Plane Delays = Figuring the Meaning of Life
“From the beginning to the end, losers lose, winners win” — 50 Cent
I was reading Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen. First off, this book offers a tremendous harsh reality — you will die. We successfully occupy our minds with non-priority tasks. How many times have you commuted to work without realizing you were on auto-pilot? You probably don’t even remember the drive… ou was too busy “in” your thoughts. A lot of us live life on auto-pilot. We are either reliving great memories, forming an alternative solution to our what-ifs, or daydreaming on a better future.
Religion is controversial. Hence, I will remain as objective as I can be. I am millennial, so I am expected not to embrace religion. But I grew up in a Catholic household where my parents have reaped significant benefits from faith: a robust 30-year relationship, a strong understanding of morals and values, and raised three kids to do relatively well in life. While I know we cannot attribute all that towards religion, I have witnessed how dominant religion can be in moments of distress.
Don’t worry; this is not an article on religion. This article summarizes a unique take on life. There might be ideas that I could be missing or not fully developed, so feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below!
You are not as important as you think you are
After reading the Buddhism Plain and Simple, I learned that I am less critical than I am. No, I am not trying to be pessimistic. It’s probably better that you view yourself in those terms. Why? Well, if you think about it, we live life with our biased eyes. We see life with a full understanding of the internal (our lives) and a zero knowledge of the external (other people lives).
I find this analogy to bring the point home. We live life as if we are the main characters in a movie. When you watch movies, aren’t you ever in disagreement with the main character?
Throughout a movie, you are probably screaming at the main character for their decision-making. However, you can come with a better conclusion because you know the intentions and experiences of all the characters. The main character is living in a bubble.
We are the main character in our movie called Life. When someone accidentally pushes us in our commute, it’s somehow out of malice intention. Or if someone cuts us off in traffic, it’s their driving skills and not perhaps a legitimate reason to cut you in traffic. But maybe that person that bumped you had to pick up their child after being bullied unexpectedly. Or that person that cut you off in track has to make in his kid’s screenplay. If you knew the cause and not just the effect, we might not overreact.
Don’t take things personally. People are not trying to make your life difficult; they are trying to make the best decision given their circumstance.
Psychology 101: Self-Serving Bias
In psychology, there is a bias labeled “Self-Serving Bias” where we view our victories a result of our hard work but view losses a result of external factors.
After reading Buddhism Plain and Simple, even a young and naive 23-year-old can understand the following: life does not revolve around me.
When does life begin?
Is it when you were physically born? Or was it when your parents meet? Or was it when the sperm met the egg? But what about your parents? When were they born? Was it when their parent’s meet? The question is unsolvable.
That’s because your life does not begin with you.
When does your life end?
Is when your heart no longer beats? What about someone who suffers a tragic accident and is in a coma? But again, your life does not end with you. What if you have children? Don’t they reap from the lessons you teach them? What if your books/articles positively influence people.
The Ups and Downs of Life
People will die. People will be born. These are the ups and downs of life. Buddhism Plain and Simpl’s philosophy is not a cynical take on life. As I mentioned above, life does not start or end with you. Thus, your life is insignificant in the long-term. Again, it is not depressing because you now have the liberty to focus on things that matter.
The good and evil will come; you cannot control that. So stop focusing on avoiding the good and the bad. We have all already experienced the best ‘good’ life could bring: you were born. We will eventually experience the worst ‘bad’ life could bring: you will die. Don’t fight this.
Instead, use your energy to manifest your dreams into reality. Focus on the habits that will help you flourish. Remember, you’re not as important as you think you are. Thus, don’t feel constraint by what people might think. Whether they provide negative or positive feedback, their feedback will be biased. Therefore, you should hear their input but do not place too much value either.
If we connect the idea that we all suffer from the “Self-Serving Bias” and that our life does not start nor end with us, then we can better judge our wins and losses. We won’t have to be overly optimistic of our victories because we know losses will shortly come. Likewise, we won’t have to buried by our failures because we should surely expect some successes. The key is to focus on how to work on the loses and victories and not drown/praise our lives on the actual victory/loss since they should be expected in life.