Throughout the centuries, people have posed the questions “What am I doing here?” and “What is the meaning of life?” These are, of course, big and almost impossibly profound questions that usually lead us nowhere. But the older we get, the more urgent they seem to become.
There’s a wonderful teaching by Jelaluddin Rumi, the thirteenth century Sufi poet, which can help us see what we’re missing:
There is one thing in this world you must never forget to do. Human being come into this world to do particular work. That work is their purpose, and each is specific to the person. If you forget everything else and not this, there’s nothing to worry about. If you remember everything else and forget your true work, then you will have done nothing with your life.
Rumi goes on to explain that the raw material we are given through birth is an incredibly precious material that can be formed into anything at all. “It’s a golden bowl,” he says, “which is being used to cook turnips, when one filing from the bowl could buy a hundred suitable pots.” We’re using what we’ve been given for a far lesser function than its true capacity. We think we are being good, productive citizens because we are cooking up a storm in our bowl, but we’re not seeing what the bowl really is and what food that bowl could provide us if we knew how to look at it differently.
So there is one thing in the world, according to Rumi’s teaching, that must not be forgotten. Continue reading