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Chapter 12, The Ultimate Purpose of Life. Part 2
“Does this have something to do with the fresh yellow roses in Yogi Raman’s fable?”
“Of course it does. The flowers will remind you of the ancient Chinese proverb, “a little bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives you roses.” The meaning is clear — when you work to improve the lives of others, you indirectly elevate your own life in the process. When you take care to practice random acts of kindness daily, your own life becomes far richer and more meaningful. To cultivate the sacredness and sanctity of each day, serve others in some way.”
“Are you suggesting that I get involved in some volunteer work?”
“That’s an excellent starting point. But what I’m speaking of is much more philosophical than that. I’m suggesting that you adopt a new paradigm of your role on this planet.”
“You’re losing me again. Shed some light on the term paradigm. I’m not really familiar with it.”
“A paradigm is simply a way of looking at a circumstance or at life in general. Some people see the glass of life as half empty. The optimists see it as half full. They interpret the same circumstance differently because they have adopted a different paradigm. A paradigm is basically the lens through which you see the events of your life, both external and internal.”
“So when you suggest that I adopt a new paradigm of my purpose, are you saying that I should change my outlook?”
“Sort of. To dramatically improve the quality of your life, you must cultivate a new perspective of why you are here on Earth. You must realize that, just as you entered the world with nothing, you are destined to leave with nothing. This being the case, there can be only one real reason for your being here.”
“And that would be?”
“To give yourself to others and to contribute in a meaningful way,” Julian replied. “I’m not saying that you can’t have your toys or that you must give up your law practice and devote your life to the disadvantaged, although I have recently met people who have taken this course of action with great satisfaction. Our world is in the midst of great change. People are trading in money for meaning. Lawyers who used to judge people by the size of their pocketbooks are now judging people by the size of their commitment to others, by the size of their hearts. Teachers are leaving the wombs of their secure jobs to nurture the intellectual growth of needy kids living in the combat zones we call inner cities. People have heard the clear call for change. People are realizing that they are here for a purpose and that they have been given special gifts that will aid them to realize it.”
“What kind of special gifts?”
“Exactly the ones I have been telling you about all evening: an abundance of mental ability, boundless energy, unlimited creativity, a storehouse of discipline and a wellspring of peacefulness. It is simply a matter of unlocking these treasures and applying them for some common good,” noted Julian.
“I’m still with you. So how can one go about doing good?”
“I’m simply saying that you should make it a priority to change your world view so that you stop seeing yourself purely as an individual and start seeing yourself as part of the collective.”
“So I should become kinder and gentler?”
“Realize that the most noble thing you can do is to give to others. The sages of the East call it the process of ‘shedding the shackles of self.’ It is all about losing your self-consciousness and starting to focus on a higher purpose. This might be in the form of giving more to those around you, whether this means your time or your energy: these truly are your two most valuable resources. It could be something as major as taking a one-year sabbatical to work with the poor or something as minor as letting a few cars pass in front of you in the middle of a crushing traffic jam. It might sound corny, but if there is one thing that I have learned it is that your life moves to a more magical dimension when you start striving to make the world a better place. Yogi Raman said that when we are born, we are crying while the world rejoices. He suggested that we should live our lives in such a way that when we die, the world cries while we are rejoicing.”
I knew Julian had a point. One of the things that was starting to bother me about practicing law was that I didn’t really feel I was making the sort of contribution I knew I was capable of making. Sure I had the privilege of litigating a number of precedent-setting cases that had advanced a number of good causes. But law had become a business for me rather than a labor of love. I was an idealist in law school like so many of my contemporaries. Over cold coffee and stale pizza in our dorm rooms, we had planned to change the world. Almost twenty years have passed since then, and my burning desire to advocate change has given way to my burning desire to pay off my mortgage and build up my retirement fund. I realized, for the first time in a long while, that I had ensconced myself in a middle-class cocoon, one that sheltered me from society at large and one I had grown accustomed to.
“Let me share an old story with you that might really hit home.” Julian continued. “There was once a feeble old woman whose loving husband died. So she went to live with her son and his wife and daughter. Every day, the woman’s sight grew worse and her hearing grew worse. Some days her hands trembled so badly the peas on her plate rolled onto the floor and the soup ran from her cup. Her son and his wife couldn’t help but be annoyed at the mess she made and one day they said enough was enough. So they set up a little table for the old woman in a corner next to the broom closet and made her eat all of her meals there, alone. She would look at them at mealtimes with tear-filled eyes from across the room, but they hardly talked to her while they ate, except to scold her for dropping a spoon or a fork.
“One evening, just before dinner, the little girl was sitting on the floor playing with her building blocks. ‘What are you making?’ her father asked earnestly. ‘I’m building a little table for you and mother,’ she said, ‘so you can eat by yourselves in the corner someday when I get big.’ The father and mother were moved to silence for what seemed like an eternity. Then they started to weep. In that instant they became aware of the nature of their actions and the sadness they had caused. That night they led the old woman back to her rightful place at their big dinner table and from that day on she ate all her meals with them. And when a little morsel of food fell off the table or a fork strayed onto the floor, nobody seemed to mind anymore.
“In this story, the parents were not bad people,” Julian said. “They simply needed the spark of awareness to light their candle of compassion. Compassion and daily acts of kindness make life far richer. Take the time to meditate every morning on the good you will do for others during your day. The sincere words of praise to those who least expect it, the gestures of warmth offered to friends in need, the small tokens of affection to members of your family for no reason at all, all add up to a much more wonderful way to live. And speaking of friendships, make sure you keep them in constant repair. A person with three solid friends is very wealthy indeed.” I nodded.
“Friends add humor, fascination and beauty to life. There are few things more rejuvenating than sharing a belly-bursting laugh with an old friend. Friends keep you humble when you get too self-righteous. Friends make you smile when you are taking yourself too seriously. Good friends are there to help you when life throws one of its little curves at you and things look worse than they seem. When I was a busy litigator, I had no time for friends. Now I am alone, except for you, John. I have no one to take long walks in the woods with when everyone else is nestled into the cocoon of a soft, hazy slumber. When I have just put down a wonderful book that has moved me deeply, I have no one to share my thoughts with. And I have no one to open my soul to when the sunshine of a glorious autumn day warms my heart and fills me with joy.”
Julian quickly caught himself. “However, regret is not an activity for which I have any time. I have learned from my teachers in Sivana that, ‘Every dawn is a new day to the one who is enlightened.'”
I had always viewed Julian as a sort of super-human legal gladiator, crunching through the arguments of his opponents as a martial artist does through a stack of heavily reinforced boards. I could see that the man I had met many years ago had been transformed into one of a very different nature. The one in front of me was gentle, kind and peaceful. He seemed secure in who he was and in his role in the theatre of life. Like no other person I had ever met, he seemed to see the pain of his past as a wise, old teacher and yet at the same time, he served notice that his life was far more than the sum of events gone by.
Julian’s eyes glittered in the hope of things yet to come. I was enveloped by his sense of delight for the wonders of this world and caught up in his unbridled joy for living. It appeared to me that Julian Mantle, hard-hitting, bone-crunching litigation counsel to the well-heeled, had indeed been elevated from a human being passing through life without a care for anyone, to a spiritual being passing through life caring only about others. Perhaps this was the path that I too was about to walk.
Chapter 13, The Timeless Secret of Lifelong Happiness. Part 1
When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator.
It had been over twelve hours since Julian had arrived at my house the night before to share the wisdom he had gathered in Sivana. Those twelve hours were, without a doubt, the most important of my life. All at once, I was feeling exhilarated, motivated and, yes, even liberated. Julian had fundamentally changed my outlook on life with Yogi Raman’s fable and the ageless virtues that it represented. I realized that I had not even begun to explore the reaches of my human potential. I had been squandering the daily gifts that life had thrown my way. Julian’s wisdom had allowed me the opportunity to come to grips with the wounds that were keeping me from living with the laughter, energy and fulfillment I knew that I deserved. I felt moved.
“I’ll have to leave soon. You have commitments which are pressing on your time and I have my own work to tend to,” Julian said apologetically.
“My work can wait.”
“Unfortunately, mine can’t,” he said with a quick smile.
“But before I leave, I must reveal the final element of “Yogi Raman’s magical fable. You will recall that the sumo wrestler who walked out of the lighthouse in the middle of a beautiful garden with nothing more than a pink wire cable covering his private parts slipped on a shiny gold stopwatch and fell to the ground. After what seemed like an eternity, he finally regained consciousness when the marvellous fragrance of the yellow roses reached his nose. He then jumped to his feet in delight and was astonished to see a long, winding path studded with millions of tiny diamonds. Of course, our friend the sumo wrestler took the path and, in doing so, lived happily ever after.”
“Seems plausible,” I chuckled.