The core of the seen and unseen universe smiles, but remember smiles come best from those who weep. Lightning, then the rain-laughter.
Note: This article is not intended for those suffering from clinical depression. I have suffered from clinical depression and it is vital to do anything and everything to find one’s path toward enjoyment of life first and foremost. This article is intended to reach out to those suffering from a sense of ennui, or stress, or those in the midst of extreme difficulties that can seem overwhelming, but still have a bio-chemically stable body state that allows for them to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Life is a tragicomedy.
When we grow up we end up becoming far too serious. We think the whole universe hinges on our every action.
In many ways, it is a relief to understand that nothing that we do is significant in the face of space and time.
But also, in our small little lives, we can be of tremendous significance if we believe in the power of love.
Or, conversely, if we believe in the love of power we can cause untold harm.
Better to sit still and see.
A farmer and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
-Ancient Chinese Parable
This ancient Chinese story shares the realities of living a life — one day we are on top of the world and the next we are on the bottom of it.
It’s pointless to fret about the ups and downs. It’s pointless to pat ourselves on the backs.
We start our own tale with the miraculous event of our conception and birth and end with the inevitable event of our death and burial.
Throughout the whole thing, the tragicomedy of our lives plays out in florid detail, sometimes to applause and laughter, sometimes to tears and weeping.
One might even say that the defining characteristic of any life is it’s innate absurdity. One day we lose love and then next we gain it. One moment we weep while the next we chuckle.
If life is so absurd, how do we find meaning in it?
“Likewise and during every day of an unillustrious life, time carries us. But a moment always comes when we have to carry it. We live on the future: “tomorrow,” “later on,” “when you have made your way,” “you will understand when you are old enough.” Such irrelevancies are wonderful, for, after all, it’s a matter of dying. Yet a day comes when a man notices or says that he is thirty. Thus he asserts his youth. But simultaneously he situates himself in relation to time. He takes his place in it. He admits that he stands at a certain point on a curve that he acknowledges having to travel to its end. He belongs to time, and by the horror that seizes him, he recognizes his worst enemy. Tomorrow, he was longing for tomorrow, whereas everything in him ought to reject it. That revolt of the flesh is the absurd.”
-Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
The realization of the absurd nature of life can come at the most inopportune of times.
This realization can elicit two responses :
- Depression. The absurdity of life can cause a bleak pallor to be cast over the inanities of life. “Look at my silly, stupid life!” We might exclaim in a fit of absurdist induced depression. If our cup is half empty, all things seem dark, dank, and demonic. This is the Tragic aspect of the absurd.
- Elation. Conversely our hearts can rise when we see, without blinders, that life isn’t simply a project to accomplish; rather, it is an experience to enjoy as much as we possibly can. With this realization comes freedom from the man-made shackles of institutional “learning”. This is the Comedic aspect of the absurd.
Camus, the definitive philosopher of the absurd (who absurdly didn’t want to be called a philosopher) comes to this conclusion about the realization:
“Thus I draw from the absurd three consequences, which are my revolt, my freedom, and my passion. By the mere activity of consciousness I transform into a rule of life what was an invitation to death, and I refuse suicide.”
Essentially I believe that what he is saying is this: Although I recognize the absurdity of the human condition, I refuse to consider suicide as a viable option to escape this absurdity. Instead, I revolt against all man-made false explanations of life and follow my own passions, what is in my heart, in order to create the order that I desire out of the chaos of the universe.
We can accept the absurd, tragicomedic aspects of life and laugh and cry as needed, or we can create war against it and create elaborate meaning systems that stalwartly guard against the absurd from entering into our lives.
Look at any ideological system of belief for palpable evidence of what that war can create.
Right now I feel like we live in a time where there is a plethora of absurdity all around us and conversely also an abundance of ideologies to try to create sense out of it all, in one way or another.
For instance, it is patently absurd to judge another person’s moral character by their skin color. Their is no reason behind this type of judgement, and so when someone tries to create some type of reasoning out of thin air, they sound like an absolute fool.
On the other hand, in real life and in our current culture, some humans still insist upon judging another human by the color of their skin, sometimes by people who assume they are doing so for good reasons. So in this culture, skin color DOES arbitrate a socio-economic division between various castes in our society that we pretend do not exist, absurdly.
But most assuredly they do.
And so, although cultural differences can seem to exacerbate our disconnections,if we look at them through the lens of absurdity, we can see that we are all working toward resolving the same issues of life, only through many different ways and means.
How can we judge another human if we realize that we are all naked apes hurling through space on a giant spinning ball of water?
All of us humans share far more similarities than we do differences. We all wake, eat, work, play, try to keep our families safe, and try to wrest meaning from the absurdity of our existence.
We all hunger for happiness and we all feel pain.
In general , what separates us has to do more with what is in our heads than whats in our hearts, in the cultural and societal differences that are all man-made, human created edifices that are usually put in place to fight against that very sense of the absurd that could actually help to tie us all together.
And so, like Camus, we can accept the absurdity of living and dying, but revolt against those man-made ideological edifices and create our own value systems, guided by our passions.
But this is the thing: Camus assumed that what he had to say about the subject of absurdity was fucking brilliant, important, and timely. But what he forgot to do was apply his own theories to all of his hundreds of pages of thoughts on absurdity: they were all absurd in themselves, because what is really absurd is our concept of reason. And not in the sense of the underlying mechanisms of nature, but in our insistence on creating belief systems out of thin air.
When it comes right down to it, our belief systems are absurd, wherein our senses and feelings are not.
Reality is exactly what it is — it transcends our abilities to define it, and it is beyond our ability to comprehend it completely.
But it is what is is — the idea of the absurd exists only in our minds.
“Oh that is ridiculous, oh that is tragic, oh that is hilarious, oh that is sad!” All of these ideas come and go, and only to us humans does it seem as if life is nothing but a series of ups and down, from birth until death.
The most fundamental aspect of the underlying mechanisms of nature is love.
The universe is cold until we find love.
“Love is the bridge between you and everything.”
We can calculate everything to a precise degree but we cannot calculate love.
There is only one thing that transcends the absurdity of reason and that is love — but the word “love” remains an absurdity until we truly know it.
Love is the ties that bind us together, love is the thread that weaves the universe together into the fabric that we can see.
Love is the connection between all sentient beings , all feeling creatures — we are all the same: we all experience suffering and seek joy. We all live and die.
But why, but why, the philosophers cry?
There is no “Why”. To question why is absurd in itself. There is no “reason” to ask nonsense questions. There is no meaning to living a life without love, and to love we have to open up to the realities of all other beings.
Bowing is a very serious practice. You should be prepared to bow, even in your last moment. Even though it is impossible to get rid of our self-centered desires, we have to do it. Our true nature wants us to.
-Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Master
What if we simply learned how to bow to each other?
The word “Namaste” echoes across yoga rooms all over the planet. Perhaps it is the most important word that we can utter.
This is what it means:
“The divine in me bows to the divine in you.”
What if we simply bowed to all life, and didn’t ask “why”?
What if we simply bowed to all life, and didn’t ask “how”?
What if we simply bowed, and didn’t ask anything at all?