It seems like we all carry burdens. I would say more so in the figurative sense.
We’re generally not literally carrying bundles of things around, or carrying the weight of the world as did Atlas, the mythical Titan.
But we have all of the problems, doubts, fears, imperfections, commitments, obligations, desires, and responsibilities that come with bodily existence. And these “bundles” can be just as weighty as the entire planet, or even more so.
These duties are, at times, self-imposed. Sure, we have a certain task or tasks to perform, but then we add our standards of performance and throw in a few arbitrary deadlines. We increase the weight of those burdens. The boulder on our shoulder gets larger than life. It can crush us under that eternal weight.
And sometimes our commitments set us up for failure. We, or perhaps someone else, set the bar way too high, or we add so many tasks they will never be completed. Or at least, not timely. Or not without sacrificing quality for quantity.
The to-do list grows. Desires grow. Expectations grow.
And this all leads to disappointment. Unhappiness.
What would happen if we unpack those figurative bundles and quit lugging all that stuff around with us? Why, we would feel light as a feather. Float on the wind. To new destinations, perhaps.
And can this even happen in our short lifetimes?
It’s not that simple in a society and culture that has evolved away from living a natural life and committed itself to a barter of goods and services. People sacrificed their independence and freedom for a utilitarian construct. Specialization and mass production. Monocropping. Mono-skill sets. Mon-production in return for mono-consumption.
And we add many unnecessary desires – the products of the exploitive commercialism that surrounds us constantly. Dictating what we should want. Telling us we’re inferior if we don’t have it.
Can we break free, and, if so, when?
Since I was forced to retire, a good thing I might add, I’ve been encountering more and more of my counterparts and they’re struggling with the transition. The transition from finding external worth to that of finding internal worth. In a word, I often hear them repeat – “relevance.”
Yes, how can I be relevant they ask – that quality of being directly connected with and/or important to something else. But the desire for being “relevant” begs further questions. Be connected to what? Important to what? And why?
There is also an implication that they felt relevant before they retired. And that may be a hard concept to actualize. In the grand scheme of things are any of us relevant? And in what way?
Grand scheme, in the material plain, perhaps not. In the infinite spiritual plain, perhaps so. We made a difference to some people in some manner while we held an occupation, or perhaps in a friendship or loving relationship. Was it an important difference? And what do we value as being important?
And does making a difference always have to be measured in terms of how we’ve impacted other people? What about the other lifeforms on the planet? Or the planet itself? Or the whole Universe?
Buddhist philosophy tells us that constant grasping (wanting and craving) and aversion, (fear and anger) are the very things that create all of human suffering. Yet we’ve constructed a society built on these very principles, and added a dose of judgment should you fail to desire the material world and all its trappings.
I also find it interesting that in Hindu philosophy they speak of four age-based life stages – where one is single, then a householder, then retired, and then Sannyasa. A literal translation of Sannyasa is “to put down everything, all of it.” A more complete explanation is a “renunciation of material desires and prejudices.” The purpose of this stage is to spend one’s life, what’s left of it, in peaceful, love-inspired, spiritual pursuit.
To put everything down is to become “unburdened.” And to gain spiritual enlightenment is “becoming.” Becoming, I would argue, what we were supposed to be all along. Some might call our enlightened selves “Light Beings.” Others might say we have become spiritually aware and have realized our connection with everything and everyone. Still others would claim that our internal vibration would finally be in tune with the rest of the Universe. All of us struggle with words to describe such a state.
I would choose the word Love.
So, I would say the question of relevance, in a material society, is irrelevant. For when we become whole, in a spiritual sense, that is when we can truly love unconditionally. Love everything. Love is the force that has true impact, even if it can’t be measured or quantified, or packaged and sold.
“It is love alone that leads to right action. What brings order in the world is to love and let love do what it will.”
Title: I was inspired to write this piece by a line in a song by Bon Iver called 8 (circle). While at times it is hard to recognize the positive with material or bodily loss, shedding earthly obligations and burdens frees us to become. Become what? Our spirit soul. Is there any better pursuit in life than that? Isn’t that why we’re here?
Struggle: And I must say, I am struggling right now. The disease I’m fighting is hard on the brain. Makes it hard to focus, hard to remember, hard to compose. So if all the words don’t flow, well, there are too many neurotransmitters firing in my brain right now – molecular hysteria 🙂 All the more reason to seek inner calm.
Photo: The sunset in the feature pic began as something completely different. A “roll cloud” came through – traveling East to West. It floated right over the house and then it spread out just in time for the sunset. Here’s what it looked like rolling in – then it was unburdened and it became – magnificent 🙂