We live unhappy lives. People say that modern life drives us crazy. We believe that if we live a more natural life, use healthy products, and do enough exercise, we will organize our social relationships better.
If we can reconnect with ourselves and increase our awareness by endeavoring in a spiritual discipline, accumulate enough money, or illuminate the darkness, we believe we will be happy. So we try all these, and as our experiments and efforts gather pace, the darkness increases its power even faster than before. If we are happily indifferent, a kind of drowsiness, we may even believe we are happy for a short while, but the result does not change: The darkness remains there, just like our underlying unhappiness.
We seek those we consider more intelligent and wiser than ourselves. We think they may have a secret we do not know or have somehow forgotten, or that they have the secret to happiness, health, spiritual maturity, or enlightenment. Under the supervision of these people, we swim for a while in a sea of happiness. We believe we are finally getting close to the light we want to reach. We start looking at the world through the windows these people open for us. We organize our lives according to this new picture. We rearrange everything in our lives to fit this new picture: relationships, business and feelings. But, when we get close enough, if we are able to remove the veil from our eyes and closely study these people, we see they are as unhappy and as much in the darkness as we are.
There are times when we fall in love. As the new love stimulates our hormonal system to its highest capacity, we start seeing the world with more consistent, moderate, and radiant eyes. We think we have found what was missing in our lives: our soul mate. At last, we feel whole, full and complete. We counsel our friends and give them our opinion about how a relationship should be. We feel lucky and look to the future with a hope we haven’t had for a long time, and then we make long-term plans. Still, as time passes, we find ourselves again in the same vicious circle that we repeat constantly.
We find ourselves stifled by those for whom we made so many sacrifices to be with. Light gives its place over to dim discomfort. Most of the time, we adopt a new philosophy. We become two separate individuals sharing the same circumstances, whereas our perspectives should have combined and complemented each other. We talk about the importance of getting to know each other, but our pursuits turn into mine and yours. Eventually, we again wonder who the right person is and begin to look for a new light in the darkness.
Thanks to the developments of modern life, we live longer. In fact, during the present epoch, the average human lifespan has increased by 1.5 to 3 years every twenty years. Future developments in science will allow our organs to be replaced with new ones, so if we endure, we may easily reach one hundred years of age. Still, we forget that while everyone wants to live longer, nobody wants to grow old.
Now we have social security, which we lacked in earlier times. Thanks to this assurance, we know that with the support offered by the state, we can be treated in hospitals until the day we die and survive with our pensions deposited in our bank accounts every month. Although it may not be a luxurious life, we know we can fill our bellies and have a roof over our heads. So why on earth are we worried and unhappy? Why then, in spite of all this improvement, one in four people around the world struggle with serious mental illness? Why is it that today in the United States of America, considered to be the world’s most modern and most developed country, nearly one-third of the population lives on the verge of suicide? Why do we give antidepressants to children in primary school? Why are common mental illnesses one of the biggest dangers that could destroy the world, more so than nuclear weapons? How is it possible that our minds and physical bodies suffer when modern science has the capability to cure them both? How can it be called “healthy” to drag ourselves out of bed and spend a full day being stressed, just to return to homes where we cannot rest?
Nowadays, an unhappy person lacking energy is considered healthy, because the machinery of so-called modern society regards healthy as being socially functional. Happiness is nothing more than an enigma. Some of us, presuming that modern life is the source of our unhappiness, escape to the bosom of nature. Here we start a healthy diet and begin living in harmony with nature. Although most of the time, living in harmony with nature means living in poverty, we can still be happy for a while. When we need to go to the big city, we are amazed at how people can lead and tolerate such hectic lives. Still, after some time, the natural life begins to slow something down within us. We recognize that we cannot create change, have become distant, and cannot realize the purpose of our existence. Maybe we are in a tranquil state that we call happiness, but this is not true happiness, merely a state achieved by minimizing all the external factors preventing peace and tranquility. Of course, unexpected events occur from time to time in the course of life. These events cause us to question our situation, and if we are awake enough, we realize that nothing has changed for us. We are as unhappy and in the dark as we ever were.
Sometimes we pursue enlightenment with the belief of finding happiness, but we realize that even the efforts towards enlightenment take us through darkness. We think the wisdom of the past will make us happy. We believe people lived happier lives in the past, but when we read the life stories of the ancient sages, we realize that the underlying darkness was as intense then as it is now. Otherwise, Buddha, who led a comfortable and happy life, would not have left his beloved wife and child in search of light and enlightenment. We think that perhaps we are also meant to go on such a quest, and some of us throw ourselves into the unknown. Although scary, the unknown has a strange appeal. We find ourselves away from the darkness for some time, moving towards light and enlightenment. Then…
In the temple, it is announced that a student has been enlightened. The other students surround the illuminated student and begin asking questions.
“We heard that you have been enlightened,” says a student, “is that right?”
“Yes,” replies the enlightened student.
“So, how does it feel? How do you feel?” another student asks.
“Unhappy, as always,” he responds.
Some of us search for salvation in economic and political systems. We believe the world will become a better place and light will dominate darkness if we can only have a better political or economic system. A better system where the hungry are fed, everyone finds employment, and everyone works in humane conditions. We examine the political structures and begin to believe that salvation is in a particular political or economic structure, and we begin to support it. Of course, all those who do not think like us are on the dark side, while we stand on the side of light. Nevertheless, as we witnessed in the global economic crisis of 2008, we realize that no matter how powerful we may think the political or economical structures are, they may collapse and lead us into a political and economic unknown and then into the darkness. Do not think that opposing parties are not justified, because they, as much as we, are also looking for the light while swimming in a great darkness.
Solutions for flawed systems are obvious: Take lessons from today to make tomorrow better. However, all the efforts we make to achieve better solutions become tomorrow’s failures to learn from, leaving us alone with a new darkness.
Some of us believe that preserving nature is the key to escaping the darkness. We believe that everyone will be happier and all will be better in the world if we protect the species, consume less, do not destroy forests, and go to work on a bicycle.
Over time, while trying to prevent man-made harm, we realize that a single volcanic eruption, an asteroid, or an explosion from the sun can hurt the world more than all of humanity’s destruction over the centuries, so we understand there is no guarantee of salvation. What’s more, whatever we do, human consumption will continue. We feel like Don Quixote fighting against the windmills. Still, with great will and conviction, we continue purposefully to rescue nature, even if we are the last persons on Earth. Meanwhile, the darkness continues to increase.
We feel helpless against the reality where people who, while sitting in their comfortable offices and calculating the money they earn, cause many people to die in the grip of cancer. Then we begin to understand these people, who we think oppressed, voluntarily work for companies that poison them using the excuse that they “have no other choice.” When we investigate the truth behind this nonsense, we discover that underneath there is a whole network of causes from economic to human psychology, and we realize that the issue is not only a matter of protecting the environment. But we feel helpless, and if we have a sufficiently comprehensive and wide-angled view, we attempt to search for a new light to get us out of this darkness.
Among those of us who are blind are some who can see. Some of us know that color exists in a world that others think is dark. We try to teach them the colors and help them to see the light. Some of us are crucified, while others are laughed at, and some of us feel we are the ones trapped in a world of real darkness. It is not enough for us to see the light; we would like others to see it too. But all the efforts we undertake to teach them about the colors and light are at best in vain. More often than not, they do not go any further than a dangerous effort. Then we walk away and find ourselves in the darkness of loneliness. We become as blind as those to whom we were trying to explain the light, and we begin to search for the light again ourselves.
Some of us do the right things, or at least we believe so. We believe that if we keep on the right path, we will find true happiness and light. Still, we realize that life prepares surprises for us and has plans different from ours. When we look closely, we see that constantly trying to make things right does not make the world a brighter place. We stop trying to illuminate the world and instead concentrate on enlightening only the space around us. We realize we cannot even enlighten those closest to us, our children that we love dearly. While everybody is trying to find their own truth and living their own experiences, we witness our loved ones struggling in the dark.
So is this fate?
Will we end up in darkness whatever we try to do?
Whether or not we are aware of it, we forget or remember it, or we love or are loved, is there not a way for a flare of light to shine into the darkness?
Eventually, some of us who understand that the important thing is not the answer, start asking the right questions:
What is darkness?
What is light?
What helps me to understand them and achieve happiness?
A creative solution begins to appear in the darkness, the first light of creation.
The first light says to me, “You are ignorant!”
Dispelling the illusion of knowledge, I try to understand my ignorance first.
Then, in the darkness, a faint light begins to shine!
(To be continued)