Whose world is the real one?

May 3rd, 2006 | By | Category: International

Flicking through the channels with the Sky remote control, I chanced this evening upon the Islam Channel. A bearded cleric was taking questions on what entertainments were permissible for Moslems. Activities directed towards the worship of Allah were permissible; so football was permissible if its purpose was to make the person physically fitter and better able to offer their best in worship; but it was not permissible if it was directed towards fame for individuals or making money. I assume the cleric was from a conservative tradition, Arab and north African countries are very active participants in international football which is overwhelmingly professional.

Conservative or not, the cleric’s vision for people was that they would have a purpose-driven life, that all their activities would be filled with meaning.

Moving on through the channels I found one of the comedy stations, it was showing an old episode of MASH, the series set against the background of a field hospital in the Korean War. The theme tune has always been haunting, but, then so have the lyrics of the theme tune:

Through early morning fog I see
visions of the things to be
the pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see . . .

that suicide is painless
it brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.

I try to find a way to make
all our little joys relate
without that ever-present hate
but now I know that it’s too late, and. . .

The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I’ll someday lay
so this is all I have to say. . .

The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I’m beat
and to another give my seat
for that’s the only painless feat.

The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn’t hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger…watch it grin, but. . .

A brave man once requested me
to answer questions that are key
is it to be or not to be
and I replied ‘oh why ask me?’

‘Cause suicide is painless
it brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.
…and you can do the same thing if you please.

Switching the television off, I wondered which world was the more attractive, the strict conservative lifestyle espoused by the cleric and his followers, or the nihilism of the West in the 1970s that made series like MASH so popular.

Do we stand with the Islamic cleric believing there is meaning in life, or with the writers of the MASH song, that it’s all pointless?

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