Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Distiller: Doni Faber
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Good for: Finding Your Dharma

The Great Work of Your Life: A guide for the journey to your true calling
by Stephen Cope
Bantam Books
Sept. 25, 2012
(270 pages)

The first time I read this book, I wasn't able to fully absorb its message because it focuses on finding your passion and abandoning all to it. I was still attempting to be a generalist, interested in many things, committing to nothing. This second time, the message seemed much more pertinent because I have reached a stage in life where I am more willing to commit.

This book is well-structured, using the Bhagavad-Gita as an over-arching bridge to connect the examples of lives of those the author personally knows as well as the lives of those who are well known to demonstrate the principles of finding your dharma, committing fully, letting go of the results, and making yourself a zero.

This last principle elevated the book I rose from merely "liking" it to "really liking " it because of one passage near the end: "If you don't find your work in the world and throw yourself wholeheartedly into it, you will inevitably make your self your work.... This self-dedication is too small a work. It inevitably becomes a prison."

This is a keen and important insight particularly in the society I live in, where everything that is so individualized, holds the individual as the solution, not realizing that it is in that articulation wherein the problem lies. While Cope recognizes that within each of us, lies an entire world, it is only in pursuit of our dharma can we bring about that which is within us. Focusing on ourselves is too small.

But focusing on what you love, that is transformative. From the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas comes the theme, "If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you."

Even now, I cannot commit to any single thing. Perhaps this is because I am still in search of my dharma. But I <i>am</i> excited about committing to a handful of things and seeing what comes about. As I move more fully into this trajectory, I find those commitments pulling me out of myself, making myself a better person, even while that is no longer really the goal.


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