick up these egg stones, when you do you find the they are super heavy. That heaviness you feel is the heart that is grieving of a loved ones death, but for my purposes I would say its the feeling of being alone without a loved one.
I first ran into the myth when I read The Power of One by Bryce Courtaney where Peekay, the protagonist in the novel experiences loneliness as well as being an outsider wherever he goes in the novel. The birds surface at various moments throughout his life. The idea of being alone not only in terms of familial relations but also in terms of ideological perspectives was something I found intriguing in that it was something I could relate to as a child. The way Peekay held on to his ideals and matured presented a wonderful plot.
But I am fascinated in how Ramadan brings out the loneliness birds for folks who are far away from home. I somewhat feel parallels with my parents feelings of loneliness during these times of religious festivities. How they immigrated here and didn’t feel the Ramadan cheer, but during Christmas time were surrounded by these alien celebrations they couldn’t make sense of. I grew up with Christmas so the season isn’t that unfamiliar to me. But here is an excerpt from my brothers blog about being alone even with his efforts to make Boston home:
Having just dropped off a visiting friend from California at the bus station, I was reminded how lonely things are here. That even despite my best attempts to make Boston my home, it is only a stop in the greater schemes of things. I don’t know where life will take me next…. maybe I’ll end up staying in Boston, maybe I’ll get to move back home or maybe end up in another part of the world! But as I walked from Copley Square to the medical campus in South End, I was at peace with where I am in life. Picking up a hot choclate from a popular bakery/cafe in the area, Flour, I sat on a bench facing the school and the sunrise, soaking up the early warmth of the sun, and thinking to myself how lucky I was. Depsite becoming aware of feelings of isolation, I was reminded we are born alone and die alone. I was reminded of the importance of creating strong bonds with hte places and people you come across. I was reminded how important it is to smile even to strangers
So remember to make that stranger at your masjid feel at home this Ramadan, its a form of charity that is rewarded by God, so smile often!