Usually, when we reflect on our blessings we may overlook many blessings that we have gotten so accustomed to that we almost fail to remember their miraculous nature.
Consider the simple act of ordering food from your phone. Only a few years ago the only option someone had for food delivery was pizza, but today you can order any kind of food from just about any restaurant within the vicinity. Not only that, you don’t even have to call a phone number or try to remember what food options are nearby as there are dedicated apps that aggregate all the information for you. And once you make your selection there are trained chefs eagerly waiting to fulfill your order. They have all the ingredients they need, sourced from all over the world, and the equipment necessary to prepare this custom meal just for you in the manner you requested.
[36:33] One sign for them is the dead land: we revive it and produce from it grains for their food. [36:34] We grow in it gardens of date palms, and grapes, and we cause springs to gush out therein. [36:35] This is to provide them with fruits, and to let them manufacture with their own hands whatever they need. Would they be thankful?
Then there are dedicated drivers who are waiting to immediately pick up your meal for you. They have devices that will use satellites that are orbiting in space, as well as artificial intelligence, and mass amounts of data analyzing current road conditions and historical traffic data to crunch the numbers to determine the optimal route for them to take so that they can get your food to you as fast as possible.
This should appear like magic, but due to habituation it now has transformed into an expectation.
[16:112] GOD cites the example of a community that used to be secure and prosperous, with provisions coming to it from everywhere. But then, it turned unappreciative of GOD’s blessings. Consequently, GOD caused them to taste the hardships of starvation and insecurity. Such is the requital for what they did.
وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا قَرْيَةً كَانَتْ آمِنَةً مُطْمَئِنَّةً يَأْتِيهَا رِزْقُهَا رَغَدًا مِنْ كُلِّ مَكَانٍ فَكَفَرَتْ بِأَنْعُمِ اللَّهِ فَأَذَاقَهَا اللَّهُ لِبَاسَ الْجُوعِ وَالْخَوْفِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ
Science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke wrote: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And this is typically what many tech companies are hoping to achieve when they bring their products to market. They want to have a magical allure to them to wow and amaze the consumers of their products. But as fast as something feels like magic it is interesting how quick habituation kicks in and what was considered magical just moments ago instantly becomes expected.
Like the flight that was announced for the first time would have WiFi for all the passengers, and just as the passengers were cheering and high-fiving one another the WiFi goes out and the WiFi goes out and the people are disgruntled and angry. For what was a miracle just a moment ago, instantly was transformed to an expectation.
[16:83] They fully recognize GOD’s blessings, then deny them; the majority of them are disbelievers (unappreciative).
(٨٣) يَعْرِفُونَ نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ يُنْكِرُونَهَا وَأَكْثَرُهُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ
But in conjunction with the Arthur C. Clarke quote, there is another quote that says that when a technology gets so engrained in the fabric of our lives, that the technology becomes indistinguishable from nature.
“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” – Mark Weiser’s well-known “The Computer for the Twenty-First Century” (Scientific American, 1991).
Consider the fabric for the clothes we wear. We think that these are natural and we think that having such attire is commonplace, and we forget the vast amount of serendipitous occurences, research, development, and resources that went into creating the fibers we utilize to produce the vast amount of garments we wear.
Virginia Postrel, in her book The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World, explains
that, “we suffer textile amnesia because we experience textile abundance.” This is because that fabric is anything but natural, but these items have gotten so abundant that we oftentimes forget to remember that.
How did we get the cotton we use today for the vast majority of clothes and products we use? Consider, that there are no such things as natural fibers. All such things as cotton, linen, wool, silk are many many small interventions by humans, by God’s leave, that have given us this technology that has become so ubiquitous that we think they were always this way.
Cotton itself doesn’t naturally grow in most parts of the world except above the frost line. In this native natural state it would never make bulbs and would just freeze. There are roughly 50 different cotton species, but only a single one which formed fibers. Not only that, but this one species just happens to contain a rich genetic code that allowed it to develop in a multitude of ways that it produces fibers. This is becuase it has a mutation that doubled the amount of chromosomes it happens to hold.
Somehow this plant migrated and went through the necessary genetic changes to develop cotton that could occur above the frost line. This change crossover happened millions of years ago way before human beings stepped foot on this planet. Yet perfectly positioned for us to benefit from it. Imagine if such a material was not available what would that have done to the progression and advancement of the human race?
[16:81] And GOD provided for you shade through things which He created, and provided for you shelters in the mountains, and provided for you garments that protect you from heat, and garments that protect when you fight in wars. He thus perfects His blessings upon you, that you may submit.
وَاللَّهُ جَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِمَّا خَلَقَ ظِلَالًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِنَ الْجِبَالِ أَكْنَانًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ سَرَابِيلَ تَقِيكُمُ الْحَرَّ وَسَرَابِيلَ تَقِيكُمْ بَأْسَكُمْ كَذَٰلِكَ يُتِمُّ نِعْمَتَهُ عَلَيْكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُسْلِمُونَ
I was recently listening to a podcast interview with someone who left Wallstreet to become a professional knitter, and apparently there is a saying within knitting circles that you should never knit a sweater for someone you love. She was asked why this was the case? Her response was that knitting a sweater is someting that will take a lot of time pending on the complexity. Even the most simplistic design can take ~40 hours, so about a week of work. But if you were goign to do some complex stitchings and designs it can potentially take months or longer.
So to spend that much time on a garment shows a lot of love and consideration, yet rarely will the recieving party ever fully acknolweldge or know the amount of work that went into such a sweater. This is because again we are inundated with these products that are made in mass scale and sell for dollars. So when someone gives you something made from scratch compared to what a person can get from the store it makes us devalue the effort a person put into make the sweater.
Keep in mind that the person knitting the sweater doesn’t have to go out and grow the cotten and fibers to make the thread to create the garment. Consider that without the advanced technology we have developed it would be almost impossible or at minimum not practical to be able to produce or purchase a pair of jeans due to the amount of thread that would be needed to make this garment.
For instance, a pair of jeans takes 6 miles of thread alone. Today a machine can spin 6 miles of thread in a matter of seconds, but in the past before the industrial revolution the best spinners were in India and could spin 100 meters of thread an hour. Therefore, the best spinners in the world working 8 hours a day would take 13 days to spin enough thread for a single pair or jeans. Even a bandana, a 22 inches square, would have taken 24 labor hours to spin enough thread by the fastest spinners in the world before the industrial revolution. But this is not limited to just clothes. A basic 200 thread count twin bed sheet is 29 miles of thread, and would have taken 59 days, working 8 hours a day, even by fastest Indian spinners in the world.
Today we have closets and wardrobes filled with clothes and beddings, so much so that we are constantly giving piles away. And even the thrift stores are so overwhelmed with clothes that they ship 90% of it overseas so even the poorest people on the planet still have plent of clothes to wear. This makes us take these blessings for granted because we think it is just commonplace and we forget the miraculous nature of such blessings.
[40:61] GOD is the One who designed the night so you can rest in it, and the day lighted. GOD bestows many blessings upon the people, but most people are not thankful.
اللَّهُ الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الَّيْلَ لِتَسْكُنُوا فِيهِ وَالنَّهَارَ مُبْصِرًا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَشْكُرُونَ
Another technology that has also become so abundant that we almost forget about its miraculous nature is that of writing and more specifically that of a penicl. In 1958, the writer Leonard Read wrote an essay entitled “I, Pencil“. In this essay he described how despite some billions of pencils being produced every year no one individual knows how to make a simple No.2 pencil from scratch.
For instance, a pencil is made from cedar and it takes rougly 14 years for the tree to grow before it is cut down and processed. So if you want to make a No.2 pencil from scratch, you will need to wait at least 14 years just for the wood to be ready. Then the wood has to be cut down, and consider all the saws and powertools that are used today to complete such a task. Then the wood has to be processed and percisionally cut into the proper form and requires mass amounts of equipment. This is all assuming that God provides us with the technology of a tree to begin with.
[27:60] Who is the One who created the heavens and the earth? Who is the One who sends down to you from the sky water, whereby we produce gardens full of beauty—you could not possibly manufacture its trees? Is it another god with GOD? Indeed, they are people who have deviated.
أَمَّنْ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَأَنْزَلَ لَكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَنْبَتْنَا بِهِ حَدَائِقَ ذَاتَ بَهْجَةٍ مَا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَنْ تُنْبِتُوا شَجَرَهَا أَإِلَٰهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ بَلْ هُمْ قَوْمٌ يَعْدِلُونَ
But a pencil does not just consist of wood, even the processes by which the lacquer is produced let alone made a beautiful yellow involves the skills of more persons than one can enumerate. So if you wanted to replicate this lacquer you would need to figure out where the resin comes from, and the pigment necessary to give it its color, as well as how to apply such color so perfectly on the wood. But the pencil is not just yellow it also has a label and there is a specific process to create the metal branding and the carbon black paint to perfectly imprint the label without impacting the overall design and integrity of the pencil.
Or consider the tin metal, which is called the ferrule, that connects the wood to the eraser. One would have to know where to mine this material and create a furnace to exctract it from its ore. Such a furnace is typically heated to 1,300–1,400 °C (2,375–2,550 °F) for a period of some 15 hours, which needs to be stirred frequently. Then after the tin is processed it needs to be perfeclty molded and fastened to the wood along witht the trace amounts of glue.
But a pencil also has an eraser and the graphite for the lead. Does any one person not only know how to carry out this process, but how to develop the all the numerous tools to conduct these steps? From the saws, molds, trucks, drills, furnaces, paints, glues, and everything else that is necessary to produce a single No.2 pencil. An object that is so abudant, so ueseful, that we often times take it for granted.
[14:34] And He gives you all kinds of things that you implore Him for. If you count GOD’s blessings, you can never encompass them. Indeed, the human being is transgressing, unappreciative.
(٣٤) وَآتَاكُمْ مِنْ كُلِّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ
A number of years ago there was an individual by the name of Thomas Thwaites who for a research project wanted to see if it was possible for him to build a toaster from scratch. So he went to the store and bought the simplest toaster he could find and disassembled it. He saw that there were some 400 individual components that were necessary to build this low cost toaster. So he reduced his project to only the bear components: plastic modling, wiring, and metal and wanted to see if it would be possible to create these items from their raw materials using only tools that he could make himself.
After months of talking to experts, reading, studying, and traveling to different locations to source the materials, he was not able to build even these basic subcomponents for his modest toaster. So he allowed himself to consider taking these end byproducts from landfills melting them down and contstructing a toaster from this material instead. After all this work and numerous concesions he finally developed his toaster which lasted for only one try before it burst into flames.
But Thomas didn’t try to generate the power for his toaster himself, but instead he plugged it into an existing outlet to obtain the power he needed for his makeshift toaster.
The other year some researchers wanted to demonstrate how much energy it takes to toast a slice of white bread. Something many people do regularly and never think twice about. So they created a toaster that was powered by a stationary bike. Then they got an Olympic medal cyclist and had him peddle to generate the 700W of continous power necessary to operate the toaster. After about a minute he tapped out due to exaustion and was able to generate only 0.021kWh of power and just enough to give a single piece of white bread a light toast. Now imagine if this was required everytime you wanted to have a piece of toast? If we comprehend how much of a blessing it is that we can simply use the power outlet to generate enough heat to operate our toaster, how much more amazed should we be when we consider that a car requires ~180 times more power than a toaster to operater. Are we appreciative?
Now when was the last time you had a nice toasted bread and reflected for how blessed you were for being able to obtain something with such minimal work? In the show Alone, where participants are left to fend for themselves in the artic with nothing more than a few supplies, numerous members during their experience fawn over how they would give so much just to be able to have some toast.
The purpose of this world is to determine if we are appreciative of God’s blesisngs or not. Every day we are inundated with infinite number of blessings and all that is required is to paus for just a moment and thank God.
[14:7] Your Lord has decreed: “The more you thank Me, the more I give you.” But if you turn unappreciative, then My retribution is severe.
(٧) وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِنْ شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ وَلَئِنْ كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِي لَشَدِيدٌ
The reality is even from the numerous blessings that we can acknolwedge and recognize, there are innumerous blessings even beyond those that we can never even fathom to be appreciative for.
[16:18] If you count GOD’s blessings, you cannot possibly encompass them. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.
(١٨) وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
So in return for a perfect life in this world and in the Hereafter all that is asked of us is to be appreciative for all that God has blessed us with.