Harmonious living is the highest and most difficult of Arts

It is possible that we learn the Art of harmonious living

through our mistakes, if we are taught by them.

In this long, and often painful, learning process,

cultivating virtues in our character is a must.

Applying common sense in every situation always helps.

This ultimate ART is our mission in this life!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Solitary Journey to Destiny

Shrove Monday, the first Monday of Lent, was a bright, sunny day, rather warm for the beginning of Spring, even in Greece. That year (1998), it fell on the 2nd of March and thousands of Athenians, faithful to popular Greek traditions, celebrated it by escaping to the nearby beautiful hills and beaches of Attiki. 

The merrymaking and feasting of the crazy carnival season had come to a close again; people had taken their ludicrous masks off, and were now ready to fly their multicolored kites in the air, as high as possible. They also looked forward to picnicking on the grounds with olives and ‘laganas’, that tasty unleavened flat bread made by bakers only once a year - exclusively on Shrove Monday!
Cavouri (crab) is a beautiful coastland on the Saronic Gulf, a few minutes’ walk from Urania’s apartment and, being only twenty-two kilometers away from central Athens, a very popular hiking area for many Athenians. It is surrounded by hills abounding with pines and is famous not only for its extended sandy beaches, but also...
for its many steep rocks under which a variety of edible sea crabs (cavouria) make their abode. Urania had sat on those rocks many a time, reading, praying, meditating, or simply enjoying the splendid view of the sea, sometimes calm as a pool, sometimes extremely rough, the breaking waves’ sea spray reaching up to her face. Oh, she adored the sight and the sound of a swelling sea! One of her unfulfilled dreams had been to live in a house next to the sea and fall asleep under the lullaby of the waves...

From her favorite rock, she had often followed the ships en route from Piraeus to the Aegean islands and, when the horizon was clear, she could also behold Salamina and Aegina, the nearest islands to Attiki. Watching the sunset from that spot had always been a refreshing, uplifting experience for her. Time and again, she could hardly assimilate the beauty and the variety of colors in the sky, as the clouds drew a myriad of masterly designs, moving playfully around the sun. On that particular day, however, Urania needed to force herself to get out and take her usual walk down there. To be frank, she was not overly happy to be on her own amidst crowds of strangers enjoying themselves in the company of their families and friends. This made her feel lonely. It was different to walk along the seashore when hardly anyone else was about; she was used to that, as she had been a solitary traveler for the best part of her adult life. She set off, nevertheless, determined to cheer herself up, to uplift her spirit, and let the ‘kite’ of her soul fly higher.

Fortunately, the joyful faces and the penetrating voices of little children watching their kites reaching up had a warming effect on her heart. She approached some of them and spoke a word or two despite their parents’ suspicious and somewhat unfriendly looks. “What a funny world we live in!” she thought. “People are pleased when strangers speak to their dogs and play with them. Yet they get nervous if a passer-by smiles and greets their children.” Oh, never mind… Having walked for about a mile or so, she decided to turn back and look for a vacant rock, somewhere quietly, so that she could sit and talk to herself. She had strongly felt the need of communicating with her ‘Higher Self’, in an attempt of re-examining her lofty goals and aspirations.

Soon she found the right place, an angular rock projecting into the sea, and she sat there for the next hour or so. As Urania looked at the blue waters of the Saronic Bay, what a spectacle! A picturesque, flat, stony islet on her right was carpet-covered with snow-white seagulls! How beautiful! She had never seen such a spectacular scene before. “Unlike humans, birds must get on with each other quite well,” she thought. “How happy and carefree they seemed! They are probably the most privileged creatures. They can fly anywhere as they wish, watching everything from on high!” Urania had often dreamt of flying around over mountains and valleys, experiencing, in her sleep, the invigorating feeling of freedom. Talking about birds, she also enjoyed bird watching, especially when they flew near the ground, right above her head. On such occasions she usually stood still, wishing that some of them would come and sit on her shoulder. But it hadn’t happened thus far…

Leaving the seagulls on the islet bathing in the sun, Urania’s thoughts turned inwards. She began searching her heart, looking for reassurance, for inspiration, for strength, for enthusiasm, for some answers. Where had she started from and where was she going? Was she, peradventure, acting and moving within God’s will, i.e. according to her ‘destiny’? She was still not satisfied with what she had accomplished in her life. Many of her goals and aspirations were far from being fulfilled… She still had ambitions, noble and altruistic ones, which she should pursue so that her life would have meaning and purpose.

Those ambitions constituted what she believed to be her “mission” to society. In a flash of a moment, her mind flew back to 1983, the day when she had handed in her resignation to the department manager at McDermott’s, in England. Her Jewish manager had asked her why she was resigning from such a good job. Urania’s answer, “Because God is calling me to something else”, had shocked him. “Which God? There is no God!” the manager said, and he continued, “Are you sure, Urania, you have not being brainwashed by a religious sect?” “Definitely Not!” Urania had answered, trying to push away any doubts that her manager’s ironic remarks could instill if her mind.

Indeed, in all her honesty, Urania believed that she had a special “calling” as a writer and a spiritual mission to fulfill, in spite of her shortcomings and humble origins. Whether that “mission” was assigned to her by her inner or Higher Self, or was entrusted to her by some Being or beings outside her, was difficult for her to answer. However, as far as she was concerned, it didn’t make any difference.

Since she had accepted the “calling,” she ought to finish the work given to her as best as she could. And this was exactly what grieved her: the realization that her “mission” hadn’t gone as far as she would have liked to, i.e. she hadn’t seen any fruit of her labor yet. In other words, she hadn’t witnessed a bountiful harvest of the seeds she had sown over the years through several published books and articles she had written. As a human being, she did feel the need of some appreciation, if only as a reassurance that she was heading to the right direction.

As Urania was thinking of her stormy past and the quiet present, as she was contemplating the hardships she had gone through, trying to explain the ‘whys’ of her foolish mistakes and wrong choices and, yes, as she was, once again, trying to forgive herself and forget what had deeply hurt her and others, she felt tears running on her cheeks. Unconsciously, her hand reached down and tenderly touched the flower of a tiny plant stemming out of a hollow of the rock! “I love you little flower!” she whispered to it, her voice seemingly coming directly from her spirit. “Even though nobody takes any notice of you, even though nobody bends down to smell your fragrance, and no one cares to know your name nor bothers about your needs, I love you. I do love you, tiny plant, because of your determination to live your short life as best as you can, fulfilling your ‘mission’ under the most adverse circumstances. You are surviving without the company of any other plants. You have, my little friend, hardly any soil to hide your roots, neither some water to moisten them, but, in spite of all this, you have offered up a beautiful yellow flower and are now preparing to leave some seeds behind you! Oh, how grateful I am for the lesson you have taught me today! You may never see the sprout of your seeds, as there isn’t any fertile soil near you, but you trust the wind to take them elsewhere. Others will behold the flowers from your seeds...”

It wasn’t the first time Urania was engaging in a ‘conversation’ with a plant. She was used to whispering tenderly to wild flowers and blades of grass. And she was fond of petting the leaves of small bushes as she walked by. But this time, her interaction with the tiny plant had a special, penetrating effect on her heart. It was as if God had used it in order to speak to her, imparting two very profound messages. The first was that she shouldn’t be unduly concerned with the results of her labor. In time, the seeds she sowed through her books and articles would sprout and bring forth fruit after their kind. The second message was ‘determination’. No matter how disappointed she had been, or how misunderstood, rejected and hurt by others, she shouldn’t give up. On the contrary, she should summon up all her strength, exercise her spiritual muscles, and, once again, stretch out the wings of her soul and continue to sow seeds of truth, principles, values, love and rationality through her writings and otherwise.

When Urania returned home, the word “determination” still being prevalent in her mind, she was overwhelmed with joy and courage. Indeed, there was no way she could now turn the clock back and launch into a different life-style. It was too late for that. The situation was irreversible. “The river can never turn back”, she thought. To not do what she was doing would mean a dull life and spiritual death for her. Never mind that the journey she had been traveling was lonesome, it had granted her the most exhilarating experiences, and she would not change it for anything! Oh, how grateful was Urania to God for having entrusted her with that little mission! From now on, she promised herself not to look for results of her labor again. Unwavering, she should just keep going, keep sowing…
Copyright © 2007 by Maria Seferou