I hope you are all doing very well. Since I have written about cutting through suffering, I think this time I will talk a little about happiness.
Let me start with these two quotes from the marvellous Karl Popper.
“The best thing that can happen to a human being is to find a problem, to fall in love with that problem, and to live trying to solve that problem, unless another problem even more lovable appears.”
“All life is problem-solving.”
In the same way a bird flies and a fish swims, it seems as if we love to solve problems.
Life is fun and games
There is an intuition many of us seem to have that disturbs me. It sounds something like this:
“Life is boring, painful and futile.”
Beliefs like this limit oneself and serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you are suffering in life and believe it is inevitable, you will not make any attempt to alleviate it, and therefore it becomes true.
Allow me to invoke the four noble truths of Buddhism.
- There is suffering
- Suffering has a cause
- Therefore suffering has an end
- Therefore there is a path to the end of suffering
The suffering in our lives have causes which can be removed. It is simply a matter of finding the underlying causes of it and removing them. That’s really it.
All that we dislike about life deeply we should view as problems that can be solved rather than sad truths that we must learn to live with until our final breath.
Or as Mason has put it:
“Life isn’t all fun and games? Not with that attitude, it’s not”
The pointlessness of doing what you hate
I used to work full-time as a very junior web developer. It was my first job out of university. It was an easy job, my hours were stable, and everyone was nice to me. I wasn’t paid very well, but the conditions were enviable to many I knew. I was not very stressed. I did not have to work many late nights. My boss and coworkers were very pleasant. I simply lacked what everyone else always complained about their jobs.
It was as if all the stars had aligned to provide me with the apparently rare jewel of acceptable working conditions - so why did I quit?
The answer is simple: It wasn’t what I wanted to do.
“It’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like, in order to go on spending time doing things you don’t like.”
The way many of us are living our lives simply makes no sense.
If you say something like “that’s just the way life is”, * aren’t you just telling yourself that?*
How terrible is it that many are under the impression that the best world we can have is one where many if not most of us spend most of their lives engaged in activity they do not enjoy?
Many are under the impression that in the best world we can have, most of us are spending most of our lives engaged in that which we do not enjoy - Isn’t this terrible?
This is not the existential condition, but rather a problem to be solved!
Why are we obsessed with earning a living any way?
Or as Sadhguru has lamented:
“Earning a living is not a big deal for a human being, every creature, every worm, insect, bird and animal is earning a living. With such a big brain, why are we only concerned about earning a living?”
The Puzzle of discipline
Discipline is lauded as a precious and valuable quality that we all should possess. I do not wholeheartedly agree.
Discipline seems to mean forcing yourself to do the things you don’t want.
How could this possibly be good in the ultimate sense?
Self-discipline is a patch. It is required when you are conflicted about what you want to do.
We have explicit and implicit ideas about what we need to do. We feel conflicted when these don’t match. Discipline is a patch (temporary fix) that we use to handle this, but the deeper solution is to resolve the conflict.
When we are doing what we know we want to do, it is effortless and enjoyable. It would be more effort to not do so.
I know I’m repeating her tweets by the way, but I feel like this is essential.
If you find that you have to continually force yourself, as if life were like pushing a boulder uphill, there is a problem.
This clip from Kino’s Journey describes one of the biggest problems with our culture.
(By the way, you should definitely watch this series. Also, it is much better in the original Japanese.)
The belief that life is and always will be suffering is false and limits us unnecessarily.
That we have to devote most of our lives to activities that do not bring us joy is an unacceptable conclusion.
Please do not view the sufferings in our circumstance as an inevitable part of life but rather as problems which can be solved.
All of my past emails to you are now on Reading Supply. If you would like an easier way to share these letters with others, or you would like to check out the emails I sent before you subscribed to the list click here.
Thank you for taking the time to read through another email and for being interested in my work.