In his book “Mentor,” Laurent Daloz says the first question a mentor asks his mentee is, “What are your dreams?”
At a certain point, we all had a vision of this dream, when we realized with clarity of mind, heart and soul that this is the purpose and mission of our life, the meaning worth dedicating our life to. A Nescafe ad puts it more pragmatically and effectively: “Para kanino ka bumabangon?”
This Sunday’s Gospel gives us two images of the dream, the meaning worth dedicating our life to: The buried treasure in the field and the pearl of great price. Let me propose two processes drawn from the Gospel. One is the discovery of the buried treasure or the pearl of great price.
Two is the giving up of everything—with joy—to buy the treasure or pearl.
There is basic assumption in life that runs parallel to this Sunday’s Gospel: All of us have a mission in life and our first life task is to discover this mission.
Our second life task is to live out this mission with great love and great soul.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book, “Flow,” talks about two types of life themes, which lead to meaning, one’s dream, or one’s mission. The first he calls as the discovered life theme, and the second is the accepted life themes.
He describes the former as the “script” that one “writes” from personal experience and conscious choices. The latter are “scripts” handed down to us or imposed, often coming from the expectations and roles around us.
It is the discovery of these life themes, or what I refer to in seminars as patterns in one’s life, that leads us to discover our meaning and mission. The life themes or patterns lead us to rediscovering our story or script.
Robert Johnson refers to the seemingly disjointed events in our life as slender threads. Woven, these threads begin to form patterns and, in a moment of inspiration, these come together to create a magnificent tapestry of our life, the story of our life, the horizon of our dream larger than life. This story is the story of our journey to discover and live out our mission.
Johnson eloquently describes this moment of discovering our story:
“Fate is kind and allows us two chances in life when the veil between consciousness and the unconscious grows thin. One of these is in mid-adolescence when one is gratuitously allowed to see a great vision, and the other is in mid-life when he has a second chance to touch the visionary life if he has earned the right… It is only when a man is at his best—by naivete in his youth or by having earned the right in middle age—that he is capable of seeing the sublime fact… the Grace of God is always available but man must ask for it before it is effective… The meaning of life is not in the quest for one’s own power or enhancement, but lies in the service of that which is greater than one’s self.”
When we make this discovery of meaning and mission, this buried treasure, this pearl of great price, we give up everything—with joy—to “buy” this. This is giving up one’s self, becoming less self-centered and more other-centered. One cannot discover one’s mission unless one gives up or offers everything.
No one-shot moment
Going beyond Johnson, I think the second chance to discover meaning and mission is not a one-shot moment.
This second-chance moment is the beginning of a longer process, perhaps the process we live out for the rest of our life, through the journey towards the discovery, or rediscovery, of mission, and the living out of this mission with great love and a great soul.
I looked up the story of Antonio Gramsci, as he was cited by Csikszentmihalyi in his book.
Gramsci’s story is a classic one of a discovered life theme or mission. He was born to a poor family of seven. In childhood he became a hunchback after a spine injury, and he became sickly. His father was imprisoned, leaving them in greater poverty.
These events could have very well turned him into a cynic and made him part of the vicious story of poverty and destitution.
But he chose to create another story. He studied hard and became one of the most influential thinkers of Europe in the early 20th century, considered as one of—if not the most important—thinkers on Marxism.
Aside from his stature in the intellectual arena, he also became a deputy in the Italian Parliament and an esteemed, fearless leader against fascism. He was imprisoned by Mussolini and died in prison. To the end, while in prison, he wrote essays on his dream for a better and beautiful world if we overcome our fear and greed.
There are many other stories of discovered meaning and mission: Jesus the Son of a carpenter who discovered that He is the beloved Son in whom the Father is well pleased; Thomas Edison who invented the light bulb, among others, was first regarded as retarded by his teachers; Harry Truman, an obscure functionary who rose to become one of the better US presidents in the modern era; Cory Aquino, a devoted wife and mother who, in the middle of her life, became the icon of the struggle for democracy and freedom of a people.
What is your story? What is your pearl of great price, your buried treasure? I invite you to remember your story and discover or rediscover your meaning and mission.
I end by sharing a passage attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, the former Superior-General of the Society of Jesus.
“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”