“What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
The good you do today will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway…
Give the best you have and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.” – Mother Theresa
Very few things in life really last. Our children grow up and our roles as parents change. Holidays and special occasions come and go. Years with our loved ones fly by as just fleeting moments in time. Our favorite projects, at home or at work, often reach a peak before coming to an end, signaling that it’s time to move on to something else. In extreme cases, what we build and strive for can be torn down by others or taken for granted, never fully appreciated for the dedication and love that was poured into it. So why do we expend so much energy on things that may not last? Why do we plan, strive, devote ourselves to pursuits that will likely be temporary?
Last night, I watched the movie Seven Years in Tibet with my daughter, and was reminded of a beautiful tradition that exists on the other side of the world. The practice holds such deep meaning that I wrote about it last year. In India, during festivals and celebrations, women spend hours creating elaborate, patterned designs on their door steps called Rangolis. Made of colored rice, dry flour or even flower petals, the art is intricate and beautiful. Despite the arduous process involved with creating them, Rangolis are meant to be ephemeral. Rain, wind and even insects slowly devour the evidence that these works of art ever existed, erasing the brilliant designs forever. The creation of a Rangoli, you see, is used as a symbol of the spiritual process; it’s meant to recognize the impermanence of things and a desire to live in the present. The women who create Rangolis know, before they even begin, that their work will be beautiful, and celebrated, and gone – but also that it will be remembered, and that they’ll be asked to reinvent the process when the time is right, with new patterns, colors and inspiration. This ancient tradition recognizes that creating, in art and in life, is a meaningful, significant cycle – regardless of the outcome.
A well-lived life, like a Rangoli, requires patience, effort, attention to detail and a great deal of love and selflessness. It requires the expression of the self without limitation. It also requires the acceptance that many of the things we create and nurture, while beautiful, are meant to change or even end with the passing of time. Our lives and what they represent change from day to day and year to year, and this requires nothing short of contemplation, quiet courage and reinvention when the time is right.
Reinvention can be daunting at times.