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Our Zahir

December 17, 2011

“We must play music quietly, talk quietly, weep in private, because I am the all-powerful Zahir, who lays down the rules and determines the distance between railway tracks,” writes Paulo Coelho in his novel of obsession, The Zahir. Such a creepy line, huh? I am still feeling like an ignorant man (bless me) each time I stumble into a poetic line in this book. For instance, I’m a bit hot and bothered by Coelho’s revolutionary perspective on marriage, comparing it to railway tracks, always moving towards the same direction but keeping the same distance, never coming any closer. Such a mind-blowing idea.

But what the heck is the Zahir?

Quoting Faubourg Saint-Pères (1953), the idea of Zahir “comes from Islamic tradition and is thought to have arisen at some point in the eighteenth century. Zahir, in Arabic, means visible, present, incapable of going unnoticed. It is someone or something which, once we have come into contact with them or it, gradually occupies our every thought, until we can think of nothing else. This can be considered either state of holiness or of madness …”

Got it?

Don’t worry if you don’t. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. Who and what is our Zahir? Does it exist? Okay, let’s breathe deeply together and put ourselves into a holy and mad state. Through this practice, I hope we will begin to perceive the things surrounding us through new eyes, and we will begin to look at our life in front of us and create a story about it; how it has developed, how many people we have met, how many places we have been, the delight and sorrow of growing up through the childhood, the joy and pain of struggling through adulthood. At one point of our happy and snappy life, we will begin to sense that there is a strong, all-knowing presence, watching us and guiding us from high above or down under. We will begin to realize that there have been many events that have consciously and subconsciously shaped our life, our beliefs, our reasons of living. We will begin to notice that this life is no longer just a place to work during daytime and sleep at night; it is a historic and developing being, the results of beautiful work of many people who are still alive and making histories and of many people who have died and left behind their legacies. This powerful part of the world is always there around us and steering our life with its mighty values, and we seldom pay attention to it.

Like the shape of alphabets we are asked to write.
Like the concept of time we are forced to follow.
Like the greetings we are conditioned to say.
Like the ideal weight we advised to achieve.
Like the celebrities we are programmed to worship.
Like the networking sites we are addicted to log in.
Like the love we are told to seek.
Like the distance between railway tracks.

Now, have we found our Zahir?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Arif permalink
    December 20, 2011 5:07 am

    such a brilliant piece of writing. i just love things written in a philosophical way. so i see it. my Zahir?… I haven’t found it?. I guess you have found yours. 😛


    • December 20, 2011 9:30 am

      Dear Arif, you’ll see your own Zahir some day, right under your nose. Mine is killing me subtly.


  2. December 21, 2011 11:04 pm

    belum baca lagi….buku ini.


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