The sorrow of existence

Rarely are we faced with only sorrow. So much of our life is filled simply to escape this sorrow. The mother who lost her only son, stayed silent for days, and turned up to church one day, cried enormously, and finally believed in God. And in this religious business she went on, taking part in groups, preaching to others, trying to forgive her enemies. But has she dissolved her sorrow? Has she finally faced the fact that her son is really gone, finally gone, without any possibility of return, or has she put her hope in a heaven where her son lived on, or in a group where her loneliness can be subdued?

We are faced with this sorrow. Existence is ephemeral. It does not last. No matter it is our parents, our lovers, or our pets whom we meticulously take care of for years. In the very end, death is there, unwavering, immovable, and all we could do is to invent some fantasies to escape death. These fantasies are made by thought, and thought has made the most spectacular worlds of the afterlife, or reincarnation, but none of such things are really there. Thought knows this, yet unable to face its own mortality, it invents the eternal.

This sorrow, the mortality of existence, is what we all must confront, and the way we confront this sorrow, as it seems, is to create more sorrow. Our attachments to anything, either a person or an object or belief, are only testaments to our inability to let go. In life, there is only letting go. The letting go of yesterday, which might never return. The letting go of the ones who died, because they cannot live again. The letting go of a beautiful sunset, or a painful experience, because in their very movement they die. The letting go of tears and joy, of the million things we have invented and nature has created. Is our life, the very movement of life itself, essentially the movement of ending? Don't we all see that what has gone can never return? Yet wishing for its return, either a person or a precious memory, we write them down or put a picture up on a wall, or constantly and cruelly condition our mind to remember. But the memory of the thing is not the thing. The writing of the thing is not the thing. The picture is not the thing. Whatever our mind can conjure up of the thing is not the real thing. This very movement of remembrance implies sorrow, does it not? Why do we remember so much? Why do we hold on to what was gone? In this holding on, we are unable to see reality, and therefore sorrow is rooted, and its constant flowering is what drives us, isn't it?

Unable to face loneliness, we might purchase a cat, and raise it as a child, or a companion. We might talk to it, wishing it could understand our words. We might talk to the tree, or a piece of flower, wishing for some sort of communication. Unable to face the utter isolation of the world, we escape into the video games, the drugs or meditations, yoga and chants, the martial arts and some esoteric practices. We hope to find some solace, some peace or happiness, in somewhere other than what is. Yet, the what is is the only reality. There is only what is. There is only sorrow. And to escape sorrow is part of what is. This escape is unintelligent, because we cannot escape. What is is not up to our whims or desires. Our desires are only the part of what is. Our attachments, our cries and loneliness, are all part of what is. There is not the other place, the promised land, happiness beyond this sorrow. There is only this. That is this. Our imaginations, our longings and hopes are this. This moment is inescapable, and to escape it means that we do not understand reality, that we do not understand living, actual living. Living implies the constant ending of the past. It is right here for us to see, to feel in our hearts, yet we choose to escape.

Attachment is the movement of sorrow. This constant worry, anxiety, fear of losing, is sorrow. There is nothing wrong with sorrow. There is nothing wrong with crying and pain. Life is everything it offers, and all experiences of life are equally important to its understanding. If we only desire the happy moments, the pleasurable sex and food, the nice people and good feelings, then we can never understand life, because all of our actions then only divide life. Can life be divided? Can this extraordinary movement be put into different compartments? Mustn't we take life as a whole, to see it with all of being, to feel it and taste it and listen to it? When there is division in life, which is the like and dislike, the friend and enemy, the pleasure and pain, then our life becomes a repetitive movement of avoidance and pursuit. We avoid our fears, and embrace pleasure. This movement is sorrow, is what breeds sorrow, because in so moving we attach, we bind, we hold on to some belief or pattern, some hope for paradise, yet in life there is nothing that can hold, because if we take time to observe life, it is only change, perpetual flux. Without any remorse, life goes. Death, therefore, takes no effort. It is the ending of yesterday, of all the yesterdays. And without yesterday's burden, what happens now is life in its untethered beauty. When whatever we hold on to perishes at last, why hold on? No matter it be our belief, our values, our identities, our thoughts and ideals, our families and friends, our pets and plants and toys, nothing stays. Because nothing stays, everything flows. This flowing is the very energy of life, is the joy of life. To stay is only to deny this energy, this effortless movement, and in the end we can have nothing but images and words.

Therefore, the sorrow of existence is a tremendous thing. It is a testament to reality, to the essence and beauty of life. When there is the escape from this sorrow, we deny understanding and love. To understand does not mean to rationalize, to find explanations, because all explanations are escapes as well. Explanations cannot change what is. But to face what is, without explanations, without excuses, is this understanding. Therefore, this understanding is living, is flowing, is of the same substance as life itself. This understanding is, therefore, not separate from life. It is to taste life, to take whatever life offers, and this is truly a life without fear. The freedom from sorrow is not to kill sorrow, it is to understand its movement, its subtle intimations and memories, its images and words, its feelings in our blood and bone. This understanding is the only movement which is not conditioned by the past, therefore it is freedom and love. Will we live this way? Will we take life as a whole, to respect it, to love it and care for it, to regard it without any judgement? Shall we, as it were, welcome sorrow into our house, and treat it with the same respect that any guests shall have? Then life is not resistance, division, or war. It is open, unprotected, and free.


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Cover photo by Aman Upadhyay on Unsplash