The Peak of Eloquence

In sum, life is a paradox, in the sense that the means by which a person masters one’s own self and in turn one’s external reality is by letting go of the world. As Lao Tzu said: “To hold, you must first open your hand. Let go. A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” Thus, the element of surprise is what makes life worth living, in addition to serving as the primary source of hope and optimism. Surprise is intertwined with curiosity. In essence, curiosity is the impetus for intellectual and spiritual life. Thus, without curiosity, everything dies. Lao Tzu also said: “From wonder into wonder existence opens.” Lao Tzu adds: “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

Thus, by letting go, a person masters not only their own self, but also their external reality. As Ali Ibn Abi Talib said in Nahjul Balagha (“The Peak of Eloquence”): “Run away from the world, and the world will come running to you.” Moreover, the art of seeking is also intertwined with the act of letting go. As Farid ud-Din Attar wrote in “The Conference of the Birds”:

“Real knowledge becomes the possession of the true seeker. If it is necessary to seek knowledge in China, then go. But when knowledge is distorted by the formal mind, it becomes petrified, like stones. How long must real knowledge continue to be misunderstood? This world, this house of sorrows, is in darkness; but true knowledge is a jewel, it will burn like a lamp and guide you in this gloomy place. If you spurn this jewel, you will ever be a prey to regret. If you lag behind, you will weep bitter tears. But if you sleep little by night, and fast by day, you may find what you seek. Seek, then, and be lost in the quest.”

Attar also wrote: “It was in China, late one moonless night, The Simorgh first appeared to mortal sight; He let a feather float down through the air, and rumors of his fame spread everywhere…”

And in the end, Rumi best sums up all of these aforementioned points through one of his poems, titled “A Well-Baked Loaf”:

“Forget the world, and so command the world.

Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.

Stay in the spirit fire. Let it cook you. Be a well-baked loaf and lord of the table. Come and be served to your brothers.

You have been a source of pain. Now you will be the delight.

You have been an unsafe house. Now you will be the one who sees into the invisible.

I said this and a voice came to my ear, If you become this, you will be that.

Then silence, and now more silence. A mouth is not for talking. A mouth is for tasting this sweetness.”

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