Whosoever will save his life shall lose it:
And whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
A friend to whom I recently had occasion to apologize gave me a bright smile with these words: "I don't matter." From almost any other person those words would have sounded coy and hypocritical if not sarcastic, but he was perfectly sincere in uttering what was to him a commonplace, an obvious fact. To him, he didn't matter. It was as simple as that. Overworked and not in the best of health, I believe him to be one of the happiest people I have met.
It is a matter of common knowledge among students of nature's truths that though knowledge may come from study, understanding can be gained only by practising self-forgetfulness. Each time a man succeeds in forgetting himself in impersonal pursuits, work, helping a friend, sacrificing his convenience for that of another, a door in his mind opens and permits him to receive a new vision, which in turn raises the level of understanding and consequent compassion to a higher degree.
The real difficulty lies in so forgetting ourselves. And yet the Scriptures of all ages tell us that this is not only the main prerequisite to evolutionary progress, but that it is easy — the easiest thing in the world. We are all aware of the satisfaction that comes from losing ourselves in a book or in music, or in work that absorbs all our interest. An artist can spend weeks preparing in his mind the details of a portrait, the fold of a gown, or the color of a background, and quite forget his personal desires, and even his needs. The resultant production may or may not be an inspired work of art, but its beauty and esthetic value are in proportion to the extent to which the artist has lost, and then paradoxically, found himself in his creation.
The secret then is to become so interested in something other than ourselves as to find ourselves absorbed in the object of our interest. We are aided in this by the fact that the natural flow of consciousness is away from the limitations of our personal self. Because we are fundamentally linked together in the universe — bonded through our divine natures — it is natural to gravitate towards that root of our being, and therefore to regard all beings as ourselves. For in our inmost essence we are one. It follows then that our purely personal desires are a superficial structure erected on this oneness, and of little account in the reality of things.
A story of my childhood returns to me: Once upon a time there was an old woman who lived by the bank of a river. She was considered an ornery old soul, for whatever anyone said to her, she was always ready with a flat contradiction, until she became known and disliked by all the neighborhood. One day her husband was loth to take the boat to market across the river because a storm was coming up, and he emphatically said so. "Oh, no! It's beautiful weather," said his wife just as emphatically. "If you don't go to market, I will." He tried to persuade her not to, but this of course only made her all the more determined. So off she went, and the storm came up and the boat sank and she drowned.
For weeks the people dredged down the river to find her body, but without success. At last someone suggested that they might have been dredging in the wrong place. "Let's dredge up the river," he said. "It would be just like her to drift upstream!" They did so — and found her.
Any one who works for himself alone, and thinks and feels towards himself alone, is working "upstream" — against the current. Working thus in a direction contrary to the natural flow of evolution, he not only obstructs others in their progress, but makes none himself. Sooner or later such a man will find himself stranded on some sandbank of despair of his own making. There can be no happiness in such a course, for life is full of disasters for the selfish nature, whereas to the real self within all things work in perfect harmony. One who thus works to maintain that harmony is helped to do so by all the beneficent forces of the universe, and is able to strengthen by so much those forces to further the progress of the race.
All suffering, disappointment and failure exist for the personal self alone. The real, the core of us remains unmoved. No pain can disrupt the perfect peace of that inmost asylum where we may always be in harmony with all that lives.
In our evolutionary progress we are aided by that silent greatness in ourselves, which prompts us to forget our little egos and to play our parts simply and without fanfare in the grander harmony. It stands to reason that a man who does this cannot be disappointed or hurt, for to him his self is no more than a tool of that greater Self he shares with all. Nothing then can hurt a person whose person is of no importance to himself.
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Still moments of great content are most fleeting,
Then my friend, let us be grateful for this pale moon.
Do you notice the fashion of this night-blooming
The skies are weird — as though a liquid moonstone
were poured into the Heavens by some magic.
The ground is moist with heavy dew.
Ponderous branches lift and fall with the lone wind.
How distant in their nearness are the stars —
I seek to reason man's isolation.
— Giuseppe Nocera