Life is full of problems. But is life itself a problem?
At the moment I feel like my wife and I have more than our usual quota of difficulties to deal with. Our septic system is acting up, not draining as it should. The dog had diarrhea last night, with a result best left undescribed. Jury duty calls me tomorrow morning at a time much earlier than I usually function. My dentist gave me a referral to an endodontist for a possible gum graft, which hopefully sounds worse than it actually is.
No doubt about it: life, at times, is suffering. Buddha got it right. Even when things are going smoothly, there's always an underlying anxiety – how long will the good times last?
Not forever, for sure. Death takes care of that.
But all the individual problems of life don't necessarily add up to a conclusion that life as a whole is a problem needing solving.
I can see a toilet overflowing, dog poop on the floor, a jury notice in the mail, a dental bridge next to a receding gum line. I can deal with each of these issues. I can understand, at least to some extent, how the problem came into my life.
Where, though, is the evidence for the maxi-problem that religions claim to be capable of solving?
Christianity says that humans have fallen away from God and into sin, thereby needing salvation. Ditto, with some wrinkles on the theme, in Judaism and Islam. Buddhism is more psychological and less theological, but still sees suffering as something that can be fixed. Hinduism sees the individual soul, Atman, as needing to be united with the universal being, Brahman.
In each religious case, it's assumed that the core purpose of life is to deal with a fundamental cosmic mix-up. Things are screwed up on a root existential level. Humans need to figure out what the problem is and get it solved.
But what if, as I've observed before, believing in problems is our only problem? What if life is just doing what it does, and we're part of it? What if "cosmic problem" is merely a conceptual product of our thinking, and nothing more?
I've got to get up early tomorrow for jury duty. My wife will be meeting with a septic system specialist while I'm gone. Our dog is on a special diet. Next month I'll learn what the endodontist recommends for my gum line.
Problems aren't pleasant. However, there's always a way to deal with them. Or to ignore them, which is one way of coping.
Over the past few days I've found that when I simply focus on what needs to be done at each moment, life is eminently manageable, though not necessarily pleasant (for instance, my two and a quarter hours in a dentist's chair last week).
What makes things worse is the feeling, this shouldn't be happening, or its companion sentiment, there's a way to be content all of the time.
Which assumes that life is a problem needing solving. If this isn't the case, that's a big problem cast aside.
Along with the need for religions, whose main reason for being wouldn't exist.