More Stable Than You Think

‘The heavens as they were on April 25, 1384’ by the Persian polymath Mahmud ibn Yahya ibn al-Hasan al-Kashi

“The real is near, you do not have to seek it; and a man who seeks truth will never find it. Truth is in what is — and that is the beauty of it. But the moment you conceive it, the moment you seek it, you begin to struggle; and a man who struggles cannot understand. That is why we have to be still, observant, passively aware.”  — Krishnamurti

If you only expose yourself to stimuli vehicles like television and the internet, you would be hard-pressed not to think the sky is falling. For time immemorial people have loved imitating chicken little— politicians are always certain that their oppositions policies will be “devastating”, investors always certain that a crash is “just around the corner”, young people doubtful that the world can continue to “go on like this”. And yet it has gone on. For thousands of years. Even on a microcosmic level, people are always finding things to be terrified of: ugliness, alienation, malaise, confrontation. All of these boogeymen serve as distractions from the stuff that really gets us.

We make a distinction between man and nature because man is the only product of nature that fundamentally seems to have some sort of difficulty accepting what he is. It’s my opinion that the idea of God arose from this struggle against nature, from an inability to make peace with its less-palatable truths like inequality, suffering and death. And yet, again— here we are. We’ve always been here. Some people shake in their boots at the way the world is, and others accept it for what it is. Guess which group is more satisfied with life?

A key element of spiritual practice is recognizing this dynamism. There’s the world as it is and the world as we want it to be. If we believe human beings can fundamentally change the world, we remain stuck in a delusion that puts us at odds with nature, a no-contest knockout fight, the odds rigged infinitely against us. We struggle from idealistic hurdle to idealistic hurdle, not realizing we’re running in a circle until we reach the finish line and then— poof— we’re gone.

Conversely, if we accept the truths of nature and respect our own place within the vast cosmic hierarchy (relatively insignificant), we uncover the peace we’ve been searching for all along. Pop cultural narratives of struggle and overcoming adversity are religious pills intended to convert us to the cult of progress, but at what cost? We see the cost every day: our sanity, contentment and sense of belonging. If we’re always struggling to be what we fundamentally cannot be, we’re going to feel crazy and miserable. And, statistically, most people today do feel crazy and miserable.

On a broad scale, it’s necessary to accept that human beings are not equal to one another, let alone equal to the forces of nature. On a microcosmic scale, we must recognize that each individual has an unchanging essence. You’re born a certain way, and can either make the most of your fundamental strengths and weaknesses or struggle against them. Each person you encounter is better than you at X and worse than you at Y, or vice-versa. Most people have fragile egos. To be truly honest with themselves about their objective traits, the ones that can’t be changed, is a daunting task. It sucks to look in the mirror if you’ve never taken a shower. But doing it is the only way to clean up, and we have a lot of cleaning up to do.

The ultimate lesson is that the world is more stable than we think. It’s the human ego that’s unstable and always struggling. Maybe it’s faulty wiring, an evolutionary misstep to be overcome not for another few million years. Or perhaps we can overcome it, right now, by settling into the truth and accepting our practice without struggle or resistance. To resist is to challenge nature, and you will not win.

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