We tend to think of civilization and our own lives as progressive. We move forward from where we started, creating, developing, learning, growing, transforming. In our society, there is the continual reach for progress, through technology, through social action, through new and improved and better. In our own lives, we make goals: we progress through school, through careers based on promotions, through getting and buying the next new thing. There is this assumption that sooner or later everything will just come together. Things will continue to improve, until life simply works. Loneliness will be perennially assuaged. Life’s rhythm will be in balance and full of joy. We think it is the lack of this or that that leads to our feeling of dissatisfaction. We try and figure out what is missing. But we know if we work hard enough, life will eventually come to blossoming fruition.
But lately I’m realizing that is just not true. Or at least it is only half the story.
The other half of the story is dissolution: the way things fall apart. The things we strove for dissolve. The job, relationship, friendship ends. The new toy falls apart. And the biggest dissolution of all is our body dissolving at the end of our lives. Life doesn’t just flow in one direction towards bigger and better. Sometimes things just fall apart and there is nothing we can do to stop it.
There is no other reality in which things will continually get better if only we try hard enough, believe hard enough, struggle enough, cry, put in more effort, put in less effort, pray hard enough, think positive thoughts. As much as life is about building, it is also about collapsing. As much as it is about manifesting, it is also about dissolving. When we disown the part of life that is entropy, we panic when things fall apart.
But this strange dream that we call our lives is not meant to finally tidy up at some point—it is messy and boring and unpredictable. The more we grasp to our lives as supposed to be a certain way, the more painful is it when things don’t go our way, when things dissolve. Thinking positively won’t prevent bad things from happening. Happy endings aren’t guaranteed, and often once we get what we want we still find it dissatisfying.
But we can to stay in touch with the deep part of ourselves that is ok regardless of outer circumstances. This doesn’t mean that we don’t feel—sadness is as natural as happiness. Deep loss almost requires a monsoon of tears. But we don’t have to feel betrayed by the promise of life. We don’t have to feel as though things shouldn’t have happened in the particular way they did, or that it is somehow our fault. We don’t need to create more suffering for ourselves with a false idea of how life should be, the happy cheerful commercial version. Autumn is as beautiful as springtime.
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