The mistake everyone makes is being sucked into falling victim to the struggles of life. Life is hard, and we fall into the trap of being inadequate humans. When difficulties arise, we typically become less than our best. We complain and moan loudly, we grumble softly and ruminate silently. We have a “collective illusion” that the problem is out there.
Those Who Know
All the ancients from Plato to Meister Eckhart to Buddha and Jesus preached that life consists of suffering. Life is difficult not because of democracy or socialism or the right or the left, but because we miss this great truth.
Maybe life is a series of problems that are meant to be understood? And perhaps we are called to understand and solve life’s problems.
Just as math and science contain specifically designed problems to make you smarter, could it be that life’s difficulties are there to nudge you to grow in courage and wisdom?
Ben Franklin said something like, the things that hurt us, instruct us.
Extensive searching and studying help us grasp what ancient and contemporary gurus, mystics, philosophers and their stories assert.
Note the pattern here
Socrates sought answers (470 BCE). How can we live a good life and what to do about human suffering? He left us these inspirations. “There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.” Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Likewise, Aristotle (385BC). His searching left us these inspirations. “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Happiness depends upon ourselves.”
Immanuel Kant said in the 1700s, human-kind must emerge from a self-incurred immaturity. His motto was, “Dare to understand. Increase knowledge and purge errors.”
Thomas Jefferson (the 1800s) understood that we suffered due to lack of knowledge. Upon founding the University of Virginia, he said, here we will fuel the limitless freedom of the human mind and not be afraid to tolerate any error so long as we are growing in the knowledge to combat it.
David Deutsch (2012). All failures and evils are due to insufficient knowledge. Problems persist, but we must continue improving and growing in the knowledge that helps us uncover and eliminate errors.
Steven Pinker (2018). “Progress unguided by human progress is not progress.”
Reflecting on our collective illusion, we might recognize that the call is for us to shoulder the responsibility of advancing humanity. The caveat here is that progress requires knowledge. If you feel like a victim if life sucks, could it be that the problem is not at all out there?
Maybe it’s time to try a reboot? The habitual reaction to life’s difficulties might be obsolete. You don’t have to become all-knowing in a flash, all at once. Peek with one eye open and see what old baggage you might drop. A happy journey may ensure a triumphant arrival. And even if you don’t believe the opposite is true, the freedom and contentment are overwhelmingly appealing.
Becoming open frees you. You are no longer harnessed unknowingly. You have options. But there is more work to rising above human suffering than to wallow in it. Maybe that’s too obvious?
What if as you made a strident effort, your psyche began presenting new ideas and new information that was previously latent and inaccessible? What if a new light appeared at the end of the tunnel and it wasn’t a train?
You could aim for that. Eleanor Roosevelt, a staunch advocate for humanity, witnessed pervasive darkness in her family life and while serving as the first lady during the Great Depression. She pinpoints the truth by saying; “it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
What if you turned your light on? Even if you don’t know where you are going, reducing pain and suffering and cultivating contentment would make for a smoother ride and you would avoid the tragedy of an even more massive mistake. After 10, 20, or 30 years of being hemmed in by agony, distress and confusion you end up angry, resentful, cruel and cynical.
It’s a good thing that mistakes are opportunities in disguise.