Islam: Day 20 – Were you really born for this?

I’ve struggled for a long time with my poor attitudes to work. I’m not against the act of working, but I always seem to develop a negative attitude towards the job I have at the time. The feeling is one of resentment . I resent that I have to go to work every day. I resent that I have limited vacation time. I resent that I often have to do work that appears to be boring or meaningless.

There are a few techniques I’ve practiced that seem to work to some degree. The most effective was negative visualization, which I practiced during my Stoicism month. This is where you take the time to imagine all the ways your life could be worse. It forces you to not only to mentally prepare for the worst, but appreciate the present as well.

The second technique I’ve found to be effective is volunteering for a charitable organization. I’ve been volunteering once a month at a homeless service organization and I get a sort of “high” that carries on to my day job. I suspect increasing the frequency of service would increase my general satisfaction.

The third is combining a side project with daydreaming. The Ancient Wisdom Project makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile, and I can always fantasize about the site becoming super successful and getting a book deal and making a living off my writing.

It’s perhaps dangerous to fantasize, as fantasies are often just that, fantasies, but they provide some relief from the feeling of resentment.

So far, Islam has helped me be more humble in small ways, especially in my thoughts towards others, but it hasn’t helped me become more humble in a more expansive, general sense.

I still feel as if I deserve more from life, that there is something else I should be doing that is more important, more significant than government consulting.

Islam teaches that our purpose is to submit to God’s will and to behave righteously in this life. You will win entrance to heaven if your good deeds outweigh your bad.

It’s a comforting thought, precisely because it offers a worthwhile end goal: union with God.

But it doesn’t particularly help me now when I still have 60 or so years of life left (Inshallah).

I pulled a few intriguing sayings from the short book, The Heart of Islam.

Were you really born for this?

“A Sufi teaching story tells the tale of a prince lost in a desert while hunting a stag. His quarry was a magical animal, however, and when the prince finally caught up with it he was shocked to hear the beast him, ‘Were you really born for this?’”

The story is meant to convey that the ultimate purpose in life is to awaken spirituality. Wandering through the desert is a metaphor for people living life without God; the hunt is a metaphor for the trivial pursuits that consumes most of ours days, and the beast’s response represents the feeling we have that something is missing.

Great! I’m on board with abandoning “the hunt” per se.

But then I also saw this Islamic saying:

“Trust in Allah but tether your camel!”

The saying is a reminder that though your ultimate purpose is to submit to God’s will and be reunited with him, we must “stay grounded in the practicalities of everyday existence.”

Ugh, I was hoping I could just pull a Thoreau and move to a cabin in the woods somewhere.

I’m not sure how to balance the desire for transcendence and still learn to appreciate day-to-day life. Perhaps struggling with this is the whole point of Islam, and religion in general and I shouldn’t expect there to ever be a point in which I don’t struggle with this.

I’m going to continue to mull this over, but for now, I have to go to work and “hunt” a spreadsheet.