Friday, December 19, 2008

The Spoils Of Acceptance

I've been walking in a strange and unexpected state. Something happened in the last few days, and I've been trying to retrace my thoughts to see how I got here.

I've been feeling profoundly more peaceful for some reason, and all I can come up with is that I'm finally in a state of acceptance.

I do remember the other night feeling at the absolute limit of my endurance, and I said, "God, I'm just turning everything over to you. Everything. I surrender. I can't fight this anymore."

I'd like to say that some divine miracle happened at that moment, but what ensued was curiously un-spiritual, which ironically led to a soothing of the soul.

As I lied on the couch thinking these words, I suddenly realized that no miracle, no matter how wished for or prayed for, was going to happen, not because I wasn't deserving of one, but because if there really was a supreme loving being, it simply wouldn't be fair to bestow a miracle on me and not on any of the other six billion souls on this earth, many of whom are in dire circumstances themselves.

I suddenly realized that the clouds above me weren't going to part with angels playing trumpets, simply because there are physical laws governing our universe, and accepting them and the havoc they can create in the human condition is perhaps one of the bravest things any human being will ever do.

To admit that at the end of the day, we really have no control over anything that happens to us is terrifying, and to trick ourselves into thinking we do or that any great "creator" is looking out for our well-being is just, well, magical thinking--a way to feel safe in a dangerous world, and a serious set-up for disappointment should things go tragically awry.

There are the obvious things we can control, of course. We can look both ways when we cross a street, we can dress appropriately for the weather, we can wear our safety belts when we drive, but beyond that, life is a pull on a Vegas slot machine, and the sooner we can get with that, the better.

Unlike animals, humans have a curious habit of asking why horrible things can happen to them, whereas animals just experience the suffering itself, without all the baggage of consciousness. When we look at animals and their troubles, do we ever ask the why of anything? Do we think that deer wasn't "visualizing" a positive outcome hard enough when it crossed the road and got hit by a car?

I'm thinking along these lines because I was recently engaged in an online group debate about the validity of the Law of Attraction, which has been so cleverly packaged and marketed as the bestseller The Secret (even though the concept has been around for ages). It's the theory that everything that happens to us basically isn't an accident, and that all things, positive or negative, come to us because we attract them with our thoughts or "vibrations."

I used to be a huge fan of the Law of Attraction, and while I still think the concept has validity (I even still practice it), I was clearly mistaken in thinking it a law, because as much as we don't want to see it head-on, bad things happen to good people all the time, and they did absolutely nothing to deserve it. The truth is that life is profoundly random, which also makes it profoundly terrifying, and that's a tough thing to get with indeed.

But as in all cases where the truth is faced, there is freedom, and in my own, I'm somehow now freed from so many of the fears I've been attaching to this pain. But I didn't even see those fears until I made the decision to accept every single thing in my life exactly as it is and not as I want it to be. That's not to say I won't keep trying to seek out relief and a more joyful existence, but for today, whatever is going on with me is what I accept, fully. And with that, I'm in pain and at peace, right now anyway. Go figure.

As odd as it sounds, far from being scary, this new notion of randomness actually gives me comfort, because it means that no one deserves to suffer, and those who do simply drew the low card. There is no other meaning to it than that. Tomorrow, things could change.

As my friend Janet recently pointed out in an email, I'm not guilty of anything (a suspicion that has been brewing in my subconscious), just the brunt of a bad break. Ascribing any more meaning to it than that--that maybe God is punishing me for something--is, as she says, "a way of framing the world [that] makes our lives needlessly painful; or I should say, needlessly more painful, because there are no answers, and it’s a terrible, cruel ruse to try to get us to believe there are."

That said, we can create meaning out of our suffering. We can use it to deepen our compassion and to give voice to an experience (such as my own here in this blog) that hopefully others will connect with, so that they don't feel so alone in their own harrowing journey, be they so unfortunate as to have one as grueling as mine.

If we can accept that life is random, we hold onto each other tighter, we laugh and cry harder, we are more grateful for what we do have, and we are more appreciative of the good times, because we know the bad can be just a car accident away. While no one would ever argue with the power of positive thinking, if you don't also accept life's randomness, you rob yourself of the experience of how fleeting, how beautiful and how poignant life actually is.

In closing, Janet said, "There is no god to condemn you to suffering or to save you from suffering. Once we can let go of that dream, that fantasy, things are easier to accept. God is IN YOU, god IS YOU. All the answers lie within yourself."

Amen, sister. Amen.

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