I was reading a book the other day – nothing really memorable except the passage I am about to relate. It was a science fictionbook in which the hero finds the ‘ancient artifact’ that gives him a glimpse into his future. Hero is happy to discover he will live to a ripe old age, be admired and respected by others, and died surrounded by his many loved ones. What a great future! I thought to myself – one that I would like to have but doubt I will achieve.
Anyway, this belief in his future gives the hero courage and a sort of trust in life and in himself that he hadn’t had before and he plunges, with a careless grace, into all sorts of adventures. But further on in the story, when confronted by a dangerous adversary, he has to make the choice of two actions. In that crisis he suddenly thought that the future the ancient artifact has presented was not the future that ‘would be’ but the future that ‘could be.’
In an instant his understanding of the vision changed. There was no Guarantee. The future he had seen was not a certainty, only a probability, or perhaps at best, only a possibility. Since his rosy future was not guaranteed, the hero’s courage wavered; fear took up residence in his heart.
Before this revelation, the hero would plunge blithely forward – the Fool, the Innocent – but he now began to analyze situations, to weigh and balance options. Before he made no plans and set no goals because the future was assured; he now began to devise tactics and set strategies to manifest the future he desired. Instead of living in Faith, he began to live in Hope.
How much control do we have over our lives? How much power do we have to influence outcomes, achieve goals, to determine our futures? Is it better to live in Faith or in Hope?
I remember a few years ago when the book “The Secret” was such a sensation. As I understood it, if you just desired hard enough, if you just affirmed strongly enough, if you just believed deeply enough, if you prayed hard enough, you could have anything you wanted. And there was an implied lifestyle to accompany this.
If you set goals, met deadlines, uncovered subconscious assumptions; if you stop eating meat, did yoga and meditated, rode a bicycle and saved energy; if you recycled, championed peace and human rights, you would become spiritually worthy of all good things – and all good things would eventually come to you.
In other words, if you played the spiritual game according to the rules, you would be safe, happy, healthy, loved, etc. The vision of yourself you pictured in your personal ancient artifact would come true. Your ‘could be’ would become a ‘would be.’
But real life doesn’t exist in a world of Newtonian physics. Causality is not the ultimate arbiter of destiny. Goals, deadlines, affirmations, belief systems don’t work with that level of certainty. Just ask the vegetarians who developed cancer, the yoga experts who had a heart attack, the ‘good’ people who suffered economic or emotional devastation. Just ask the Jobs of this world.
This life is not a rose garden and it is naïve to believe playing by the ‘rules’ will get you what you want. Life is not an academic course that comes with a text book and mid term exams; nor does it come with a roadmap with carefully marked rest stops.
Maybe it would be more correct to say it is a Fun House at the carnival, filled with unexpected twists and turns, a bumpy ride with the occasional bogeyman jumping out, a hall of mirrors in which reality has many dimensions. Maybe life is just an adventure to be lived, rather than a lesson to be learned or a trophy to be won. Maybe life is an experience in which hope is not needed, and is, in fact, a place where hope keeps us from experience by placing the emphasis on the destination rather than the journey.
So I say give up hope and deadlines and goals and achievements. If you must have a vision, see yourself in total surrender to what life brings; that way all decisions and stresses and indeterminations are set aside, along with worry and suffering. All is meant to be exactly as it is; we are all doing the very best we can right now; and we are all part of the Great Game that does not keep score.