This week, Julie's roundtable discussion on forgiveness goes one step further in asking how we forgive happenstance, random chance, destiny, fate, serendipity (pick your word of choice) and it is a really good question because it exemplifies the difference I find between my belief systems and the common view of contemporary culture.
Frankly, I have no trouble forgiving destiny.
Serendipity is impersonal ~ and contemporary western culture has trouble with that concept.
Personalizing most everything has become a national pastime. Media encourages it with the Aristotilean "appeal to misery" being used in nearly every form of mass communication, from newscasts to movies and books.
What if this happened to you?
It is not always so blatant. Sometimes it's more subtle.
The neatly dressed, perfectly-coiffed reporter asks the mother whose child just got killed by a drunk driver: How does it feel?
The reporter stands in a wartorn country, surveying the damage and says: National security advisors are concentrating on contingency plans. What if it happens here?
Subtitle: We will keep you safe.
It is part of the fear-mongering that keeps people in a constant state of anxiety and anger at the world for being... well... the world.
Stuff happens. All the time. We live in a natural, constantly-changing environment built on certain principles of physics.
All of us are going to get something, somehow, some day.
In more metaphysical terms, these events are part of the cycle of life (samsara). And part of the cycle of life is suffering (dukkha). And impermanence (annata).
There is no way to escape it.
So how do we move beyond the anger at the world for being .. well.. the world? How do we learn to stop taking it all so personally?
For me, it is an understanding that very little in the world is about me. It spins on its axle, turns in and out, continuing its movement, entirely regardless of me. If I am here, not here, aware or unaware, it goes on.
And getting mad at the world for being the world is like getting mad at a dog for barking.
Maybe the larger question is how do we forgive ourselves for our karma?
If I figure out that one any time soon, I will be sure to pass it along. Chop wood. Carry water.
We all do the best we can do with what we have. When we begin to understand the impermanence of things, we know that, as trite as it sounds, this too shall pass. We continue to grow and to learn from our experiences and somehow find a level of gratitude for the process itself.
On Julie's additional question about either waking now from a coma of 20 years or going into a coma and coming out 20 years later, I'm still pondering that one.
I don't suspect much will have changed if I slipped out today and came back in 2027. As much as it seems change is often lightening quick, it's really rather slow. Additionally, I would then be 75 years old which puts another gnarly knot into the entire equation.
Delving into the world of the future is a rather dystopian exercise from my perspective, given that I would be coming back in 20 years to (most likely) same-same, but different. The consumer goods will look different. The environment might look different. The government might look different. (Beware, friendly fascism.) There may be some substantial changes in medical research.
Human beings by nature will not have changed all that much and the same metaphysical angst we deal with now will still be present then. The same ponderous questions will remain unanswered and we'll be frustrated because human beings for some reason believe we have the inherent right to know everything, including the imponderable.
Personally, after 20 years in a coma, I would be older. And hopefully skinnier. My developmental stages would not have progressed. I'll still have a 55-year-old perspective on life with a 75-year-old body and mind. My body would defy me. It would be unlikely that I could take 7-mile walks, just because I feel like it.
So one might logically ask: If this is my view, why go on at all?
Because this is a fascinating experience, this earthly life. The questions, the answers, the experiences, the connections, the disconnections, the ups and downs and the very observance of life itself unfolding.
This earthly experience is one big classroom. While I don't figure I will ace or even deserve to ace the class, I'm sure giving it my best try.