WE LOVE BEAUTIFUL scenery. A field of fresh greenery. Mountains and trees towering over our being. The swishing, splashing sound of little rivers passing through stone beds. Common descriptions, yet timelessly appealing. And we can’t forget flowers! Without them a field is bare of its priceless jewelry. All of this, and more, shaped for our visual enjoyment.

Recently, I was at a place with the above description (minus the mountains). There I sat on a bench reading a book when a bride and groom came into the picture, accompanied by their photographer, the couple ecstatic for the magic about to be captured at the click of his professional fingers. Everything was perfect: The sun was shining. The birds were singing. The breeze was quiet and peaceful. And, of course, the bride was looking glamorous as ever (I could swear she was wearing a designer gown).

Click. And the moment was caught on film…forever.

But something was wrong with this picture (no pun intended).

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We take shot after snap-shot, year after year, adding to our very important compilation of material memories, proof of life, if you will. But nowadays, even a picture isn’t what it used to be.

Once upon a time, photos were meant to seize and freeze some memorable moment. Now, we can barely keep up with all the different ways to stage such instances as unforgettable, shooting for desired images—images that we fabricate that yet stir real emotions.

And let’s not even get into the magazine model wannabes out there who can’t understand that what’s worse than actually taking part in the air-brushed world is mimicking it. Faking fantasy, in my opinion, should be illegal in at least 49 states.

What’s more significant is that we are so busy creating impressions that we think look good that we are left with no time to partake in the actual building of a real world, a healthy earth, a fine place for all to live in dignity. We have distorted ideas of what happiness is.

Love, for instance, is not a box of chocolates and a dozen roses on your relentless birthdays. Nor is it a spontaneous marriage proposal with timed fireworks smuggled in from Indiana…just for you. But that is what every romantic comedy and tragedy has taught us to believe. And now, when we get there, we are ever so disappointed not to find what we’ve achingly been waiting for. The real loss is in the inability we have to enjoy what reality has to offer, which, if we could remember the script to appreciate it, we would find surpassing of any love story ever written.

Disney tells us to wish upon a star (sounds pretty shirk-like to me). Cosmopolitan magazine entices us to pay thousands to look like a star. And for a few dollars more you can actually have a star named for you. I hate to break it to you, but the stars do not have it. They can’t make your hopes happen, your dreams come true. Yet facing and fulfilling our Godly-appointed responsibilities will.

Our community is our primary responsibility, starting with our own families. We don’t have to go to Africa for relief work to save the world. Big change happens because individuals identify a need, recognize their interests, skills, and abilities, and then work toward doing something about their findings. Along with gaining great fulfillment, the process is accompanied by immense challenges and somewhat hard (to very excruciating) times. The good news is our options are limitless.

Picture this.

Abdullah smokes every puff-able thing in sight, watches mind-numbing and soul-shaking images on TV and online, and is learning every day to feel worse and worse about who he is. His aspirations, among other things, include having the latest cell phone, the most up-to-date playstation, and, of course, the newest, fastest car out there.

Now there’s a scene to capture! What will it put before our eyes in 20 years?

Will we have a new generation of strong, young Muslims, ready to charge the world with goodness? Will there be schools designed to produce a reading, mindful, thinking and productive people?

Will we be even deeper in the green crisis our very hands created and our own eyes are looking at today?

Or will we just have a brilliant photo album collection, organized in timeline fashion and scrap-booked, resting on a shelf, waiting to be pulled out and looked through with admiration and amazement. Wow, how we’ve aged, we’ll think to ourselves.

But have we grown?

And is that growth reflected in the scenery we will have single- (and collective-) handedly produced over the many preceding years for the many to come?

Ah, a better question!

Will we have the right picture to present to Allah to speak a thousand words of good on our behalf, or will we wish we could find countless justifying words instead?

So get yourself in focus along with what you can offer the world.

But how can we successfully specialize in something, you might ask? Just like we do with all the real things we really want. Make our intentions (but to please Allah and serve Him through serving humanity), and make a to-do list. Check it twice. Make a decision. Then get to work!

For it’s us, after all, who really make the scene.

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