Human beings at their best are givers of gifts.**
Only love and suffering are strong enough to break down down our usual ego defences, crush dual thinking, and open us up to mystery.^
I am only guessing, but you probably admire selflessness in others and struggle for it within yourself; I know I do. There is a hunger within us that can only be fed when we live for others:
the chasms within us cannot be filled by the food the ego hungers for**.
We can understand this to be our quest for nobility, outlined here by Nassim Taleb as he contemplates how we must have skin in the game of life:
noblesse oblige; the very status of a lord has been traditionally derived from protecting others, trading personal risk for prominence^^.
There comes a point in all our lives when we wonder whether we have lived meaningfully. David Brooks likens the soul – ‘the part of you that is of infinite value and dignity’** – to a leopard, perhaps glanced at different moments in our lives, but finally cannot be ignored:
And then there are the moments, maybe more toward middle or old age, when the leopard comes down out of the hills and just sits there in the middle of the doorframe. He stares at your inescapably. He demands your justification. What good have you served? For what did you come? What sort of person have you become? There are no excuses at that moment. Everybody has to throw off the mask.**
The third elemental truth is your life is not about you. We can lose the wonder and glory of this amidst the industrial landscape that separates us from one another, but there is another way, as Seth Godin reflects on here:
This is the path followed by those who seek change, who want to make things better. It’s a path defined by resilience and generosity, but not dependent on reassurance or applause.*^
When it comes to the path we are seeking, there are three tests we can use to see whether this path is worth following.
The psychological asks whether it reflects our personality, including our talents and abilities.
The emotional test asks whether the path resonates with our heart.
The moral test asks whether we will do good as we pursue it.
(*You’re welcome to read though while playing D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better, with the message that we have to see it through.)
(**From David Brooks’ The Second Mountain.)
(^From Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)
(^^From Nassim Taleb’s Skin in the Game.)
(*^From Seth Godin’s The Practice.)