Friday, July 17, 2015

Real Life is NOT "Picture-perfect"

     “When I was twenty-four I had a flash of insight: that this was in fact my life, this is exactly what it looked like and presumably always would. That one’s studies, this fabled and much-talked-about period in life, on which one always looked back with pleasure, were for me no more than a series of dismal, lonely and imperfect days. That I had not seen this before was due to the constant hope I carried around inside me, all the ridiculous dreams with which a twenty-year-old can be burdened, about women and love, about friends and happiness, about hidden talents and sudden breakthroughs. But when I was twenty-four I saw life as it was. And it was OK …” 
       Karl Ove Knausgaard. “A Death in the Family. My Struggle: Book 1.” Vintage Books, London, 2014. 

     So, is Knausgaard depressed, pessimistic, cynical, temporarily "down" - OR - is he seeing life as it actually is, far different than our common hopes and dreams? Don't we keep hoping for life to transform into one continuous glorious beer commercial? And don't we repeatedly feel disappointed because our life is "so damned ordinary"? For Freud, "ordinary unhappiness" was the best he could hope for, the goal of psychotherapy.
     In 500 BCE, the Buddha understood deeply the stressful unsatisfactoriness that (unawakened) life entails, even though he was born healthy, intelligent, wealthy - a handsome prince, with everything the world could provide at his fingertips.

      Dukkha (refers to) stress, suffering, misery, unsatisfactoriness, pain: literally, ‘hard to endure, difficult to bear.’ 
     In its limited sense, dukkha is the quality of experience that results when the mind is conditioned by avijja into craving, attachment, egoism, and selfishness. This feeling takes on forms such as disappointment, dissatisfaction, frustration, agitation, anguish, dis-ease, despair – from the crudest to the subtlest levels. 
     In its universal sense, dukkha is the inherent condition of unsatisfactoriness, ugliness, and misery in all impermanent, conditioned things (sankhara). This second fundamental characteristic is the result of anicca; impermanent things cannot satisfy our wants and desires no matter how hard we try (and cry). The inherent decay and dissolution of things is misery.”
       Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. “Mindfulness with Breathing. A Manual for Serious Beginners.” Wisdom Publications, Boston, 1988. 

Public Gardens, Halifax, NS, Canada

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