Here's what I'd call a guest post, if I wasn't the guest, since I wrote it for my HinesSight blog a few days ago. There I called it, Stuff happens. Things fall apart. Such is life. But "Stuff Happens" is a fine title all by itself.
Enjoy. Unless you don't. Which is fine, since stuff happens.
Sometimes the most obvious things about life need to be talked about.
It's easy to overlook them not in spite of their obviousness, but because the familiar tends to fade into the background, while new stuff grabs our attention.
So here's a few obvious truths about life:
-- Life is finite. It comes to an end for every living being. Including us humans.
-- Life is uncertain. We can hope for the best, but sometimes the worst happens.
-- Life is about caring. We care, because what we're concerned about is finite and uncertain.
I've been reminded about these truths by reading a fascinating book by Martin Hägglund, "This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom." It's over 400 pages long. Yet Hägglund's core concepts are quite simple, three of which I shared above.
Now, I realize that many people believe in eternity, being religious. There's a lot of talk about eternity in this book. I'm going to ignore that subject, other than to say that Hägglund argues persuasively that even if eternity exists, it isn't something desirable.
At the very least, and I think this point is virtually inarguable, the life each of us is living now is in no way eternal, nor perfect (eternity presupposes a certain perfection, since nothing changes in eternity).
Thus whenever we care, whenever we exert ourselves to nourish and protect what we love -- whether this be a person, animal, cause, object, or whatever -- we do so because the object of our caring is finite, and it could fall apart if we don't act to help keep it together. Of course, it might fall apart anyway, even if we act.
Again, in no way is this news to anybody. It just bears repeating.
One reason this is necessary is that most of us have a strong desire to look on the bright side. Usually when I go grocery shopping, as I did today, a clerk will say something to me like, "So how's your day going? Got anything exciting planned later on?"
There's a social expectation that I'll answer in some positive fashion. It would be jarring to tell the clerk, though honest at times, "My day is going like crap. I've got nothing planned other than to hope tomorrow will be better."
I'm not suggesting that we bare our souls at the checkout counter, since these brief chats while our credit card is being processed aren't the right time to share our most intimate secrets. Still, I've found that being as honest as possible often leads to a more interesting conversation.
Sometimes I'll respond to "How's your day going?" with "Fine, so long as I don't listen to the news. Then I get anxious and depressed." This is an exaggeration, though not hugely so. It usually elicits a reply like "I hear you. I feel the same way."
We're all in this finite life together. The boat of our body and mind is going to sink one day.
Keeping it afloat, and in decent working condition, for as long as possible, requires a lot of attention from ourselves and many others: friends, relatives, doctors, teachers, all of the people who interact in such complex and fascinating ways in the society that surrounds us.
To mix metaphors, no one is an island. We're all connected. We're all dependent. We're all caring. We're all in need of care.
A one-page article in the current issue of TIME magazine makes some of the same points that Martin Hägglund makes in his big thick book.
Here's some excerpts from "Tell kids the truth: hard work doesn't always pay off." It was written by Rachel Simmons, author of Enough as She Is: How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy and Fulfilling Lives.
The humbling, brutal, messy reality is that you can do everything in your power and still fail.
... Instead of allowing our kids to beat themselves up when things don't go their way, we should all question a culture that has taught them that feeling anything less than overwhelmed means they're lazy, that how they perform for others is more important than what actually inspires them, and that where they go to college matters more than the kind of person they are.
The point is not to give our kids a pass on working hard. But fantasizing that they can control everything is not really resilience. We would be wise to remind our kids that life has a way of sucker-punching us when we least expect it. It's often the people who learn to say "stuff happens" who get up the fastest.
(I wrote a post on my Church of the Churchless blog about Hägglund's book, "What sustains us is caring in time, not detachment in eternity.")
"It would be jarring to tell the clerk, though honest at times, "My day is going like crap. I've got nothing planned other than to hope tomorrow will be better." "
There are parts of Eastern Europe where this would be more or less acceptable. It's a relief for people like me to be able to say negative things, especially coming from Minnesota where we have some sort of smiling addiction or happiness pathology.
"no one is an island. We're all connected. We're all dependent. We're all caring. We're all in need of care."
My wife grew up in what is known as a "chawl" in Mumbai, but she's from Kolkata and I don't think they have a name for it. Basically these "chawls" are like apartment buildings, but the apartments are very tiny. Maybe we'd call it a flop house in USA, but in India they're occupied by families.
Her family moved out in the 90s but they still go back to visit old neighbors, and I was brought there once to meet some of them. One thing that immediately stood out to me and that I really liked was the proximity they were comfortable with, and the acceptance that they needed each other at times. A lot of the residents were really poor and they all sort of helped out and offered support when needed.
I think the money of the western world in the past few centuries has slowly eroded this communal instinct and adds a lot to our jaded nature, especially in USA.
Posted by: Jesse | June 26, 2019 at 05:42 PM
Couldn't agree more. People need to snap out of fantasy and stop living in denial.
Posted by: Q8i | June 26, 2019 at 10:27 PM
The race is to be the best employer, employee, student, entrepreneur, or richest, most famous, most successful, most influential, etc., Not every one can be number one. There is always going to be someone smarter, faster, or better looking.
It's easy to become so engrossed in our race to be the best, that we forget to enjoy life, or to even have a life. I go for a walk at lunch and the flowers were blooming on an ordinary looking shrub. I smelled the flower and it was so unexpectedly pungent, that I stood there for a good minute with my eyes closed and soaked it in. It's the little things around us that we don't pay attention to that make our experience complete in the body.
In the whole, grand scheme of things, our 9 to 5 jobs are meaningless. What we do to make our lives more complete is to be aware of our surroundings, how we make connections with other people and our environment that makes the difference. Mindfulness in everything we do changes our entire outlook and creates balance.
My 2 cents.
Posted by: Amar | June 27, 2019 at 08:00 AM
Sri Huzur Maharaj Baba Amar Ji wrote "The race is to be the best employer, employee, student, entrepreneur, or richest, most famous, most successful, most influential, etc., Not every one can be number one."
What, there's a race going on? This would explain why I left my job today after being made redundant, was an extremely poor student, the poorest financially, completely unknown and anonymous, and least influential person here on this forum?
One thing perplexes me though, seriously and genuinely it does, hand on heart..... How crazy must I be to feel so incredibly blessed, and feel such incredible compassion and empathy for most other conscious beings, regardless of how rich, powerful, best, famous, influential etc they may be?
Aye, this is definitely madness.....
Posted by: manjit | June 27, 2019 at 08:53 AM
Appreciate the honorific manjit, maybe I'll open an ashram and start accepting donations.
"What, there's a race going on?" I can relate to this entire paragraph because I've been there and and had all of that happen to me. Despite being the lowest educated, least rich and un-influential in my extended relations and in my locale, I came to the realization that I was expecting things and had a victim mentality because of the things I just mentioned. I came out of a big mess and realized these things are completely unimportant. My success is not dependent on everyone else's meter, but in my own happiness meter. From that experience, I rebuilt my life coming out of it much more balanced and happier as a consequence.
So yes, Sri Huzur Maharaj Baba Amar Ji, is my guru. I follow him in full faith.
Posted by: Amar | June 27, 2019 at 09:29 AM
But that's just stuff.
It isn't you or me or anyone else.
Can I learn from it?
Can I use it to grow?
If someone hands me the keys to the kingdom, or slaps bracelets on my wrists and hauls me off to jail...
How can that hardly matter?
But if I was kind today, I handed out an immeasurable wealth.
And if not, I ran up debt.
I'll pay my debts as best I can but it does seem to be fairly arbitrary.
My wealth is internal, and I add to it daily. I worship what I consider sacred, I hold Him sacred. He represents God to me. But it is His role that matters most, that He is always there for me.
That's my system. Everyone has their own. We are not body or mind. These fail. But even in failure the idea of perfect love is there for me to worship. And the more I give to that, the more it gives to me. This is my stock market, I invest my daily earnings of attention every day. I work to protect the savings, which I have lost before. I'm learning about investment, having been both wealthy and poor in turns, in my attitude and happiness.
But strangely, bad things remind me to tend to my inner wealth, and returning there, I'm happier.
And sometimes good things distract me, so compelling and stimulating, make me forget to tend to my garden, and those inner flowers fade from lack of attention, and then I find I'm not happy.
Worldly wealth hardly matters. We just need to pay our bills.
After all, the one who wins the rat race is the greatest rat. It loses the comparison to inner wealth. But that is my conclusion having had both, in turns.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | June 27, 2019 at 11:00 AM
Speaking of stuff happens, the Democratic debates from last night is a wake up call for anyone who wants Trump to lose in the next election.
Based on what I saw, he's gonna win it again.
So disappointed, but especially with Kamala Harris, wow she really shit the bed, almost as bad as Biden.
My money was on Harris going into it because everyone else's just old hat. I think the Dem's need a woman to take on Trump. He can't help himself and will only shoot himself in the foot. She's got the moxy and political savvy, or so I thought.
But based on last night, Trump has to be pleased with what he's seen so far.
Stuff happens, but I sincerely hope this doesn't.
Posted by: Amar | June 28, 2019 at 03:21 PM
Tulsi is the BOSS, Amar. Yang is cool, too. Kamala is a complete piece of shit and I'm not sure anyone who thought she was a serious human being for more than a millisecond should be voting.
Both Yang and Tulsi are interesting because that insanely corrupt party and the media on general hate them both. Yang saying illegals should get healthcare is certifiably retarded though. He should have gone against the party openly on that.
But democracy is stupid and coming to an end anyway. Voting is just for show so who cares who wins. If they're valuable to the populace they'll be poisoned or assassinated. And people don't deserve to vote, especially considering that America is just an economic zone being conquered by people who share none of the values that made us rich, powerful and attractive.
Posted by: Jesse | June 28, 2019 at 04:54 PM
So Jesse... tell us how you really feel!
Seriously though, agree somewhat with the farce of the democratic process as it stands now, but that's what most of the G20 have, give or take. The US system is so corrupt with lobby groups and politically bought banks of votes, whether they're the NRA, Oil and Gas or bible belt whack jobs or ultra right wing nazi freaks, makes you wonder who you really are voting for.
Posted by: Amar | June 28, 2019 at 06:56 PM
Amar, you seem to not know anything at all about the USA if you think any of those things you mentioned aside from Oil companies make up the power structure of this country. The bible belt voters have never had a single success, gun laws are diminished all the time, and even if they weren't it has nothing to do with the NRA and nazis? WTF do "nazis" have to do with anything?
Posted by: Jesse | June 28, 2019 at 10:36 PM
Jesse, once these people have their money put behind a party or individual, and once elected, they need to repay these people back. How does this happen? It happens through lobbyists and special interest groups. Why has the abortion issue come back?
You think Trump personally gives a shit? No. It's the ultra right bible thumping dicks pushing their agenda. Trump appeals to them and others to get their votes, and in turn, promises to rehash all sorts of agendas to get the populist vote. Happens every where. We know the NRA has clout and powerful friends, this is why Trump feeds them all sorts of crap and will never stand up to them, even in light of all the mass shootings. Don't know why I thru Nazi's in there...
I'm no expert in politics clearly, but understand enough to know that these entities push their agenda through big donations and it's payback time when their guy/gal wins.
Posted by: Amar | June 29, 2019 at 07:43 AM