“How true is that old fable of the sphinx who sat by the wayside, propounding her riddle to the passengers, which if they could not answer, she destroyed them! Such a sphinx is this life of ours to all men and societies of men. Nature, like the sphinx, is of womanly celestial loveliness and tenderness; the face and bosom of a goddess, but ending in claws and the body of a lioness. There is in her a celestial beauty, which means celestial order, pliancy to wisdom; but there is also a darkness, a ferocity, a fatality, which are infernal. She is a goddess, but one not yet disimprisoned; one still half imprisoned,—the inarticulate, lovely, still encased in the inarticulate, chaotic. How true! And does she not propound her riddles to us? Of each man she asks daily, in mild voice, yet with a terrible significance, “Knowest thou the meaning of this day? What thou canst do to-day, wisely attempt to do.” Nature, universe, destiny, existence, howsoever we name this great unnameable fact in the midst of which we live and struggle, is as a heavenly bride and conquest to the wise and brave, to them who can discern her behests and do them; a destroying fiend to them who cannot. Answer her riddle, it is well with thee. Answer it not, pass on regarding it not, it will answer itself: the solution of it is a thing of teeth and claws. Nature is a dumb lioness, deaf to thy pleadings, fiercely devouring.” – Thomas Carlyle, Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay, comp. by S. Austin Allibone. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1880; Bartleby.com, 2011.
How often do you consider the meaning of the day? Is each day the same to you, just a random collection of circumstances which stream by you? Or is there a pattern, a consistent pulsation from which the days’ events surge?
Whether you see it as a pattern or arbitrary, the days’ possibilities are established by the confluence of factors, both seen and unseen, heard and unheard, in the world around you. Trying to work outside of the set of possibilities in each day is frenzy; failing to realize the full potential inherent in each day is misapplication and waste.
There is a perfect set of actions with respect to each and every set of possibilities. The right handling of those circumstances, which comes only as wants, fears and worries are cast out by a perfect and abiding appreciation for what now is, is wisdom.
No book, no guru, no one other than yourself can answer the riddle for you. But to answer it, you must first acknowledge – each and every day – that you are being asked the riddle.