If you asked the tortoise how he beat the rabbit in the race they had in the famous fable, he would tell you that he always kept his eyes on his goal and kept working at it. In contrast, the rabbit got distracted. In many ways, life is like that race as well. There are certain goals that need to be achieved by a certain time frame. The most successful people are not those that are the most skillful, but rather those who adamantly pursue their targets and are not distracted along the way. There are many capable and talented individuals who chose to procrastinate and end up becoming losers in life.
The first thing one must realize is what are those goals that one should strive for? Indeed this is the most important of matters. A person must undergo a process of self-realization at some stage in his/her life. The Monarch butterfly migrates each fall from North America to Central America in a journey of over 2,500 miles one way. It hibernates the winter there and returns in the spring. What is most remarkable is that the generation that makes the first trip has died off when the second generation makes the second trip back, yet generation after generation follow the same flight path and hibernate on the very same trees. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarch_butterfly#Migration for details. What is most perplexing is how the next generation learns about the detailed mission of its life. As believers we know that Allah (SWT) has simply inspired them to it. It is their instinct to follow a divine plan. Unfortunately, man is the only creation that have been given a free will/independent reasoning and not been left to instinct and therein lies our real test! This is what is referred to as the “trust” in the following verse:
Verily, We did offer the trust [of reason and volition] to the heavens, and the earth, and the mountains: but they refused to bear it because they were afraid of it. Yet man took it up - for, verily, he has always been prone to be most wicked, most foolish. (Al Ahzab 33:72).
Each one of us as humans has our own tailored plan that we must discover/reason for ourselves. The earlier this happens, the better. Some undergo self-discovery in their teenage, other in their 20s or 30s. Yet others may have a mid-life crises. A lot of people choose to think about deeper concepts in life only after their retirement. Yet some stumble throughout life without finding answers to basic questions of existence. See “The Enigma of Identity” for details (http://oak-gis.blogspot.ae/2013/09/the-enigma-of-identity.html. Once one knows himself, he/she can better understand the world around him and his/her mission in it. What is interesting that the souls of each one of us have already been etched by the Truth even before our creation! All we need to do is some self-reflection in the correct context to get rid of the veils of delusion that surround us.
And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], "Am I not your Lord?" They said, "Yes, we have testified." [This] - lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, "Indeed, we were of this unaware." (Al Araaf 7:172)
Unfortunately, most of us choose to spend a life of self-delusion or procrastination – heedless of our mission like our rabbit that one day they will catch up with our true purpose. It is the promise of Satan to keep humanity is that state.
[Satan] said, "Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful [to You]." (Al Araaf 7:16-17)
Ask a terminally ill patient, what they could have done when they were healthy. The only difference between us and him is that he has been forced to focus on the End, whereas we are still distracted with our delusions. A wise person is one who realizes that despite his health he is also terminally “ill” as death sits awaiting everyone as we come closer to it day by day. The sooner we begin living with our End in mind, the sooner we will start prioritizing what is really important and start achieving.
There was a Sahabi of the Prophet (SWAS) who on being attacked and killed by the enemies cried out “Fuztu bi Rabbil Kaaba!” (“I have won by the Lord of the Kaaba!”) The enemies were perplexed as how he had won upon facing his death. It is not difficult to understand if we consider it in context of the tortoise’s victory. He had lived with an eye on the End, struggled for it in his lifetime and when he finally reached it he could visualize it. Hence he cried out in joy! How many of us can seriously follow his example?
Perhaps the best aide to keep an eye on the End is the Quran. They say that you can achieve your goals if you can visualize them. The Quran opens up new vistas of the unseen and afterlife in a language and style that makes one visualizes/experience it in this life with little effort. In fact it constantly keeps us on track as we hear it in congregational prayers and read it with understanding. This is why understanding it in Arabic is so important. Without it one cannot visualize its verses “in full color” which is lost in translations. It constantly reinforces its paradigm of Reality, coloring our hearts and minds with the inspiration that come automatically to Mornarch butterflies and all other Creation.
If you have not had the opportunity to discover yourself yet, I invite you to begin the process. Learn about yourself and the context of your existence. You have not been left to blindly wander in life or follow the whims from Satan. Find out your goals and focus on them, keeping an eye on the End. Fortunately, the last preserved message to mankind is with us. Try to understand it and do some self-reflection in its context. Study the Quran formally in courses and be inspired! May we all feel the excitement of reaching the finishing line with satisfaction like the Sahabi who cried out “Fuztu bi Rabbil Kaaba!"