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Spirituality

Reflections on Life’s Fleeting Beauty and Enduring Legacies

Jaellayna Palmer | Apr 28, 2024

PART 62 IN SERIES Personal Path Practical Feet

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Jaellayna Palmer | Apr 28, 2024

PART 62 IN SERIES Personal Path Practical Feet

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

Home again after a week’s vacation, we eagerly went to our garden this afternoon to see what had happened while we were away. 

We were delighted to see new blooms on this plant, fruit starting on that tree, new seedlings taking root, and — oops, peonies come and gone. We had missed their beautiful annual display, and all that was left was a big cleanup job. 

RELATED: Battling Our Attachment to the Things of this World

As I pruned away the deadheads and tidied up the area, I considered other beautiful things that don’t last long. I wondered about why, even though their season may be brief, they are still worthwhile. 

I thought about going to a live concert, comparing that to buying a CD or downloading a song. The concert lasts only two hours, but the memory lingers. The same thing can be said about other forms of entertainment, for example, stage plays compared to movies or books. 

Taking this to a larger dimension, life itself is brief. Every day has beauty within it, and every experience — whether at the time it seems good or bad — holds the potential for learning and growth. 

My garden has plants that I know won’t last, though durations vary. Annuals will bloom for only a few days or maybe a full season; shrubs will continue for many years, maybe even decades. Trees are more enduring, living for decades or even centuries. But all are finite, mortal, just like us. 

My actions and achievements are limited, more like the annuals or maybe shrubs — or are they? I may think that my actions are short-lived, but it is entirely possible that little things can turn into big things and extend into the future. 

Here’s a simple example, one that can test this idea. Suppose I clean out my closet and, afterward, donate some clothes to charity. Someone in need goes to the charity’s retail store, buys my skirt and blouse, wears them to a job interview, and gets the job. She does well and starts her own business. Her success and prosperity help many people. Then one day, she cleans out her own closet — and so it all continues. 

RELATED: All that You Have Is Your Soul

What about our relationships with other people? Are they time-limited? The Baha’i teachings tell us that souls in the next world will recognize each other through a spiritual union. This will not be through vision or another means that we can understand while in this physical, temporal realm. 

My own physical life is brief, but my actions can endure. I am reassured by these words from Abdu’l-Baha

… life in this fast-fading world is as fleeting and inconstant as the morning wind … how fortunate are the great who leave a good name behind them, and the memory of a lifetime spent in the pathway of the good pleasure of God.

That quotation mentions two specific qualities: a good name and a lifetime spent in the pathway of God. Along with the reassurance is a challenge and a promise — a promise that we can be associated with worthy deeds and lofty ideals; and our actions can be indicative of a desire to serve and respect others. 

If we want to leave behind a legacy of beauty, then that is what needs to be done. So simple to state, more difficult to do. 

Fortunately, in contrast to the short-blooming peonies, we have more than a week each year in which to try. 

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