The way of peace

As a result of his life experiences up to that point, nerd-face is fiercely egalitarian. He’s anti-racist, pro-justice, passionate about human rights. Due to a lifetime of bullying due to some imperceptible difference he can’t even see in himself, he’s developed a strong emphatic attunement with the underdog. In his personal relationships, he gravitates towards those apparently on the fringes of society, who themselves have faced a lifetime of discrimination, bullying and harassment.

But nerd-face is about to have a rude awakening, for no sane person with any self-respect would choose a geek as their advocate. That would be a humiliation. What nerd-face has not realised yet — though he will soon enough — is that he sits at the bottom of the food-chain. What he carries with him — that imperceptible difference he cannot even define — places him in the untouchables category, written off for his weird looks, the way he carries himself or the tone of his voice. To be seen with such a person, let alone be defended by him, would be ignominy at its worst.

Still, nerd-face thinks the best of everyone. He’s willing to make friends with anyone who’s nice to him, wherever they’re from, whatever their background, whatever they look like, rich or poor, male or female. He seeks out friendly faces and judges others based on a smile, or the way they treat their friends. But nerd-face is simply naive, for his face has already been read, and it tells the reader all they need to know about him, before he has even opened his mouth. His face says, “Loser.” It says he’s a freak, unworthy of respect.

By now, nerd-face is used to this treatment at the hands of the cool-kids, especially the least cool kid amongst the cool-kids, who must cement their ascendency to the top by trampling on one already a laughingstock. Nerd-face has already had five years of this on the school bus. He’s had it merely walking in the street. Not long ago, he had eggs pelted at him while he waited at a bus stop. Due to some imperceptible difference he knows his face must exude, or his body reveals, this has been his experience over and over, for years on end.

By now, nerd-face knows what to expect from the bad-boys; that’s why he avoids them like the plague. But he hasn’t seen what’s coming. Just as he’s judged by his face, so he judges others. But he is more magnanimous, reading their smile and eyes to mean, “Nice person, deserving of respect.” He still believes in his motif: treat others as you’d wish to be treated. Be nice to others and they will be nice to you. Be good to all. Treat others with kindness and hold them in honour. But nerd-face is simply extremely naive, yet to fully understand his place in the world.

The worst thing he can do right now is form a good opinion of one so-judged. He has not yet realised that even that nice person has already read him based on that imperceptible difference that is becoming ever more apparent — his gaunt face, skin pulled tight over his cheekbones, the shape of his body, his stick-like arms, his weird gaze — and has already decided what he is, and how they will behave in his presence.

So it is that they’re determined to prove to nerd-face that he’s completely wrong in his perception of them. They don’t want someone like him to think good of them. Someone like him having a good opinion of them would be a humiliation. Who could imagine it? That freak! To be seen with that loser, with that face, and that frame. They have standards to maintain! Rather, they believe that nerd-face must be put back in his place — his place being that of a loser and freak — to be shown who he is, and all he will ever be.

Once and for all, nerd-face will now learn that he sits at the bottom of the pile. It doesn’t matter if he treats others nicely, for he is still a freak. It doesn’t matter if he is kind, because he is still a loser. One-to-one he may be able to develop good relationships for a while, but even then he will learn that in the presence of others he will be cast aside, derided or scorned. And this he will just have to get used to, through higher education and beyond. Nerd-face must learn the hard way that it’s best to withdraw, retreat, and wait his turn.

One day, when the time is right, nerd-face will encounter folk who will embrace him just the way he is, caring not how he looks, but only what he holds in his heart, mindful of the words of the best of mankind: “Verily God does not look at your faces and your wealth, but He looks at your heart and your deeds.”

One day, if he is patient, he will meet a companion from far away who will tell him, “Your heart is what’s most important to me, but I think you’re very handsome all the same.” Yes, one day, he will find himself cherished and held in honour by a good woman who has imbibed the intent of faith.

And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth humbly, who when the ignorant address them reply, “Peace!”

Quran 25:63

As a result of his life experiences, her companion remains fiercely egalitarian. He’s anti-racist, pro-justice, passionate about human rights. He has retained his emphatic attunement with the underdog. In his personal relationships, he continues to gravitate towards those apparently on the fringes of society. He has learned to forgive, and continues to treat others as he’d like to be treated, regardless of how they treat him. He still believes he should treat others with kindness and hold them in honour. He forgives those who wronged him and seeks their forgiveness in kind.

“Peace!” he calls back to them today. “All is forgiven. This is the way of peace.”

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