This post was originally published on Young Men’s Nation.
Everything is complicated in life. Everything. Which is why the Buddha’s first Noble Truth was “life is suffering.” Because either you admit that everything is extremely complicated, which means there’s no easy answers, and therefore you have to work really hard to live a life of meaning and quality (suffering) or you deny that this is the case, try to live as if everything was black and white, and then you find that it constantly backfires in your face and hurts people and yourself (suffering). There’s no way out.
The Buddha’s other three noble truths then proceed to explain how you can be free of suffering if you do X, Y and Z. But that doesn’t mean suffering goes away. It just means that you’re free from the suffering you’re experiencing. Big distinction.
In other words, the only option is to choose to relate differently to the negative experiences you’re having, not get rid of them.
In a book called The Art of Happiness: A Handbook For Living The Dalai Lama was asked if there’s anything in his life that he feels bad about. He related a personal story to the co-author about how he was approached by an elderly monk who couldn’t do certain yoga poses due to his deteriorated physical condition. The Dalai Lama suggested he not do them, that he was too old to. He later found out that this monk had committed suicide, thinking that he would then be reincarnated into a younger body and thus be able to do the exercises. I’ll let Pema Chodron, American zen monk, explain the rest, from her book Getting Unstuck:
“So the Dalai Lama was left with regret that he had unintentionally been responsible for this man’s death, this man’s suicide. The interviewer was stopped in his tracks and he said, “Oh my goodness, how did you ever get rid of that feeling?”
The Dalai Lama paused for quite a long time and he thought about that and then he said, “I didn’t. It’s still there. I just don’t allow it to drag me down and pull me back. I realized that being dragged down or held back by it would be to no one’s benefit…not mine or anybody else’s so I go forward and do the best I can.”
We have this idea that we either have it or we get rid of it and the question came from that point of view….But there’s an ability to be pierced to the heart by the sorrow of the world and your own regrets without it dragging you down.”
So that’s what I’m talking about. Life is not easy, it’s not black and white, but it can be amazing, even when it sucks. And it’s most amazing when we have the courage, discipline and determination to view everything we experience as complicated, multi-determined and difficult to figure out quickly.
Easy answers are for idiots, narcissists and wusses. The true manly dude is the one who takes his time concluding anything. It’s the only way to live a life you can be proud of.