Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Forgiving Serendipity.....

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.




Julie Pippert said...

Oh this is great.

I like the points:

* bringing it back to self-forgiveness and understanding what is you and what isn't

* the more things change, the more stays the same

In a rush but had to put this in.

I will put up the Host Post.

Hel said...

"And getting mad at the world for being the world is like getting mad at a dog for barking."

So true...

slouching mom said...

"And hopefully skinnier."

LOL, Chani! Me, too.

I wish I had time to write a post for Julie's roundtable, but I don't.

I was going to write about the 20-year question, and how it makes no sense to me to ask whether you'd be angry to wake up and find 20 years of your life gone, just like that.

I'm more inclined to think I would be exceedingly grateful for getting another crack at life.

This to me seems similar to what you're getting at: shit happens. To all of us.

My first-grade teacher used to say, "The world does not revolve around you."

I've never forgotten it. It's so apt.

flutter said...


I've been thinking of you a lot lately. Your grace in the face of adversity, when it struck me.

You don't see it as adversity, rather as an opporunity to grow. That is the definition of the wish you always bestow when you sign off....peace.

That a blessing you are.

Christine said...

I was just talking to my mom about how we have to "forgive happenstance" as Julie put it. For my mom and i it revolves around grief and and the acceptance of death. I have lost too many people (haven't we all I guess) and for so many of them i felt very responsible. I SHOULD have prevented it. I SHOULD have done more. But i couldn't have. It was life. It was their time (some of them). None of it was about or because of me. Seems obvious, but it took a lot of time to get there.

SM, is right. The world doesn't revolve around us. I cannot control so many of the things that happen. I know this, but am still working on feeling it. You know?

QT said...

This is one of my favorite posts, Chani. You have said so much here so well, I don't have anything to comment on except to give you two thumbs up.

KC said...

what a thoughtful, refreshing post.

crazymumma said...

Chop wood. Carry water.

I like that.

I must say, after your comment to me about my marriage, I have carried forward a more....well...its just life attitude in many things that I do.

and it feels quite...soothing.

thailandchani said...

Julie, thanks. :) Yes, those are the essential points. It's hard to remember these things sometimes when everything surrounding us is trying to influence us in the opposite way.


Hel, yeah.. have you ever noticed how people get so riled up about things that are perfectly natural? It strikes me as odd sometimes.

Not always.. because inconvenience is inconvenience and we all get miffed... but to really be angry about something being what it is seems a little off balance. :)


SM, absolutely! I think I'd want a briefing from someone, catching me up on what's been happening for the past twenty years. Then I'd want to know if there have been any good books published while I was sleeping.

Oh.. and has anyone been updating my blog. LOL


Flutter, thanks. I'm not always that placid. :) I I get there eventually but I cork off just as much as anyone else. The thing is that we have to get into perspective pretty quickly or we just end up being angry and pissed off all the time.


Christine, trying to second-guess the fates will make you want to scream. You could have done more. Maybe you couldn't have done more. At some point, when we realize how impermanent everything is, loss isn't quite so horrendous. We lose things, situations, jobs, people, health ~ all the time. It's part of the flow of life itself. Letting go is a good thing.

And yes, I do know. That would be a post in itself.. about trying to control things over which we have no reason or right to control.


QT, thanks. :)


KC, thank you, too.. :)


CM, unfortunately, this is a culture that is designed to keep all of us in constant conflict with ourselves. We're never good enough, smart enough, fat enough, skinny enough, tall enough, short enough. It goes on and on.

Once we let that go, geez, it's so much easier to live these lives on its own terms.

And in the end, we can achieve enlightenment.. and we'll still be chopping wood and carrying water.

Why fight the inevitable?


Peace all :)


jen said...

wow. what a good post, chani. and funny, because i was pondering this in a random way tonight and wrote about it (from the other end but rolling into your comments on fear a bit)

Pam said...

Very thoughtful post. And you are so right...everything that happens is not personal. Thinking that it is leans to a rather self centered point of view. Life is usually just life, good or bad, and we need to do the best we can.

As for a twenty year coma...I'd be 85 when I woke up, old and possibly cranky, and most likely wouldn't give a damn. LOL

thailandchani said...

Jen, yes.. that was an interesting post. Brings up plenty of issues for discussion.


Pam, thanks. :) I know for certain I'd be darned cranky! LOL




Gwen said...

You know, what happens to you isn't personal, but you have to deal with it personally. It's one of those things--not feeling any need to forgive fate--that is much easier to say than to do, I think. Or I think it's easier for me, anyway. I have a sense, too, that I know almost nothing about true suffering. When I imagine the other people I could have been born as--one of the two million Vietnamese killed in the war, a child in Darfur, a virgin in South Africa, an intellectual in Pol Pot's Cambodia and on and on and on--I feel foolish, childish, even, taking a view of my reaction to suffering. Like I have any clue at all. I don't. And so it's easy for me to say, well, what's the point in being angry with karma? But I don't feel right doing it. It feels false, and hollow, from my position of privilege, honestly.

kaliroz said...

you are my hero. i try to channel you when i'm having a rough time of it. doesn't always work well.

maybe i should let you write my hump day hmmms from now on? this is how i feel about it all.

Mary-LUE said...

Chani, I have a question. I think what is sometimes a struggle in understanding eastern philosophies and their emphasis on the acceptance of the natural cycle of things is that it sometimes appears as if the acceptance is so great that suffering (dukkha) isn't really felt or is in some way minimized. For example, using the idea of someone asking a woman how it feels to lose a child, how would someone approach a person in that situation? Can you explain more the concept of dukkha and how it is approached as part of the natural life cycle?