Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Purposefully Difficult Life

“Abbot Pastor said:  There are two things which a monk ought to hate above all, for by hating them, he can become free in this world.  And a brother asked:  What are these things?  And the elder replied:  An easy life and vain glory.”

Thomas Merton – The Wisdom of the Desert

I don’t know why, but when I first read that quote, about two years ago, it made my day.  I was having a difficult week.  I was sick and I was discouraged.  I was having a pretty bad attitude as well, probably because I felt so bad.  In addition, I was away from home, so I wasn’t even able to enjoy my usual comforts.  Fortunately, I brought some books and this was one of them.  Reading that quote made my day and it also helped me to realize a few things. 
·      Life is hard.
·      Accepting that life can be hard can make it easier. 
·      We can make life harder for ourselves in a way that is productive and in ways that are not productive. 

The first two thoughts come from Buddhist philosophy, but you don’t have to be a Buddhist to accept those truths.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but fear not.   I have overcome the world.”
  The third thought is mine.  We can make life harder for ourselves in ways that are productive or not productive.
Having unproductive troubles is very easy.  Here are some ways you can do it:
·      Start gossiping.
·      Avoid work
·      Be negative.
·      Complain.
·      Act on your prejudices.
·      Speak before thinking.
·      Do anything that causes any kind of pain for others or for yourself.
·      Avoid your Purpose.
·      Take the easiest way possible every time.

There are also, however, productive troubles.  Here are some ways to have those:
·      Do the work you are called to do in this life.
·      Live out your Purpose.
·      Work hard.
·      Be positive.
·      Be kind.
·      Look to meet the needs of others before your own.
·      Don’t insist on your way.
·      Do something positive and constructive with your life.
·      Be more careful with your money.

The second list seems a lot nicer.  Why would anything on this list cause trouble?  Because when we live in our purpose, we invite the Enemy.  We invite the internal and external Enemies.  We fight ourselves, we fight the world and we fight spiritual forces.  If you don’t believe me, then try doing just one thing on the second list for six months.  At first it may seem fun, perhaps even easy.  Soon enough, though, you will see. 
You will try to change your life for the better.  As night follows day, things will start to go wrong.  Things will start to go crazy.  When I was younger, I was very bad with money and it was causing me huge problems.  So I decided to make some changes.  I stopped spending.  I started budgeting.  I got a second job.  My life and my financial life started improving.  Then within the month I lost both jobs and was asked to move out of my place. 
Now perhaps these things would have happened anyway.  All I know is that these changes felt like huge steps backward, undoing all my financial progress.  I believe I invited these problems by trying to change my life.  But I kept working at it.  Soon I was living in a better place (for free!) and I got a much better job.  Within months almost all my debts were paid.
What the Enemy wanted me to do was to give up.  This is what the Enemy always wants.  It knows if we give up on our Purpose, our light is dimmer.  It’s all but extinguished.  What is the purpose of life if we don’t live out our Purpose?
At this very moment, my life is more difficult.  Instead of writing, I could be watching a movie, reading comic books or sleeping.  I could be taking it easy.  But I hate the easy and purposeless life, because it really isn’t any easier than the difficult life of Purpose.   In fact, it’s a lot harder.  Yes, there’s less effort, but there’s more anxiety, depression and self-loathing.  That’s much harder than doing a little writing.  I’d rather die writing than die doing nothing…or being nothing.
I’d rather Get Started and Keep Going...because it’s a lot harder and therefore, a lot easier.