Shahriar Shahriari

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Message of the Month

April, 2002

Stellar Moments

When we think of outer space, almost invariably we think of the numerous galaxies and the countless stars that dot our night sky. Rarely do we think of outer space as the vast regions of emptiness that are occasionally marked by a single celestial body.

Similarly, when we think of the atom, we picture a number of speedy electrons revolving around the nucleus. Rarely do we picture relatively vast regions of empty space that are encircled by tiny clouds of energy moving around at dizzying speeds.

And in the same way, when we think of an ocean, we define it in terms of its long shorelines, the continents that border it, the numerous islands that break the monotony of the waters, and perhaps even the underwater topography. Rarely do we consider the voluminous body of water as the pictorial definition of the ocean - except when it is defined in terms of the horizon, and not the water.

On a much smaller scale, when we think of a doorway or a corridor, we define it by its framework, the walls and the boundaries. We don't think of it as the empty space or the opening that it provides for our passage.

It is human nature - and perhaps the nature of our minds - to define things by what is tangible and not in abstract terms. Conceptually, we do not grasp what is space or emptiness, except in terms of what it is not - namely, the boundaries and the landmarks.

Perhaps that is why we define our lives in terms of its major events. Things such as our birth, first day of school, graduation, first job, marriage, promotion, giving birth, retirement, and finally our death. These are also interspaced with more minor landmarks such as birthdays, finishing of a class, completion of a project etc. And this attitude is amply evident in our resumes, biographies, and even obituaries.

But every life is much more than a collection of its landmarks, just as outer space is much larger than a collection of celestial bodies.

The ordinary events, the routines, the rest periods, the playtime, the disciplined repetition of various practices, and even mundane non-events such as being stuck in traffic or waiting in line at the grocery store - form the major part of our lives.

Every life has its fair share of stellar moments - the moments that we are most proud of - as well as its black holes - the events that suck and drain our energies and focus. Who among us does not want to talk about a major achievement that defined a turning point in their life? And which one of us does not spend precious time and energy, either avoiding or fighting a past mishap?

But in such focus, we miss the countless celestial bodies of lesser brightness or gravity, as well as the vast emptiness in the space of our lives.

Let us consider our lives to be doorways or corridors between what is possible and what is manifest. If we define ourselves by our boundaries, we become rigid, inflexible, and determined by the shorelines or the islands of our lives.

On the other hand, if we perceive ourselves as the emptiness through which the potential passes to become actual, then we are more focused on what we filter out of every moment of our lives, and what we allow to pass through. The process becomes more important than the outcome. We are then defined by who we are, not what we achieve.

The vastness of our lives takes the importance that it deserves, and the individual events - of whatever magnitude - will be relegated to be just that. Events.

Shahriar Shahriari
Los Angeles, CA
April 2002

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