What a question to ask, the answer to which is the goal of most people. How do we separate what is important in life from the other stuff? How do we go about our daily life and not remain oblivious to what is going on around us? Paying attention to the lives of others. Achieving a stream of consciousness that will hold us up in times of adversity supporting our resolve for a better life.

Spirituality is the single most important component of the answer. Our society has a quiet rebellion at the word religion which conjures up images of child and native abuse, control, extreme riches while the poor remain hungry all around, wars and extreme prejudices fought in its name. We are unable to separate religion in many of its current forms from the purity of the original teachings.

There are also a number of questions arising as the the accuracy of the holly works since these were translated and transcribed by humans who are prone to so many errors. Assurances of the purity of the works as protected by the Manifestations of God or God himself are of no avail. No one really believes that is a possibility. Studies of the Bible particularly have highlighted the number of errors that have crept into the works that we are reading today. The first Bible was published 1000 years after the crucifixion of Christ.

The subject of spirituality itself is fraught with issues. Is it possible to have spirituality without religion? Is not the basis of spirituality the same as that of religion that we take for granted now as good vs bad rules. Thou shalt not kill was introduced by religion and has become assimilated in society. Could that rule have evolved naturally or would we continue to believe that killing is a natural process of mankind. The wild west of the 19th Century in the U.S. would support the issue that killing was considered a normal part of life for many years, in spite of religion or spirituality.

Defining the latter is effusive at best and left to the individual. Spirituality appears to live in people’s lives according to their set of principles and guidelines. I would surmise though, that all aspects of it engender some sort of feelings of good will to all men. The prospect of doing good as opposed to evil, to advance society to the next level of accomplishment. Defining good and evil, accomplishments and the like opens its own set of issues and definitions that become very personal very quickly in any discussion. To make matters worse, there are few answers.

I would add two additional principles to spirituality. The Baha’i Faith goes to great lengths espousing the benefits of detachment and moderation. I have mentioned these in the past. I am coming to the conclusion that these three could easily form the bastion of human consciousness. All are difficult to achieve, nearing on the impossible. Mainly because we tend to attempt to define things in black and white. Where it only so. All definitions defie tight descriptions of any kind. Matters are made worse by advancing age as we see ambiguity all around us.

Detachment is the process of detaching yourself from material goods. I say this as I sit in a house full of beautiful art collected over the years. I always considered detachment also meant not having material goods, shying away from purchasing them. As time has gone by, I have come to the conclusion that far not acquiring material goods, the art of detachment includes the process of acquiring stuff but recognising the transient nature f what we acquire. The accumulation of wealth for the sake of it has never seemed like a good idea, or even a recommended path to happiness. On the other hand, you have a Warren Buffet who makes a fortune and gives most of away to benefit mankind. That is certainly a level of detachment. For the record, he gave away $35 billion of his $40 billion fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Detachment is hard to achieve since it is hard to define accurately, and again means different things to different people. At its most fundamental, I believe it includes the appreciation of one’s belongings without being unduly attached to them. Would I miss my art if it were stolen? Or burned in a fire? Undoubtedly. Life goes on at that point. We can always start purchasing again. Maybe go in a new direction. The silver lining that allows us to chart new ways as a direct result of the loss we have suffered.

Moderation is equally complicated. At first glance, it would appear that moderation encourages us to tow the middle line. How boring that would be. No excesses. On the other hand, would moderation allow the occasional excess as long as it is tempered afterwards? I am sure it does. We would not know what moderation was if we are always being moderate. That brings us to the mind bender of moderation within moderation.

Can the boundaries of moderation be moved? The answer is an obvious yes. A person participating in Xtreme sports will have different upper and lower boundaries associated with their level of activities. Their state of moderation, or what they would consider to be moderate would a totally different of values than mine. Same would apply to such mundae tasks as driving a car where we set different standards for ourselves.

We drove from Germany to Iran in 1962. My father had purchased a brand new Opel Caravan. The laws regarding importing foreign new vehicles into Iran had relaxed and my father decided to take advantage of the situation. He went to the Automobile Association in Germany to get a map and an idea of what route to take. It was an interesting drive of which I remember parts. He was told there two routes, easy and hard. Easy meant two weeks, hard was ten days over the grueling mountains of Yugoslavia and Turkey. We had lived in Ethiopia for ten years negotiating its mountainous terrain, mountains appeared to not be a problem for my father.

My father’s idea of a trip was to get from point A to point B with the minimum number of interventions. Bathroom breaks were non-existent. Leaving at 7:00AM meant just that. Be in there or incur his wrath. We made the trip to Iran in seven days much tot he shock of the Automobile Association Iran when we reported in. My dad’s idea of moderation while driving while slightly askew with the rest of the people in the car.

We are all very fast fast drivers in my family. Moderation means driving over the speed limit, not at the limit.

Moderation also applies to other aspects of life. Baha’is are told to take every opportunity to teach the Faith. Mention the name of our Manifestation of God, Baha’u'llah. Extol his teachings and so on. Even that has to be done in moderation. I have a cousin who is very active in the faith, in my opinion past the point of moderation by a large margin regardless of what upper and lower boundaries are set. She is in France right now, gone to spend time with her daughter. Her daughter works which means my cousin will have some free time on her hands. She will be organising some sort of Baha’i do there During her vacation.

I pointed out to her that this would no longer be a vacation. She should take some time out from teaching the Faith and become a tourist. I am not good at that, she says. Of course not. That requires practice.  You need to try it sometime. Go to the Museums, not the Louvre necessarily, but the Musee D’Orsay is fabulous and worth the visit. Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Being a tourist requires you to practice being one to enjoy the process. In the meantime, go have a cup of coffee and talk to people. Incredible what you will learn from them. Recharge your batteries. It will make you a more effective teacher when you return. Moderation applies to everything we do.

If you are bored by how moderate you have become, move the boundaries. Being moderate does not mean boring.

Spirituality, detachment, moderation form the three pillars on which most lives can be lived fruitfully.

None can be achieved however, without first becoming conscious of what you are doing and how you are living you life. Stream of consciousness is vital. We are seeing this term appear more and more in all sorts of literature. Become aware. Consciousness allows you to heal yourself from some conditions. There are those who argue that I could heal my liver if only I was more conscious of its activities. Rewrite the genes that control it. It is possible. It has been proven with the new theories of Neuro Plasticity in which have rewired their brains to get rid of certain debilitating conditions including depression.

Another life long goal to be achieved. All of these are done simultaneously. It is not like you do one, than proceed to another. Every pillar is a support helping the others make sense out of everything.

Consciousness allows to become aware that the problem or issue you are labouring over is important or not. Helps balance  things out. Can you live like that every day of your life. I doubt it.

I am beginning to dissect and analyse what people say. This is fun and very educational. I have another post coming out on it. For now, I will mention one of them. Live every day like it is your last. Or take everything one day at a time. Both impossible to do. You have no idea when your last day is. And anyways, you will be dead on your last day. Not sure you want to live that way.

Given the prognosis that I have two months to live has creates a volcano of thoughts and feelings. None of which helps decide how to live every day like it is my last. Don’t have the energy for it. What if I want to sit and do nothing tomorrow? Is that a bad thing? Have I betrayed my last day objective? Would I not want to do something different? Not necessarily anything dramatic. Have dinner with my wife. Just the two of us. Hardly a last day activity people envision when they make the comment. You can have dinner anytime. Go do something else. But what?

The answer to your question, Iggy, is as old as the mountains we tread on. Achieving the balance that is required to live a full life, aware of the repercussions of one’s actions. I can tell you from my own experience over this journey, that the road to that awareness is long, will take unexpected twists and turns for which you are never totally prepared. It is worth taking the time every day to meditate. Probably toward the end of the day, on what actions you have taken, how this has affected you and your loved ones. How things can be fixed. The quicker you apply the fix the better. What the next steps are.

Baha’is have to say their prayers every day. A prayer consists of three equal parts. The first is reading the prayer, aloud or to yourself, the second is to meditate on what you have read, and the this is to take some action as a result of the prayer. Reading the prayer is the easy part. The rest require a stream of consciousness.

I hope this helps you in some way, Iggy. This has been a very difficult write. I would to hear not only your comments, but those of others. Please do not be shy, every comment carries a gem in it whether you think so or not. A lot of you write me eMails instead of commenting. I wish I could post those as comments. They are full of insight that you may not think are valuable, or downplay as simplistic. This blog has proven that there is no such thing. I have written posts that I have looked at later and thought I treated the subject too lightly, yet the comments make a liar out of me. Or the posts leave enough room for others to say something.

This is an important post tome. Please comment. Every word has value.

13 Responses to “Dear Iggy,”

  1. What a post.

    I have always been very idealistic. Many things were black and white for me. After all, there is right, and there is wrong. Right? Wrong. I now see shades of grey everywhere. And as you said to me the other day, I can only expect this to continue! This means, in part, being aware that everyone's experiences are different. As you say, their limits, their views of moderation will be different to mine, so I cannot possibly judge whether or not they are living in moderation. Who knows if that third bottle of Cognac is excess for them, or showing great restraint?

    Your discussion of detachment surprised me because you focused on material goods. I think I was expecting you to write about a detachment from other 'worldly' things. Yes, that would include goods purchased, but it would also include your own flesh. Your relationships. Your goals and ambitions. Your expectation of the kind of life you want/wanted to live. Even expectations of when you were going to die. A kind of "Everyone wants to go to Heaven, but no-one wants to die to get there" discussion about what it means to be able to detach from the things in this life that we love most fervently, the things that truly bind us to this life. Yes, your art is beautiful, and yes, you might be disappointed if you lost it: but life goes on and you could purchase more. The same is not true when it comes to those you love. Or is it?

    Perhaps, like "moderation in everything, including moderation", we can also say "detachment in everything, including your wish to detach".

    Thanks for writing this one, and for sharing it.

    • I concentrated on talking about material goods as opposed to worldly ones. Detaching oneself from ambitions and relationships and personal stuff as a whole, seems to me to create undue pressure, and possibly a false expectations of life as a whole. We have no idea what our soul consists of. What a makes soul complete? What fills up that bucket? Is being nice to people one of the components? In which case with detachment from relationship harm the soul?

      The not knowing of this vital piece of information means that we have to temper everything we do, moderation in all things even if we do have the capability of moving the upper and lower bars of our expectations of moderation.

      Detaching yourself at this time when I am contemplating death, from those that are near and dear to me is probably one of the most difficult and easiest things to accomplish. Hard and difficult because one cannot imagine for a second not being around. Surreal concept at the best of times. Yet, I am leaving which has brought a sense of serenity and calm to my space. I remember my mother saying it is always easier for the person dying. We are waiting expectant of the final result. Yes, we are all dying, just that we are not expecting to happen in short order.

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. Dear Farouk,
    Living each day as though it is your last is, I believe, what you’ve always done. There is no need to put pressure on yourself to accomplish it now–all you need to do is be. For the record, I can think of nothing more precious than you and Janet having dinner together–just the two of you. Or doing nothing can be everything as well.

    • I have been very good at not putting any pressure on myself. The thoughts keep coming, some stay for a short trip, while others vaporize. As you know, since you live two doors away from me, some days are good, some not so, and we take advantage. y strength decrees short outbursts outside, then back home to be entertained by my visitors. Speaking of which…

  3. I'm going to have to re-read this a few times Farokh, it's so thought provoking. Thanks for putting soooo much thought into answering Ignacio's question. It was a very big one to tackle. Leave it to you to actually have the answer.

  4. i like that idea of moderation in everything, even in moderately driving too fast…that's not a gem, but it struck my funny bone. love, gita

  5. Hi Farokh, I see you have gone almost 24 hours with no comment (unless that was posted at 4:42 am yesterday, in which case longer). Your friends are still here but we are all blown away. I went out at noon to pick something up for you (dropping off this evening quickly) and came back to this wise piece. We are all struck dumb by its thoughtfulness, or so caught up in our daily toils of client demands, trying to succeed, trying not get fired – that we feel we cannot respond appropriately – or "they" won't leave us alone long enough for us to do so. Thank goodness you are here to counsel us on how to truly be be be, instead of do do do. Much love, Anne

    • People have mentioned that they get intimidated by other comments, and sometimes want to write in just to say ditto. I thought I would delay approving the comments to see what would happen. No changes. People are still not commenting! So I approved these today and am, on one of the rare occasions, replying to them.

  6. Wow, deep thinking here Farokh. I don't even know where to begin, but first of all thank you for trying to find out the meaning to life for me on this one. I know it's very egoistical of me to ask you to help me understand my life by seeing it from your perspective, as someone perhaps leaving us sooner rather than later.

    As someone whose idea of meditating means drinking a glass of wine, turning on some candles and listening to music I can only say that I think you have a point. We spend all day taking information in from our iphones, ipads, computers and tv, what little time we have left we use to talk to other people, but we spend very little time now talking to ourselves and reflecting on our life. Having undergone a massive personal life change this year I realize that I hadn't been talking to myself for a long long time.

    I know we cannot go diving and jump off a plane every day, but it's scary to think that some of us are walking around with perhaps small cancer cells inside us, or an imminent car crash in a week and yet we still get stressed, worried and beaten up by small every day problems.

    It's easy to detach ourselves from things, but I think that's because we already have enough things. We're trained to get a house, buy a car, and wear nice shoes, and for that we must work, and for that we must pay the price in stress. My uncle who last month had a cancer scare told me the following when we were talking about material goods, "Ignacio, in this life everything you have is loaned to you, you never own anything, because you will leave with nothing."

    It's a strange dilemma. I really wish I could wake up every day and assume I came out of the hospital with an all clear. That they told me that my terminal disease was over. Would I go straight to the airport to the Caribbean or would I go home, relax and pop in a DVD and burn two hours of your life? Like you told me once, it's tiring trying new things, we can't do it everyday.

    I read a book recently that claimed the secret to happiness is not in doing extreme things every day but in pushing ourselves to learn something new every day. I think that is something that I saw you always embraced, your curiosity for things around you, and your incessant need to ask questions that perhaps the other people in the room were not asking. Learning something new every day, growing, is happiness.

    All I can say is that through your experience, it has changed all of us, forever. I will never be able to see my life and those around me the same way. Thank you from the bottom of my heart Farokh.

    • I think living every day in a fully aware state would drive you into an asylum. We need protection from the trials and tribulations of daily existence. There is a balance to be achieved in there somewhere. My father died in a fiery car accident in South Africa. We went there to bury him. One of the doctors who had looked after him said to us, you know he felt no pain. Having by then seen the body, and the car, I was, to say the least, a bit skeptical. He explained that the mind shuts down when it feels great adversity descending on the body. It is a protection mechanism that removes all pain from an impending situation. I have to wonder how often that happens in life. Whether that is what we talk about when we say a situation has left us numb, unable to react adequately.

      We should be a lot more easier on ourselves. Good and bad stuff happens all the time. We cannot afford to dwell on a lot of this stuff. The trick, is to be able to separate what needs our attention and what does not. It sometimes feels as if we have left things too late. This experience has shown me that this is rarely the case. A lot of life can be redone. Adversity that was created by our actions can be reversed. The language we choose at these times is supremely important.

      I taught people how to use computers for a number of years. We have a tendency of explaining something to the students and then say something like, do you understand what I am saying? We do this all the time. Listen to yourself when you express something that you might think you did not explain properly. Using those words places the onus of understanding on the listener. You are basically saying, I am clear, you have to understand, and if you don't, then there is something wrong with you. Changing that last question to, Am I making myself clear? Removes the onus from the listener and places the responsibility back on your shoulders. That simple change relaxes the listener. Oh, good, it is not me, it is him who should explain it again. I am not so dumb after all.

      The same applies to making peace with people. Watch your words. One choice will exacerbate the situation, another will make peace. You have led a great life, undoubtedly stepped on some toes along the way. Don't dwell on it too much. Make peace with yourself first, then with others.

      And, yes, talk to yourself in the peace and quiet of your home, or when taking one of your long trips.

      Thanks for letting me attempt an answer to your question.

  7. Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.
    —Henry Ford

  8. This comment is from my cousin Mastaneh who lives in Iran. She sent me an eMail and has allowed me to transfer it to the site.
    spirituality, moderation detachment, consciousness … all relative concepts.
    What I can say is that we all have so many layers that changes over
    time as well , most of it is unknown even to ourselves. It is not
    clear at all. I do not see any black or white, just a world full of
    different shades of grey.

    I suppose I relate spirituality very much with religion and it
    somehow gives me rash. In my opinion, there is no good religion. It is
    always a better interpretation. Which means a wiser look that can make
    a religion fruit ful to certain number of people for a certain period
    of time. But on the other hand I look at spirituality as the essence
    of all religions and perhaps if it was possible to have it without any
    religion, it would have improved the quality of people's life. Very
    idealistic of course.

    With detachment I do not have much problem. I am not that much
    attached to material things. It is easy to say that of course because
    I have never been poor or starved. I have always liked comfortable
    life but getting rich has never inspired me to do anything.
    Moderation, yes, I think it helps us to go back to the track after
    different messes we make with our lives to keep some sort of sanity.

    Consciousness: I do not know if I am conscious or not but I do accept
    responsibility for whatever I have done and never put the blame on
    someone else. I know at least this is a good and healthy thing. It
    makes you see better. I guess this has got to do wih consciousness. I
    liked what you said about noticing how your action has affected your
    beloved ones and if needed trying to fix it.

  9. Dearest Friend
    So many of the comments made in your blog resonated with me. I, like others reread them many times over. My heart is full with the inspiring words, candid thoughts and raw emotions which it evoked.
    The one most raw was: The same applies to making peace with people. Watch your words. One choice will exacerbate the situation, another will make peace. You have led a great life, undoubtedly stepped on some toes along the way. Don't dwell on it too much. Make peace with yourself first, then with others.
    This is so hard at times, as ego, attachment to self, prevents us at times to heed this simple act of making peace with oneself and then with others.
    It is a journey!
    Thank you for elevating the conversation to where most people are afraid to go by themselves, feeling alone. You made it easier by inviting us in.

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