A Space between Being and Becoming

“Islam is not a state of being but it is a process of becoming,”–becoming more, becoming better, striving to reach that state of perfect submission and connection with Allah Most High, and May He help all of us achieve that, aameen.”

Yusuf Islam

Recently, I finally finished reading Manning Marable’s fittingly titled, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. Marable’s work sparked a great deal of controversy. It has often been misconstrued as a corrective work to Alex Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X, guided by an intention of malice. I am of a different opinion. Like any text, it does serve the bias of the author–which I will refrain from speculating upon as it does not impact my immediate task here–yet, in that bias (whether it is to portray Malcolm’s socialist leanings or expose the Nation of Islam as a source in Malcolm’s assassination) we gather a picture of Malcolm undeveloped in previous works.

Through the life of Malcolm, Marable reduces the caricatures of Malcolm Little, Detroit Red, and Minister Malcolm and instead, extensively documents his continuous process of becoming greater than the past until the moment of his death. In this approach, we gather something much greater than the life of Malcolm and are brought to a more concentrated level to reflect and examine the space of being and becoming, yes, as it relates to Malcolm, but also as it relates to the Nation of Islam, America, and the global convergence of Islam, race and politics.

What I find most intriguing about this particular biography is its attention to the origins and effects of reinvention. It’s always a little difficult and uncomfortable for not only you but those around you when you’re living in a space of who you are and what you aspire to be.

Ephemeral, highly ephemeral is the world of formations; ephemeral, highly ephemeral are our clothes and our hairstyles, and our hair and bodies themselves…The ephemeral changes swiftly—you know that.

The space between being and becoming fosters different creations of ourselves. It allows us the freedom of full authenticity and yet also the possibility to embody fabricated constructions of ourselves. In moments of change we’re easily suckered into someone else’s creation of who we should be–which can yield both, positive and negative results. But sometimes, we also create and believe images of ourselves that we’re not. We play hypocrite to our own souls.

Herman Hesse in his work, Siddhartha, recounts…”Ephemeral, highly ephemeral is the world of formations; ephemeral, highly ephemeral are our clothes and our hairstyles, and our hair and bodies themselves…The ephemeral changes swiftly—you know that”(82-83). If the world of formations is ephemeral, then at what point do we meet who it is we are to become? When are we being our authentic selves?

At some point the ephemeral has to meet the eternal.

I’ll end here with some thoughts from the Islamic thinker, al-Ghazali in his work The Alchemy of Happiness (Field, 1991):

Now nothing is nearer to thee than thyself, and if thou knowest not thyself how canst thou know anything else? If thou sayest “I know myself,” meaning thy outward shape, body, face, limbs, and so forth, such knowledge can never be a key to the knowledge of God. Nor, if thy knowledge as to that which is within only extends so far, that when thou art angry thou attackest someone, wilt thou progress any further in this path, for the beasts are thy partners in this? But real self knowledge consist in knowing the following things:

What art thou in thyself, and from whence hast thou come?

Whither art thou going, and for what purpose has thou come to tarry here for awhile, and in what does thy real happiness and misery consist? [italics mine]

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