Comedian, Bill Hicks used to close his sets with a monolog beginning with the claim that “The world is like a ride in an amusement park”. In a similar fashion, I conclude life is nothing more than a game. Many of us become super invested in the game and think it is all that matters; but more, that it is all that is. We experience pain and pleasure as a result of happenings within the game. Sometimes we draw the “Win the Lottery” card and think this will make us happy. More often, we draw the “Get Cancer” card and feel victimized by the world. But we must remember there is nothing to fear. We chose to play this game. Further, we choose how to receive and react to the happenings within the game. We can chose to treat these happenings with extreme seriousness, or we can have fun with and in spite of seemingly negative consequence. So laugh at yourself. Understand that you may not be winning now, but it’s not over. Know that the point in playing is to have fun.
If you saw a little girl fall off her bike and begin crying, would you tell her to stop feeling the pain?
No. But, if I saw a little girl continuously throwing herself to the ground and injuring herself, I would ask her why she continued to cause herself pain.
And there it is in simple terms, the difference in claiming responsibility for one’s emotional reaction and allowing the world to inflict emotion upon you. As a young adult, I felt severe pain over the state of our world. I felt the human race was selfish and was angry with them / us / myself for being so selfish. There were people in other countries literally starving to death and we with means were engorging ourselves. the phrase “All you can eat” wasn’t an invitation. It was a challenge. We had been given this planet and were destroying it. We were killing each other over philosophical differences. It was my opinion that there was little worth saving about humanity. This, of course, came largely from my own perspective of myself. I had behaved in selfish ways and I justified this continued selfishness with the perspective that all humans were selfish. It was painful to see the world this way. But I considered myself a realist.
One threat of death via a brain tumor later and I knew my perspective of the world was toxic. I realized that, if I wanted to be happy, I needed to change the way I saw the world. The “realist” in me would have called me a liar. The “realist” would have said the world is black and white and that any change in perspective was an effort to unjustifiably coddle myself. But the relativist growing inside me helped me to see the world in many shades of grey. This understanding that the world is largely what I make it required me to take responsibility for my emotional response to any given situation. I was no longer victimized by the world. I, instead, chose to own my perspective of the world and make a constant effort to see the world as I wanted to see it. What I once saw as burdens became challenges. The pain I found no escape from in my past life, I welcomed as a part of this life, a part of this second chance I was given.
Now, I see the pain people put themselves through over seemingly insignificant happenings and I ask why. I recognize the pain comes from within. This is not something a victim wants to hear. A victim wants to look outward for the source of his / her pain. But, what I understand to be the simple truth of emotion in our world is that we allow ourselves to feel pain and pleasure. Refusing to feel anger is not repressing it. If we find ourselves repressing it, we are already feeling it. Refusing to allow our default response to be anger is how we avoid anger. If we approach the world and all of its inhabitants, with love in our hearts, our default response to experiences that tend to cause anger with be question and empathy.
So no, little girl. I’m not going to tell you to not feel the pain. But I am going to ask you why you keep throwing yourself to the ground.
We injure the snake to prevent it from bleeding
Arise, my family, and fight
The war is not over. New limbs awaken
The source of the fire’s light
And we are not strangers. Well, stranger than most
And most of us left by mistake
The smell of smoke and the continents cheer
The same in the blood of the snake