When I graduated college, and people asked me, “so what do you do?”, I never had a comfortable answer, as I mostly just sat in my childhood bedroom in front of a computer. Eventually I put all that computing practice to use at my father’s business, but only part-time and only for a couple of years. Later on when I became a professional software developer, I was comfortable with that answer — but the career only lasted a few years.
Why don’t I pursue a career in the traditional sense? Because I’m not compelled to do so. For instance, my mother works not for financial reasons, but to feel useful and to interact with people. I’m naturally very detached from the world, so I’m not motivated by much. Most of my life consists of my body sitting in a small room, while my mind explores anywhere and everywhere. So being outside of my room, engaged with the exterior world, takes me from my thoughts — confining me within a limited world I rarely appreciate.
In other words, I’m compelled to sit and think, and not much else. Everything about me has always imposed this outcome — my appearance, my personality, my preferences, my interests, my impulses. My mother would often worry about my solitude, referring to me as a hermit or monk, but she was projecting her own preferences onto me — she could not stand solitary sitting and assumed I must have been suffering — when it was actually my ventures into the external that led to much discomfort.
To be who I am seems to require my retreat from external interaction. Back when I was sitting in front of the computer everyday, I learned all I could about computing and networking and eventually programming, I had no external goal, just an urge to explore. But because of that, in my parents’ eyes at least, I turned from a pitiful hermit into a modern-day wizard, a priest at the temple of Dell-fi (Dell & wifi, ha!). Nowadays I explore the meaning of life and the path to happiness — I can only assume at some point I’ll exit my current cocoon, into a wizard of another sort.
Dissatisfaction exists throughout history. Even during times of relative prosperity, some will feel suffocated by conformity. Rules that comfort in chaos, oppress under order. Society is ever in flux, swaying from one end to the other.
Satisfaction in life, therefore, does not come from a particular state of society. And one’s position in society is merely a game of dress-up. Some will intimidate, imagining themselves king of the playground, some will be bullied, perhaps direly so, while others play house, some soldier, builder, or shopkeeper — acting out their own roles. But whichever your role, play it well, enjoying the performance. Even the villain has his part to play.
We are compelled to act, forced through urges — either we accept our role or suffer from a lack of fulfillment. Our conscious mind may misunderstand our role, yet impulses direct us from scene to scene. Attraction, repulsion, we’re pushed and pulled along, buffeted from without and within. But underlying this storm of tossing waves, lies the deep still waters below.
There is an unchanging foundation to this stage, something that keeps the lights on, manufactures the sets and scenery, and churns out the endless stream of actors night after night. The play never stops, the plots reoccurring, the roles all the same, simply recast. But when a scene’s intensity proves too much, recall this facet of life — know its play-like nature — realizing it’s only ever a game of pretend.
You’ve savored the flesh of animals, squashed or poisoned countless insects, cut and crushed a myriad of plant-life, chemically destroyed colonies of micro-organisms, bloodlusted for the defeat of adversaries in war-games, wanted at the expense of others, wished ill on those in your way, thought lesser of those unlike yourself, acted immaturely and carelessly — you are a microcosm of the world, representing all you claim to be wrong with it.
If the world is wrong, you are what’s wrong with it. A hypocrite. Do you attend a party, only to point out its flaws to the host? Or perhaps, simply express your appreciation for the invitation, and find some aspect to enjoy. There is nothingness, or there is existence, your presence indicates one is preferable to the other.
I say this not to offend, but to bring awareness to your confused state. Life is not as you think it is — you’re wrong, and can only ever be wrong. Your attempts to define life only take you further from its truth. How can the paint know why it’s painted? Up close, a painting becomes a mishmash of colored strokes — only from a distance can the final product be understood.
So relax, simply observe brush upon canvas, new covering old, portions repainted, without haste, one scene following the next. If your initial perspective of life brought suffering, take heart that it was corrupted by confusion — now perceive clearly. See life as it is, a lighthearted romp through the funhouse, filled with tricks of illusion and surprise, but overall a good-natured adventure.
In life’s process of creation and dissolution, some will add while others subtract. Some will damage while others mend — this is life. But know that life will always tend towards creation and order over destruction and chaos, lest nothing exist.
Imagine a beach so full of perfect and permanent sand castles, that there’s no room or reason to make your own sand castle, nor seating to watch the waves. But thankfully, that’s not how beaches work. Twice per day, the tide comes in, washing everything away. Life continues in a constant cycle of creation and dissolution. Perfection and permanence are never to be attained, lest there be nothing left to do — we’d be rocks in a rock garden.
The savagery attributed to life is merely a dour perspective. Anything can be described brutally. Look at eating: a life cut short, dismembered, life-juices dripping down the executioner’s hand, down the throat of its salivating consumer, a once supple form ripped by gnashing teeth, a former host for now homeless organisms, poor, poor grape.
In the scale of universal existence, a single life is but a blade of grass — cut and recut in a perpetual cycle of birth and decay. By such measure, even a lifetime of suffering is the quick rip of a bandage, soon forgotten. Do not lament for one, nor even one-million, lest you cry over your own confusion. All things born are by their nature temporary, appreciate their existence, but discard the rotting corpse.
Do you regurgitate a delicious grape in an attempt to savor it again? Or do you simply grab another? Life is exactly as it is portrayed: impermanent. That in your limited understanding you think it otherwise, is no fault of life, merely your misconception. Look around to witness the comings and goings of all things, allowing for creation of the new and decay of the old. Do not despise, but celebrate the fleeting nature of life, appreciate why it must be as it is, and be satisfied.
Social injustice appears so prevalently, so persistently, and so universally — that perhaps it must be a fundamental aspect of life’s narrative. Is it the fire that fuels society? Is it the lesson drilled in-perpetuity? If it’s not one struggle, it’s another.
Society’s attempts at resolution come in the form of temporary band-aids. And those witness to the suffering must carry on with their own lives, powerless against the depths of injustice. Frustrated, they must accept it, perhaps justify it, and ultimately ignore it.
If a society selects as its fundamental principle, the right of all to pursue happiness, and such a society recognizes education as a necessity in fulfilling this principle, what elements would comprise the curriculum?
Instead of sentence syntax analysis or trivial historical narratives or the application of esoteric formulae, society’s incoming members would concentrate on the pitfalls and dilemmas facing society and the ways in which these troubles are mitigated. And instead of decade-long sequestration from the very society they are to inherit, these incoming members would be exposed to the inner workings of their society throughout their entire education.
Each member must be instilled with an appreciation of the necessary struggles surmounted in shaping a just society. Without an appreciation and understanding of what happens when certain restrictions are not in place, some may feel overly constrained, perhaps seeking change to allow for more chaotic freedom, unwittingly reducing protections and introducing a daily struggle into the lives of all.
Every citizen would need be aware of potential problems, their likely manifestation, and their remedy. What happens when a society is overburdened by intense competition, selfishness, fearfulness, hatred, isolation, punishment, and confusion of purpose? Why must society strive towards cooperation, friendliness, generosity, inclusiveness, forgiveness, tranquility, and a solidarity of purpose? Only with this knowledge, can a people effectively participate within their society or even determine its well-being.
In order to ensure equal treatment and opportunity for all, individuals must understand the pain of injustice. Compassion must be a primary component of study. Consequences of actions must be drilled until concern for the suffering of others is paramount in the thoughts of all. This is the foundation atop which society honors its pact: the right of individuals to live a self-determined life, utilizing inborn talents and worldly resources in the pursuit of happiness.