The quest for ‘balance’

THE blessed month of Ramadan is here once again. It is that time to take stock of what has happened to further improve, not just globally, but beginning with each individual. The #janganlebihlebih (#dontgetexcessive) slogan seems timely albeit it is more directed to preventing the increase in sugar prices. The concern is indeed real, especially now, as any price increase for any essential item will invariably put an extra burden on the consumer.

This is not all of it though since the #janganlebihlebih campaign has other ramifications beyond just the price of sugar. First, it can relate to any form of “excessiveness” economically. An example are the buffets held to break the fast (iftar) as advertised by outlets that are often notoriously associated with food wastage.

Such a wasteful event goes directly against the very grain of Ramadan that encourages us to empathise with those who are deprived of food. And there are thousands of people who could benefit from the “leftovers” if only there is an interest to save the food. But unfortunately nobody cares as this is not part of the CSR.

Second, the buffet packages are mostly pitched at an exorbitant price range beyond the reach of many. Based on the price ranges, it is certain that it is not intended for the poor who need food the most during Ramadan. The buffet packages sorely miss this vital point when crafting Ramadan as mere marketing tools either by design or due to sheer ignorance. The real drive seems to be profit-motivation – a point inherent in #janganlebihlebih when it comes to “excessive” pricing. Yet one is unsure if price checks are carried out on this matter.

Unlike under normal circumstances where buffet charges can be sky high as long as the market can bear, Ramadan buffets or that linked to it in any way cannot be so. This is because it quickly runs head long against the innate compassionate values that the holy month emphasises.

Hence, it is best to stay away from those outlets or even boycott them to avoid distorting the values that Ramadan advocates in the name of human dignity. There is no better way to achieve this if not to fast with the sincere intention to personally experience the hunger pangs and deprivation that affect the poor daily. And then learn to live the experience. Unless this is taken seriously Ramadan will become a ritual that is devoid of meaning.

Third, #janganlebihlebih is equally applicable, if not more so, to yet another human activity. The superfluous and foolish utterances which are increasingly made particularly in spheres of realpolitik and in cyberspace involving the social media. What is clear is that Ramadan is not just about not indulging in food and drink, or sublimating carnal desires. It also extends to the non-material realm of thoughts, feelings and emotions where similar self-restraint is advocated. Ramadan is after all a solemn month that must be strictly observed with deep reflection; with the emphasis on self-introspection and improvement.

In other words throughout Ramadan every one must make the utmost effort to ensure that they rein in as much as possible the desires, feelings and emotions by carefully balancing their actions and thought processes in defining a “new” reality moving up from the past. What is more when the outcome is incitement and tensions that tend to “disturb” the balance that has been fostered.

It is therefore an opportune time to dwell and put into practice the principle of "balance" all the way through. Indeed Ramadan is the best occasion to demonstrate how "balance" is translated into a state of total wellbeing within the person who then manifests an inner peace that is well balanced (sejahtera). This underlines how life should be lived as naturally as possible (without pretensions) even after Ramadan has long passed.

As such the essence of fasting in general serves as a universal platform to shape a greater global balance across the international community beginning with the individual. Especially in ensuring that unfairness and injustices are permanently “overturned” once the Ramadan spirit is truly internalised as the case ought to be by closing the various divides (read: imbalances) that are artificially created, and at the same time preventing future ones from being constructed.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: