07 Aug Hitting the wall
You will hit the wall sometime. Is your life a gift or punishment?
You must get on the path
You start somewhere, pretty much like everyone else, sometime in your budding adulthood.
You may set out with a bang, thinking you’ll conquer this thing called life, or opt for a stroll. It may feel like you’re standing in a field of possibilities, filled with thrill; or it may be tinged with a dose of fear and anxiety – will you make it? Will you be safe? Will you reach the promised peak?
It doesn’t really matter. You must get on the path. This is the rule of life.
You may wind your way up a gentle hill, or yours may be a steep mountain. You may run along lush riverbanks, or rugged coast, through a thick forest, or along the sandy beach. You may run into thunderstorms, or gentle rain, smell the musty air, the breezy sea.
You keep going. That is the rule of life.
Others may join you, some lock hands and walk with you. Some carry you a part of the way, some drop you to the ground like a bulky log and run. You keep going.
Your heart swells with love, shrinks in pain. Your legs get weary, your hair turns grey. You may speed up, or slow down.
It doesn’t really matter. You keep going.
You look back and you see the landscape of the roller-coaster you’ve been on. The ups and the downs endlessly chasing each other. Each turn of fate infuses you with its own aroma, your body a bowl of blooms and dead leaves.
But you figure, life will keep on happening in much the same way, and you’ll just keep on going.
BAM!!! You hit the wall
And then, out of nowhere, BAM!!! You hit the wall.
It’s massive. You did not expect it. It surrounds you and blocks you from the rest of humanity. No one can reach you, it’s just you and the wall – with the silhouettes of your past and the collapsing shapes of your future. It’s scary.
What now? It’s not that you don’t have experience. You’ve already mastered losses and betrayals – the sinkholes of life that you fell into because you were too ignorant, you couldn’t fathom they were there, you trusted the road to keep its promise to hold you up.
But you beat it, and you’re here. There was always a shining light ahead of you. Hope. There was always hope.
But now, BAM!!! The ultimate hits you. The existential. Death. Fast or slow.
You can handle the human pains, but this? What’s coming? You were too busy living to give it much thought before, and now, it reached for you.
Damocles sword is hanging over your head, held by a thin strand of hair. Anything can trigger it. Something you do. Something others do. Pure chance, can trigger the sword to drop on you. You are out of your own sphere of control.
How do you live with the sword over your head?
You wake up to new aches and pains every day. It is endless. The treatment that looks like a solution becomes the problem. An answer turns into a question. You’re full of needle bruises. Your organs revolt. Your muscles can hardly carry you. Every sunrise is a promise, every sunset a letdown. Suddenly, these famous verses resonate with you: “All that you can hope for is to die in your sleep”.
You know this can’t be right, but your mind is in this muddle. Like you are trying to swim in molasses. You need to shake yourself out of this.
Stories to believe in
You wish there were some stories to believe in. Though you know you don’t have a believing brain. As much as you are built for survival and your brain craves to believe anything that will get you through, you can’t get there.
The promises of afterlife are not what you look for. You don’t want a plan for dying, you want a plan for living. Until you die. And you don’t really care what happens then, you will happily return your atoms to the earth to do with them as she sees fit. It’s a fair trade and the world goes on.
There are more story choices. There are those that see all this suffering, and decide they want out. Not enough empathy to see it through. So, they live their lives in limbo, waiting to die. They go further: they hate life so profoundly, that they commit themselves to never coming back to it. The entire point of their life becomes never having to live again. What irony. And so it is, that they throw out the baby with the bathwater. You think this is such a regrettable lack of courage.
This cannot be your story. You think it misses the point of life.
The point of life?
Wait, what? The point of life?? What is the point of life?
You try to look at life with clarity, not through stories, and you see it in all its unvarnished truth: a bunch of contradictions tightly bundled together, a string of twists and turns, some rather predictable if you think about them, others totally random. Joys and sorrows, fairness and injustice, ups and downs. That’s it. No rhyme or reason, just life. You pop in, you pop out, and in-between you got all this drama. This much is clear.
You don’t know why it is so. You know your fidgety mind craves certainty, but the truth is, you don’t have any sure answers. No one really knows. If there is a grand plan, or even a tiny plan, for you, or for anyone, no one knows – no matter how they speak.
And once you admit to your total and complete ignorance, once you drop the demand for certainty, for simplicity, once you know you live in ambiguity, in complexity, in perpetual contradiction, there is your liberation!
You pop in, you pop out, just like that. Like a large-scale quantum fluctuation. You are here for a brief moment, before you fall back into the universal obscurity, peace, death, whatever you want to call it.
Now do you see your freedom? It is so liberating, there are no requirements. Will you see your life as a gift, or as a punishment? Your choice.
Yet, if you wake up in the morning, and you can tell yourself: “smile, you are alive”; if you can step outside your door and the buzzing of humanity stirs your heart to warmth and compassion; if you look at the faces of children and your heart swells, then your life is a gift. Or, mostly. That’s enough.
An unexpected, unpredictable, beautiful, terrible, scary, exciting gift. In all this randomness, it is so unlikely that we’d be here today, to experience it, that how can it be anything but a gift? The sunshine and the darkness? The love and the pain?
For all you can see, there is only one point to life: To bathe in it. To soak in it. Magical, and profound in its nothingness, it only takes empathy. And that takes all the courage you can muster.
Life. You can’t count on it, but you got it now. It’s your gift. You just keep going.
And that’s the most courageous thing you can do.