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“I should have been a plumber, or a handyman,” a friend of mine reflected as he set forth fresh from school with his law degree. His rationale was not the prestige of the career path or the glory of the work, but the simple fact that people just don’t know how to fix things, and he thought he could make bank on just having a skill or two. I think he has a point.
I’ve always valued skills. There’s something beautiful about working with your hands.I would spend summers watching my grandfather in the “shop,” as they called it, fixing trucks and mending various pieces of farm equipment. He’d lean down to explain what he was doing as he hammered something here, or added oil to something there and thus began my understanding of the importance of fixing rather than tossing, of mending rather than replacing.
I value people who have skills, who can teach their skills, and who are more self-sufficient beings because of their skills. Talents, like cooking, sewing, building, making things, and fixing things are like money in your pocket in this day and age. I’m sure every person has a skill or two that has remained untapped because of the lack of importance that was placed upon it.
The lack of value we have for practical skills goes hand-in-hand with how throw-away our culture has become. As soon as something breaks, we replace it.Yes, perhaps this is more a problem of quality. I believe though, that with a little development of talent, and perhaps self-confidence, we could drastically reduce our consumerism.
It is my goal, inshaAllah, in the next few months, to develop a new skill set. Though ambitious, I’d really love to apprentice with someone who knows how to refurbish a house. Those talents would be not only useful, but priceless for the rest of my life. To be able to count on my own two hands to build and mend the place I call home would be of such use to not only me, but to those around me.
I also intend, inshaAllah, to teach what few skills I have already. Just as my grandfather did so patiently, I hope to pass along what I do know, to someone who doesn’t. It is important for us to recognize what knowledge we already have, and develop those untapped innate abilities to help those around us. Not only are we being resourceful, practicing the teachings of our Beloved, but we are also taking one step towards living a more sustainable life.
As I go forward to find my home refurbishing mentor, let me know if you’d like to learn how to sew on a button…or change a tire!
SarrahAbuLughod is a DC resident who works at a youth development non-profit that serves low-income students in the DC area. She is also the Educational Programming Manager with Green Muslims.
Sarrah grew up in Wisconsin and spent many summers on her grandparent’s farm, developing skills.
if notorious was right, then we’re in for a ride, but the good kind. a national sobering up of sorts. don’t get me wrong- layoffs and second jobs are no joke. but maybe the silver lining of this economic (social?) shift is a re-discovered sense of priority, thrift, and values. and not just with money, either.
i find it frustrating that whenever people want to “hang out” it ends up with a movie ($) or eating out ($$). it’s not bothersome because it costs money so much as we tend to equate spending quality time with spending money- we give but we don’t get. no trickle down economics there, buddy. just a slow accumulation of emotional debt.
we’ve built our culture in such a way where we start to take as reality the ridiculous notions of commercials where clothes, credit cards, or cars equal happiness. mastercard uses reverse psychology to make itself out *not* to be a shark (priceless my foot), but it’s time to take a step back. it’s the jump scene in a horror movie- time to register the shock, delayed though the reaction may be.
happily, being “green” can help. i will share just one thing, one that i’ve enjoyed quizzing my saturday school students on until they know the exact number. did you know it’s sunnah to use approximately 24 ounces (that’s like, one really big glass) of water to make wudu? if anyone remembers that sesame street sketch where the fish’s pond starts losing water because of the child running the tap while brushing his teeth- that always resonated with me. it’s adab (manners, way of conducting yourself), it’s common sense, it’s closer to our fitra (natural disposition), and it might take practice but if we manage to make it into habit, we can lead simpler and more fulfilling lives.
lives, perhaps, where we can focus on our personal relationships and our closeness to God rather than our bank accounts.
On the other hand, I felt the sprawling nature of Southern California negatively impact my inner landscape. Los Angeles County is compartmentalized, just as my psyche was fragmented and disjointed. Entertainment hubs, friends, work, and home are miles apart, taking hours in traffic to get from one place to another, both in public transit or auto. The lack of unity and harmony felt within me reflected the disharmony in my surroundings.
Less happens in a day when you are spending hours on end sitting in a parking lot, more commonly known as the 405 freeway. It is hard to feel collected and stable when your daily activities are so heavily determined by externalities like commute time and distance from work to home, etc. The daunting thought of getting from one place to another usually meant I stayed home on my couch. This took a toll on my sense of community and place. I felt little ownership for my surroundings/inner-self and frankly, was not equipped with the right tools to fix my predicament.
Seeing as how I was so clearly affected by my built environment, I decided I wanted to learn the tools. I wanted to understand the spatial composition of cities. Who decides where buildings go?… Who decides where the roadway network is constructed?… Who doesn’t have a voice in these types of discussions?… How do we create a sense of community?… How can we lessen the burden the environment experiences because of us?… How can we make public transit a viable transportation option by lessening door-to-door transit time?…
As I try to equip myself with the right tools to help influence the external world, my internal world is on its way to becoming more centered and rooted in a framework of thought that encourages reflection, growth and acceptance of change—paying special attention to how externalities/built environment affect(s) me.
Sometimes our past issues/mistakes can seem as immovable as a 10-story skyscraper, casting its shadow over our future pursuits.I am starting to realize now that we have the ability, the strength from within, to create buildings we deem worthy and raze structures that impede our processes of growth on our respective journeys.
I finally recognize the harmony of my inner landscape comes from an alignment/unification of my soul, mind, and heart—-making every part of me ready to hear God’s presence in my life.
i’m new around these parts so let me introduce myself. my name’s yasmin, i’m a vt alum (go hokies!), i like blogging, and i would like to help in a small way with dc green muslims (even though i’m from the VA). please find it within yourself to forgive my habit of not capitalizing, using many many commas, and just generally being one of “those” bloggers.
let’s get right to it then- why? i’m here to share my views, help make some of the people around me more conscious of the decisions they make (and why), and figure out *why* issues of sustainability are so important to me. why indeed. when it comes to my intentions, i try to be brief (perhaps for my own lack of mental organization), so forgive me for my brevity. on with it 🙂
does anyone else like driving as much as i do? i tend to get my best thoughts while driving, and find it very easy to engage in dhikr (remembrance of God). granted, of course, that the driving is easy (sooo, not so much in dc proper ;). anyway, i’m a fan of analogies and they seem to come together for me most while i’m driving. here’s my latest…
i was thinking about what it means to be “green,” and how it’s been described in “shades”- darker, lighter. i think even i’ve used that imagery. sometimes i feel like there’s this hidden competition to see who’s greener- having a hybrid vs. riding a bike vs. walking vs….i don’t know. eating at mcdonalds vs. eating only raw stuff vs…not eating? not to say we shouldn’t reduce our ecological footprint on our beloved planet, but what is our end goal, anyway? if it’s harmony we’re looking for, i think it’s safe to say i’ve met quite a few harmonious people who aren’t your typical “greenies.” and God knows better (allahu alam).
i feel like encouraging sustainable behaviors is more a sensibility and less an argument- a demonstration of adab (manners), perhaps. (don’t worry, i’m getting to the analogy)* and how, perhaps instead of each person being a particular shade of green, each person’s sensibilities is like a field. some fields are adjacent and some share no borders at all. each is tilled in its own way, grows its own things, and yes, they even affect each other (runoff, cross-pollination, etc.). now imagine fences between them (happy fences, if the thought disturbs you). well, i’m on the fence on most issues. the benefit being that i know that even if the grass looks greener on one side, the potential on the other side isn’t diminished.** occasionally, i pick sides. but in the case of my philosphy on being green, i like knowing that fences can be jumped.
*perhaps you should know before reading the analogy: i studied agriculture in college. maybe that’ll explain a little.
** in particular, i studied soil. yes- dirt. that lovely dark (sometimes red, if you’re from my area) stuff. it’s important 🙂
ps – oh, i forgot to mention. i try to keep my intentions short, but i tend to ramble on posts (you win some, you lose some).