OpEd, Politics

Thankfully, you have a problem to solve

Writing has helped me realize that a shrewder version of myself is accessible when I need that person the most. Problems too can reveal the real person in you if you need him or her the most.

You can best remember the time when you were told that mom was sick and worse, the hospital bills can open you a smooth business. What about a time when the school fees knock, and you have nothing at hand? This time, your conclusion would be that god is not good at all or if you are human enough, you will sell off your best clothing or shoes. Or you will switch off your phones and lock yourself up in the room. Suicidal thoughts can race through your mind.

The other day, you stepped on the coal of fire and all you will do is to blame whoever used the fire for not putting the fire out and not your recklessness, how crazy are you? The problem is that we blame others for our own problems.

The reality is every day presents you with a new set of problems and they heap up every single minute. If you are working on solving any of your problems, you are not making sense. We cannot solve problems because the solution of one will automatically be the birth of a new one. If there is anything we can do, it is to improve our problems. Let us say your problem is that you are underweight. The doctor tells you to eat foods rich in calories so that you gain weight.

This means that you have to work extra jobs to earn enough money to stock food in the house. Thankfully, in three months, your dream has been achieved but you now look overweight, worse like a hippopotamus and you are not comfortable with your new weight. Your friends jokingly say you are old. This time you need to lose weight and you have to embark on a restrictive diet or jogging or gym to lose some pounds. Your problem now is that you are overweight. What is wrong again when all that you wanted was to gain weight?

The truth is you will never arrive. Maybe your dream is to get a good paying job and after all, your money-related problems would be solved, then it turns out that the job is not what you wanted but because the job is paying you enough, you settled for being a mortuary attendant and whenever you see a dead body, it reminds of your own mortality.

You want to get a new job, even if it pays less and the struggle goes on. Whatever problem you have right now, keep in mind that it is not unique because some other people have got worse or similar stories.

In Mark Manson’s own view, a problem-free life is not a life worth living. Something must threaten your existence and means of survival. Something must give a young man or woman a headache, something must make you cry. Learn to raise something and watch them grow, chickens or goats and sell them off if you can’t settle your rent. And remember that the rental problem has not been solved, it has only been improved.

About twenty-five hundred years ago, as narrated by Mark Mason, in the Himalayan foothills of present-day Nepal, there lived in a great palace a king who was going to have a son. For this son the king had a particularly grand idea: he would make the child’s life perfect. The child would never know a moment of suffering—every need, every desire, would be accounted for at all times. The king built high walls around the palace that prevented the prince from knowing the outside world.

He spoiled the child, lavishing him with food and gifts, surrounding him with servants who catered to his every whim. And just as planned, the child grew up ignorant of the routine cruelties of human existence. All of the prince’s childhood went on like this. But despite the endless luxury and opulence, the prince became kind of a pissed-off young man.

Soon, every experience felt empty and valueless. The problem was that no matter what his father gave him, it never seemed enough, never meant anything. So late one night, the prince snuck out of the palace to see what was beyond its walls. He had a servant drive him through the local village, and what he saw horrified him. For the first time in his life, the prince saw human suffering.

He saw sick people, old people, homeless people, and people in pain, even people dying. The prince returned to the palace and found himself in a sort of existential crisis. Not knowing how to process what he had seen, he got all emotional about everything and complained a lot. And, as is so typical of young men, the prince ended up blaming his father for the very things his father had tried to do for him. It was the riches, the prince thought, that had made him so miserable, that had made life seem so meaningless.

He decided to run away. But the prince was more like his father than he knew. He had grand ideas too. He wouldn’t just run away; he would give up his royalty, his family, and all of his possessions and live in the streets, sleeping in the dirt like an animal. There he would starve himself, torture himself, and beg for scraps of food from strangers for the rest of his life.

The next night, the prince snuck out of the palace again, this time never to return. For years he lived as a beggar, a discarded and forgotten remnant of society, the dog shit caked to the bottom of the social totem pole. And as planned, the prince suffered greatly. He suffered through disease, hunger, pain, loneliness, and decay and for the first time experienced the worst poverty.

He confronted the brink of death itself, often limited to eating a single nut each day. A few years went by. Then a few more. And then nothing happened. The prince began to notice that this life of suffering wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. It wasn’t bringing him the insight he had desired. It wasn’t revealing any deeper mystery of the world or its ultimate purpose. In fact, the prince came to know what the rest of us have always kind of known: that suffering totally sucks.

And it’s not necessarily that meaningful either. As with being rich, there is no value in suffering when it’s done without purpose. Soon the prince came to the conclusion that his grand idea, like his father’s, was in fact a terrible idea and he should probably go do something else instead.

Totally confused, the prince cleaned himself up and went and found a big tree near a river. He decided that he would sit under that tree and not get up until he came up with another grand idea. As the legend goes, the confused prince sat under that tree for forty-nine days. We won’t delve into the biological viability of sitting in the same spot for forty-nine days, that is too spiritual for me to comment on but let’s just say that in that time the prince came to a number of profound realizations.

One of those realizations was this: that life itself is a form of suffering. The rich suffer because of their riches. The poor suffer because of their poverty. People without a family suffer because they have no family. People with a family suffer because of their family. People who pursue worldly pleasures suffer because of their worldly pleasures. People who are married suffer because they are married. People who are not married suffer because they are not married. People who abstain from worldly pleasures suffer because of their abstention. This isn’t to say that all suffering is equal. Some suffering is certainly more painful than other suffering. But we all must suffer nonetheless.

I am not telling you that suffering is good. I want to make a point that whatever that you want out of life, be it money, fame, happiness or a marital partner will bite a part of your body off. Everything is costly and it doesn’t matter what it is, all that you have to do is to learn to manage all that comes your way, problems, loss, disappointment or even heartbreak.

Comments are closed.