Things are not just fine as they are. Things are what they are, and what we can do about them is what we can do about them, and we can imagine a better world than we can live in, and we can make ourselves crazy trying to will what cannot be willed, trying to have what cannot be had. But, things are not just fine as they are.
We have to live with the things that can’t be changed, and we have to live to change the things that need to be changed, and “the wisdom to know the difference” is part of the struggle of being human. There is no strategy for knowing. We step into life and mix it up. Who ever gets it right? What does “right” mean?
We fiddle, we tweak, we improve, we perfect, we play around, we try different combinations. We rearrange the furniture, paint over the pain in the room, sell the house and buy a new one, which is “just perfect,” and becomes less and less so over time. We are constantly morphing, altering, adjusting, throwing away and starting over. That’s how it is with us. We aren’t going to get it right, ever. And if we do, we aren’t going to be happy with it for long. Adam and Eve threw paradise away in the effort to achieve a higher level of perfection. That is who we are.
All the advice about “blooming where you are planted,” and “being happy where you are,” and “letting things be what they are,” and “not pushing the river,” is wasted on us. It’s pushing the river. It’s denying our urgency for increasingly higher levels of perfection. It’s refusing to let things be what they are. When I say life should be different, and you tell me I should accept life as it is, you’re telling me I should be different, which is what I’m saying.
We all agree that things should not be what they are. We also all agree that we will not all agree about how things should be. And we all can accept that that’s how it is. And get to work, lining things up with our ever-changing image of how things ought to be.
What are we working toward? How are we going to know when we have achieved it? Peace? Contentment? Equanimity? Equilibrium? Ommm? We seem to be discontent, disenchanted, at odds with ourselves and/or our circumstances, and in search of something, but what would it take? Would a kayak do it? A nice, new dog, perhaps? A spouse that adored us and dotted over us? What exactly is missing, and what is going to be the result of having it in place?
We don’t have a clue, do we? We just know this isn’t it. No matter what “this” is, it isn’t “it.” What does that tell you? It tells me the “urge” isn’t going away. The urge for “it,” I mean. There is no “it.” There is just “the urge for it.” Make friends with the urge. Settle down with it. Get to know it. Come to like it, enjoy it. It’s with you for life. Maybe beyond.
Oh, you can try to get rid of it if you want. That’s called the urge to escape the urge. Shame it. Kill it. Exorcize it. Excommunicate it. Ignore it. Deny it. You’re still driven by it, by the urge to achieve “it” by being free of “the urge to have it.” It’s the same game. You sit and meditate on your breathing until the urge goes away. Oops. Here it comes again, better sit some more. We spend all our time sitting, driven by our urge to be free of the urge.
We think there is an ideal, optimal, urge-free state of “just being,” where all is well, and we are serene and blissfully at one with the heart of the universe, and don’t even want to go to the bathroom. We have an urge to be free of our urges. And, don’t understand that a rice bowl is just another form of a pink Cadillac.
There is no steady-state of happily ever after. There is no having it made. I can enjoy a cup of coffee in one minute and not enjoy spilling it in the next minute. We can love a beautiful lawn and hate mowing the yard. We have a way. And, there are things in our way. We have to go out of our way to deal with the things in our way. How do we deal with having to deal with the things in our way?
Being enlightened, and highly conscious, and deeply aware is just a way of managing our response to our lives. There isn’t any more to like, any less to not like. Our reactions are just less extreme. We can like it, or not like it, or have no opinion about it, but we still have to deal with it. The lower our level of reactivity, the greater our chances of responding appropriately to what is being asked of us in the moment of our living—which has nothing to do with having our way and getting what we want.
Enlightenment is a buffer between ourselves and our-way-ness. It doesn’t mean we are any better off than the unenlightened. Nirvana doesn’t do a thing for us. We just have less of a way and don’t feel as bad about the things in our way. It’s a way of feeling better about not having what we want; a way of adjusting ourselves to the unacceptable aspects of our lives; a way of redefining “successful living.”
We have to define it somehow. We may as well define it in a way that brings us more joy, gladness and peace, and less stress and conflict, lower blood pressure, and fewer ulcers.