Rumi: Things are such

Things are such, that someone lifting a cup,
Or watching the rain, petting a dog,
Or singing, just singing — could be doing as
Much for this universe as anyone.

– Rumi

Yes, that’s my sense of it as well.

VALUING PRODUCTIVITY

Does this poem have to do with value and productivity? It’s at least easy for us, in our Western culture, to see it that way.

There is nothing wrong with valuing productivity. We need some level of productivity to collectively and individually survive and thrive. (1) It makes sense that it’s part of our culture, and probably any culture. (2)

At the same time, if it goes too far it has downsides. In our Western culture, we have valued productivity to the extent that we often equate our worth with what we do in the world. We have lost sight of our value from just being who we are and being part of existence.

THE VALIDITY OF THE POEM

When I explore what Rumi points to, I find a few different things.

Doing simple things, or just being, does a lot for our universe. For the universe we each are. When I sit outside hearing the birds and looking at the trees and flowers, does as much for my universe as just about anything.

We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. So even the simplest of activities, or just the experience of rest, does as much for the universe as anything.

The idea of productivity or value is mind-made. It’s not inherent in reality. So anything does as much for the universe as anything else.

WHY IT’S APPEALING

So there is no wonder this poem, in this particular translation, is attractive to many in the modern world.

We are trained to (over-) value productivity and equate our worth with what we do. And that comes with downsides. It fuels over-work. It may lead us to ignore our deeper interests and passions. And if or when we are unable to be as productive as our culture tells us we should, our self-worth may take a hit.

So this poem is an antidote to that idea. It’s medicine for that particular condition.

NOTES

(1) And the right kind of productivity. The kind of productivity that puts food on the table, a roof over our heads, and so on.

(2) Although the form this value takes in different cultures probably varies enormously. It can take the form of degrading and devaluing those who are unable to be productive. And it can take the form of valuing everyone and each person’s unique contributions, even if they are not very active in a conventional sense.

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Finding our value independent of who we are, what we do, and others

In our culture, we are often trained to find our value in our roles, actions, how we appear to others, and by comparing ourselves to others. 

So how do we find our value independent of all of this? 

BABIES!

A good start may be to notice that, for us, babies have immense value even if they don’t do much in the world (apart from pooping and eating) and even if they all are more or less the same. For us, they have an inherent value. So why wouldn’t it be that way for us? And everyone else? 

FINDING LOVE FOR OURSELVES

We can find genuine love for ourselves.

We can shift our self-talk in a more kind and wise direction. (What we wish we had received as children.)

We can do tonglen or ho’oponopono with ourselves as a whole or parts of ourselves that feel unloved or we find difficult to find love for.

We can befriend the painful parts of us, listen to what they have to say, have a dialog with them, give them what they really want (often love, safety, support, etc.), and so on. Just recognizing that there are parts of us having this experience, and not all of us, can shift our relationship with it.

And we can do the same for others. Since they are mirrors for us, finding genuine love for others – no matter who they are or what they do, or what roles they have in the world – helps us find genuine love for more parts of ourselves. 

EXAMINING PAINFUL STORIES

We can identify and inquire into painful beliefs and identities telling us we don’t have value. 

We can identify and inquire into any beliefs we have around ideas of value. This helps undo the whole construct for us. 

We can notice that any ideas of value and our own value (or lack thereof) are created by the mind. They are mental constructs and can only be found in our mental field. They come from our culture. They are not inherent in the world itself, or in ourselves as we are.  

FINDING WHAT WE MORE FUNDAMENTALLY ARE

We can find what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience.

We find ourselves as oneness and wholeness and not lacking anything. We find an immense value as what we are.

We find that all beings, most likely, are the same to themselves and have the same immense value.

We find it may be easier to recognize that any and all ideas about value are created by the mind and not inherent in what we are or anything is. 

And we may find the deep transformation that can happen when we notice our nature while also noticing and holding the parts of ourselves that feel unlovable and not valuable.

A NOTE ON WHY WE WOULD WANT TO FIND OUR VALUE INDEPENDENT OF ROLES ETC.

It’s not inherently wrong to find our value in our roles, actions, etc. But it is stressful. It means we are never quite enough. We always need to chase something. If life takes a turn so we lose our roles and ability to act in certain ways, it can be devastating to our sense of self-worth. And nobody benefits from that. Finding our value independent of all of this gives us a deeper sense of rest and we are more available to life. We are more able to follow our deeper guidance and what we genuinely love, and that typically benefits all of us.

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Finding our value independent of our roles in life

The outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before

– Simone Biles on Twitter, after deciding to drop some olympic events to take care of herself

I love that someone in the public eye, and especially one who is the idol of many young people, write and talk about this.

For whatever reason, our culture seems to encourage us to tie our sense of worth to what we have and do in the world. We learn to tie our sense of worth to the temporary roles we play.

I win a gold medal, and am worth more. I don’t have much money, and am worth less. I work hard, and am worth more. I get sick and am unable to work, and am worth less. And so on.

Our value is not dependent on our roles or what we have or do. A baby is not worth more or less than an adult who is an engineer or raise children. A squirrel is not worth more or or less than the acorn it’s eating.

Our ideas about value are human ideas. We create them. They are examples of the creativity of the mind. They are not inherent in the world and they don’t reflect anything inherent in the world.

EXPLORING OUR VALUE IN DIFFERENT WAYS

We can explore this at different levels.

We are not limited to one role in life. We play many roles. If I am unable to compete or work, I still have a lot of other roles to draw on – as a daughter, son, father, mother, friend, student, coach, and so on. One or even several roles may fall away, and there are still many left where I can find a sense of value.

If all of these roles fall away, do I still have value? As mentioned above, a baby has value even without playing any roles apart from being a baby and a living being. As a living being, we have inherent value. as a part of this life and universe, we have inherent value – as we are.

I can explore my ideas about value, and recognize they are ideas. They are cultural. I picked them up from family, teachers, friends, society, culture, and so on. In another culture, I would have different ideas about value. For instance, I may value old age over youth. I may value wisdom over productivity. I may value life, any living being, over any of the particular roles we play. I may value anything at all, as part of life and the universe and existence, over any particular role any of us play.

I can identify and question my stressful thoughts about my own value. I can find the need and sense of lack beind it, and see how it is to give to these parts of me what they perceive they lack.

I can find what I more fundamentally am, in my own first-person experience, beyond being a human self in the world. I may find I am capacity for my experience of the world, and what my field of experience – which includes this human self and the wider world – happens within and as. Here, I find that any ideas of value happens within and as what I am, and what these ideas point to happen within and as what I am.

NOTES

Photo: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil, 2016, Wikimedia

Related article from The Guardian: Simone Biles: support has made me realise I am more than my gymnastics