When I am faced with a new uncertain situation, and feel nervous or apprehensive, I comfort myself by imagining the very worst thing that can happen. I really let my imagination loose, toppling buildings, angry infernos, crashing tsunamis get considered. A few more normal worst case scenarios get defined and then I can tell myself that is the worst that can happen. Chances are something better will happen, specially if I help chance a bit with some honest hard work.
Needless to say, this is not something I share often with people around me. They don’t appreciate the know the baseline approach much. I get looks of horror, how could I SAY that?? And in vain I try to explain the concept of potential upside to them.
Because living in fear is debilitating. Living in suspicious mistrust of those around you is draining. I can’t imagine a worse time than the elaborate strategies of chess, planning and plotting, constantly wondering what the other is thinking, three five ten moves ahead, knowing there is someone watching you constantly, probing for weaknesses. My mind is unable to take that stress and takes refuge in completely inappropriate mindless junk, the greater this stress, the more wildly it swings. My body craves sinfully unhealthy foods that would never even show up at my house otherwise. I can’t carry on a conversation, the strain of pretending normality is just too much.
Instead I find myself finally really understanding the brilliance of Alice in Wonderland. Where things that appear normal, part of everyday life, actually behave in predictable surreality. Flowers gossip and boo, card soldiers march in formation, and from time to time you find yourself in what would be aggressively ordinary setups like a tea party or a croquet game, except that it is freakishly bizarre. And through it all, a capricious grinning God appears and disappears, as though to provide some help, except the advice is confusing and contradictory.
And so I find myself unable to define my baseline, because there is no predictability at all about circumstances and behavior. Each day brings new parameters, and on this shifting sandbar, every morning I build the framework of dogged determination and logic, knowing it will be washed away that night. And I know I will build again tomorrow because that is who I am, my role in this creation is to grit my teeth and ignore the plots and strategies, gather my materials and build to the best of my ability. There will be those who will consider me stupid to waste sincere efforts in this endeavor, and I understand that. There are others who will think it is weakness that compels me to stay on course, that somewhere deep in me is a need to be abused.
For me, peace of mind comes only from this unshakeable conviction. I don’t need great rewards or spoils of war. All I need is the ability to define my right, my wrong, my honor, my duty, my job. Simple concepts for a black and white world. And the opportunity to do whatever it is I can do to the best of my ability. That is my meditation, my tapasya, my prayaschit, my catechism, my penance. To do whatever it is I can do to the best of my ability.
Nov 18, 2015