There is a parable my dad told me about when I was a kid. It was the parable of the pearl of great price. If I remember correctly the story was about a farmer inspecting a field who found a pearl in it and sol everything he owned to buy the field and gain the pearl. The pearl was worth everything. In the parable Jesus explains that the kingdom of heaven is like that pearl, it is worth everything.
I remember thinking about what that meant and wondering for a long time how one thing could be worth everything.
What could possibly be worth the totality of everything else? I thought. What would I be willing to trade everything else for?
I never could come up with a good enough answer. Having only one thing at the cost of everything else seemed insufficient. What would you need a pearl for anyway?
I saw this parable again when I saw the building collapse and the walls blow away, except instead of a pearl the small circular item that remained almost unnoticed in the dirt was a seed. The seed contains the potential for the entire life force of a giant tree. It seems small but in it is the essence of life itself.
The only thing worth trading everything for is the force of life itself which is the essence and point of everything else. You trade everything that isn't important for the one thing that is.
When the walls of the external structure collapse what you are left with is not nothing, but the potential to create anything, including everything that you truly desire. It is the starting point of life itself-- the essence of your own life waiting to be planted and grow.
So when the structures collapse it might feel terrifying. You might think you have lost everything, but really you have gained the only thing that ever really mattered in the first place. The purpose of all of this (relationships, careers, families, society, accomplishments) is to experience life in one or many forms. The forms do not have to be permanent for the essence of life to run through them. They are meant to be temporary, they are only external outgrowths of the force of life as it dances through them. The force of life can change the tempo and choose to dance a new dance any time it wants and when it does the forms it fills will reflect this.
The external structures are like the leaves of a tree-- but they are not the tree itself. The tree can grow beautiful leaves which bring joy and shade, but if the tree ever makes the mistake of thinking that it is its leaves then it will suffer a terrible loss every fall when those leaves decay and fall away. Whether the tree has its leaves or not, it is a beautiful force of life. There is no need for a tree to feel diminished when the winter comes and the leaves fall, because it knows that in the spring new ones will grow.
The tree is not its leaves and if the tree attempted to trade its life for one set of leaves it would be making a terrible mistake. But how often do we make this mistake in our lives? How often do we sacrifice the one thing that really matters for the many things that don't?
I know I have made this mistake on many occasions, but that is why I am constantly reminded when I start to put too much of who I am into any one thing that I do or believe to remember what is important and leave the rest alone. What is important is the unique expression of your own life force. No single aspect of your life will ever be worth the totality of the experience of living. As long as you have that essence you can recreate external forms. If you have the essence you can grow new leaves every year-- and you can grow flowers and fruit too-- why not? But trade that essence for one set of leaves and in one year all you will have left is a pile of decay.
The falling of structures can be terrifying and painful. It can feel like a huge loss, but it is done so that we can come back to that single seed. Everything else can be rebuilt, but your life can only be lived by you. Your experience is your own and the pattern you choose to weave is priceless and it belongs only to you.
Make important what is important, everything else will be what it is.