Imagine being 50 and fabulously successful on society’s terms at every step of your life. You were probably valedictorian of your pre-school class, and the playground kids always voted you captain. Today you’re CEO of a prosperous organization populated by wonderful colleagues who, for good reason, think you’re pretty terrific.
Now imagine discovering that all that has brought you to this point in your life is not enough to take you where you want to go. Not only that. To go where you want, you must be willing to give up your attachment to every familiar that has worked so well for you to this point.
I’m speaking of a man I serve who, a year or so ago, committed himself and the company he’s led for the past decade to creating an enterprise that leaves a positive and lasting impact on the lives of all who come in contact with it––and an enterprise that has a high likelihood of sustained vitality beyond the life of any living colleague.
A commitment to anything changes our life indelibly. Giving up smoking, breaking the world record for holding your breath underwater; life-long loyalty; becoming a great chef…. No matter what the commitment is, honoring it means that every choice we make in our life must take this commitment into consideration. That’s why so many commitments are forsaken, or never made in the first place. Do you think a third of Americans are obese because they’ve never made a commitment to lose weight? Some perhaps, but I’m sure many have gone on a ton of diets, if you’ll pardon the expression. Commitments are tough. No matter what we choose: make them; don’t make them; keep them; break them––the choices shape us.
And when we bring into play stuff like “positive and lasting impact,” and “all who come in contact,” and “beyond the life of any living colleague,” we’re stepping into the big leagues commitment-wise.
Because we cannot create beauty in the world that does not exist in our heart.
Put simplistically, for the man I’m speaking of to fulfill his commitment to himself and his organization, he must strive to be a master of paying attention at the deepest level. It’s a capability we develop only by growing our conscious oneness with all that is. Which makes it a journey the mind alone is ill-equipped to lead, for it is a journey of experiencing ever more acutely and completely the divinity of everything.
Is this among the deepest commitments a human being can make? I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s surely one that will keep us busy for countless lives.
Where does such a commitment begin? How is it born?
Consider this from Peter Matthiessen*:
Soon the child’s clear eye is clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions, and abstractions. Simple free being becomes encrusted with the burdensome armor of the ego. Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn. The sun glints through the pines and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise. After that day, we become seekers.
* (by way of Parabola magazine)