I have often asked myself these, and many similar questions. We as humans seem to be programed with an insatiable interest in purpose. We want to accomplish something, we want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and we want to know why. We often imagine purpose as something that we must find, discover, or create. Or something that must be bestowed, or given to us by some other entity. But purpose is something that is always with us. It is an integral part of who we are, and we cannot be separated from it.
Water does not strive, it does not desire, and it has no goals. It does not search out its purpose. Simply by behaving according to its own properties, it fulfills its purpose. As a result clouds are formed, canyons are carved, and life is sustained (The water does not aim to accomplish these things, yet they are still accomplished). The purpose of water is to be water.
Consider A Tree
What is the purpose of a tree? Other than to grow and to become a perfect manifestation of itself? There is none. A tree does not desire to make a name for itself. It does not try to make the world a better place. A tree is a tree, and that is its purpose.
Can we live like the tree, or the snail, or the bird? With no purpose other than to be ourselves? Is it possible to stop striving, planning, searching and asking? Or is longing for a greater purpose simply part of our nature?
“The Master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and he has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions in his mind,
no resistances in his body.
He doesn’t think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death,
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day’s work.” ~Lao Tzu
I love inspirational and thought provoking quotes. I love when a complex, intricate, gargantuan subject or idea can be represented with not so many words. They’re easy to find (thanks to the internet) They’re diverse and plentiful, and they draw me in like a moth to a fortune cookie
This morning, I am feeling a special affection toward the wise words of John Muir. I’d like to have copy and pasted the entire list from Goodreads and BrainyQuote, but for the sake of brevity, I have only included ten.
10. “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” ~John Muir
9. “As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can”. ~John Muir
8. “This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.” ~John Muir
7. “Going to the woods is going home.” ~John Muir
6. “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” ~John Muir
5. “Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.” ~ John Muir
4. “I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.” ~John Muir
3. “The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.” ~John Muir2. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” ~John Muir1. “The power of imagination makes us infinite.” ~John Muir
“One day’s exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books.” ~John Muir
“Step by step the longest march
Can be won can be won
Many stones can form an arch
Singly none singly none
And by union what we will
Can be accomplished still
Drops of water turn a mill
Singly none singly none”
I heard these words sung on the radio today, and I’m trying to decide how I like them. My first thought is a resounding “Amen!” There is truly nothing that we “singly” can do. Without the sun, without the earth, without our fellow creatures, and our fellow man. We are all interconnected, and we can all band together in love to make the world a better place.
But then a rebellious thought rushes in. What if I don’t care for marching, and would rather sit by the stream? What if I’d rather be a rolling stone than a stone in an arch? What if I am a drop of water that doesn’t want to “turn the mill?” What if my aim is to evaporate, join the cirrus and float about in a wisp of white?
So, do we take the path of cooperation, or individuality? Is there a middle ground between oneness and autonomy?
Too Many Choices
I cannot make up my mind
I’ll let you decide
“Stop thinking, and end your problems.” ~Lao Tzu
We live in a beautiful world. Even the small segment that our senses can take in (smaller still what our minds can comprehend) is beyond what we can express with words. There are infinite opportunities for joy, yet we use so much of our time fretting over the insignificant; the non-consequential. We fill our days with worry and busyness, trying to get ahead. We constantly occupy our minds with television and social media, afraid to sit in silence, and be alone with ourselves. Trying to drown out and silence the voices of fear, regret, and uncertainty.
Stop worrying. Stop thinking. You are on the right path; the only path; your path. Follow it to the end. Take care with each step. Feel each breath. There is no need for fear. You are a passenger, an observer. Enjoy the ride.
Throughout our day, we have many interactions with people. Some of them may be positive, while others may not be so positive. After a negative encounter we may wonder, Why does this person behave in such a way? How could this person be so heartless (inconsiderate, rude, oblivious, cold, cruel et cetera)?
Well, this is an excellent question, and there is probably a reason for their undesirable behavior. It is also not only possible, but quite likely that they have asked themselves the same question, and have tried unsuccessfully to change. Why is it so hard to do what we know is right? Is it just human nature?
What people become under one set of circumstances does not tell us very much about what they might have become under another. Japanese gardeners, over many centuries, have learned to do things to trees, to clip their roots or trim their branches, to limit their supply of water, air, or sun, so that they live, and for a long time, but only in tiny, shrunken, twisted shapes. Such trees may please us, or they may not. But what could they tell us about the nature of trees? If a tree can be deformed and shrunk, is this, then, its nature? The nature of these trees, given enough of the sun, air, water, soil, and food they need, is to grow like trees, tall and straight.
People can be more easily deformed, and worse deformed, even than trees—and more than trees, they feel it, it hurts. But this cannot and does not say anything about their nature. Only to the degree that people have what they need, that they are healthy and unafraid, that their lives are varied, interesting, meaningful, productive, joyous, can we begin to judge, or even guess, their nature. Few people, adults or children, now live such lives. Perhaps few ever did. There is no way to find out how much good or kindness there may be in human nature, except to build or try to build a society on the assumption that people are or would like to be good and kind, a society in which to be good and kind is at least not a handicap. Until we are able to do this, it would be more wise and fair, and even prudent, to give human beings the benefit of the doubt.” –John Holt
Perhaps we ought to take Mr Holt’s advice, and show a little grace not only to others, but to ourselves.
“I said to the almond tree, ‘Friend, speak to me of God,’ and the almond tree blossomed” ~Nikos Kazantzakis
There is an indescribable completeness that one finds in commune with nature. It gives contentedness and joy; it feeds the soul. Days spent in a sterile, synthetic environment lead to separation, discontent, worry, and fatigue, but time spent in nature brings peace.
Make every effort to deepen your connection with nature, and with yourself. breathe the air, feel the earth, take in the sunshine. Hear the wisdom of the earth and follow its guidance.
“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unself- consciously to the soughing of the trees.” ~Valerie Andrews
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Billions of people have tried, or are trying, to make a lasting legacy. Many humans struggle with the idea that all too soon they will be dead, and eventually forgotten. No matter how generous you are, no matter how heroic, no matter how many libraries you name after yourself, what office you h0ld, or how many records you break: You will be forgotten. After 100, 1000, or 10,000 years your name, your face, your life, will be wiped from history.
Forgotten but not Gone
While the details of your life will fade into obscurity, you will by no means be gone (Where would you go?). Going on all around us is a constant exchange. We breathe in the air taking in oxygen. We breathe out releasing carbon dioxide. Rain falls to the earth, enters the soil, and is taken up by the roots of a tree. The tree uses the water, the carbon dioxide, and energy from the sun to create fruit. We then eat the fruit, and its digestion is aided by trillions of micro-organisms living inside of us. Nothing is stagnant. Nothing stays still. Matter and energy are constantly changing shape, changing hands, changing form, mixing, and melding. This process continues after we die, the only difference is that there is no longer an entity that is notably and recognizably ‘you.’
Our bodies leftovers, however, will not be the only part of us to remain. Every breath we take, every action, every thought, and every word, has an impact. Each day we shape and change the world around us. We all do, in fact, leave a legacy. The legacy is not one that can be easily traced, nor one that is easily perceived by our fellowman. But the earth knows. and the earth will never forget.
So, if you want to leave a lasting legacy, be mindful of your actions. Live each day with purpose, and take time to recognize your connection with every creature on this planet. Headstones will eventually crumble, but the earth, and her creatures, will be around for some time.
How can we feel so disconnected from the water that we drink, the food that we eat, and the soil from which the food grows? How can we feel so cold and calloused toward our fellow man, and fellow creatures, who breath the same air, and bask in the same sunshine?
Mark Boyle, Author of “The Moneyless Manifesto” says that money is a key factor, and an unequaled tool that is used to create an illusion of separation, and destroy the benefits of oneness.
“The reduction of life and all its expressions to an empty statement of financial worth is only made possible through the use of such an abstract, objective, meaningless thing as money. Cold, hard cash. It changes hands so easily, so thoughtlessly – numbers entered on a screen. It makes life so easy, because we don’t have to think. We don’t have to question where the endless rows of Ikea furniture come from, or how we can have strawberries in February; we just hand over the money. Simple.
The real costs of these luxuries are not internalised in the price because they can’t be. How do you quantify the loss of a rainforest – the death of a hundred thousand trees, the extinction of plant and animal species, the loss of homes, cultures, languages, knowledge and ways of being human? How do you figure in the costs of climate change, of soil depletion, of depriving a people’s land of its water, and then forcing them to work in effective slavery, doing soulless jobs growing monocrops for faraway people whose eyes they’ll never look into?
You can’t. So we don’t. And money is the only way we can do that, because it is so completely, utterly abstract that it can embody all that harm and sadness and tragedy and not be the slightest bit affected. Cold, hard cash. Numbers on a screen.”
If you would like to learn more, Mark’s book is available for free online at http://www.moneylessmanifesto.org