There is no future: the ironic peace of learned hopelessness (#zenofdoc)
We must be prepared to laugh with the universe at the banality of our own immolation.
Full moon. Snowfield, vast beneath the mountain: to understand the truth of people, study their contradictions.
This morning I posted this little koan (minus graphic) to Facebook:
I’m hardly the first to trot out a “there is no future” Zen meme. My grasp of Zen philosophy is minimal, at best, but it seems conceptions of the future are perhaps related to the ever-corrosive want, which is an impediment to the ability to live in the now – and the now is all that truly exists.
My friends took the observation in different ways, with roughly an equal distribution of Likes, HaHas and Sads. One friend clearly identified with the trap of indulging in helplessness while others I think invested wholly in a subtle gallows humor that these days accompanies more and more of everything I say.
Was I attempting profundity? Was I being ironic and hopefully funny? A bit of both, honestly.
Many of us are dealing with DTSD. Some cope with anger and resistance. Others are overwhelmed. And there are those for whom that gallows humor thing seems useful for safeguarding sanity.
In my case, the last few years of my life have seen things go every which way except the way I wanted, and I can’t really see an end to it. It’s tempting to give up. The worse things go the more energy is required to maintain hope.
But an odd thing has happened. If you have spent massive energy in keeping goal X alive, and if you have lived with massive stress over the possibility of failing at X, as it becomes clearer over time that X is less and less likely to happen … the stress relents.
The stress has resulted from obsession with the future and with want. If I accept there’s no future, I am liberated from want and stress.
It doesn’t mean the consequences of failing at goals go away, but perhaps letting all that pressure go affords me more emotional and spiritual energy to deal with the evolving now and to invest in the things that bring joy to the now.
As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” I won’t assert that my intelligence is especially first-rate, but I am at ease when my mind is filled with contradiction and ambivalence.
My koan was intended as dark humor, but it also springs from a place of self-searching and a belief that the truth can be conflicted and brutally ironic. We must be prepared to laugh with the universe at the banality of our own immolation.