Appointment in Samarra

Only your mind can produce fear.
~ Kenneth Wapnick

A merchant in Baghdad sends his servant to the marketplace to buy some provisions. As the servant is walking through the bustling crowd, he spots a horrifying sight – it is the angel of Death.

Death makes a threatening gesture to the servant, who immediately flees the market and rushes back to the merchant’s residence.

Breathless and panicking, the servant exclaims, “In the marketplace … I, I, I saw Death. And she made a menacing move toward me. I need to get away from here!”

With the merchant’s permission, the servant borrowed the merchant’s horse and rode at breakneck speed away from Baghdad – fleeing nearly one hundred miles to the town of Samarra.

Meanwhile, the merchant went to the marketplace to confront Death.

“Why did you threaten my servant?”

The angel of Death responds, “I didn’t threaten him. My reaction was merely one of complete shock at seeing him here in Baghdad. For I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

This powerful Mesopotamian parable is both terrifying and prescient. It seems to indicate that whenever Death is ready for us, there we will be.

But there’s a broader, gentler context presented in this tale. And that is one of peaceful acceptance.

Each of us is on a journey – a path that is unique to every one of us. And where we are on that path is wherever we need to be in order to experience whatever we need to experience.

Each obstacle we encounter on that path is some barrier to love we have in our mind. It’s mostly a subconscious choice – one we certainly wouldn’t make were we truly aware. But everything we experience in the world shows us exactly what choice we made in the mind.

Ken Wapnick would wisely counsel: Only your mind can produce fear.

And these insightful words from A Course in Miracles describe the progression:

“Trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one, and thus escape all pain that what you chose before has brought to you.”

While we aren’t responsible for what our environment or other people say and do to us, the meaning we give those circumstances is completely up to us.

In every situation we find ourselves, we can honestly assess whether we are in a state of peace and joy. And if we’re not, we can make another choice in the mind. And when we make that better choice, our experience changes to one of pure happiness.

Along the way, we never need to worry if we’re in the right place. Whatever lessons we need to learn will be presented to us wherever we are. With peaceful acceptance of the present moment, our path will joyfully unfold.

There is no need to fear death – or any other aspect of the journey. We can walk the path in peace.