"Life is suffering," said Buddha. His plan? Release your attachments to this world and end your suffering.
I'm not with Buddha on this one. Give me strife and suffering. And once I have grown stronger, tempered, hardened by the strife, give me MORE.
Life is strife, suffering, struggle. Your body and mind are kept alive by a series of violent chemical reactions, your heartbeat, the acid in your stomach, the cells constantly breaking apart and dying as new ones are created, the battle towards homeostatis with different bacteria and cells combating each other, all inside your body.
Your mind - your thoughts - may come into conflict, especially when you're trying to do meaningful things. It's easy to feel the pull of distraction and ease, and to choke up and pause in fear when you look at the mountain you're set to climb. The mind is not in harmony, especially at the beginning. Struggle, strife, conflict, suffering.
I say - give it to me! But not so fast that it will break me. I must be pragmatic. We must be pragmatic. We have our limits. We can expand them over time. It's not brave to go into the gym for the first time and try to lift 400 pounds. It's foolhardy, unrealistic, stupid. Being pragmatic, aware of our limits takes its own sort of courage.
But I want to suffer, I want to be bathed in strife, I want conflict, I want challenge, I want it to be hard - but just barely easy enough that I can make it through.
I set goals every week. I aim for a 70% success rate. That means I fall short on 30% of my goals every week. I figure, if I succeeded at 100% my goals weren't set high enough. If I succeed below 70%, this might be too much to stay on the path. If I succeeded above 70%, I add more for next week. If less, I pare down to the most essential things and try to get my success rate up.
Every week I want strife and struggle. I want challenge. I want to be always falling short of what I could be, and that is the way forwards.
I took an oath at one point, and I tell you, I do not recommend this to you. If you listen to me, listen carefully to all my words. I do not recommend this, it might even be reckless of me to share this. But it's true. I took an oath - I said, "I would rather die than be average." It almost killed me. When you close off all the normal paths in front of you, and burn your boats behind you, you are suddenly left in uncharted places. Striving is at first lonely. I don't know anyone who aspires as high as I do.
Not for myself. I wasn't able to commit to doing this for myself. I was shy when I was thinking of doing great things as me. No, I've given myself over to higher causes, to the things I believe in most, to building things that matter. Me? I'm nobody in particular. But I'm working on great things. This is no guarantee of success, but it's how I spend my days in strife and struggle.
It's lonely at times. Very few people understand. Even among people geared for achievement, how many wish to change the fundamental nature of things for the better? And mind you, I am not saying this the way the dreamer idealists say it. Many of my virtues are not morally fashionable in the mainstream. I believe in STRENGTH, and I might be one of the last people who is willing to say so. I believe in EXCELLENCE, and IMPROVING, and if you believe in excellence and improving, you're going to wind up better than people who do not. I don't believe in equality. What sort of cowardice would you need to feel to wish for everyone to be the same? Isn't it obvious that 4 out of 5 don't even bother trying to improve the world and themselves? If so, isn't it obvious that if you try you'll wind up better than 4 out of 5 people, almost automatically? No, the believers in equality don't want to pull those 4 out of 5 up, they don't say, "Embrace strife, and suffering, and challenge, and live on the edge of your capabilities. Suffer for your ethics, and enjoy suffering, and grow stronger and become excellent." No, they try to tear down the 1 man in 5 who tries to be better.
I believe in excellence.
I believe in strength.
Not for myself. For the world. The world needs strength and excellence.
But the way there is through suffering and strife. I do not recommend this course of thinking to anyone. I don't, really. It's hard. It's brutal at times. It almost broke me. But I think I've made it through to the other side. I wouldn't wish the path I'm on for anyone, not for a good friend, nor for a worst enemy.
Is it reckless of me to share this? My philosophy is dangerous. It's neurosis-inducing. I almost went crazy at times. Knowing that I was on a path I didn't want, and saying I'd rather have nothing than be mediocre. Maybe it will break me later. If it does, all the equality-loving people will laugh and use me as an example of how you shouldn't try to fly too close to the Sun. I know that. Just another challenge. Strife. Suffering. Give it to me, but in small enough doses. Let me conquer the challenge of this week, live and suffer through it, and come to enjoy the suffering.
Siddhartha said, all is suffering. I say - indeed it is, and I will have it all. I will have as much suffering as I can handle, because it is life. Life is suffering, and it is joyful when you look at it from the correct angle. Right now, there is violence and combat running through our veins, from cells and bacteria to our respiration and the chemical and electrical reactions that are our thoughts. Right now, you have in your mind images of what is possible, and a counteracting force that says take it easy and relax. This is strife. This is conflict. If you embrace the strife and conflict, it will be hard and terrible at first. I do not recommend it, for the cost is great. But on the other side, when you have joined with strife, when you have embraced it, when you have embraced life - excellence awaits. STRENGTH awaits. Not strength of muscles, nor controls. Strength of character, strength of purpose. STRENGTH, the virtue that makes all other virtues possible. But first, suffering is necessary. I don't recommend it. Not at all. But it's what I chose, and what I continue to choose. Give me suffering and strife, slowly enough to conquer each aspect of it, and I grow stronger. I grow excellent. Life is suffering. I embrace life. I embrace suffering.
Thanks for your appreciation, Sebastian. Good wishes for your journey in this life. May we all work together across time and space for getting mastery over our common fate. (excuse me I feel grandiloquent here today)
"Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional."
Suffering --> a mental state
Mental states, we have control over, even while we do not always have control over external events.
The goal is to not let external events negatively impact our mental state.
Like the lotus flower flourishing, even as it is surrounded by mud.
Like the warrior's calm, calculating mind, even as he is surrounded by a hundred enemies.
Like the one grinning as he walks through the gates of hell, saying "Bring it on!"
Seek out the fire where character is forged, the mud that causes you to rise above, the adversity that teaches you how to become stronger -- but avoid suffering.
Really good article. Very inspiring.
This "I would rather die than live mediocre "reminded me of Jay-Z's song "Can I Live".
"I would rather die enormous than live dormant"
(Note: this is actually a reply to Sebastian's response because the "reply" link seems to have gone into hiding.)
> Default settings, I haven’t changed them. I don’t care much either way, I spell stuff wrong and it doesn’t bother me. Input? If it’s a big deal for people I can tweak it. I like Hacker News, where you can for one hour, I think that’s the best of both worlds myself. We don’t have an official login system here, though…
I was just thinking about this the other day. With the goal being "the best experience for both the guest and the returning user," not allowing changes to your post can be frustrating. Its acceptable, though, when the alternative is to allow posting without logging in or signing up (which is great!). The best of both worlds would probably be to have posts with no login and also, using cookies or some other source-verification technique, allow these posts to be edited within an hour like Hacker News.
This kind of posting behavior would be what Amazon does for its purchases via OneClick. By allowing the majority to post without hassle, and the few that have mistakes to correct them within a reasonable amount of time.
Personally, what I would like to see in more blogs is to be able to be notified when a response is made to one of my comments. Whether by email, or a less invasive way like a parameterized RSS page that, given a username or email (since this is private), would generate a feed page with all associated comments containing new responses.
So, my input? Its OK the way your settings are now. The day the "users can edit their comment within an hour without logging in" is available, please turn that one on :)
Interesting trailer. Without bloating an already-lengthy comment with politics, the video immediately reminds me of entering middle school. Among other things, this is when recess was taken away. I can remember thinking "how can I possibly spend an entire day inside this place?"
I really respect this way of living. To live for the moment and enjoy everything as it is; searching for a meaning in life by not actually searching but living instead. I hope I got that right :)
Not necessarily the way I want to live my life though. I need challenges. I need goals in my life. I want to accomplish the goals I set myself. I want to make the world around me a better place. I don't want to be a spectator, but an actor. Hell yeah I love my life the way it is. I just need goals to keep focus and make my life and the lives of people around me even better
The whole grand strategy is a matter of transforming suffering in the world so that it comes in manageable doses.
I'm not sure winning is the right answer to life. I'm more on the Herman Hesse Siddharta way of living a life.
Search for a meaning. Try things. Follow paths. Experience the light side and the dark side as there isn't such a thing as dark or light. Discard all of your conditionings: the one you are aware of and those that are hidden to your conscious mind. Discover there's nothing to discover. Learn living the moment you are living. Hit the target by not aiming at it anymore.
This is such great writing. I truly enjoyed reading this post.
And it is true, you need challenges in life. If you're never challenged, you never fight. If you never fight, you never win. Settings goals in your life is such an important thing to do in my opinion! It strengthens your confidence, widens your horizon and simply keeps life interesting.
Thanks for keeping me motivated!
A friend of mine set some goals for last week, and failed. His goals were realistic and possible, but he did not do them. He sent me an introspective email analyzing why. We had a good discussion on it, here's an excerpt of what I wrote him -
I understand. This really sucks. By the way, I still do this, myself. I still catch myself making the occasional fundamental mistake. The good thing is, no single mistake kills you (well, usually). Usually you can recover. Don't flip out when you a mistake, damage-control it and move on. How old are you - 28? You've got 10-15 years of mediocre societal programming, you don't get that out of yourself in seven days. 30 days, 60 days, you can take a huge chunk out of it. A year or two, absolutely you can almost completely re-wire yourself. But remember how you were saying, "Dude, I can do this so much faster than your timeline!" Well, I've been there. Shit like this happens. You're fighting some of your deepest, instinctual defense mechanisms to keep you alive. You've also got your toolbox of good instinctual mechanisms limited by society, so you're needing to create new tools. Basically, you've got all the disadvantages a caveman had (fear, nervousness, pressure), but you lose a lot of the advantages (unbridled, raw power, no rules, etc). You've got to make new tools - calmness, focus, intent. It takes a while. There's no shame in that - let me say this -
THERE'S NO SHAME IN THIS, IT'S NO REFLECTION OF YOU - WE'RE ALL BUILT WEAK, YOU'RE ONE OF THE FEW WHO ACKNOWLEDGES IT AND TRIES TO BECOME STRONG.
We're all built weak, man. Most people hide from it, deny it. That way they don't have to feel it. But you're diving right in, into your weakness, into your errors, into your unrefined patterns, into your fears... so you feel it. But don't mistake these things - these things are the weakness that everyone feels, there is NO SHAME in feeling it. It's part of being human. You need to feel it to conquer it. This is what I was writing in "Give me strife and suffering" -
Last week at my meditation class we were talking about compassion; how we experience it, how we can work on feeling more of it, and the kind of people we're able to generate compassion for.
So first off: what is compassion? It's described as a feeling of empathy for others; it's the emotion we feel in response to another's suffering that motivates a desire to help.
It's quite easy for me to feel compassion for people I think really deserve it; starving children in Africa, people suffering the trauma of a natural disaster, people grieving the loss of a loved one. I want to help those people, so I can feel compassion for them. But how about people we don't really, in our heart of hearts, actually genuinely believe even deserve our compassion?
This made for some uncomfortable thinking. And some pretty raw up-close-and-personal time with my own prejudices.