Most everybody chooses to project a positive image of themselves. Who wants to walk into a business meeting and announce that they are scared to death of speaking in public, not really sure if they can do the job if they get it, or really upset because their dog just died? Not many. Yet all of these things are going on around us all the time, in people who come across as confident, competent people. We know that these and thousands of other feelings are going on in us constantly, yet we tend to take the “up beat” show must go on attitudes of those around us as fact.
We all have insecurities. There are frequent days that I feel so overwhelmed with my situation that it is tempting to just get numb and hope it all goes away. Some turn to drugs, alcohol, work, food, sex, exercise, or any of a thousand other vices to distract them from that feeling of impending doom. Admit it; it happens to all of us: the sleepless nights that we wake up to use the bathroom at 2:30 and stay up for two hours considering every possible permutation of world holocaust and financial ruin. Perhaps that is why most of the recent tornadoes in the south seem to happen at night. It seems that the morning news, for those of us masochistic enough to watch, is always recounting some horrible tragedy that happened “last night.” It is probably more an effect of the fact that nighttime is usually our longest period of down time, so it just seems like more happens overnight than at any other time.
Therein lays the beautiful argument for faith. For eons humans have felt this overwhelming sense of impending doom. In many cases and circumstances that sense is very real, immediate, and accurate. The flood victims in Mississippi, the earthquake tsunami victims in Japan, Tornado victims, Holocaust victims, all had very real and immediate motivation to want to believe in a better life somewhere else, bye and bye. The key to most of the world’s religions has been to give hope, hope of a better existence. This hope allows for a transcendence of the pitiful nature of human existence: the fact that we are not always kind to each other, we hurt each other, we rip the fins of sharks for their use in soup and throw them back into the ocean to die a slow and painful death, we seem to enjoy attempted genocide now and again. We kill and torture and commit acts of terrorism in the name of our “Loving God’s.” We do this all in the belief that somehow; when we die we are “going” to a better “place.”
What if we all had to come to grips with our realities? Our own internal realities, not our comparison to what we think is going on around us. What if, as one of my great teachers Wellington Boone suggested, when you die your relationship with “God” doesn’t change? What if you don’t “go” anywhere at all? What if Buddhist philosophy and Christian philosophy are actually the same and “God” was inside you all along? What if there is no heaven or hell, just cause and effect, or “karma?”
What would the world be like if we stopped comparing our insides to the facades that comprise our perception of our fellow man? Could we stop for a moment and consider that we all have far more in common than we have differences? Is it possible for us to admit our fears and have compassion on the fact that the brother who just cut you off on the freeway was also doing the best he can with his life?
There is no excuse for some of the actions of others, but we have no control over them. Probably everyone reading this is among those really fortunate of us who have roofs over our heads, full bellies, a reasonable education and “luxury issues.” By that I mean that a crisis for me is sometime a thing as critical as the fact that my daughter attending the University in Santa Barbara doesn’t call me as often as I think she should. Keeping that in perspective, when I feel these fears and insecurities I wake up in the morning and write about it. I make a list of all of the terrors of the wee morning hours, break them down into their more simple component parts, and write down a plan to attack the items on that list that I have control over. I make a second, mental list of all that I have to be thankful for and then a third list of all of the things that are out of my control. That last list is the one that requires prayer and meditation, acceptance, and compassion. It doesn’t seem to me that there is really anywhere to “go” to get away from these issues.
“Wherever you go – there you are.”