I believe that the treasure lies in the journey itself; in wisdom, in love, in fear, in hope, in everything you may encounter along the way
“By the impossible, I was attracted
I saw the moon, I jumped in the air, I was elevated
I reached it, I reached it not, why should I care; it matters not
Why care as long as with intoxication my heart was sated”
This has always been my favorite quatrain from the leading Egyptian colloquial poet Salah Jaheen’s Rubaiyat.. I always believed in its deep wisdom although I often wondered whether it really is an invitation to optimism as I perceived it, or just an incentive to be passive and accept what you have without a quest for anything more. To me this short verse relates closely to Paulo Coelho’s widely embraced precept that “the treasure is the journey.” Yes, I believe that the treasure lies in the journey itself; in wisdom, in love, in fear, in hope, in everything you may encounter along the way just as Salah Jaheen summarized this wisdom in his four brilliant lines.
The exhilaration that fills my heart these days is infinite. I find that everyone is concerned withI do not dream of a civil state, an Islamic state, or a secular state nor do I wish to cancel Article Two of the constitution or keep the 50% quota of workers and farmers in parliament. I do not support el-Baradei, Amr Mousa, or el-Bastaweesy for president. My priorities were never to prosecute members of the regime or to release the detainees in prison. What I always dreamt about was a free, civilized, democratic life the constitutional declaration, parliamentary elections, and our next president. Everyone is talking about the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, the coalition, and the remnants of the old regime. Everyone is worried, apprehensive, watchful, excited, angry, cynical, and rebellious.
Me, however, I’m happy!
I’m enjoying every moment I’m living during this time. Needless to say, I’m concerned about the chaos and lack of stability and, of course, I cannot deny my occasional anxiety about the future that remains unknown until this moment. But I am overwhelmed by a strong sense of optimism and hope these days as I listen to a voice inside of me that keeps reassuring me that I shall remember nothing of this phase but these optimistic days. Whenever I’m overcome by frustration or fear, that voice invites me to be optimistic and enjoy every minute. And a question insists on imposing itself on my mind: What is the worst that can happen? And the answer is immediately clear: Nothing.
I have always wished to have lived during the sixties and seventies of the past century, during the Golden Era of Nasser as I like to call it. For many reasons people often attack me for thinking this, and their bottom line is always that Nasser’s time was far from golden. It was a time of widespread abuses, defeats, calamities, and suppression of freedoms. My reaction is always that none of this matters; what I care about is the common spirit that took hold of the Egyptian people during that period of our history. Like a faint distant light, there was one goal that everyone fixed their gaze on and worked towards with all their might and faith. During that time, Egypt had one united noble dream coupled with clear domestic and foreign policies. There was great political and nationalistic momentum. There were emotions that overcame all people at once. When Nasser delivered his [Suez Canal] nationalization speech, everyone jumped with joy and their hearts chanted the name of Egypt. When he delivered his resignation speech, everyone cried with sadness and, again, their hearts chanted the name of Egypt. There is no denying that many negative emotions proliferated during this period but my own problem with the overthrown Mubarak regime is the lack of emotions altogether. For 30 years, Egypt and the Egyptian people stagnated. There was no national project to mobilize and unite the people: the Egyptian masses lost their passion, their pride and their sense of belonging; they lost the true meaning of a homeland.
After January 25th, the Egyptian people were flooded with unfamiliar emotions—positiveI will cherish every moment of this phase in every possible way I live this period - physically, spiritually, passionately, and I will offer it all my time and heart. I reach it or I reach it not, it matters not as long as with intoxication my heart is sated feelings filled with hope, enthusiasm and faith in a better, free and dignified future. Positive feelings tinged with anxiety, fear, empathy and anger. But the times we are living now have brought me all that I ever wished for as we unite to build a democratic state. Calls for freedom and social justice are the people’s new constitution; government ministers, intellectuals, politicians and Muslim Brotherhood leaders are the new media stars; political dialogues proliferate; everyone now wakes up to read the newspapers and goes to bed after watching the TV midnight news reports. An unprecedented political and cultural awakening has galvanized all Egyptians into action. The conversations at all social, professional, and family gatherings are always political. Everyone is engaged, excited, thirsty for knowledge, aware of the responsibility, and eager to contribute to and participate actively in building this new Egypt.
I do not dream of a civil state, an Islamic state, or a secular state nor do I wish to cancel Article Two of the constitution or keep the 50% quota of workers and farmers in parliament. I do not support el-Baradei, Amr Mousa, or el-Bastaweesy for president. My priorities were never to prosecute members of the regime or to release the detainees in prison. What I always dreamt about was a free, civilized, democratic life. On the day of the March referendum, one of my friends told me with a hopeful, excited voice, “Yomna, your dream has been realized.” She was referring to what I had once told her during the early days of the revolution, that I did not care if a million Egyptians took to the streets to overthrow a regime if afterwards they did not go to the ballot boxes to build a new regime and system for Egypt. During the elections millions of Egyptians flocked to the polling stations with faces glowing with radiant smiles. They felt certain that their votes matter in directing the nation’s course. Everyone described those days as a festival of democracy. Meanwhile, one columnist said the referendum day was indeed a festival, but without democracy and I totally agree that democracy will not come overnight. A long road lies ahead of us before we attain that which we pursue and hope for. But I am enjoying the journey. I am enjoying that wave of political engagement that swept everyone off their feet. I am enjoying the political and cultural forums and the events with famous writers and politicians. I am enjoying the townhall meetings of new political parties and going down into the streets to work on political awareness campaigns.
I feel we are on the right track, but I have decided not to occupy myself with what will happen in the future. Instead I will cherish every moment of this phase in every possible way I live this period - physically, spiritually, passionately, and I will offer it all my time and heart. I reach it or I reach it not, it matters not as long as with intoxication my heart is sated
Yomna Khattab is an economist at the Macro-Fiscal Policy Unit in the Office of the Egyptian Minister of Finance