“You see, some things I can teach you. Some you learn from books. But there are things that, well, you just have to see and feel.” (pg.149)
Babi from A Thousand Splendid Suns
The beautiful moments of one’s life cannot be taught, read, or learned.
It is felt within the heart, becoming an everlasting flame of love and endurance.
In the context of the quote, Babi was taking Laila and Tariq on a day trip to the valley of Bamiyan. Interestingly, he kept their destination as a secret, only hinting that it was for educational purposes. Upon arriving at the historical statues of Buddha, they were completely in awe of its structure and magnificence. Babi, Tariq, and Laila climbs to the top of the statue and looks down at the vast beauty of Afghanistan. For Laila, this moment was absolutely breathtaking as she witnesses, for the first time, the prestige and glory of Afghanistan. It is here when Babi says the quote and then proceeds to reminisce about his past, his love for his wife, and the days where they came to the statue as a young couple. In this moment of the quote, there is so much emotion, enlightenment, and peace. These sparks become the fuel that drives the significance to what Babi had said: “Some things I can teach you, some you learn from books. But there are things that you just have to see and feel.” To experience and learn from the heart, than with intellect.
This event in the text becomes a significant memory for Laila as she is able to experience peace and silence in a country overthrown by war. Laila never knew of an Afghanistan that was glorified for its beauty- she knew of it, but only through books and stories. She had never witnessed it with her own eyes or lived in the moment. Growing up, all that Laila saw was an Afghanistan that was filthy of war. Soviet troops and the Taliban filled the streets. Gunshots, death, war – this was the Afghanistan she experienced and that was her normal. True Afghanistan was hidden, concealed beneath layers of dust of political tension, war, and destruction and this blew over the beauty of Afghanistan, both in society and in nature. Babi, understands the power and importance of emotion, feel, and connection. Although the world around him denies love and heritage, Babi continues to embrace and hang on to these memories and he wants his daughter to experience it as well. But this, unlike many other matters, isn’t something that he can transfer unto her through knowledge. It is something that she has to find and experience on her own. As Laila stands at the top of the Buddha statue, looking down at the vast expanse of Afghanistan, she is in awe of the beauty and feels a strong connection to her culture and heritage. The statue of Buddha itself is a symbolic representation of cultural richness, and this awareness of culture and unity in heritage is revived. Laila awakens to the realization of Afghanistan’s beauty and lost humanity. Just as it had strengthened Babi, this connection never fails, even when family, love, and society just crumbles. Traces of this experience is evident in her relationship with Mariam, her love for Tariq, and her connection with Kabul.
When I first read this, it reminded me of my growth in the spiritual realm. Religion is a big part of who I am and its really important to me; however, that was once not true.
In the book we talk about Laila’s connection with her country and the raw experience she gained. That connection and experience can be easily translated into my Christian life. In many ways, I was like Laila, living in what I thought was normal, blind to the greater depth that lay beneath the outer vision. For years I followed and practiced my religion just because that was what I was brought up with, that was what I was born into. I, of course, respected it; however, I was lacking connection. I would hear my parents talk about it so passionately but I just never felt the same way. I mean, it is difficult to feel passionate about something that has had very little impact on your life. My religion was my textbook, I followed its principles, obeyed the commandments, but some things you have to see and feel rather than being obligated to learn and memorize.
Laila visited the statues and it became one of the most memorable moments of her life. Similarly, I encountered a life changing spiritual experience known as being filled with the holy spirit. If you were to ask me to describe that experience, I can’t, no one can. At that moment, being touched by divinity, being strengthened and assured with power that surpasses my physical limits, is something beyond beautiful. Something that could have never been taught or passed on from one generation to another. And through every trials of life, I truly believe that it is this connection with God that keeps me rooted in place.
My emulation is a simple poem written with emotion and feel from the heart. It begins with the day I was born as a precious baby in the hands of overjoyed parents. I have embedded scriptures that highlight my Christian life and denotes the significance of my upbringing. The poem unravels the deep longing and desire I had to feel connected to an invisible God and introduces a life changing experience that sparked passion.
Praises and honor fell from the lips of overjoyed parents,
As they gazed lovingly into the reflection of God’s intricate creation.
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
Valiant acts of the Christian hero’s were whispered at night
Their victory cries lulled her to sleep
She was training to fight a war of her own
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
She fed on the word of God.
Sweet as honey;
And strength to her bones.
“My [daughter], eat honey because it is good,
And the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste.”
She worshiped as the angels fell to their knees.
And the ten stringed harp.
I will sing to the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
But her heart was elsewhere.
Wandering aimlessly in the chaos of –
She searched, Oh so earnestly!
That ignited flames,
In the eyes of the saints.
Until a spark flickered
In the depths of the void.
Awestruck, I fell to my knees.
There are things that, well,
You just have to feel
Right here –
Where it becomes synchronized
with the steady beats of life.