One of my favorite stories comes from the Sufi tradition of mystical Islam. It is a tale that tells us exactly what we will have to face if we endeavor to walk the path of desire.
A man sits in the center of a Middle Eastern marketplace crying his eyes out, a platter of peppers spilled out on the ground before him.
He has achieved success who has lived well,
laughed often and loved much;
who has gained the respect of intelligent men
and the love of little children;
Sit down and be quiet.
You are drunk. And this is the edge of the roof.
Rumi, Sufi mystic, poet, 13th century
It’s unfortunate that life isn’t about constant progress and unending success. Life is circular in form—cycles of light and darkness, success and failure, order and chaos. Seldom do we appreciate the necessity for these opposites. We’d rather just have it be successful and wonderful all the time. But we all have to pass through life’s cycles, gracefully or not. When we personally are confronted by the downside of these cycles, such as when we get stuck, how do we respond?
“The so-called paradox of freedom is the argument that freedom in the sense of absence of any constraining control must lead to very great restraint, since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek. The idea is, in a slightly different form, and with very different tendency, clearly expressed in Plato.
Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Continue reading
Failure is unavoidable. There’s no way to avoid times of crushing defeat, great loss, terrible regret. We might like to think that “failure is not an option,” but it’s guaranteed to appear and reappear throughout our lives. This is just how life works. It helps to know this ahead of time. Or to learn it very quickly. What’s essential is how we work with failure, what we do once its ugly face appears.