Here is our vision on the eve of our journey: Pregnant women go through a period when they feel hungry for a great quantity and variety of food. This is because of what is growing in them; what is buried in the night of the womb. Similarly, when somebody is seeded with an inspiration or when one reaches a time in life that marks the activation of a potential, one feels hunger according to the needs of that inspiration or potential so that it can realize itself in this physical world. A child needs to eat in order to build his body; hence, they feel hunger for food. Adolescents need to become separate individuals by finding their own personalities; hence, they feel hunger for freedom. As young people grow, they reach a time when they are ready to establish a family; hence they feel hunger for beauty and loyalty. The elderly experience the hardships of this life more intensely, and they feel the proximity of the end of their lives; hence, they feel hunger for relaxation and eternity.
On the day of our journey, as we reflect on our vision of the past night, we conclude that depending on the way it is created, each organ of the human body feels hunger, and needs food accordingly. The hunger of the body is satisfied with food, the hunger of the mind is quenched by knowledge, and the hunger of heart by inspiration and love. This list can be extended for the other organs or faculties of a human. Therefore, as human beings, we need not only food to sustain the life of our biological body, but also food for our other faculties such as vision, hearing, spirit, mind, and so on.
As our ship sails through the ocean, we experience a storm in the early afternoon. The clouds make the day seem like night. As the hours pass, we feel saddened. Since we have already been craving light, the nightfall brings a definite darkness to the world outside and inside. This sad state shapes the vision of the second night. We come to understand that we need light and, therefore, we feel hunger for light. The daytime corresponds to our period of feeding with light, and the nighttime to the period when we feel hunger for light. Thus, alternation of day and night also becomes a part of our spiritual lives, aside from the astronomical sense.
Interestingly, just as night and darkness on one side of the earth correspond to daytime on the other, the hunger of one part of the human body corresponds to the feeding time of some other parts. For example, the spirit is fed by keeping away from the material world, and conversely, our body is fed by the material world. As we feed our spirit, our body becomes hungry; then, as we feed our body, our spirit becomes hungry. This is the state of a healthy human character. Trying to make the day of one part permanent will result in the collapse and death of the entire system. Therefore, too much indulgence in worldly pleasures or an extreme refusal of the world are both unhealthy attitudes. This fact brings us to the conclusion that change is a blessing for the continuity of our biological, spiritual and mental lives.
With these thoughts in our minds, we get up the next morning to bright sunshine. As we inhale the fresh air, our contemplation brings us to the conclusion that we need opposites or contrasting experiences in order to appreciate the value of the blessings we have in our lives. The continuity of blessings without their opposites leads to a degeneration in our perception of them. For example: a child who has caring parents does not understand how valuable it is to have such parents; people who do not suffer from hunger cannot appreciate the value of the food they eat; people who have never been poor would take for granted the peace derived from being able to find what they need. Given that the manifestations of God’s attributes are the provisions to quench the varying hunger types arising from our organs and senses, a lack of appreciation of these foods means ignorance of God. To save us from this innate ignorance, God changes His creation periodically so that different kinds and levels of hunger make us understand, feel and experience all levels of qualities in God’s works.
After so much sailing in the spiritual and mental realms, our body falls hungry, and we share lunch with friends. The minor rain shower in the afternoon reminds us of the vision in the previous night, which was inspired by the analogous relation between daytime and feeding, and nighttime and hunger. Knowing that these alternations are omnipresent, the entire universe becomes a palace filled with different kinds of feasts that address the hunger of all our senses.1 An explosion of gratitude towards God shakes us.
During the night, the clouds disappear from the skies, and the face of the heavens draws our gaze with irresistible beauty. Our eyes remain locked on deep distances, as the fresh waters of inspiration flow into our hearts. The level of satisfaction we feel at that moment recalls the moments before setting out on this exploration, and there comes the vision of the night: all this started because of our desire to learn what was hidden behind the question regarding the kind of pregnancy to which everybody is entitled. Desire is a kind of hunger. For anybody, the possibility of change depends on the level of desire, and hence the level of hunger, and hunger is a means of education. Many people can remember how they changed during their adolescence when they felt intense hunger for beauty. Even animals can be trained to perform certain actions based on a hunger-feeding cycle that reinforces those actions. Also, it is reported that God tested Satan with very many different things upon his rebellion. Each time, Satan would not give up his rebellion. But when he was tormented with hunger, only then he said, “You are my Lord, and I am Your slave.”
By now, it has been several days since we left the comfortable lands, where we did not have these questions in mind. At this moment, we are in the middle of the ocean with no land on the horizon, no clue to the answer to the initial problem we set out to solve. It could be that we have undertaken all this toil in vain, that everything was just a figment of our imagination. What if we cannot even go back, and instead we drown in this ocean of questions and visions? No, no, all this cannot be a mere lie. But what if …
We are in a deep and vast ocean, nobody knows the way back home, and nobody knows if the new land really exists. Our food is almost gone, and the extreme uncertainty of the future increases our tension. We need someone who can turn our night into day, someone who knows where we are and where and what our imagined reality actually is. Along with the imaginary character of our visions, the alternation of day and night betrays us; we are stuck in a night of uncertainty and sadness. We need someone to make them alternate. “Please! Save us!”
The following night, in our dream, we see ourselves in the front line of an army ready to fight. We think that this fight is, maybe, the price we have to pay to deserve the answer to the pregnancy question because, without sacrifice, the answer would not be legitimate food for our mind. At the end of the battle, with the excitement and joy of victory, we cry out to people, “This is a realization! ‘God is the friend of the believers; He takes them from layers of darkness into the light.’” With that, we wake up. Pondering the dream of the night before, two flashes of lightning illuminate our minds. The first flash is a further understanding that hunger is a means of education. Our most sincere prayers come in times of misfortune, which take the veil from our eyes which keeps us from seeing God as the only and the ultimate point of help. Therefore, if we are patient enough, our Lord wants to further our relationship with Him, that is, our faith, by answering our sincere prayers. In the light of the second flash, we see that hunger is not only a means of education but also a means of examination because our inner condition is revealed in the face of the uncertainties inherent in the challenges throughout our lives. Hunger forces us to move towards the sustenance that is going to satisfy it. However, there are both legitimate and illegitimate ways to find sustenance; and also, there is legitimate and illegitimate sustenance. Are we to diverge from the straight path, blinded by our hunger? Or are we to keep upright with God’s pleasure as our only and ultimate goal? Thus, hunger reveals what is inside, and in that way, eliminates the immature and the hypocritical.
Hunger has an inherent link to hardship. So, the properties of hunger can be observed in hardship as well. Times of hardship are times when we feel a strong desire for that which is going to deliver us. Therefore, similar to hunger, hardship is a time of education and examination, too. To use another analogy, just like hunger is linked to the nighttime, hardship is also like the night that brings a break in the flow of our lives. That is why we feel under pressure in times when we have to resist the great momentum of events in our lives. Therefore, with the motivating hunger it brings, a night of hardship provides us with an opportunity to evaluate ourselves for a new start. As prayers and worship performed in the lonely hours of the night are invaluable, so too are actions and intentions during times of hardship very important; not only because they are the basis of a new start, but also because they are part of the reason for our existence in this world: to worship God. Therefore, we have to pay the dues of the night.
After a final night of hunger and hardship, the land appears in the horizon as a distant darkness enshrouding the fertility, and we realize that if we are in a period of hunger, then we are pregnant with a new personality and life.
Sermed Ogretim has a PhD in Aerospace Engineering and is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at West Virginia University. He has a special interest in psychological fiction.
1- Nursi, S., Second fruit of fifth branch, 24th Word, The Words, Kaynak 1997.
2- Nursi, S., First Aim, 30th Word, The Words, pp. 240, Kaynak 1997. This is the place where Said Nursi describes the three journeys to the other side of the earth. At the start of these symbolic journeys, he explains the darkness covering the side he departs from, and expresses his desire for light.
3- Quran (3:190–191), “Surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day, there are signs for the people of discernment. They remember and mention God, standing and sitting and lying down on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth.”
4- Nursi, S., First Aim, ibid, pp. 228–229. “An entity that is absolute and all-encompassing has no limits and no terms: it cannot be shaped or formed, it cannot be ‘determined’ in any way such that its essential nature can be comprehended.”
5- Quran (2:155), “We will certainly test you with something of fear and hunger and loss of wealth, and lives, and fruits (earnings); but give glad tidings to the persevering and patient.”
6- Nursi, S., Ninth point of second section, 29th Letter, The Letters, Vol. 2, Kaynak 1995.
7- Quran (3:27) “You make the night pass into the day and You make the day pass in to the night, …”
8- The quoted text is a part of a verse from the Quran (2:257).
9- Quran (3:138-140) “This is a plain exposition for all people, and a clear guidance and an instruction for the God-revering, pious. Do not, then, bee faint of heart, nor grieve, for you are always the superior side if you are believers. If a wound has touched you, a similar wound touched those people. Such days – We deal them out in turns among people so that God may mark out those who Believe and select from among you such as bear witness to the truth;”
10- Quran (2:168-169) “O humankind! Eat of what is on the earth provided it is lawful, and pure and wholesome; and do not follow in the footsteps of Satan; indeed he is a manifest enemy to you. He only commands you to evil and indecency and that you should speak against God the things about which you have no knowledge.”
11- Quran (51:56) “I have not created the jinn and humankind but to worship Me.”