Availing of the Opportunity Life Provides - Meditation on Tom Wayman's 'Did I miss anything'

This is a poem about availing of the opportunities that life bestows upon us. Tom Wayman's poem, "Did I miss everything," explores the contrasting perspectives of absence and presence in an academic setting. The poem is divided into two parts, with "Nothing" symbolizing the emptiness and insignificance of the classroom when the students are absent, while "Everything" signifies the profound potential for learning and enlightenment when they are present. 

The poet underscores the idea that the classroom is a microcosm of human experience, a space where knowledge and wisdom can be attained. However, without the students' engagement, all educational efforts seem futile. The poem prompts reflection on the value and purpose of education, emphasizing the transformative power of learning when both students and educators actively participate.

Human life presents a unique and precious opportunity to "query and examine and ponder" the world around us. In this brief span of existence, we have the capacity to explore the depths of our curiosity, question the mysteries of existence, and contemplate the meaning of our experiences. Through inquiry and introspection, we can seek knowledge, challenge assumptions, and gain insights that contribute to personal growth and a deeper understanding of the world. This capacity for reflection and intellectual exploration defines the richness of human existence, making each moment a chance to engage with the profound questions and possibilities that life offers.  

We better be present to avail of this precious opportunity.  Otherwise we will miss everything.  

Likewise, Guru Arjan says, "This is your opportunity to meet Gobind." Here is a recording of the shabad. And below this the poem from Tom Wayman. 

Saranjaam Laag

Did I miss everything

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

   Everything. I gave an exam worth
   40 percent of the grade for this term
   and assigned some reading due today
   on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
   worth 50 percent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

   Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
   a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
   or other heavenly being appeared
   and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
   to attain divine wisdom in this life and
   the hereafter
   This is the last time the class will meet
   before we disperse to bring the good news to all people on earth.

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

   Everything. Contained in this classroom
   is a microcosm of human experience
   assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
   This is not the only place such an opportunity has been gathered

   but it was one place

   And you weren’t here
—Tom Wayman