"We live in interesting times"
There is an ancient proverb which goes – “May you live in interesting times”. Although it seems to be a harmless remark, it is also said to be an ancient curse. We live in interesting times, be it the turmoil that we face on the outside, or the inner turmoil that we battle with every day. “Living in interesting” times implies that our lives will be devoid of peace, and riddled with conflict.
As children, we used to think that our course in life will be simple and linear, with a happy ending. As we grow into our teenage years, and then enter adulthood, life becomes more complicated, and we realize one absolute certainty in our lives - nothing is certain.
Think of where you were ten years ago – did you ever imagine you would be where you are today?
Life throws challenges and changes at us, in terms of opportunities, losses, deaths, illnesses, new relationships. Despite our careful planning, we never reach the destination we set out to achieve. Whether for better or for worse, life has too many variables, each permutation creating a multiple of other variables, making life infinitely interesting, promising … and uncertain.
The fact is, everybody’s future is unknown, and unpredictable.
Occasionally, we achieve our short term goals in life. The high grades in school, the successful job interview, marrying someone we love. These are all the highs in life, which gives us immense joy, motivation and a sense of achievement.
However, there is also a counterbalance to it. Life also gives us a share of tough situations. Sometimes, these come unexpectedly, leaving us bewildered, miserable and unable to cope.
And the questions for all of us are –
How can I cope, when things don’t go as planned?
How do I maintain stability when the environment around me is shaky?
How do I find peace when something bad happens?
Fact - You are not in control of your destiny!
The reality is that nothing is within our control.
Just look at the small examples in our daily lives:
How many times have we had to cancel our plans because of bad weather?
How many times have we woken up with a flu when we were fine the night before?
How many times did someone react to us in a way we did not anticipate or deserve?
How many times do we successfully predict the outcome of an exam, a job interview or even the ending of a movie?
And these are small matters, what more major things like serious illness, job loss, life and death, and other large scale changes?
We cannot control life; we cannot change many of the conditions that we are exposed to.
However, what we can control is our reaction to adverse situations.
Going back to the basics
Today, we forget reality and the truth of who we are. We often forget that we are incapable of controlling events.
Hence, let us remind ourselves of some basic truths – truths which, in the rush of our demanding lifestyles, we have forgotten:
We are human beings. We are a creation among the multiple creations in this universe. We are mere mortals, each severely limited in capabilities. No matter our physical and intellectual talents, our abilities are inadequate. We all go through cycles of life, and at some point, without our choice, this cycle ends and life is taken away from us.
We are not the Creator We are incapable of creating. At best, we can reassemble and reconstitute things which already exist, but we cannot create something from nothing. We are all created beings, and in the context of all of creation in this universe, phenomenally fragile and insignificant. We are unable to create life, much less control our surroundings. We can attempt to change our conditions, however, once we have made the attempt, the outcome is beyond our hands.
Hitting the panic button
Most of us take success in life as our right and a result of our abilities. When, through our struggles and efforts, we achieve what we want, we feel secure, peaceful and successful. We believe we are in control.
With life going through its course without incident and while we reap the benefits of our success, we are lulled into a false sense of security. This feeling of being in control encourages arrogance, and the more life goes our way, the more arrogant we become. In our minds we become invincible and indestructible, masters of our fate, able to ward off pain, tragedy or loss. And eventually, we forget ourselves and lose hold of reality.
This situation can last for some time until a condition happens that shakes us from this dream like condition. It could be a natural disaster, disease, financial problem, fight, major lifestyle change, robbery or the loss of loved ones.
When an anomaly like this happens, we hit the panic button.
“This isn’t supposed to happen!”
“Why now? Why here? Why me?”
… are perhaps our first reactions when we are unprepared. When comfort is stripped away from us, we fall victim of sadness, misery, worry, fear and despair. Upon waking up to the reality that we have no control over these monumental changes, we feel angry, weak, unstable, and worried.
We panic because a situation has occurred which was beyond our control or even prediction.
We panic because all along, we have forgotten that as human beings, none of these changes are under our control and there is nothing we can do about them.
Welcome to reality!
Can anyone dispute the statements below:
We are weak and limited.
Our future is volatile.
Our lifespan is uncertain.
We are not where we imagined we would be ten or even five years ago.
Can we really control our destiny, and can we plan the future the way we like?
If we believe we can, then anytime we have a mishap, natural or financial disaster or any major change in life, we are unable to cope with the new reality of our lives.
Whereas in truth, this constant change is the actual reality of life!
The problem arises when we believe that we are immune these changes and somehow they will not affect us. When we are in this state of mind, we forget the truth and are in a state of illusion and self deception.
When things go well and work out as planned, we are drugged by the high speed life and its many superficial attractions to the point we forget…
Who are we?
Who is controlling our lives and our future?
Where are we headed?
What is the purpose of our lives?
These are very simple questions which majority of us have never even given a thought to.
In the pursuit of our career, lifestyle and luxuries, we fail to ask ourselves the very basic yet essential questions. When life becomes too comfortable, we feel insulated from reality, and we fail to prepare ourselves for hardships which hit us once in a while.
The reality is that a single stroke of fate can snatch away what we have in an instant.
At such times, when we are faced with the reality of life, all of our worldly achievements become meaningless and maybe even a cause of emotional agony.