Turning disappointment into eagerness

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen

Religions stress the impermanence and emptiness of desire in contrast to the abundance of love and joy that awaits us in the divine.

Echoing the Buddhist Four Noble Truths we are told that life is dissatisfying, and lasting satisfaction proves elusive.

But at the same time we still live in this world. And even enlightened or holy men and women do not rush to end their lives to be closer to God.

Life has a purpose. But how could any purpose be higher than the ultimate goal that awaits us after death?

What value does this dissatisfying life hold? How are we supposed to engage with something intrinsically dissatisfying?

In fact it’s not a flaw in existence that our desires are never lastingly satisfied in this lifetime, because if they were lastingly satisfied we would cease to grow, develop, and expand.

The whole of creation is unnecessary, strictly speaking, but we are told that God went ahead and created everything anyway, because He is not a God of necessities.

Like a writer can’t help but write, it tells us something of the nature of the divine that it outpoured itself into the manifold forms of existence.

An abundance of life and matter and elements and being and movement and energy, coalescing and evolving and coming apart and expanding and growing and changing.

Creation is alive, and the creator is alive too.

What feels to us like dissatisfaction in life is only so when we look for things that complete, finish, or conclude life, even though we ourselves and everything else continues to grow and change and expand.

Dissatisfaction is like getting upset when my smartphone can’t run the latest apps.

But would we be happier if people stopped making new apps instead? Would we be satisfied if we got to iPhone X and said “okay, that’s enough now”?

Why stop there? Weren’t the old Nokia 3310s good enough in their day?

If we want to start complaining about new technology we can go back at least as far as Socrates warning that reading and writing would lead to forgetfulness and false presumption of knowledge.

Satisfied and eager for more

A much better place to be is in a state of appreciation for the things we have, and eagerness for what is coming.

My current smartphone is amazing and I feel good just imagining all the future forms that this technology will take.

I know full well that this particular smartphone, or any piece of technology, will not bring lasting satisfaction.

There will always be more. And as more comes, it too will not be the end point.

Because satisfaction does not come from things it comes from us. And it is out of our excitement and passion and wonder and inspiration that new things are dreamt into being.

Life is dissatisfying when we keep looking for things to satisfy us. But life is satisfying when we embrace the excitement and eagerness of the growth and expansion and change that we are a part of merely by being alive.

It’s not just about new technology, it’s about everything. We are all continually evaluating and refining what we want out of life. No sooner do we arrive somewhere but we begin to work out where we would really like to be.

The idea of “satisfied with what is and eager for more” comes from the Abraham Hicks material. So does the observation that we can either work with this process of refining and embracing what we want, or we can fight it by fixating on what we don’t want.

The latter is precisely what keeps us stuck in feelings of dissatisfaction and worse.

Eagerness and enthusiasm are so much more enjoyable! There is so much to be gained in embracing the positive and turning towards the wanted aspects of life.

And most importantly, doing so makes sense of the otherwise confusing disparity between the love and joy of our creator and the apparent flaws and faults of the world.

There is a crack in everything

Years ago a friend gave me a ‘page-a-day’ calendar of quotations and sayings that were meant to evoke a kind of Zen-like wisdom.

At first I loved it. I trawled through and accumulated a set of my favourites.

Years later I hated it. I wondered who had picked the quotations, and what mercantile interest had crafted this bizarre interplay of culture and commercialism.

But the inspiration was genuine, and the care of my friend was sincere. So over time I’ve come back to appreciating the meaning behind it.

One of the quotations I remembered well was a verse from a song by Leonard Cohen.

I subsequently came to admire Cohen, and have been listening to his music in the wake of his death this year.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

That crack in everything – the gaps we feel in our own existence – our instinct is to fill the gap, to seek immersion in pleasure, power, or profit. We want to distract ourselves from the emptiness at the edges of our existence.

The heart of all vices, compulsions, and evil lies in our impulse – part fear and part desire – to consolidate our grip on life. We fear our limits, we fear the holes life punches through our veil of self-control.

If we could only become something better, achieve something more, cover over the gaps, then life would feel complete.

But completion lies in the opposite direction.

It’s not the holes that are the problem, it’s the rest of the veil. It’s the thin layer of pride that we try to stretch across the whole of our existence.

We fear losing control, but the control itself was always an illusion. Even our fear is an illusion within an illusion, because we can’t control that either.

So when the holes are getting bigger, as the veil begins to thin, our fear might even increase.

‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom.’

People interpret this to mean that we should fear God, as if that’s a smart choice. But wisdom in Christianity is not just a state of having knowledge, it is an aspect of God. Wisdom is divine. We could just as well say that fear accompanies God’s presence, because our pride cannot abide Him.

The holes in our pride, the gaps and limits of our self-control are reality shining through a delusion we keep alive only through our own mistaken efforts.

The delusion, the mistaken efforts, we don’t really know where they began or what drives them. It isn’t our self-control, since that does not exist.

It’s a terrifying thought, when all that is left is our desire to hang on to control against what looks like darkness, emptiness and death.

But at some point that veil will be torn in two, and we will realise that what seemed like darkness was a light too bright for us to see.