I’ve been thinking lately about the qualities we aspire to achieve during our lives, and how these qualities seem to divide roughly into two basic categories, the dividing line between which is the event of death.
On the one hand are what I’ll call “evident” qualities, or those which are easily identified and as such most generally valued. They include knowledge, wealth, strength, good health, freedom, wisdom, reknown, achievement, infuence, etc. All of these have tremendous value before death, but seem to have little after. For example, whatever we gain of knowledge or wisdom in this life will seem like ignorance in the next, in much the same way that an adult may regard his own thoughts from childhood with a bit of embarassment and disdain.
The main point here is that the value of evident qualities is highly dependent on context. Knowledge is only valuable if the context is one of ignorance. When the “veils are lifted”, what couldn’t be seen before will become clear as day, in which case our scraps of knowledge pale into insignificance in the face of clear fact.
The other group of qualities I think of as “subtle” qualities, because although they are mostly thought of as positive, they can be easily overlooked by someone who does not value them – perhaps even seen as a weakness by some. These would include purity of heart, love, freedom of spirit, recognition of one’s powerlessness, humility, etc.