By Roland Watson
I closed the last article, where I was considering the basic life challenge of being ethical, by mentioning that this is most difficult when life is trying, and when you are too tired to care. You can do it, though. All that is required is that you maintain your patience. But, I'm not only talking about being patient in a particular situation. Rather, patience is a trait that you should apply to your entire life.
The challenge of patience
What I mean by this is that it is a mistake to rush life. It is not something that you should be trying to "get through"; something that must be endured. Such an approach actually leads to more stress, strain and fatigue. Rather, you want to celebrate life, take it moment-by-moment, and, enjoy every moment that you get, even those where you must wait. The joy "is" in the journey, not in reaching the destination.
Furthermore, when life is at its most challenging, this is the time to push it. You should laugh in the face of hardship and danger; demonstrate that you are prepared for anything, and that you never lose your ability to be happy. When the difficulties to which you are subjected are at their greatest, seemingly unendurable, do not run away, or take a drug, or cry. Instead, just laugh.
Another idea that is related to this is that you must learn to overcome disappointment, and this includes when you are disappointed with other people, and also with yourself. For the former, you will likely find yourself, many times, disappointed with your family, and friends, or with your employer, or even society as a whole. The challenge here is to understand the specific source of the disappointment - such as a social influence, and then to find some way to protect yourself from it; and also to measure your reaction to it. And, for this, you must control your anger, and not allow it to degenerate into hate. You want to concentrate on the possibilities of, and the prerequisites for, forgiveness, rather than seek revenge.
For disappointment with yourself, such as when you fail at something, your response should be to learn from the failure, to make it a part of your process of growth, and to guard against or rectify the mistake by which it occurred. Also, there is the obstacle of forgiving yourself when you are the one who has done wrong. How do you make peace with your own bad behavior? In concept, the answer is easy, but in practice, rarely so. You have to express real remorse for what you have done, and then do your best to make up for it.
An associated objective is to resist temptation: to stop yourself from scratching an itch - any itch. This is hardest when the temptation is readily available. Many of our problems can be traced to the power that we have, and which we should "not" use.
We should not try everything that science and technology enables. We should not abuse public trust, as is regularly done by politicians, the police, the military, lawyers, and doctors. We should not lie, or even compete. And, we do not have the right to use other life, some would say at all, but certainly not for anything other than, and only then when it is minimized, our sustenance.
As another example, there is the challenge of not cheating on your lover, in situations where the opportunity presents itself. This is another case where the best course of action is not to do something. Furthermore, one means to resist such a temptation is to understand the form that is involved, which I will briefly present as follows.
It is a form that many people worry that their lovers or spouses might cheat on them. And, because of this, you might worry about the faithfulness of your lover, too. It is also a form that many people do cheat. And, because of this, you might be tempted to, too. But, there is another form as well, a good form, that of love, and the benefits it yields, including trust. And, because of this - your love for and trust of each other - you do not worry that your partner will cheat on you, and you are not tempted to cheat on him or her either, because to do so would be to break this trust, and deny your love.
This is actually another basic challenge of life, that of love, including finding it and preserving it. But perhaps the greatest task of all with love is simply accepting someone for who they are, accepting that they are not perfect, that they have faults, and then loving them anyway, and, loving them no less than if they were perfect. In this way, love is also a choice, an act of will, and like forgiveness, it shows us at out best.
What about bad diversity?
I would also mention here, again in the interests of intellectual honesty, another issue that derives from ethics. If the universe is designed to enable the greatest diversity of life experience possible, then isn't this furthered by the existence of unethical individuals? Unethical behavior is a variation in behavior.
The answer to this objection is that form, up to and including the extremes of brainwashing, cloning and eugenics, reduces diversity. Indeed, at its worst, form leads to suicide and extinction, and this is the elimination of diversity. Since most unethical behavior is the product of form, this also must be taken into account. The existence of such behavior is a side effect of the main process by which diversity is reduced, and the overall effect on diversity is negative. Therefore, the pursuit of unethical behavior cannot be justified by the argument that it contributes to this basic goal. It does not.
One can also make the same case regarding the diversity that results from competition. Is competition unethical? The answer is: not in the way that we ordinarily think, but, as a life ethic, yes, it is. You do not want to compete.
So, does this discredit competition as a source of diversity, recognizing that virtually all of the diversity that we now have derives from it? Looking to the past, no, it does not. What's done is done. But, looking to the future, for humans, yes, it is discredited. Competition is a means to diversity that we should no longer pursue.
The challenge of life and death
A final challenge is dealing with the general unfairness of life, including the trauma of death. This includes the accumulation of all of the foregoing challenges, and it leads people to such things as existentialism, and also religious faith. But, to deal with this challenge effectively, you must reject this despair, and also this faith. The goal is not to have faith, but rather, to not have faith: not to believe in religious dogma.
Further, you should not deny life. You should not fear it, or hide from it. For example, Buddha taught that we should abandon all desire, even to have refined states of consciousness, and also ecstatic experiences. His reasoning for this was that they were ephemeral. They all passed.
I reject this. Is it so bad that we can only temporarily satisfy our desires? What about living for the moment? Isn't that what is important? All moments in life have the same value, but this does not mean that we should seek the lowest common denominator. Life is not uniform. It varies. We should not want to change this, to deny change itself. Therefore, you should not strive to eliminate your zest for life, and your desire to create and to understand and to do good. To deny us when we are at our best is to deny everything. It is to deny life itself.
I said earlier that you should try to live your life such that on your deathbed you have no regrets. We can now see that this includes not having rationalized away a dull, mundane, conformist existence, and also that you should make up for your real regrets, for any unethical things that you have done. In addition, an extension of this philosophy is that you should live your life such that you have no regrets for each passing moment. You should never stop challenging life, and testing yourself. Indeed, this is the only way truly to have no regrets. A final form in life is that death is a tragedy, and that we should fear it. But, if you have no regrets, there is nothing to fear.
To reemphasize a basic point, wisdom is education coupled with experience. We can now see that the process of attaining wisdom also has three stages - and, there are no short-cuts. You begin life in a position of complete ignorance, to which you immediately add a variety of false beliefs, many of which are caused by form. Through education, though, you cast off the ignorance and the false beliefs, and achieve the second stage, which is understanding. But, it is only through the accumulation of broad life experience that you can make it to the final stage, which is knowledge, or wisdom. For instance, and to repeat an example that I used earlier, it is possible to understand, through education, what it is like to have a child, but only through actually having one will you gain this knowledge.
Similarly, religious belief, as a full process, also has three stages. In the first, you are religious. You accept the faith of your culture, including its superstitions. Then, through education, you learn the failings of these superstitions, reject them, and quite possibly the entire faith as well. Consequently, you find yourself in a spiritual vacuum. And, it is at this point that you are susceptible to existentialism, nihilism, and such false faiths as "success," materialism, science, and sports. The third stage, though, which again is achieved via experience, in the form of general life experience and also through contemplation, meditation and various other disciplines, brings you to true spiritual or philosophical enlightenment.
What is enlightenment? It is the understanding that there is an invariant reality, and that you are both a separable and an inseparable part of it. However, the fundamental level is the latter. There is no distinction between the observer and the observed. You are a participant, and everything is an action. Therefore, as you view yourself as separate, you shape the "rest" of reality by applying your own form to it. But, as you eliminate your self-interest, your effect fades and you merge with reality. You can't see it as separate and distinct - it loses its form; and, it can't see you, or affect you - you have lost your form. Form requires form. The challenge is to be formless.
In this website, I have considered four basic systems of understanding, or guides to life. The first is that of western religion - and also the supernatural schools or components of eastern religion. And this, excluding a few elements, such as Christ's focus on love, is a first stage system. It is predicated on ignorance and form.
The second system is science, and it is second stage. It strives after understanding, but not knowledge. It actually sacrifices experience to education. A scientific world demands specialization, which is inimical to having a wide life. Furthermore, it believes in determinism, and it wants more form. Through its technology, it is seeking greater control - of us. This is proof that it, or at least such technology, is evolutionarily divergent.
The other two systems are of philosophy, and of eastern religion but without its supernatural aspect, meaning as a life practice. There are in fact great affinities between the two.
The University of Life describes a similar practice. In it, I have explained that our desires - our needs, wants and motivations - are caused by the various forms of our life condition, and also by the social forms to which we are exposed. Through describing these forms, and how we can fight them and seek our freedom from them, I am basically prescribing the same course: of how we can be formless, which in turn is the only way in which we can be free to choose our own form.
We cannot escape from our perceptions of reality. To us, they are effectively one and the same. Hence, our goal is to seek new and greater perceptions, that equate to new and greater realities. Similarly, quoting Gary Zukav again, "Buddhist literature does not speak of learning new things about reality, but about removing veils of ignorance that stand between us and what we already are."
What I have been talking about the entire time is the form of existence - your form - including the aspects that you choose and those that are imposed on you. What are the deepest characteristics of this form? Well, they are not social influences. Those are actually the shallow levels. We are trapped by social form at a shallow level of life.
The deepest levels are the levels at which you, personally, interact with the universe: the interaction of your will - your life force, with its will - its life force, which, ultimately, are one and the same. You are pushing your limits, seeking to exceed your grasp, and through you the universe is doing the same.
God took a chance. We are in its image. Not physically, though, but through our condition. We too must take a chance. We too must choose.
The University of Life is a blueprint for a new age, and a new day. By using it as your guide - to your days - by helping you to regain your will and to break free of form, you will play a greater role in life's mysterious and magical purpose, and make your own significant contribution to it.
And, if you can do that, you really have had a wonderful life. It is not necessary to understand fully the greater whole of which we all are parts. Through your efforts, in your own unique way, you will have validated the universe and its design. Congratulations. You have had a great life.
© Roland Watson 2015