Ignorant Destructions

I think it is quite clear that we are destroying everything we touch. The air polluted. The rivers and underground waters poisoned by pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The earth dug empty. The trees cut down in droves. Animals hunted for our taste. The mountains become bare, burned by wildfire or grazed by our own machines. The plastic particles entering the ocean, and into the beers we drink. And all this action, tremendous, large-scale, destructive action is for our material gain. There seems to be a common understanding, that somehow happiness can be gained in materials, in a plate of delicious salmon, or in a Christmas tree made out of plastics or real wood from a rainforest somewhere. We like gifts. We like money. We like food that tastes strange or exciting or exotic. So we burn large amounts of fuel and human energy to deliver these things all around the world. It could be a toy, a book, a piece of silverware, or a gigantic yacht. But, in the end, are we happy? Or is that happiness so ephemeral that we are left wanting ever more?

We have a very strong conviction that happiness lies outside, somewhere hidden, in the distance. But, is that so? Or have we been conditioned, educated to think that way, so we are always wanting to fulfill our sense of emptiness, without ever meeting that emptiness? Have we been educated to escape that emptiness? Have we been told to distract ourselves, to evade and to constantly fill ourselves with things and information, that we are unable to understand what that emptiness actually is?

There is obviously never enough. We might tell ourselves that, this is the final one. The last cigarette. One last time. One last book to satisfy me. One last gift. But, we are always left with wanting more. So, it is also obvious that satisfying our desire for more does not resolve that desire at all. It might numb that desire for a while, and sometimes a very short while, but it always comes back. And, we might say, that's how life works, so there is no point in changing anything. But, we are always in the business of changing everything. To want one last time is to change the current feeling of emptiness or lack. In other words, we are always trying to change things. Maybe the flowers are not placed in the right place. Or the car is not painted in the desired color. Or the bookshelves are not filled. Or the alcohol or drugs are not heavy enough. It seems that we have been through this a million times, and we are still falling for the same trap. There is the trap of desire. The trap is, we think we can ever fulfill it. So we go ahead, with our material pursuit, and in the wake of that, our ignorant destructions of everything. If we can see that nothing will ever satisfy us, then what is the point of satisfaction at all?

Then, no amount of material pleasure is important. However much or less money or possessions we have do not matter. But, do we believe they are important? Do we think they matter? Are we insistent on that Christmas tree, on that pack of cigarettes, on that bottle of beer, or are we able to let go of them any moment? When we are insistent on possession and material gains, we are essentially saying that their existence is paramount. But, their existence is ephemeral, like our desires also. Everything is ephemeral, ever changing. And, that means everything. There is no condition for this statement. We tend to listen to this statement, that everything changes, and we brush it off, or we think that yes, some things are transient, but there are other things. Yes, things do change, but I want to be successful, or have a big company, or have an ideal family, and so on. But all these things, and anything imaginable by ourselves, are impermanent. This is not something we can argue with. This is not something we can change. Whenever we pursue something insistently, we are blind to the fact that the thing is impermanent. When that thing is impermanent, why are we so insistent on getting it? Why are we so worried about losing it?

Impermanence is the very movement of life. There is no condition for this to be not true. This is unconditionally true. Our arguments, or our philosophical treatises, are also impermanent. So, even when we say that there is something permanent, that very statement is impermanent. This is why, everything is unconditionally impermanent. Nothing escapes this fact. Not our marriage. Not our cars or wealth. Not our names or recognitions. Not our trees or furnitures or bodies. And not our happiness either.

Happiness is only a state of mind. And any state is subject to coming and going. That which is permanent does not exist at all. Whatever attempt we make to stay being happy is fraught with errors and roots for further suffering. This is actually very simple. When we want to be happy, we subject ourselves to suffering. When we want to be happy, we divide the entire reality into happiness and suffering, so suffering is born and born again. And when we encounter suffering, we think that by getting happiness we can eliminate suffering. On the contrary, by getting happiness we give birth to suffering. This is the ignorance. The ignorance is to think that happiness can somehow counteract suffering. The ignorance is to think that happiness is the opposite of suffering. What is actual, factual, is that happiness, by being happy, already establishes itself based on suffering. Happiness can only be named in comparison to suffering. Without suffering, there is no happiness. Without happiness, there is no suffering. They are co-dependent. They originate from each other. When we pursue happiness, we give birth to suffering as well.

There is quite a different possibility of life, which isn't about any pursuit of happiness. That different possibility isn't caught in the opposite, in the two giving birth to each other, in the eternal return, the reincarnation of happiness and suffering. That possibility is to face life as is. This is tremendously simple. It requires no action, no motive, no calculation, no effort. When we face life actually, we might see that happiness comes and goes, and suffering comes and goes. Nothing is needed to make them come or go. They do so spontaneously. What is much more important, then, is not to pursue or evade anything. In the very facing of life, life changes. We are rather caught in the currents of the river, of whether they become a waterfall or a large lake. We do not realize that no matter a waterfall or a large lake, they come and go. The beauty isn't inside the lake or the waterfall. The beauty is the very observation of everything. Transience is therefore beauty. That very change of which we are so terribly frightened is what's really longed for. Nothing is changing anything. Change happens without anyone doing it.

And when we see the beauty of the bird, will we hunt for our taste?


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Cover photo by Aman Upadhyay on Unsplash