What a fitting set of ideas to contemplate now—well, for those who are attached to the Gregorian calendar, anyway. Be warned: this isn’t a typical “bucket list” or similar set of externally–driven “achievements”—the short essay Joshua Zader posted may have most individuals squirming uncomfortably a few times. But it brims with the stuff that is most important in living a conscious life.
My original intention was to copy just a few bits from this essay, attributed to “Oriah”, but in reviewing it, I found it all well worth placing here. So here it is:
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon... I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals, or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it. I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness, and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes.”
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back. It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself, and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
One reason this touched me so deeply is that I can answer a resounding “yes” to the question of disappointing another to be true to myself ... a way of reframing the issue that helps me feel better about a very difficult time in my past. And yet, there’s nothing wrong with that—but it’s a sign of how deeply the messages of self–sacrifice can run, that not doing so is nearly universally seen as wrong. Or that feeling positive about such a course is unwise, somehow.
But I ramble, and am focused poorly on my purpose this morning ... For those who wish to see deeply into themselves, and take a true measure of their spirit and constitution, they would be hard pressed to find a better guide than Oriah’s eloquent words. Thank you, Joshua.