"Life is suffering," said Buddha. His plan? Release your attachments to this world and end your suffering.
I'm not with Buddha on this one. Give me strife and suffering. And once I have grown stronger, tempered, hardened by the strife, give me MORE.
Life is strife, suffering, struggle. Your body and mind are kept alive by a series of violent chemical reactions, your heartbeat, the acid in your stomach, the cells constantly breaking apart and dying as new ones are created, the battle towards homeostatis with different bacteria and cells combating each other, all inside your body.
Your mind - your thoughts - may come into conflict, especially when you're trying to do meaningful things. It's easy to feel the pull of distraction and ease, and to choke up and pause in fear when you look at the mountain you're set to climb. The mind is not in harmony, especially at the beginning. Struggle, strife, conflict, suffering.
I say - give it to me! But not so fast that it will break me. I must be pragmatic. We must be pragmatic. We have our limits. We can expand them over time. It's not brave to go into the gym for the first time and try to lift 400 pounds. It's foolhardy, unrealistic, stupid. Being pragmatic, aware of our limits takes its own sort of courage.
But I want to suffer, I want to be bathed in strife, I want conflict, I want challenge, I want it to be hard - but just barely easy enough that I can make it through.
I set goals every week. I aim for a 70% success rate. That means I fall short on 30% of my goals every week. I figure, if I succeeded at 100% my goals weren't set high enough. If I succeed below 70%, this might be too much to stay on the path. If I succeeded above 70%, I add more for next week. If less, I pare down to the most essential things and try to get my success rate up.
Every week I want strife and struggle. I want challenge. I want to be always falling short of what I could be, and that is the way forwards.
I took an oath at one point, and I tell you, I do not recommend this to you. If you listen to me, listen carefully to all my words. I do not recommend this, it might even be reckless of me to share this. But it's true. I took an oath - I said, "I would rather die than be average." It almost killed me. When you close off all the normal paths in front of you, and burn your boats behind you, you are suddenly left in uncharted places. Striving is at first lonely. I don't know anyone who aspires as high as I do.
Not for myself. I wasn't able to commit to doing this for myself. I was shy when I was thinking of doing great things as me. No, I've given myself over to higher causes, to the things I believe in most, to building things that matter. Me? I'm nobody in particular. But I'm working on great things. This is no guarantee of success, but it's how I spend my days in strife and struggle.
It's lonely at times. Very few people understand. Even among people geared for achievement, how many wish to change the fundamental nature of things for the better? And mind you, I am not saying this the way the dreamer idealists say it. Many of my virtues are not morally fashionable in the mainstream. I believe in STRENGTH, and I might be one of the last people who is willing to say so. I believe in EXCELLENCE, and IMPROVING, and if you believe in excellence and improving, you're going to wind up better than people who do not. I don't believe in equality. What sort of cowardice would you need to feel to wish for everyone to be the same? Isn't it obvious that 4 out of 5 don't even bother trying to improve the world and themselves? If so, isn't it obvious that if you try you'll wind up better than 4 out of 5 people, almost automatically? No, the believers in equality don't want to pull those 4 out of 5 up, they don't say, "Embrace strife, and suffering, and challenge, and live on the edge of your capabilities. Suffer for your ethics, and enjoy suffering, and grow stronger and become excellent." No, they try to tear down the 1 man in 5 who tries to be better.
I believe in excellence.
I believe in strength.
Not for myself. For the world. The world needs strength and excellence.
But the way there is through suffering and strife. I do not recommend this course of thinking to anyone. I don't, really. It's hard. It's brutal at times. It almost broke me. But I think I've made it through to the other side. I wouldn't wish the path I'm on for anyone, not for a good friend, nor for a worst enemy.
Is it reckless of me to share this? My philosophy is dangerous. It's neurosis-inducing. I almost went crazy at times. Knowing that I was on a path I didn't want, and saying I'd rather have nothing than be mediocre. Maybe it will break me later. If it does, all the equality-loving people will laugh and use me as an example of how you shouldn't try to fly too close to the Sun. I know that. Just another challenge. Strife. Suffering. Give it to me, but in small enough doses. Let me conquer the challenge of this week, live and suffer through it, and come to enjoy the suffering.
Siddhartha said, all is suffering. I say - indeed it is, and I will have it all. I will have as much suffering as I can handle, because it is life. Life is suffering, and it is joyful when you look at it from the correct angle. Right now, there is violence and combat running through our veins, from cells and bacteria to our respiration and the chemical and electrical reactions that are our thoughts. Right now, you have in your mind images of what is possible, and a counteracting force that says take it easy and relax. This is strife. This is conflict. If you embrace the strife and conflict, it will be hard and terrible at first. I do not recommend it, for the cost is great. But on the other side, when you have joined with strife, when you have embraced it, when you have embraced life - excellence awaits. STRENGTH awaits. Not strength of muscles, nor controls. Strength of character, strength of purpose. STRENGTH, the virtue that makes all other virtues possible. But first, suffering is necessary. I don't recommend it. Not at all. But it's what I chose, and what I continue to choose. Give me suffering and strife, slowly enough to conquer each aspect of it, and I grow stronger. I grow excellent. Life is suffering. I embrace life. I embrace suffering.