A Life’s Journey: The Ultimate Quest
Lent 19, 20, 21
Treasure maps have thrilled human beings ever since the discovery of such (and no, we have no actual date for such). If you believe the creation story of Adam and Eve, it might be said that their instructions were a mapping of sorts. Certainly they sought the ultimate prize in partaking of the forbidden fruit. Even the definition of a treasure map is something in dispute. Many believe anything offering directions of some sort to an unknown prize qualifies as a treasure map. If that is true, then the Beatitudes are a literary treasure map with living in peace the ultimate prize.
We are nearing the halfway mark of Lent and yet, for many, it has yet to begin. Lent is a time of spiritual searching and for many, that involves giving up one of the comforts of their living. Whether it is meat, chocolate, television, or something else, the purpose of the sacrifice is to realize there is a better way to live.
Embarking upon a treasure hunt also requires sacrifices. First one must give up the idea that they know everything. If one truly knew everything, it would be a simple matter of retrieval to go and pick up the treasure. Since a search is involved, one obviously does not know everything, including the location of the treasure.
One of the earliest treasure maps found was among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was found in 1952 near Qumran among the 900-plus scrolls discovered on the site which is located in Israel’s West Bank region. The treasure map is known as the copper scroll and true to its name, written not on papyrus as the other scrolls are but on metal. Another distinguishing feature that sets this scroll apart from the others is that it is not literary but rather a listing of locations where various items of gold and silver can be found. This particular treasure map was found one hundred years after the site at Qumran was first discovered and the text is not in the same Hebrew as most of the others, a fact which lends more mystery to the scroll itself.
There are many such treasure maps and excavations ongoing. In the early 1920’s a young man who would grow up to become President even tried his hand. Franklin Delano Roosevelt looked for treasure on Oak Island, off the coast of Nova Scotia, following a trail of fortune hunters that dates back to 1795.
War and exploration resulting in the overtaking of indigenous tribes has also led to fortune hunting and treasure mapping. From the treasures supposedly buries by the Spanish conquistadors in Lima, Peru to the hidden and never found Nazi gold at Lake Toplitz, Austria, seeking that elusive treasure of a lifetime has kept many people busy.
In our daily lives we also seek treasures, treasures of peace and contentment, love, and perhaps success. We want to make our living count for something. Forrest Fenn is a modern-day treasure seeker and, as his life reaches old age, he sought to make his explorations count for something. He has offered treasure to anyone who can crack his treasure map, offered in the form of a twenty-four line stanza.
Where the Treasure Lies by Forrest Fenn
As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.
Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk,
Put in below the home of Brown.
From there it’s no place for the meek,
The end is ever drawing nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know,
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.
So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.
I mentioned earlier that perhaps the Beatitudes offer us a treasure map. After all, when we are mourning, they offer to us that we will end up with our own kingdom. That sounds a bit weird … unless we think of how we might interpret the verse. Most of us will never be the ruler of an actual kingdom but the world also refers to our own realm or space. When we grieve, we are acknowledging that we had something that has passed on. In order to have had that special something, our life had to have meaning and reason. In other words, we ruled something, created and obtained something of value.
Ultimately, we all want our lives to have meaning and we want to find contentment and peace. Perhaps the ultimate treasure hunt is our search for those very things. Henry Fielding once said “I am content; that is a blessing greater than riches.” Fielding lived in eighteenth century United Kingdom but his words are applicable to us today.
Inner peace is not an impossible search to undertake. Ed and Deb Shapiro are the authors of “Be the Change”. They advise one take the following path in looking for inner peace and happiness. “1. Don’t take yourself too seriously. At times of hardship, such as loss or illness, it’s easy to lose your humor and even easier to get involved with the negative aspects of what is happening. Remembering not to take yourself too seriously brings a lightness and acceptance to the weight of circumstance around you. Don’t forget, angels can fly because they take themselves lightly!
“2. Don’t identify with suffering, loss, or illness as being who you are. Many of our participants realized how they’d been identifying themselves as a cancer survivor/widow/recovering addict, or whatever it may be, but had not asked who they were without that label or identity. When you don’t identify with the negative issues, then who you really are has a chance to shine. 3. It’s OK to be you, just as you are, warts and all. You may think you’re imperfect, a mess, falling apart, hopeless, or unable to cope. But true perfection is really accepting your imperfections. It is accepting yourself, complete with all the things you like as well as the things you don’t like. In this way you’re not struggling with or rejecting yourself. Each one of is unique, a one-time offer, but we can’t know this if we are facing away from ourselves.
“4. Make friends with yourself. Your relationship with yourself is the only one you have that lasts for the whole of your life, and you can be the greatest friend or the worst enemy to yourself. So it’s very important not to emotionally put down or beat yourself up. Just be kind. 5. Feel everything, whatever it may be. When you are suffering, it’s easy to want to deny or repress your feelings, as they get huge and overwhelming. But if you can really honor whatever you are feeling then it’ll bring you closer to the inner happiness beneath the suffering or grief. Acknowledging and making friends with your real feelings is the greatest gift.
“6. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Treasure yourself. These are big steps, but each one liberates the heart and sets you free. You need to forgive yourself for feeling angry, for getting upset, for all things you think you’ve done wrong. They are in the past and who you are now is not who you were then. You can take any guilt or shame by the hand, invite it in for tea, and open yourself to self-forgiveness. 7. Meditate. There is an overwhelming amount of research showing how meditation changes the circuits in the part of the brain associated with contentment and happiness and stimulates the “feel-good” factor. Meditating on love and kindness makes you much, much happier! And the only way to know this is to try it, so don’t hesitate.
Each day offers us a chance to give up the frivolous and take on the important. When we live with faith and hope, we are on the path to finding the treasure of peace and happiness. Gautama Buddha lived circa 563 BCE to 483 BCE but his words are perhaps the best treasure map of all. “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”