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December 31st, 2019
Change is the only constant. As much as this somewhat guarantees good times to come, it’s also reason to know how to remember the exact opposite of a situation.
Say it’s a nerve racking day. You get into your car to go to the doctor to talk about a biopsy, and lo and behold the “check engine” lights up the dashboard.
What else can go wrong? Right?
When it rains it pours and when things don’t feel as they are going well it’s almost as if we brace as we turn corners in life, expecting impact.
But then it turns out the biopsy was totally normal. What a relief. You start up your car and notice the check engine light isn’t lighting up anymore.
What good fortune. But how long does it last? It’s not just beneficial to remember how things will eventually turn good during bad times, but also the opposite.
This may at first seem like a negative thing to do. Why ruin the mood when things are going so well? We can explore the reason with a question:
Is the point of life simply to achieve as many peak positive experiences as possible?
If we remember the good during bad times and try to forget the bad times when things are good, then the answer to this question is yes.
But regard this question in isolation and perhaps yes isn’t the ideal answer. Answering yes makes a person a slave to desire, forever chasing what feels good.
What about a broader perspective? What about trying to experience life fully no matter what is happening?
What is better? To have our emotions jerked around by the whims of fortune? Or would it be better to achieve a kind of reliable equanimity no matter what is happening? Might we even be able to enjoy the negative experiences that befall us in some way?
Many aspects of art and culture certainly point at our ability to find sustenance in the negative and the positive. Movies, plays, songs, all of these deal with both the positive and the negative. Why go to a sad movie about a depressing topic? Why would such a thing exist if we weren’t capable of finding some kind of appreciation for the experience? With a movie, or a song, it’s very intuitive. It makes us feel alive in some way.
And yet when misfortune befalls our own person, do we have the same reaction? Do we mindfully zoom out from our own situation and marvel somewhat at the grist of life that we seem to be riding?
Or do we make the mistake of identifying too tightly with the situation pitying ourselves and looking for escape?
Fortune will always continue to turn. We often act as though the point of life is to chase the pirouette round and round for only the good. But we miss out with this strategy. A deeper appreciation for life is possible, if we can muster the skill to pause and marvel at our own experience, no matter how good or bad we might call it.
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