The Director of Religious Education at one of the congregations I serve, led the Adult Forum discussion on Sunday. She was using the curriculum of Spirit in Practice, a UU curriculum that explores a variety of ways people express their spirituality. It has been a wonderful study for this congregation.
She shared a story entitled “The Wise Fool” I will paraphrase the story here.
There was a great Sufi holy man Nasreddin Hodja who was approached by a group of women one day. They were quite upset and cried out, “Help us, Hodja! Help us!” Hodja replied, “What is the trouble?”
“Our husbands!” The women cried. “They have all decided that they must go into the desert and dedicate themselves to finding Allah. They have abandoned us and the children!”
“This is wrong!” Hodja declared and he set out on his donkey to find the men. When he found them he began to shout, “Help me! Help me!”
“What is the trouble, Hodja?” the men replied.
“My donkey! I have lost my donkey and cannot find him anywhere. I must find my donkey.” He said.
“But he is right there,” the men laughed. “Can’t you see that you are sitting on him? You do not have to try to look for him.”
“And why do you,” Hodja replied, ” believe you must go into the desert to look for Allah? Go back to your wives and your lives.” And that is what the men did.
There is a belief that in order for us to have a fulfilling life, that we must have that life over there–where ever over there may be. And so, people are disatisfied because they feel trapped in their present condition. They go through their daily routine as a grind, muttering through out their very being that they wished they could be someplace else and really live. Of course, there is nothing wrong in wanting to be someplace else and seeing different things and living different experiences that various locations offer.
But finding a fulfilling life someplace else is just like going into the desert to find Allah. Allah is already here in the fabric of our lives and routines. The Sufi holy man knew that Allah was to be found in the faces of the wives and children. So too a fulfilling life is to be found in the daily routines we awaken ourselves to experience.
Being awake, being fully alert to all that is going on around us can and will reveal to us what we must do or be in this moment. That response will shape our next moment and the next, and in reflection we will discover that our being here in the day to day routine made a difference in our having a fulfilling life. We will discover that the opportunities for fulfillment were already here all the time.
I hear from my friends in other parts of the country, who comment and state that living in Mississippi must be really hard. It must be a culture shock to live there. They of course are referring to the stereotype and biases that have developed against Mississippi. But people are people where ever one lives. The Human condition is the same that I experienced in Connecticut as I experienced in Illinois and in California and now in Mississippi. The location of the people encountered does not matter. We tend to run into the same people no matter where we live.
The difference, I believe, is in how we decide to respond to our daily encounters with others and how we respond to the daily routines we find ourselves in. It is a matter of being at peace with ourselves and in our present living. If we believe that nothing good ever comes out of Nazareth (John 1:46) then we will miss the opportunity to meet Jesus or the Buddha or the Mahatma. And believing that something good does come out of your location in time and space, is a step towards finding Allah in the midst of the desert of our lives. Blessings, Fred