It’s shockingly difficult to peel away from our cultural and familial upbringing. Some trauma might cause questions and probing … but candidly, how many of us enjoy thoughtful self-reflection? Too many people live and die in their prescribed swim lanes.
Yuval Noah Harari outlined a bright spot for me with “The Law of Nature” and Buddhism in his chapters on Religion. Among other natural-law religions, Buddhism maintains “that the superhuman order governing the world is the product of natural laws rather than of divine wills and whims.”
“.. suffering is not caused by ill fortune, by social injustice, or by divine whims. Rather, suffering is caused by the behavior patterns of one’s own mind.”
There is a way out of the “vicious cycles.” When we understand “things as they are, then there is no suffering. If you experience sadness without craving that the sadness go away, you continue to feel sadness but you do not suffer from it.”
“But how do you get the mind to accept things as they are, without craving? To accept sadness as sadness, joy as joy, pain as pain?”
“. . . train the mind to focus all its attention on the question, ‘What am I experiencing now?’ rather than on ‘What would I rather be experiencing?’”
Suffering is optional.
Easy to say … difficult to achieve.
We don’t just – poof – overcome the programming of a lifetime. We live in the community of common delusion. Your traffic jam is my traffic jam.
The world is constantly changing. The Industrial Revolution brought questions and science, a “mentality of conquest”, capitalism – “greed is good” slogans; and some say the collapse of family and community. Are we better off? Are we happier?
Harari says maybe not.
“So our medieval ancestors were happy because they found meaning to life in collective delusions about the afterlife? Yes. As long as nobody punctured their fantasies, why shouldn’t they? As far as we can tell, from a purely scientific viewpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning. … Hence any meaning that people ascribe to their lives is just a delusion.”
“This is quite a depressing conclusion. Does happiness really depend on self-delusion?”
Is it all in my head? Does it matter?
Harari brings me back to the Buddhist philosophy; “the key to happiness is to know the truth about yourself – to understand who, or what, you really are.”
And here I am again! What is real?
Physical – objective facts … things I can see, touch, hear, smell & taste?
Or the imagined – the gods, nations, culture, economics?
Reality will change when I tell a different story.
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” ― Albert Einstein
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu