With developments of events over the last week, it is becoming apparent that the world that we are in and the world that we face as individuals is very stressed, and very stretched. If I think of most of my immediate acquaintances what becomes apparent is that everybody is going through a very difficult time, a very challenging time. And the challenges are principally on the basis of expectations in relationships and also in terms of struggling with material things. Struggling with making things work, struggling with just day-to-day life.
Both of these elements – the struggle with relationships and the struggle with the difficulties of the mundane and the day-to-day – have the effect of keeping our attention and our energy quite low. It is like when you are trying to work out why your cheque bounced, it is very difficult to remember that actually life works and that our job is to see how magnificent it is and to see how wonderfully it works. When we are worrying about finances or politics it is very difficult to properly relish our experience. So it is very difficult for one to be in a state of awe and appreciation of life while you have these little issues. One could almost liken them to small dogs yapping at your ankles.
The effect that dealing with mundane trivia and dealing with ill-feeling in relationships have on us is that they make us feel – in a sense – tarnished. They make us feel demeaned. It is almost as if that fiddling with the bric-a-brac and the day-to-day and dealing with ill-feeling in relationships is the opposite of being noble. Contra this appearance however I would suggest that it is in these times where in fact the opportunities for nobility arise, that the opportunities for nobility do not arise by denying that you are struggling but rather embracing your struggles. It does not help when you are in the middle of a dispute where somebody is accusing you of being a rat and a charlatan, to act as if none of this was touching you and you are above all of this because insofar as there is a piece of you that registers injury, you are being dishonest.
Our nobility does not arise in acting as if we are above all of the trivia and above all the mediocrity that is implicit in ill-feeling in relationships. Our nobility arises by being patient in it. That you recognize the thing that is there and that you do not have an answer for it; all that you can do is take the next step forward. So what that means when you are dealing with difficult practical problems is that in whatever the situation you are in you ask – “What are the one or two things I can do now?” Then you just do those things, knowing that it might be futile, knowing that whatever you are going to do may still fail. But at least you have done what was within your power. Once you have done what was in your power, then be deliberate about trusting that it will work out.
The fatal thing to do when you are dealing with these little things is to say, “O I’m not feeling impinged, O I’m not feeling pressed upon by this thing, it’s beneath my dignity to feel pressed upon“. Recognize that you feel pressed upon. Recognize that you feel powerless in the situation. Then find the one or two things that you can do and do those.
So the issue is not to behave like you are above all of this stuff that is happening to you. The issue is to recognize that it has happened, that it has placed you at your limit, and that you do not know how to deal with this. This quality of recognizing that I am at my limit and that I do not know how to deal with it so I deliberately do what I can and trust, is that quality that makes you most useful both to yourself and to other people; The person who looks like they are completely composed and completely in charge of their life cannot be helpful to others. This is because that person is putting themselves up like some saintly paragon of virtue! These saintly paragons of virtue might have been useful and interesting in historical times but they are not useful in the world we are going into. The world that we are going into will be inherited by those who recognize, who realize they are beyond their depth in trouble and in challenge.
So we are at a time where the cracks are beginning to show in most of our lives and it is necessary for those cracks to show. It is inevitable that the cracks will show because people are in such challenging times at the moment. The world that we are in is going nuts. Things are collapsing. Every day one hears more predictions of doom and economic catastrophe. So this cannot but put pressure on every element of people’s lives. It is absolutely essential then that we cultivate the capacity to recognize struggle so that we can deal with it in a healthy and enlightening manner.