The world is incomprehensibly vast and dynamic.
It would be too easy to throw in the nihilistic towel and say, ‘The world is too messed up. My life has no meaning. What’s the point of it all?’
Because, yes, the amount of pain and suffering in the world is truly unfathomable.
Every day, loved ones die. People are sexually abused. Parents are shamed and belittled in front of their children. Men and women bleed out in the streets as a result of physical violence. Children are thrown against walls in fits of rage. A stray bullet fired from the gun of a gang member takes an innocent life.
In Buddhist teachings, the first noble truth is that life is suffering. Birth is suffering, striving is suffering, aging is suffering, longing is suffering, death is suffering.
Once we fully accept this reality, we are no longer owned by it.
Because while there is an unfathomable depth and breadth of pain in the world, the exact same can be said for it’s counterpoint, beauty.
There is an unknowable depth of beauty in the world.
Holding your child in your arms for the first time. Sunsets that take your breath away. The depth of gratitude you have for your partner of twenty years as they snuggle up to your body while they sleep. The protective parent who strikes down impending social conditioning from the ears of their impressionable child.
The further you ponder each side of the spectrum, the harder it is to decipher whether or not any given moment actually is one of pain or of beauty.
The man who is held in a container of love by his best friend as he mourns his recent divorce. The pain is devastating, and yet deep love still remains.
The adult siblings who surround their parent during their last breath. A sorrowful recognition of their passing, with a deep well of gratitude for how the love of their parent shaped them all as individuals.
Two parents beam smiles over their child’s birthday cake with a simultaneous sense of their appreciation for the moment, whilst silently acknowledging the three miscarriages it took to get to this point.
If there is both unfathomable pain and unfathomable beauty in the world, what are we to do with this fact?
1. Recognize that pain shapes you
Just because something is horrendous as it is happening to you, doesn’t mean that there won’t be a deep sense of meaning that you can forge from it in the future. We grow through our greatest pain. The suffering you experience is a gift.
2. Be a force for good
Nobody is perfect. We all unintentionally hurt others with our actions. But in all ways possible, remain conscious of aiming to be someone who had a net positive effect on the world. Be kind to others. Be thoughtful. Love others with all of your might. Do your individual work and fight to get to a place of forgiveness for those that you believe have wronged you.
Love the world hard, and your life will have a deep sense of meaning.
Even if it seems like an empty distraction, fine. We all get to choose our distractions.
I choose love. I choose beauty. I choose caring for people. I choose to be awake. I choose to trust.
What do you choose? What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?
The choice, as always, is yours.
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