Stop Complaining About Covid: A Story, Then a Lesson
I'm going to share with you a story that's about as old as they come. Some of you might know this one. Yes, I've done some paraphrasing. And yes, I've borrowed some artistic flair from Mark Manson. Regardless, here we go:
About twenty five hundred years ago, in the foothills of the Himalayas, in what is present-day Nepal, there once lived a king who was soon to have a son.
This king had this particularly grand idea: he decided to make a perfect life for his child. A life free of suffering and problems of the world. Every need and desire of his child would be accounted for. Quite legitimately, it would be a perfect life.
So the king built high walls around the palace that kept the undesirable parts of the world out. He prevented the prince from knowing what existed in this outside world. The young prince was spoiled lavishly. Food and gifts abounded. Servants catered on his every need. Not so much as a single moment or a blade of grass was out of place. Life was perfect.
And just as the king planned, the prince grew up ignorant to all that existed outside of the palace walls. Ignorant of the pain, suffering and uncertainty in this other world.
All of the prince’s childhood was just this same story. But despite the endless luxury and perfection, the prince became a jaded young man.
Since his world was so perfect, life felt empty and pointless. No matter what he was given, it never seemed like enough because everything meant nothing. It was as if he was the main character in a play, where everyone else was a supporting actor, trying to keep the wool over his eyes.
So one night, the prince snuck out to see what existed on the other side of the four walls. He ordered a servant to show him about. And what the prince found horrified him. There was suffering, pain, sickness and death outside the walls.
The prince returned to his palace and found himself in the midst of a crisis. Everything about his life had been part of the big coverup story: it was one big sham to keep the prince in the dark about the truth of the world.
Like any typical young man, this prince ran away from home to go find what his father had forever hidden from him.
During the cover of night, he left the palace to discover truth in the world. He traded his luxuries and comfort for a world of uncertainty and pain. He cast off all the happy things in life, donned the robes of a monk and limited himself to just a grain of rice per day. He lived in a state of complete suffering, the polar opposite of his upbringing.
Eventually he found that neither the perfection of the palace life nor the absence of pleasure created fulfillment. Life called for more than just suffering. Life called for more than just happiness.
The once prince, then freshly-minted monk, resolved to figure out what he was missing. So he decided to sit underneath a tree until he understood life. After 49 days of sitting (for the sake of this story, we’ll allow any embellishment to be considered fact) he came to a state of enlightenment. He discovered a path between the two, The Middle Way.
This man became known as the Buddha.
We live in a world where we run from pain and we crave pleasure. We run from what's "bad" and hope for what's "good". We idealize the ways life "ought" to be. We castigate any parts of life that that don't fall within the purview.
You could almost say that we're kings [and queens] of our own palace. We build walls around our life, doing our damndest to keep certain things in and certain things out.
We strive for the right job, the right relationship, the right income and the right vacations. Everything must be perfect. If it isn't perfect, it doesn't belong within our palace walls.
We force those "wrong" things out of our walls. COVID, the year 2020, and election news don't belong in our lives. They're the suffering we hope to keep out.
I think we're lying to ourselves. We live with a slanted perspective. We idealize happiness. We demonize suffering.
And for as long as we live with this slanted perspective, we'll forever feel like life is "off". We'll forever feel that something is missing. We'll forever want to escape our palace walls.
Here is what I believe: life is life. Some of life will bring suffering. Some of life will bring happiness. Neither part is right. Neither part is wrong. Life is just life.
I choose to accept the suffering I find. I choose to accept the happiness I find.
I choose to follow in the path of Buddha. I won't glorify one. I won't vilify the other. The sooner I accept life in total, the sooner I can live life in total.
So here is my request of the the world. The next time you are bitching about COVID, 2020, elections, (or insert any other part of life), STOP. The next time you're letting all your emotional quality rest on the "right" things in life, STOP.
Stop chasing one. Stop complaining about the other.