Sometimes I can get so lost with the day-to-day of life, I forget what is the purpose of living. The cartoon Wall-E captured this well. Humans are forced to live on a spaceship as Earth can no longer sustain life. All their needs are met – they are fed and entertained, perhaps too well. But when the Captain discovers that Earth can sustain life and tries to return, the main computer AUTO stops him saying “[Staying] on the Axiom [the spaceship], you will survive”. The Captain replies “I don’t want to survive! I wanna live!”.
I wanna live too! But what does it mean to live? For that, my favourite source of inspiration has to be Rumi. He was a poet, mystic, scholar and inspiration for the Whirling Dervishes. In the 13th century, he left his birthplace of Afghanistan to live in Turkey to escape the invading Mongol armies. He certainly knew the horrors of life, but still was able to see the sublime. Here’s a selection of his words that I find especially relevant today*:
Do you know yourself?
“You know the value of every article of merchandise,
but if you don’t know the value of your own life,
it’s all foolishness”
“Your thinking is like a horse rider,
and you are the horse:
it drives you in every direction under its bitter control.”
“Hungry, you’re a dog, angry and bad-natured.
Having eaten your fill, you become a carcass;
you lie down like a wall, senseless.
At one time dog, at another time carcass,
how will you run with lions, or follow the wisest ones?”
“Take someone who doesn’t keep score,
who’s not looking to be richer, or afraid of losing,
who has not the slightest interest even
in his own personality: he’s free.”
“Strip the clothing of pride from your body:
in learning, put on the garment of humility.
Life receives from life-experience the knowledge of humility,
not from books or speech.”
“Feed your heart in conversation
with someone harmonious with it;
seek wisdom from one who is advanced.”
“Many of the faults you see in others, dear reader,
are your own nature reflected in them.
As the it has been said,
‘Sincere people are mirrors to one another.'”
“An arrogant person sees some fault,
and the flames of anger rise up in him.
He calls that angry pride defense of reason;
he doesn’t notice his own arrogant soul.”
“Everyone in the world, whether man or woman,
is dying and continually passing through the agony of death.
Regard their words as the final injunctions
which a father gives his son.In this way
consideration and compassion may grow in your heart,
and the root of hatred and jealousy may be cut away.”
Praise and flattery
“Your unhappiness is connected to your rudeness
and refusal to praise. Whoever feels himself living
the good life, and refuses to praise – that man or woman
steals from others every day – is a shoplifter!”
“The world’s flattery and hypocrisy is a sweet dessert:
eat less of it, for its full of fire.
Its fire is hidden, while its taste is unmistakable
but its smoke becomes visible in the end.”
Pain and tough times
“If you are irritated by every rub
how will your mirror be polished?”
“Wherever pain is, that’s where the cure goes;
wherever there is poverty, that’s where provision goes.
Wherever a difficult question is,
that’s where the answer goes;
wherever a ship is, water goes to it.
Don’t seek the water; increase your thirst,
so water may gush forth from above and below.”
* taken from the book The Rumi Collection with some modifications by me for ease of understanding