In an ideal world, I do the following. Wake up. Meditate. Read Meditations. Write in my journal. Read for two hours. Write. That didn’t happen today. As I sit at my laptop, I look out at the frosty sun, listen to epic film scores and think about presence versus productivity.
The poem below, from Kahlil Gibran, is what comes to mind when this contrast is brought up. I’m also reminded of some other things I have seen over the last few days. Oliver Sacks on gratitude. This essay on a creative life gone wrong. The choice between a life of meaning and a life of happiness.
All of these hold some truth. But I feel it is a truth too potent, too vast to communicate. So I will not try. Instead, I leave you in the care of Kahlil.
The Scholar and the Poet
Said the serpent to the lark, “Thou flyest, yet thou canst not visit the recesses of the earth where the sap of life moveth in perfect silence.”
And the lark answered, “Aye, thou knowest over much, nay thou art wiser then all things wise — pity thou canst not fly.”
And as if he did not hear, the serpent said, “Thou canst not see the secrets of the deep, nor move among the treasures of the hidden empire. It was but yesterday I lay in a cave of rubies. It is like the heart of a ripe pomegranate, and the faintest ray of light turns into a flame-rose. Who but me can behold such marvels?”
And the lark said, “None, none but thee can lie among the crystal memories of the cycles: pity thou canst not sing.”
And the serpent said, “I know a plant whose root descends to the bowels of the earth, and he who eats of that root becomes fairer than Ashtarte.”
And the lark said, “No one, no one but thee could unveil the magic thought of the earth — pity thou canst not fly.”
And the serpent said, “There is a purple stream that runneth under a mountain, and he who drinketh of it shall become immortal even as the gods. Surely no bird or beast can discover that purple stream.”
And the lark answered, “If thou willest thou canst become deathless even as the gods — pity thou canst not sing.”
And the serpent said, “I know a buried temple, which I visit once a moon: It was built by a forgotten race of giants, and upon its walls are graven the secrets of time and space, and he who reads them shall understand that which passeth all understanding.”
And the lark said, “Verily, if thou so desirest thou canst encircle with thy pliant body all knowledge of time and space — pity thou canst not fly.”
Then the serpent was disgusted, and as he turned and entered into his hole he muttered, “Empty-headed songster!”
And the lark flew away singing, “Pity thou canst not sing. Pity, pity, my wise one, thou canst not fly.”