The irrefutable fact of your life is this:
You have, and always will have, problems.
I’m going to explore this, but first, let me tell you about my fridge. Today, the container of sauerkraut (a container I move every day) slipped from my hand. If you’ve made or consumed sauerkraut before, you’ll know it is a most pungent substance.
As the container fell, it caused an avalanche of destruction.
The container opened as it fell — pasting the fridge with the sticky, purple juices of the sauerkraut. A bomb of purple paint exploded right in front of me.
Due to the container’s weight, several of the shelves on the fridge door broke from their supports as the container rammed into them. The bottles that sat on these shelves were collateral damage. They were innocent residents of the shelves; now, they had no choice but to plummet alongside them.
Milk, juice, sauces, broken shelves. All on the floor.
Watching all this destruction take place — all so quickly — one cannot help but be impressed. When I look up, I see the purple liquid still guttering from the top shelf, continuing to paint the fridge. When I look straight on, I see the shrapnel that made the bomb — all the worm-shaped pieces of sauerkraut that have exploded across every crevice of the fridge. When I look down, I see an artist’s colour palette forming on the floor: The white milk, the green juice, and the purple paint are pooling together.
It’s a nightmarish mess. But, again, one can’t help but awe at how much destruction can take place, all so quickly.
In your life, things will happen.
People may not think kindly about you, or the way in which you hope for them to.
You may not get the job you want, and even if you do, it will likely disillusion you.
Your family may not treat you right, or perhaps it seems impossible for you to even have one.
If one assess their life objectively, they will find most things do not accord with their wishes.
What is the solution? Should we look to ‘manage or lower expectations?’
I will not tell you that such an approach is nonsense. If you have tried it, you will already know this. If you haven’t, then its allure will not vanish solely by my words.
Let experience, the ultimate teacher of life, teach you.
When things do not go according to plan, you are told to react. You are told to work on yourself, to rebuild, to come back stronger, or look for alternative ventures.
You are told to solve problems. This seems like sounds advice.
But it’s this advice that keeps you a slave to life.
Let’s go back to my fridge incident for a moment.
In the end, the clean-up to took two hours. Luck would have it that, as I began cleaning the shelves, some tucked-away bottles away rolled out onto the floor. They shattered, causing a greater spillage for me to now clean. In fact, despite my controlled movements around the kitchen, I kept dropping, spilling, and breaking other things.
The floor was a mess. The countertops were a mess. The fridge was a mess.
It was quite spectacular observing all this unfold. I would move or clean one thing, and an invisible line of dominoes would then fall to create another mess.
Is this not life?
Look, we’re not completely stupid. We don’t do things with the clear knowledge that clearing one mess will somehow domino to create another.
But if you examine your life with open eyes, you will see it as nothing more than the pursuit of solving one problem after another. Clearing one mess after another.
Solving and clearing, till the day you die.
The hard work in school that leads to a good university. The good degree that leads to a good job. The good job that pays for a comfortable life. The comfort that allows you to start a family.
All these respectable things lead to a good life.
Does life really then become ‘good?’ Do all your problems just fade away?
Anxiety. Frustration. Anger. Envy. Meaninglessness.
One achieves the so-called good life only to find things are not so good. That they are lost as they always have been.
One spends their existence thinking and solving problems. Indeed, if one has a problem, does it not make sense to solve it?
Witnessing the seemingly unending cascade of messes in my clean-up, I had a thought. I was sat on the floor, cloth in one hand, cleaning spray in the other. Sitting aside all this mess around me.
“This is insane. How many things will I clean? Haha, imagine this kitchen is cursed. Imagine the messes will never be fully clear. Imagine that, by some truly cruel spell, another mess will always spawn after one has been cleaned. Thus, even if I had just one mess, I would still be stuck with them forever.”
It dawned me that this is life. This is my life, and yours.
Life seems complicated because the dominoes that fall are invisible. It seems impossible to know how, once one problem is solved, another will take its place. It is a great mystery.
Would one gain anything from solving this mystery? No. Satellites may communicate to decipher tomorrow’s weather: They will not, however, influence it.
But, of course, there is undeniable value in knowing the weather.
If one knows it’s going to snow every day for the next thousand years, they won’t step outside in shorts and flip-flops, nor would they waste time investing in them.
If my kitchen and fridge were truly cursed, what could I do about it? Just leave the mess alone and live in it? Would I not be permanently disgusted by my surroundings?
What then? Is the only solution death? Can freedom from the mess only arrive once there’s no life in the body to perceive the mess?
There is another way.
There is a way that does not require death.
There is a away to remain alive, but disappear from the kitchen.
When one realises the kitchen for what it is — for what life is — they will start to let go. They will realise life just is, and they are just observing it.
Then the path out of the kitchen, the only life they had known, starts to reveal itself.