In Search of the Champagne Life
by Jennifer Barnick
…but you don’t
Often…so often…we think we know.
Lately, I have been settling for the first time into Rumi. Rumi was a thirteenth century Muslim poet and scholar. His work is compared to that of Shakespeare in its sophistication, scope, brilliance, beauty, and wisdom. To all of this I would heartily agree for even just an hour spent with his work (a mix of poetry and prose) one feels utterly satiated. One poem in particular stood out for me (at least for now…I have a feeling that like Shakespeare his body of work will possess many turns and changes as time passes). The poem is entitled “There’s Nothing Ahead” and I believe holds within its span a lesson that just might change one’s entire life.
“On the way you may want to look back or not,
but if you can say, There’s nothing ahead,
there will be nothing there.”
Above is one of stanzas from Rumi’s poem. For me it sunk wholly and deeply and I came to see (almost in an instant) that if those few words were to be embraced one would find enlightenment not far away—one would have surely found the Champagne Life. Of course I have read and heard many gurus espouse the importance of living in the moment and realizing that one really does not know the future—yet somehow the lines “but if you can say, There’s nothing ahead, there will be nothing there” struck me deeper than ever. I suppose it really hits with the last line of the stanza: there will be nothing there. There will be nothing there. To think of the future in those terms, for me at least, finally drives home the reality of time, worry, hope, dreams, and the way in which we plot our lives. How often do we ignore the present only to worry or predict the future? In truth our future is always in a state of “nothing there”.
Certainly I believe that we in many ways create our future and that does come with some planning, hard work, and gamble, but to lose sight of the reality that in truth no one really knows the future—is to lose sight of our real point of power—the present. Indeed, Rumi sees that reality as well—particularly with the important line “but if you can say, There’s nothing ahead” which implies an even deeper layer of wisdom—that we must participate in the present and in our world outlook for it to be wholly true and realized. Seeing the future as empty also leaves an incredible amount of freedom for one to build upon, which further dovetails the idea of belief, creating one’s reality, and a truly empty future. Removing worry, doubt, fear, expectation, preconceptions, and everyone else’s prognostications allows for a lot of room to create and experience one’s present—which is really yesterday’s future.
“about the future. Forget the future.
I’d worship someone who could do that!”
It is this stanza that I believe makes Rumi a genius and not simply espousing nearly obvious wisdom and that is his compassion and understanding of the human condition. Trying to put the future into a healthier more accurate perspective is an ideal, however, know too that it is a very lofty and difficult one. For even Rumi acknowledges that to be able to forget the future puts you on a very—very—high level of being. This too is a wise lesson: that it is fine and good to have high ideals but it is equally important to keep them into perspective. To attain perfection is to become a god, and while for some that goal seems utterly plausible for most, however, just trying to be a good person is challenge enough.