Whatever you love

More than a thousand years ago, a Sufi named Semnun bin Hamza said that, “Whatever one will love, one’s end shall be in that.” Like other simple statements, when one examines it closely one discovers that it touches much more than we expected.

For many people, it is a challenge to say just what we love, since our lives are pastiches of goals and beliefs and attitudes drawn from many different directions: our family, our community, our profession, our sensory experiences, our faith if we have one, and things we have read or seen in the high-speed blender of social media. Therefore our search for what we love, or in other words that which might fulfil us, is often disorganised; the wind blows from the east and then from the west, and our little boat bobs and surges one way and then another without ever reaching any shore in particular.

According to the counsel of Semnun, if that uncertainty is our condition, then we will end in that. When this life reaches its conclusion, we will have no clarity, no resolution – nothing particular will wait for us, and anything toward which we might stretch our hand will turn to something else. This is surely the definition of disappointment. To avoid this fate, such a person, on hearing Semnun’s words, should ask themselves, “What do I love? Really, what do I love?” And if at first no answer comes, keep asking.

Some, though, have a clearer idea of what they seek in life – perhaps material wealth, or power, or sensory gratification, or celebrity, or social position. Should this kind of person find optimism in Semnun’s declaration? If their life is a dream of gold, for example, should they suppose that gold awaits them at the end of life? Well, what if it does? What use would a mountain of gold be if there was no way to trade it for comfort, warmth and friendship? These worldly desires are for the limited, the transient, and they are unrewarding; no lasting happiness can come from them.

A third possibility is that we might have a spiritual ideal, whether we call it God or Light or Love or Beauty or Truth. Our ideal may be unformed at first, although some even as children have a clear, bright longing that guides them, but every experience in life is an opportunity to discard the false and re-affirm the real. Thus, as time passes our ideal becomes more distinct, and our love grows correspondingly. When the light in our heart becomes bright enough, our ideal becomes perceptible to us as a presence, a reality. In that case, that is the end that will await us, and that is a destiny to which we can look forward with happiness.

One Reply to “Whatever you love”

  1. Howard Olivier

    With a deep bow of gratitude,
    What comfort I find in the shawl you offer: “… Every experience in life is an opportunity to discard the false and re-affirm the real.” Huuu…


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