Contributions to Life

Reflecting on our contributions to this world, and life in general, the questions we commonly ask ourselves would be like:

  • What do we do?
  • What do we have?

In the same way, we ask people around to know more about them. What do you do? What do you have? Our curiosity about humans is also on the same questions. What do they do? What do they have?

When we study history, the significance of historical figures is also on the same interests. What did they do? What did they have?

For example, according to history, the Great Pyramid of Giza belongs to what the pharaoh Khufu did and had taken over twenty years around 2,500 BC. The Great Wall of China mostly belongs to Qin Shi Huang (220–206 BC), the first emperor of China, while many walls were from the seventh century BC.

We recognize their greatness and achievements somehow from what they did and had. We can also imagine Louis XIV’s (1638–1715) power and prosperity from the Palace of Versailles’ scale. And also, Julius Caesar expressed his victory in the war at the Battle of Zela with the following verbs:

Veni, vidi, vici (I came; I saw; I conquered)

How about the great works of the artists throughout history? We also recognize their greatness based on what they did and had.

It seems that all the great things in the world belong to what we do and what we have. It appears that doing and having are the key indicators to recognize our contributions to the world and life in general.

Our modern prosperity also belongs to the achievements of such doing and having attributes. Without what Thomas Edison (1847-1931) did and had, we could never have the technologies in the fields such as electric power generation, mass communication, sound recording, motion pictures, and more. What he did and had must be tremendous.

For the same reasons, we can also praise those contemporary figures in big tech companies and many other contributors in various fields, from the academe to business to more. We recognize the contributions to the world and life in general based on what people did and had.

Thus, we always ask ourselves and others:

  • What do you do?
  • What do you have?

At the end of the year, we check our achievements based on such doing and having questions. And at the beginning of the year, we also make our resolutions in the same manner:

  • What will we do this year?
  • What will we have this year?

Such doing and having questions, however, have been part of our obsession. We evaluate ourselves and others in these measurements. We even judge ourselves and others from these perspectives. Are we alright with them? Perhaps, is there something more fundamental than these doing and having questions? That is to say, we have to ask ourselves and others:

  • What are you “being?”

If there could be a hierarchy, then the mode of “being” should be the foundation of the other two:

  • Having
  • Doing
  • Being

Let me cite the words of Meister Eckhart:

People should not worry so much about what they do but rather about what they are. If they and their ways are good, then their deeds are radiant. If you are righteous, then what you do will also be righteous. We should not think that holiness is based on what we do but rather on what we are, for it is not our works which sanctify us but we who sanctify our works. However holy our works may be, they do not in any way make us holy in so far as they are works, but it is we, in so far as we are holy and possess fulness of being, who sanctify all our works, whether these be eating, sleeping, waking, or anything at all.

Selected Writings by Meister Eckhart

How do we know if we are contributing? It is not that only a few achievers have selectively done with their precious talents and assets. Instead, we are “all” contributors to the world, especially life and heaven, without exception. Paradoxically, we can realize this truth only when and if we stop or go beyond our obsessions to doing and having. Lao Tzu said as follows:

Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

As long as we see the world through the eyes of having and doing, we always miss the truth that life is perfect in heaven. Yes, of course, our contributions to the world through what we do and have should be necessary. We can’t ignore this fact. But then, if we think this should be the only contributions from us, we miss the very foundation of our “being.”

Jesus has never said to us that blessed are those who can do and have many excellently. He has never said that blessed are the high achievers. He has told us that blessed are the poor in spirit and enumerated the mode of being for all those blessed people.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Matthew 5:3-11

It is not what we do and have, but what we are and who we are. It is our “being” that makes us realize how we must contribute to the world, life in general, and in heaven. If our being is good, as Meister Eckhart said, all we do and have should be radiant.

And what is the mode of “being” that should be good? As Jesus enumerated the blessings, it is our realization that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the kingdom of God is within us.

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 4:17

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Luke 17:21

In our realization through repentance, our being is ready to be “Being” – the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the kingdom of God is within us. What we do and have should be necessary, and yet we should not seek the contributions of our false deficient selves through them. What is most important is our “Being.”

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

1 Timothy 6:6-7

As long as we are in our “Being,” whatever we do and have should always be unto Him.

Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.

Proverbs 16:3

Image by congerdesign

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