So, in our last episode, we were talking about “seeing things the way they really are.” We could also say, “Don’t see things in a deluded way.”
This is a fascinating topic, so let’s dig into it a little more.
Seeing things the way they really are includes dealing with some key existential problems, which I’ve written about before. You could call these problems the Problem of Cause and Effect, and the Problem of Impermanence. The Problem of Cause and Effect results from the fact that there are many forces in the world–other people, the weather, earthquakes, the sun, your spouse, that rocks are hard, and so on–that we have little or no control over. As a result, sometimes we don’t get what we want, or we get what we don’t want, both of which create frustration and suffering.
The Problem of Impermanence results from the fact that even if we do get what we want–either by accident or because we skillfully exercised what influence and control we do have–it eventually falls apart, is used up or, in some way, ends. And, of course, the most disturbing example of impermanence is that we eventually end, too. Everything in this world is impermanent–including us.
A thoughtful person, then, in addition to dealing with the problems of food, shelter, friends, and something meaningful and fulfilling to do, eventually asks certain questions: What’s going on here? Why is there so much suffering? Is there something I can do about it? What does all this mean? What should I do with my life? Can I do something about the fact that my body doesn’t always work right? Am I really going to die? Is there anything I can do about it? And, so on.