Someone secretly wise told me that ‘eternity’ can be contained in a single moment, if that moment is powerful enough. It can take an entire lifetime or a single moment to understand your purpose. Some people die without ever finding it. Others affect the entire universe with theirs.
My human nature limits me from grasping my purpose. Gazing across the ocean, I feel suffocated by its vastness. I drift without purpose. I worry without aim. I moan about the life I’ve been living. I find myself alone in crowds, blind to the woes of the world because the voices in my own head are too loud. I struggle to find meaning in life, never realizing that I already have all the answers I’ll ever need.
Last week, I met a man who changed everything. He was an old beggar in tattered clothes of white, wrinkles deeper than my pockets and a dreadful reek that emanated from his very being. I saw something in his deep green eyes though. I was drawn to him. It was like I’d been wandering across the desert for a year, nearly dying of thirst, and he was an oasis. Without even knowing how or why, I found myself asking questions I’d never dared to explore. Before walking away with an understanding frown, he told me a story that changed me:
“Two years ago, I was dying. Alone in all my misery, I summoned the strength to stumble upstairs and stagger across the bedframe that could have been my final resting place. Even as darkness loomed across my eyes, my mind was preoccupied. I had nothing to live for but dying would mean ultimate loss. I had controlled everything up to this point but nothing besides uncertainty lay ahead. I feared for my life and the loss of everything I had worked for, everything I had sacrificed. But what use was wealth and achievement as I counted the seconds leading to my demise?
What were my ‘valuable’ possessions worth when they couldn’t buy me a few more minutes to live? I knew what was coming; the tendrils of darkness gradually veiling my eyes told me as much. My family knew what was coming but they didn’t want to be anywhere near me. They didn’t care and I knew why. I hadn’t let anything or anyone stand against me in my quest to prove myself. Yet, that journey had taken a lifetime and I had never felt so unfulfilled. What use were trinkets when my heart was failing?
The darkness washed over me and sleepiness loomed over my eyes. Yet, this wasn’t sleepiness. This sensation was like floating and sinking at the same time. It was simultaneously dark and calming and unbearably frightening. It was nothing and yet it was everything. It sounded like waves thrashing against jagged rocks before the silence, deeper than any ocean, sinks in.
At this point, I couldn’t remember a single good deed I’d done. I had nothing to ease my sorrow and regret. I’d never been much more than a tormentor, a manipulator, a man who orders others to commit atrocious acts and manages to erase his own guilt.
In this darkness, all the power that had sustained me, all the misery that had strengthened me, was undesirable. A life of wealth wasn’t enough to make me feel ‘alive’.
Initially, my consciousness rebelled against the idea of change. I struggled to retain my old identity, despicable as it was. But soon enough, I was powerless. Images swam before my eyes (or what I assumed were ‘eyes’ because the entire experience didn’t seem entirely physical): images of the wars I had caused, cries of the lives I had exploited. I had never truly witnessed the horrors I’d caused because it had been as simple as giving an order to a lowly henchman. Now, I realized that physical separation from an action does not relieve a guilty man of his burdens.
I was lucky to survive. To this day, I’m not sure why I did. Maybe it was for a higher purpose or simply a medical marvel. I knew one thing though: I couldn’t continue living the same life. I couldn’t be ‘wealthy on the outside’ and ‘hollow on the inside’ anymore. Being famous on social media or having a high net worth meant absolutely nothing when my heart was empty. That’s why I renounced everything to search for my soul. That’s what brought me to this street corner, on this day, in these worn-out clothes. I’ve never been happier.
It has already been a week and I may never see that old man again but I will never forget his story. He abandoned everything he’d once cherished to find meaning in life. I just hope he has enough time left to enjoy it. He was practically on his deathbed when he found his life purpose. I don’t want to wait that long.