Zen has always seemed to me like a white flag flying in the face of all of history’s convoluted philosophical quandaries and political debates. It implores us to stop taking sides, to calmly enjoy the mundane, and to drop false notions of self without forfeiting individuality. In other words, surrender but don’t give yourself away.
Besides the fact that I really wanted to figure out a way to play you a Cheap Trick song, I think this touches on an important point that applies to most day-to-day scenarios. “Surrender, but don’t give yourself away,” can become a pretty solid Zen mantra. You can find wisdom in the most unexpected places if you just suspend judgment for a bit.
Fighting with your significant other? Walk away without pretending there’s ever a winner to an argument. Unhappy with a situation that’s outside of your control? Have the self respect to step back and either calmly address it or let it address itself. Tired of being in any situation? Leave confidently without quarrel or qualm.
Problem solving in this manner seems too easy, but it’s not. It takes a remarkable amount of willpower to step back and drop the nagging ego that prompts the need to fix everything.
I struggle with that ego often. The dumb part of my self-asserting brain says, “Don’t give up! You must be smart enough to figure this shit out! Hold strong!” Nope. Some things must pass on their own accord. We cannot force situations into a mold of self-righteous consequence. If you abandon expectation without losing yourself, you’ll never be disappointed. Oddly enough, you’ll rarely end up in situations where your disappointment even matters. People who surrender with self-respect end up living calmly satisfying lives.
In other words, you can’t lose if you don’t play. The game in question isn’t even worth playing. Any battle won has its toll, whether you’re shooting mortars or fighting over a semantic misunderstanding with your spouse. No one wins. Just step back and surrender— but don’t give yourself away.