In Search of Permanence

I’m reading a fascinating narrative of Delhi’s history, through a succession of rulers and dynasties spanning over 900 years, in William Dalrymple’s enjoyable book, City of Djinns

City of Djinns by William Dalrymple

And it has altered the way I think about things and events, people and actions.

From the lofty heights of a Mughal heyday or Sultanate reign, the reader plunges to a dismal, mundane today, where historic monuments and once-famous sights are now overgrown rubble, abandoned wasteland or unkempt urban spaces.

Having just read about how exalted and exclusive those domains once were (e.g. “to enter the third court, the visitor had to receive the written permission of the Sultan”), it’s even more poignant to see how they’ve fallen into anonymity and neglect.

One wonders…

If there’s no permanence to even such masterpieces that were at one time ‘best of breed’, then what – if anything – really matters?

Surely not most of the activity we engage upon day to day.

Even though we tell ourselves “It’s so important”.

Is it, really?

We’re being constantly instructed about DO-ing, instead of BE-ing.

  • Do your duty.
  • Do your work.
  • Do your best.

But… What for?

So that it can all dissolve into meaninglessness in a very short while from now?

And if that’s inevitable, then what SHOULD we focus upon, instead?

I’m beginning to understand why the ancient wisdom of spiritual texts and verses emphasize BEING over everything else.

Because nothing takes away from that.

Not the ravages of time. Not the transience of nature. Not the fickleness of memory.

You will still have been… YOU.

And you’ll pass on a tiny bit of your “permanence” to others – through your genes, physically; and through your influence and impact, emotionally and/or mentally.

That’s how you’ll be immortal.

Through BE-ing.

So just be.

You see, that’s what truly matters – even one hundred years from now, or beyond.

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