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The Discovery of a Lifetime

The longest roads end when you have met yourself. Whichever roads you take, whichever plans you wish to fulfill or decisions you have to see through to the end, they only lead to the citadel within. May it be your passion, your faith, your love--these are all pursued or sought not only in order to gain something else or to just claim the happiness you aspire to have; these, unbeknownst to you for the most part, reveal themselves to be means: their end is the triumphant discovery of who you are.

You discover yourself usually by the process of elimination. At the beginning no one really knows who he is. Life begins with a bottomless freedom which enables us to seek many possibilities. When I was young, I could be anything I wanted to become. In the realm of possibilities, nothing is forbidden, as with the young. Naturally, through the years and through the experiences the world cannot but give, we learn to test ourselves against these multiple possibilities. I find out what works, what I enjoy, what I hate or dread; I develop preferences and in doing so eliminate many possibilities that were viable to me in the beginning. 

I discover, for example, that I am no artist or poet or athlete, but in the process I discover that I have a liking for the precision of mathematics, or the grace of a dancer, etc. I find out that I have certain causes or beliefs that I can fight for, while there are other dreams or ideals that leave me indifferent. We harvest our truths through the years. If there is to be anything important in the too-often mentioned phrase experience is the best teacher, it is that you learn how to shape your own curriculum or field of study, that is, you begin with a general study with everything and finish with a degree for a distinct course only in the end. I find out what I want to be usually late (sometimes too late). Whence the confusion of the many, the failures, the perpetual beginning. And as with many a failed experiment or project, some will never know what they want to be.

Faith also is a matter to be won than be blessed with from the beginning. Who knows his God and what he is? We believe what many believe without knowing why; it seems easier that way and blind trust in the opinions of the multitudes leads us to accept what we really did not consider or think about. Then that day comes when everything crashes to the ground. The God you believed in fails you, the world betrays you, and you experience anguish and affliction. In an instant the foundations of your already weak faith crumble, and you are lost in the dark not able to make heads or tails of the things of the world. You wish to understand so as to believe again, and you find out that that is not easy. Nothing will ever be simple to a man who has once lost his faith. 

But what he wants to know about his God can only be found in his heart of hearts. What is a faith that does not spring from the self, does not begin there and aim for God from there?--a weak faith, to be sure, or a non-faith because again, their faith and not mine. A God only makes sense to me if He is mine. This is the same as saying a God only makes sense to me if I know who I am. Thus I have to claim my faith by understanding what in the first place I want to believe in, find Him by my own questions, and ultimately love Him with my own love. Let their God be their God. To prove that theirs is the true God is too much trouble already when I already face the difficulty of knowing my own.

And love, that most blessed human experiences, also delivers us unto our innermost selves. As it has always been said, the paradox of love is that in that very act of selflessness, in emptying one's self, you gain a kingdom and a world. Love, ultimately, is that unique human experience where giving happiness to another also grants you happiness gratuitously. Whereas everyday economy is informed with the logic of accumulation with least possible cost, love reverses that logic by teaching us to lose everything without any recompense. But the wonder of wonders is how everything is given back to you a hundredfold, not in the form of what you surrendered, to be sure, but in a form you no longer discern or understand or even notice. But it is there, that quiet peace in the lover's heart. 

No one counts losses when one loves, but only what he could give more. The surrender of the lover amounts to a self-annihilation that ultimately uncovers him, leaves him naked. The lover gradually discovers who he is as he learns how much he can give of himself. (For example--a bad one at that--, you never really notice or even see the house from the inside until you take out all the furniture, clutter, and the ruins of time.) When you have given everything, what remains is the hitherto invisible self. And that, my friend, will be the discovery of your lifetime.


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