We are all caught in the web of life. It forms a labyrinth which we can neither escape nor comprehend. Our only choice, if we want contentment, is to accept “what is”. However, accepting “what is” means recognition of and being OK with all kinds of things that conflict with our most deeply held beliefs. Thus, to accept “what is” completely requires that we must first suspend all belief. For example try this out.
The reality appears to be that the fact of my existence creates suffering for others. It is unavoidable. How does this stack up with your beliefs? Can you accept this and actually decide that all of this suffering is actually OK with you? Walking to my office I probably stepped on several tiny ants or other creatures, consigning them to a very short and painful last day alive. In a more substantial arena, things I buy, clothes, food, etc. are often manufactured by someone being paid less than a living wage and lacking in basic creature comforts. Never mind that I may be unaware of the situation, my purchases, my existence affect others. In my career, I have known people to commit suicide because they cannot stand the idea of the amount of suffering in the world. How much more horrific to realize that I am the cause of some of that suffering. If we are not going to commit suicide and choose instead to live with this reality, in order to also have contentment, we have to be OK with the situation.
There is no contentment in constantly bemoaning the way things are. We cannot be truly content if we are dissatisfied with life or the conditions of life. To have true contentment we must be content with the way things are.
Last night Sandy stopped the car rather abruptly in our driveway to avoid squashing a mouse. I love her for it and I also wonder why? I wonder why she bothered with a somewhat risky maneuver in order to save a creature she is not particularly fond of (given her reaction when I produce one in a live trap). I also wonder why do I love her for the act? What difference would it make to me? Would I love her less if she had squashed the mouse? Of course not. I think I love the idea that, in spite of the fact that there is little any of us can do to substantially reduce the overall amount of suffering, she tries when the opportunity presents.
I think I have to admire anyone who comes to the realization that there is tremendous suffering in life, there is not much anyone can do about it, and it is OK that things are that way AND, when possible, they will do something to reduce the suffering of others. Accepting that the situation is OK provides a way to reduce our own suffering. I cannot be content if I am constantly bemoaning the way things are. Choosing to live on and do what I can in the moment to mitigate suffering is a compassionate and vulnerable decision, one which faces reality head on, without flinching. If I kill myself I do not reduce suffering, in fact I probably increase it for someone. To stay, and be OK and do what I can is the courageous decision which demands my admiration.
There are other “facts of life” which appear odious but which we must accept in order to accomplish contentment. This is a good starting point though. It is one most of us struggle with and must resolve on our path to contentment.