How very strange that you would point out that side of it [feeling the passion of possibility]. It is true, I have been feeling that same sense of possibility I knew in youth, exactly ten years ago.
In fact, your message today took me back to that year before I was first married, and I thought about what I was doing then:
- starting a company to do computer programming
- reading The Fountainhead, by Any Rand
- thinking of ways to apply multi-dimensional geometry to descriptions of space-time
- writing my first poems
- believing that the world’s possibilities were opening before me
And now, every one of these things is occurring in my mind again, ten years later, after such a long lapse. Why would this be? What does “youth” really mean, that we should stop feeling these things in our adulthood?
I think the It Machine wants to put us to sleep. And no particular thing is the It. It is not our wives, our homes, our job, our daily necessities. These are a part of life, and so they should conduce to waking us up, not causing us to check out.
The It is what I have been trying to write about in these last several messages: the Enemy, the great Meme whose litany is the enervation of our freedom to choose.
Each day, every moment, we recreate the world we choose to live in. We could begin by destroying it and dismantling it right now, if we chose. We could run away to a desert island, go buy a gun for our skull, or start driving and not turn around, letting our bodily needs determine our actions. Every day we could do any of these things. There is no one to stop us but ourselves.
And so, by not doing this, we choose to continue the life we are in. These is essentially different from suspending choice and letting our mundane affairs carry us through life as in a fog. To choose to have a wife, a home, a city you love, a job where you succeed at challenges: is no less active a choice that climbing mountains or combing the bottom of the sea. The substance of each person’s choices will vary: the essential character does not.
To choose, to choose not to, and not to choose. The first two are our freedom; they describe us as dangerous beings, uncontrollable, bound by no man. Each of us is a walking bomb, choosing not to go off. The third route is safety, control, predictability. A corpse is predictable. That is why the It wants us to go that route, I think.
Creating music is divine, and so is getting up in the morning and facing the new day. Writing poems is lovely, and so too is going out for a walk instead of staying home to watch TV. I have been trying to see that shining – the great, noble purpose of man – is in how and why he does what he does, not what he does. A janitor can shine when he leaves behind a clean building; a president can shine who keeps a well-run company. From high to low Glory takes on different aspects, but in essence it is one Light. “Let none consider the largeness or the smallness of his receptacle.”
What a gift, the talent for music! To be able to add even higher forms of beauty to the compendium of human mastery. It is a battle you wage to find the time, but even in that battle there is glory, and its victory is the time you do get to spend. Every second can be victory in that way; the very act of breathing can become a willful, illumined moment of awareness, rather than the automatic dullness by which ones days begin to race away into oblivion.
The It cannot win. It wins only if we lay down and say, “Ok, I give up, you’ve won.” It is a voice without a body, telling us that we are too weak to defeat it. It speaks when we are most tired, most afraid, most in pain. It claims it knows the end to suffering, and holds the promise of peace. But its peace is not sitting on a hill watching the bay, worshiping God in your heart for the beauty of it, but the peace of the crypt, where stagnant air finds even a breath of cool wind too great an imposition.
We are, every single one, a hero, a champion. “Thou art even as a finely tempered sword concealed in the darkness of its sheath and its value hidden from the artificer’s knowledge”; ours is a sword of light, to which the darkness has no response. All the pain, the weariness, the days of defeat: these are our claim to life, an acknowledgment of the body’s weaknesses; but our choice, our freedom, our passion of possibility: these belong to the soul, and remain the possession of whichever soul refuses to barter his responsibility away for a moment’s respite.
It does not take a monumental effort, or a drastic change, or a feat of glory to draw the lines of battle. I imagine you are reading this in your cubicle right now. Well, look around and realize that you own it; that this entire world has been given to men by right of their intelligence and power to overcome it; that hands and minds like yours built that building, and those walls, and that if you were to withhold that power they would crumble at the slightest touch. The name of the doer is not the thing, but the magic of his being: the being of a man who is free to choose. With the sure knowledge of that freedom, the enemy wilts away before you.
Onward, O soldiers of passion! We cannot die who do not yield to death, or lose who do not give up without a fight! Even our merest gaze tears open the veils of the impossible, and grants us, whatever our task, a glimpse of the endless fields of Possibility.
“Let it not be imagined that members of this type [in society] would be impossible to find. Through the grace of God and His chosen ones, and the high endeavors of the devoted and the consecrated, every difficulty can be easily resolved, every problem however complex will prove simpler than blinking an eye.”1
`Abdu’l-Bahá, Secrets of Divine Civilization, p. 17↩