Has anyone ever quoted you? I often wonder who it is who goes around writing down what the great and the good say. Do you need your own scribe to ensure that none of your pearls of wisdom are lost? Well, I’m sure I’ve said some great things in my time, but I don’t see a lot of people quoting me. I may go looking for that scribe.
Have you noticed that these people who say such amazing things that make us stop and think tend to be different from us? We do have a tendency to put others on a pedestal, so that’s where our fascination with people ‘not like us’ comes from. You have probably heard the saying ‘No man is a hero to his valet.’ Its origins are contested but whoever said it first, the implication is clear, the more you get to know someone, the more exposed you are to their human frailties, the less impressed you are with them. It’s a bit sad isn’t it? Because we are all human, even people who say amazingly inspiring things. Well actually they may have said some very amazing things, but I imagine they also said some rather mundane things too. Maybe when the scribe was on a break? It would be great if we were only known by the best things we have ever said wouldn’t it?
If we look at those who inspire us the most with their words of wisdom, spiritual leaders, great thinkers, we see that for the most part their lives are or were very different to our own. Lives that maybe give them the space and time to think of profound things to say. The life of a monk, a nun, or a celibate living as a recluse in a cave has a different experience to most of the rest of us.
They spend their days in prayer and meditation, not getting the kids off to school with all the kit they need for that day and their packed lunches, or battling the commuter train into the office every day. I think I could be quite profound and come up with the odd ‘bon mot’ if I was sitting in a cave all day. No bills to pay, no dependents waiting for meals to be prepared etc. etc. It would have to be quite a warm and dry cave without any risks of bears or mountain lions stopping by, otherwise I might spend the day feeling a bit tense and chilly, which isn’t very conducive to producing life enhancing sayings to inspire the masses.
For most of us, the real experience of life isn’t sitting all day in a cave or monastic cell studying spiritual texts in silence and coming up with wonderful insights into the reality of existence. Of course, we all have our own road to travel in this life and indeed that road may well involve a bit of cave dwelling in the Himalayas for some, and travelling the world with an entourage that organises your every need which leaves you free to ponder on how humanity can be lifted from the quagmire of ignorance, for others. The great teachers and thinkers have a wonderful role in the world and no doubt many challenges of their own. But for most of us the challenge is about living a spiritual life in the midst of a real life. Finding the time for our meditation, yoga, prayer, healthy eating, ayur vedic massage, shamanic drumming, chanting or however you choose to express your spirituality, while fulfilling the responsibilities of a householder, holding down a job, looking after our families and friends, thinking of others needs.
So before you spend too much time in admiration of all those great spiritual teachers that we tend to put on a pedestal and whose quotes find their way onto our Facebook timelines on a daily basis, just remember they didn’t have to decide what they would be cooking for dinner before they left for work this morning, nor had they been up half the night with a sick child. If you can come up with something worth quoting at 2am covered in baby vomit then you deserve to be on a pedestal. Being totally engaged in a busy life with all its responsibilities and still being able to keep one eye on our spiritual growth at the same time is quite an achievement and I promise if I was your valet you’d be my hero.