By the time we achieve consciousness, at 20 or so, we know that the Buddha is correct — life is suffering! (1) It is filled with pain and disappointment and loss. How then does make sense of life? Tragically, many do not. Here I think of the many millions living on the streets or those barely functioning deluded by drugs, alcohol, and failure. (2)
But does this have to be the meaning of life? I do not believe so. In my estimation, this angst is associated with the ephemeral nature of life itself. We are so terrified with change, and ultimately with death, that we fail to see that in suffering there is experience, knowledge, and transcendence. So what can I learn from defeat in my life to make existence more edifying — more valuable?
I begin with the awareness that just by the very nature of life itself, I am alive. This is a very conscious realization. Many individuals do not truly know that they are alive and therefore do not act as independent beings. (3) If we did, mankind would immediately see a cessation of war, violence, and greed. We would welcome everyone into the true community of men that Christ spoke about in the Sermon on the Mount. (4)
He, of course, is not alone. Many great men in history have called for an appreciation of life — my life — and the lives of all members of society. (5) But in millennia, society has not changed. What am I to do if I do not want to get swept up in this cycle of torment, wretchedness, and disaster — often repeating itself? Stand back from the herd: obviously, society has not yet learned the value of sentience itself, and the warmongering continues. If I do not take a position against this, the armed struggle will go on.
I can disavow being a part of this. I do not have to endorse the avarice and violence of our culture. I am an independent being. There is no one like me, there never has been and there never will be. I am unique. At its most simple this means that, though I may look like everyone else, I am not. I am set apart from others through my own collection of thoughts and values.
When I acknowledge the ideas of others, I am endorsing second-party opinions. It is much, much easier to trust the propositions and values of the mob. I can do so without thought and analysis. The problem arises, however, when I try to blame others for my failures. If I am distinct, then the responsibility for my life can only reside with me. It cannot be fobbed off onto others.
I then come to the understanding that I am honestly ignorant about who I am. I know, in spite of this, that through education — both personal and formal — I can develop into the magnificent person that I deserve to be. This, however, requires work. This is where most people stay because unlocking the door of your true potential is a painful process.
As any mother knows, the birth process produces a beautiful life, but not without stunning agony. So, by realizing that I am “a child of the universe” (6) and committing to developing throughout my life, I can move above the pain and failure normally associated with living. I can be free to be me.
A closing thought: The uneducated, philosophically and spiritually, will never develop into mature, happy people. I can learn from failure by ultimately realizing that the other side, if I survive, eventually contains peace and happiness. It is the God-given right of everyone to be happy. It is intrinsic to human beings. Why then do so few receive its award? It all comes down to choice. What kind of life do I want to live? Be sure to live the one that you want, not that of another.
To sum up: This week, we spoke about using the advent of failure to, in the end, achieve my own success.
To be noted: From Friedrich Nietzsche (7) — He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.
Just for fun:
This week, on your fabulous walk, please reflect on how you have used pain, suffering, and failure to become a stronger person in your life.
Every day look for something magical and beautiful.
Don’t be a wage slave – critical thinking is great!
Quote: All of my struggles make me a more thoughtful and caring man.