I wrote this post in 2009, and came across it this morning. A lot of what I’m going through lately is tied to this topic of sutra that is discussed in the post. Share your thoughts.
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I left my Facebook page open one day, and my father came across it. He asked me what the line at the top next to my name was, and I explained that it was the status update.
“What’s a status update?”
“It’s just a little ‘clever’ thing – you write whatever you’re ‘feeling’ or going through or whatever.”
“Uuh… I don’t know. It gives people something to do?”
“Yea, sometimes it’s kinda ridiculous. People get too serious with it and start spilling their inner most secrets…”
Then, he asked me never to write a status update again.
“Because. No one needs to know”
“No one needs to know what?”
“What you’re going through… you don’t want to spread your business to the world”
I was confused. Why would he place so much importance on such an insignificant thing as a status update on Facebook? Did he not hear me explain how only pubescent kids (and overly emotional girls) put their “business” in their status updates? Or, and more frighteningly, did he place me in that category, with the pubescent kids and overly emotional girls?
Generational gaps. They force us to think. About our parents. About our upbringing. About ourselves.
About the Sudanese (and Islamic) concept of sutra, meaning to be covered. Sutra also applies to how we live our lives; to be covered. It encompasses humility, and shame, and appropriateness, and all those things that allow us to be labeled “decent”. There’s sutra in everything: in how you dress. In how you act. In what you say. In how much of yourself you share with the world. What you tell, what you don’t, what they should know, what they shouldn’t. In who should know, and who shouldn’t. Who deserves that key, that code that unlocks the inner vaults in which you hide. Who will keep you in your sutra, and who will snatch it away like that mean sibling that snatches the towel away from you as you run from the bathroom to your bedroom because you forgot to take your clothes with you.
(Thankfully, I have nice siblings)
But how much is too much? Which brings us back to generational gaps.
To them, enough is too much. Never overlook the possibility of judgment. Even the smallest issues, tiniest faux-pas, can jeopardize the intactness of your sutra. Sutra is a delicate balance, one that should be kept at any cost, even if it means closing yourself off from those you consider closest. Keepers of sutra should be extremely well chosen, if at all. Even the best sutra keeper should be tried and tested, with limits placed on how much of that precious sutra they get to keep. The best keeper of sutra is you.
To us, ‘sharing is caring’ – the phrase of a generation. Perhaps the world is more open. The boundaries of what is considered ‘acceptable’ and ‘decent’ have been widened somewhat. Society is no longer the harsh, probing, scrutinizing judge. At least not as much as it used to be. No man is an island. Good friends (and family) do not judge and condemn and throw stones. At least not as much as they used to. A good friend chosen with good judgment will keep the sutra you entrusted them with, simply because that’s what good friends do, and that’s why you chose them. Why you trusted them. Why you decided to share this burden of sutra with them.
Or maybe not. Maybe they’re right and we’re wrong. Maybe we’re right and they’re wrong.