On Exhaustion

“You must do (this, this, and that) first in order to be (loved, respected, happy).”

-What many an adult tells their children

Part one: Fascination

It’s just the way our minds work. Our attention tends to be absorbed by things that are awesome/much/polarizing/extreme, and because of that we put the things themselves on a pedestal. In that regard we always strive to live up to the values that these things embody, (be it chivalry, romanticism, hardwork, bravery) for we expect happiness/fulfillment when we do so. No matter how wack or dangerous the path may be, as long as we pour our efforts into the embodiment of these values, we will be rewarded in the end as long as we stick to our guns.

On second thought, why would we even want to do crazy things in the first place?

Is it because we want to impress a bunch of strangers? To gain the respect of our friends? For our family to finally accept us? To prove a point to the world? To show how awesome/knowledgeable we are? To show the world how loveable we are?

The point of the question in the first place is to make one aware of the reason why we do the things that we do. We do the things that we do because we believe that we need to acquire (insert object of desire here) in order to be happy. In the event that we do acquire said object of desire, we get positive feedback and are happy. Anybody who has ever been in this scenario will know that the happiness is always fleeting, and so we must keep doing these things in order to keep the cycle going. But what if something happens to us, a performance dip, an accident, aging, then what are we worth?

At what point can we ever say that we have “made it”?

More importantly, is there ever a point that we have “made it”?

Part two: Making it

The point of the second set of questions is to make aware of the fallacy that our pursuits embody. It is a tendency reinforced heavily (specially in Asian cultures), that a person has to “make it” in society, lest the individual become a failure or a reject. The continuous process of diving into these pursuits to “make it”, then be disappointed when one realizes that they never actually “made it”, only to repeat it again (because they believe that it might work this time) is what Einstein would call ‘insanity’.

The only reason that would compel any individual to commit themselves to such insanity is the belief that they were never worthy to begin with, in which they believe themselves separated from their happiness/fulfillment/peace/self-worth. That mankind has fallen out of grace with God and was expelled from the Garden of Eden means that man is inherently sinful and must work to prove themselves worthy of God’s grace is testament to that belief in separation. That humans have to strive infinitely to prove their own self-worth to a universe that appears to be indifferent to all effort in the span of a flicker that they call a ‘lifetime’ is what the belief in separation is tantamount to. That individuals must fight tooth can nail everyday to “make it” to prove themselves worthy because the alternative would make them ‘dull, uninteresting, boring, unworthy’ in the eyes of society.

That means individuals believe that they will never be worthy of happiness, fulfillment, love, and peace unless they strive to prove otherwise despite the reality that they can never truly “make it”.

The great tragedy is that it is so counterintuitive that children have to be subconsciously indoctrinated into believing it so they can ‘fit in’ with the rest of society.

Part three: Exhaustion

At this point I want to stress that the pursuit itself is not a bad thing, for many great things and fun adventures are born out of them. However, what makes the process insane is when the process itself is tainted with the belief in separation. For it is the expectation that one will gain happiness/fulfillment/peace out of all pursuits, thereby reducing them to nothing more than a means to an end. What happens is that the magic of life is drained out, and soon all pursuits become obstacles obstructing the path to the happiness that we seek, a drag that we must overcome to feel good.

Inevitably, there will come a point where life itself becomes exhausting. If we could pop happy pills and call it a day at that point we would gladly do it.

From my own experience, it’s exhausting because I have to prove myself worthy/smart/loveable/respectable/strong/capable/brave/cool/calm/spontaneous/spiritual/loving/caring/(insert any adjective here) constantly to everybody no matter where I go. I’m tired because I have tried so hard and have been disappointed time and time again in my search for lasting happiness that I beat myself up for not trying hard enough, for not being smart enough, for not being persistent enough. What could it mean? That my existence is a waste of space and I should just commit suicide, for I can never truly be a part of society no matter how hard I try, because all my efforts will never be enough.

Here I am as an adult engaging in these pursuits because I must for the alternative is far too painful. It’s tragic because I came into this world an innocent, wide eyed child brimming with joy and happiness, wanting to engage in these pursuits because they are fun. Who is to blame for all this?

Part four: Absolution

My parents? No, because they did so out of love and did not know a better way.

My friends? No, because just like me, they did not know any better.

My teachers? No, because they are a part of a system that does not know any better.

Society? No, because society itself does not know any better.

Am I to blame for allowing myself to fall for this tomfoolery? No, because I didn’t know any better.

Is forgiveness needed? Certainly, because incompetence does not equal to malice. It is the recognition that only through compassion and understanding that frees us. Effort is not the solution here, for it is what has caused the exhaustion in the first place. No amount of effort or punishment will change things, because it is through effort and ignorance that these things were born from in the first place. No better example stands out other than the Buddha himself, where Siddharta took seven years to attain enlightenment.

Exhaustion, depression and disappointment is the catalyst for one to walk the spiritual path.

To know/read/intellectualize the truth is the beginning.

To understand/see/experience the truth is the halfway point.

To live the truth is liberation.

“For happiness, how little suffices for happiness! . . . the least thing precisely, the gentlest thing, the lightest thing, a lizard’s rustling, a breath, a wisk, an eye glance — little maketh up the best happiness. Be still.”

-Fredrich Nieszche, from A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle

19 “Then Jesus said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well!”

20 “When asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God will not come with observable signs.”

21 “Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘There it is.’ For you see, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

-Luke 17:20

“Happiness is the path.”

-Gautama Buddha

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