By Sharon Marcus, From the book Sufi
To save the world we must begin by saving ourself, by initiating the process of emptying ourself, everything we once thought valuable, worth saving or hanging onto has to be thrown away, probably for good, because the criteria of value have now been radically transformed. The treasures of yesterday are today’s trash which needs to be packaged, wrapped and tossed, whether it’s a system, a method, a concept, a conceptual construct or even the very understanding of what constitutes analysis, since for wisdom, analysis may be quite a different thing.
Why do we need this disposal of so much just for starters, what is the reason beyond the obvious for the ritually empty cup? The truth is the opposite to what we expect, it is an absolute of imperishable purity which cannot be mixed with anything else or it loses the resonance that makes it pure; the truth is a jewel which can be examined from each of its exquisitely faceted surfaces, according to the consciousness, the subtle wisdom of the understanding which contemplates it, but every facet reflects only the light at its heart, the totally luminous presence cancelling everything except the One.
We empty our heart and our understanding to start again, to learn like a baby producing the first tooth, taking the first insecure step, only this time it’s not the things of the world we have offered to us, thrust upon us, this time it’s the truth of God and His kingdom which alone can build the enlightening structures of wisdom and peace. If we take one drop of God’s truth and try to make an alloy of it with anything that comes from the world, we destroy that drop, we make something which might seem palatable when we taste it for the first time, yet in the end, it becomes a foul taste we reject altogether or else it rejects us in disgust.
Now we begin to understand the qualities and attributes we aspire to, now we begin to comprehend the instruments made available for the journey we have undertaken, and how to use them. This inner patience, the starting point for prayer, for study, contemplation, any work on the inside, or the outside for that matter, why should this be the first thing we need, why should this quality among all the beautiful divine attributes be the indispensable starting place? We are sustained by the patience which finds the perfect symmetry of His, without dropping into distress or disappointment, without consulting preference, and in doing so we bring the event to a successful conclusion.
We don’t have to think in terms of success and failure to be alive to the real nature of patience, we can see that patience is the divine eraser to wipe away every petty dissatisfaction which haunts the ego, the wounded self, even after the great reclamation begins. Determining to do a thing is not the doing; the way is long, the road unpaved and filled with ups and downs which patience alone can level. While patience is not the antidote for qualities like anger, greed, jealousy, hatred, intolerance, because the good qualities do not replace the bad in that way, it is part of the mechanism to help focus on their elimination. We use patience to help dismantle the walls of anger we have spent so many years constructing, we use patience to reduce these walls, brick by brick, a gesture or impulse at a time, and simultaneously we use the same patience to fertilize the garden of new growth which the walls have enclosed.