Friday, November 13, 2015

Living With The Tension

The older I get, the less I seek resolution and the more I seek to live sustainably with the tension.

There are many examples of this in my life.  My neighbor, a wonderful man of 68 years, passed away suddenly earlier this week.  On the one hand, it is so unfair.  He was fit, energetic, kind, fun, and - having just retired - ready for more adventures with his friends and family.  But on the other hand, he lived life very fully and had a lot of great years and experiences.  On the one hand I am angry, feeling that he and his family were short-changed.  But on the other hand, his 68 years were wonderful.  My father passed away at a much younger age, when he was 55.  He didn’t get to meet his grandchildren.  That is unfair.  But others have passed away after only 30 years of life.  15 years of life.  A month of life.

As opposed to my younger thinking, I no longer think there is a clear resolution to be found here.  I can be angry and grateful at the same time.   That is OK.  Perhaps even good.

There are other questions in life that don’t have clear resolutions.  My Sunday morning discussion group has dealt with the question “How much is too much?” in regards to possessions and wealth.   (Ha, this makes us sound like we are all rich - a relative term, I suppose).   When do possessions and financial wealth work for owners and society?  When do they perpetuate injustice towards neighbors and isolate those who have them?  Is there a certain line, contextual to a culture, where this difference becomes apparent?   I don’t know for sure.

I can’t have resolution on this.  And perhaps this is good. Living with this tension may help me maintain awareness towards myself and others.  I can’t find a perfect solution, but I can be open to my role in injustice, while also living life.

 If I ignored the tension, then I would be living a fantasy, decreasing the depth of my life by isolating myself.  If I found some “solution”, then perhaps I would also stop thinking about economic injustice, thinking I had resolved the issue. Rather, I think this tension requires tending - frequent check-ins concerning balance and how we and our neighbors are doing.  

None of this is to suggest that we shouldn’t seek conflict resolution when possible.  Some conflicts may be resolved and moved firmly into the past.  But others are never going to be completely fixed and forgotten.  And again, perhaps that can be a good thing if our goal is to increase awareness. I suppose I see “resolution” more as creating a life where the conflict can fit into my days without dominating them.  Too much resolution seeking could lead me to distraction from life.

I have read that in Hindu thinking, the goal is not to overcome emotion.  Rather the goal is to nurture an underlying flow of serenity that acts as a baseline during our emotional experiences.  In other words, don’t look to rid yourself of anger or sadness. Experience them fully, but seek to live with them as partners - to walk the razor’s edge of salvation, where an underlying, even sneaky, serenity may help you navigate your experiences.  Tend the serenity. Relax the tightness in your chest.  Breathe.  Live with the tension through awareness, not through stress.

As the book title says - “Wherever you go, there you are.”  In this life, we’ll never be conflict free.   So live with the tension.