As the New Year approached, and listicles started appearing on social media, I thought of what New Years-y post I could do. Maybe one or two cell phone images from each month would be a nice summing up.
But how presumptuous of me—first to forget just how many pictures I take from my phone, and second, to think I could add up the year in a few minutes. As I went through the image history on my phone, Nietzsche’s words on self-discovery rang in my head: “What have you truly loved thus far? What has ever uplifted your soul, what has dominated and delighted it at the same time?”
Looking at my phone left me flummoxed. What should I choose to say uplifted my soul? The otherworldly lushness of the summer I came back to in June, or the most lovely autumn I’ve ever seen in my 13 years in Chicago. Should I be thankful for a dream come true visiting Vancouver, or four trips to Canada in one year, each one so dear. What about Ramadan this year, what about the qir’ah recording from Fajr that one day? And April? April and all its poetry. And Adele’s Hello, but also Vespertina, also Hol Baumann, Yelawolf, Hiltop Hoods, Islands. What about the day in January I felt broken, but wasn’t left to break. What about the Surah Kahf series and Beginning and the End. That book from Annan I recommend to everyone now. The movie that felt so good I saw it twice on screen. All the tuna. All the runs to Lago. Stranded on Prairie. The city again. Friends returned, or maybe me. All the art that was made. Writing. Exchanges. Unexpected, wonderful encounters. Muhsen—he’s a moth. The day of Arafah. Learning, living that Allah is Greater. Neural nets. AI. Vectors? Really? Apple picking happened. The animation show of shows. Lost and found. All dressed chips and the lengths traveled. Inside a novel. Tea. Maple syrup. 118 illustrations. Crossing paths. Across borders. Across seas. All the many homes. Leaving all of them. And what elation, to breathe again, after years? Allah is Greater.
I don’t know. I can watch the eloquence sail away from me as I type. Two nights ago I started writing all the things from this year that were so great, extracted from my phone, conversations, writing, memory and incomplete by far still. This is the third night I’ve sat and thought about 2015, each time completely weak at what the year was. I feel so grateful.
No ode to 2015 like the year itself. Allah is so much Greater.
You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.