I have a lot of respect for the wisdom that Rumi has shared with the world, but believe he is only about half-right on his piece “The Real Work” included in this post.
Focusing on the “one thing you must do” will lead to a life that is out of balance, and that is likely to lead to heartache.
Many great men achieve amazing things doing what they love but find they are still unhappy due to neglecting who they love (or could love) had they invested more time in that area.
Having one without the other is like trying to run with only one leg.
I believe that a man is much more likely to find lasting happiness and inner peace when he maintains a balance between doing what he was born to do and creating and maintaining strong loving relationships.
The Real Work
There is one thing in this world that you must never forget to do. If you forget everything else and not this, there’s nothing to worry about; but if you remember everything else and forget this, then you will have done nothing in your life.
It’s as if a king has sent you to some country to do a task, and you perform a hundred other services, but not the one he sent you to do. So human beings come to this world to do particular work. That work is the purpose, and each is specific to the person. If you don’t do it, it’s as though a priceless Indian sword were used to slice rotten meat. It’s a golden bowl being used to cook turnips, when one filing from the bowl could buy a hundred suitable pots. It’s a knife of the finest tempering nailed into a wall to hang things on.
You say, “But look, I’m using the dagger. It’s not lying idle.” Do you hear how ludicrous that sounds? For a penny, an iron nail could be bought to serve the purpose. You say, “But I spend my energies on lofty enterprises. I study jurisprudence and philosophy and logic and astronomy and medicine and all the rest.”
But consider why you do those things. They are all branches of yourself.
Remember the deep root of your being, the presence of your lord. Give your life to the one who already owns your breath and your moments. If you don’t, you will be exactly like the man who takes a precious dagger and hammers it into his kitchen wall for a peg to hold his dipper gourd. You’ll be wasting valuable keenness and foolishly ignoring your dignity and your purpose.