“It is important to remember this is all there is. And if it isn’t, then there isn’t any.”
Perhaps it is the idea of the “journey” that has confused the metaphor of life for us. We are always heading somewhere, doing something, preparing ourselves for a moment. Knowing that when the moment gets here “we will know.” There will be a finality, an knowledge that all the time you have experienced has culminated.
And so we journey on. Always looking forward to our destination. We “hope” that when “something” happens, we will arrive at a present called “happiness.” Somehow we fail to see the irony that is in this same hope that keeps us blinded. The second of the four noble truths as described by Buddha talks about clinging as the root of suffering, yet somehow we also know that we must cling to something in order to maintain our sense of self. We see it all around in how we cling to tradition, to religion, to science, to ideals, to anything. To be human is to hold on and to be held on to.
There’s a story/parable/fable of sorts that talks about love and holding on to love. It compares the way we hold onto it to holding sand in your palm. Clenched too closely and the sand runs through your fingers back to the ground. Held loosely and the sand sits still in your palm, for as long as you would like. We cling to hope, hoping it will bring us happiness as if there is only one present – and it is in the future.
In many ways it is this hope that keeps us from ever arriving at the present we desire. Like an unclenching, all it takes is a small release for the fog to clear. Maybe this is why this idea of life as a series of achievements has us thinking that we can only really be happy 7 or 8 times across our lives. In the transitions, as the “major” things happen.
But then even those are quickly followed by their anxieties. You get a job – you are worried about keeping it/the next one. You graduate – you have to find a job. The great lie keeps us pursuing in perpetuity, the pursuit keeps us exhausted and our exhaustion weighs heavy on our shoulders. We end up walking around in this existential haze wondering what next? What now? How long until we arrive wherever we were headed? Eventually we begin to look at death as the finality we have been waiting for. As if death itself isn’t a transient state, because we are attached to this version of ourselves. This one we know and touch and remember and feel.
But I digress.
They say you cannot dream of a face that you have never seen. Nothing you create can come from a place that isn’t real. We only produce what we experience, we only experience what we know, we only know what we are aware of, we are only aware of what we see, we can only see what we don’t filter out. As we continue along this strange phenomenon, we shape the world around us. From the “truth” (as we have defined for ourselves) we create the world around us. From the way we see how we are seen and the way we interact with these interpretations we create the world. And we tell each other of the worlds we create “life is beautiful,” “life is suffering,” “life… is hard.”
Maybe then, taking off our glasses gives us the chance to see and understand the chaos that is around us and to create presents that keep us content. In letting go of hope we find that we have arrived. Not only that we have arrived but perhaps that we’ve always been there – or, if not, we never will be.