It wasn't the reward that mattered or the recognition you might harvest. It was your depth of commitment, your quality of service, the product of your devotion -- these were the things that counted in a life. When you gave purely, the honor came in the giving, and that was honor enough.
When any one of our relations was found to be a person of a very bad character, a troublesome guest, or one we desired to get rid of, upon his leaving my house I ever took care to lend him a riding-coat, or a pair of boots, or sometimes a horse of small value, and I always had the satisfaction of finding he never came back to return them.
Now blessings light on him that first invented this same sleep: it covers a man all over, thoughts and all, like a cloak; 'tis meat for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, heat for the cold, and cold for the hot. 'Tis the current coin that purchases all the pleasures of the world cheap; and the balance that sets the king and the shepherd, the fool and the wise-man even. There is only one thing...that I dislike in sleep; 'tis that it resembles death; there's very little difference between a man in his first sleep, and a man in his last sleep.
I spent millons of years in the worldof inorganic thingsas a star, as a rock...Then I died and became a plant--Forgetting my former existencebecause of its othernessThen I died and became an animal--Forgetting my life as a plantexcept for inclinations in the seasonof spring and sweet herbs--like the inclination of babestoward their mother's breastThen I died and became a humanMy intelligence ripened, awakeningfrom greed and self-seekingto become wise and knowingI behold a hundred thousandintelligences most marvelousand remember my former statesand inclinationsAnd when I die againI will soar past the angelsto places I cannot imagineNow, what have I ever lost by dying?
Rumi, What Have I Ever Lost By D
I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. It takes place in an impalpable greyness, with nothing underfoot, with nothing around, without spectators, without clamour, without glory, without the great desire of victory, without the great fear of defeat, in a sickly atmosphere of tepid scepticism, without much belief in your own right, and still less in that of your adversary. If such is the form of ultimate wisdom, then life is a greater riddle than some of us think it to be. I was within a hair's-breadth of the last opportunity for pronouncement, and I found with humiliation that probably I would have nothing to say.
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
It is hard to go beyond your public. If they are satisfied with cheap performance, you will not easily arrive at better. If they know what is good, and require it. you will aspire and burn until you achieve it. But from time to time, in history, men are born a whole age too soon.