Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Theory of Relativity

A child is born amidst war, learning that hunger, pain, isolation and suffering are part and parcel of a life inherited by circumstance of birth.

Another child is born amidst the splendor of wealth and luxury, lacking in no material comfort or opportunity for societal advancement.

Yet another child is sold into slavery at a young age, or perhaps forced to become a child soldier, learning to kill blindly and unthinkingly as a matter of course.

Other children are "born into brothels", their mothers trapped in lives of prostitution and inescapable debt.

Still others find themselves born among the middle class, the working poor, the mentally ill, the addicted, the dysfunctional, the successful, the chronically ill, the powerful.

Do we all have a relative chance at self-actualization? Don't some overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, managing to climb their way to positions of influence and prestige? Do others seem to never be able to rise above their circumstances and move beyond the realm of their parents and families, their squalid or fearful environments? What allows one individual to find his or her way through a maze of suffering into a realm of beauty and healing while another cannot? Rhetorical questions are so easy to ask and so very difficult to answer.

If life truly is suffering, then what is the path out of suffering? Is it the Four Noble Truths? Is it Jesus on the cross? Is it the majesty of Nature? Is it the power of the mind? Is it karma? Is it luck or chance? Is it personal power?

Yesterday, I discussed my own challenges, both physical and mental. Yes, the potential for joy is limitless, but don't I have a relatively easier opportunity to get there than the child born amidst war and famine beyond his or her control? Am I deluded to even bemoan my personal challenges when others across the globe suffer unspeakable horrors which might break me like a matchstick?

I can see that relativity is the central theme here. Writing this entry, I have no grandiose answers, no plan for the salvation of the world, no scheme for the attenuation of suffering. What I do have is clearly before me---a mind, a body, a home, a family, relative ease, and a world in which to make my mark. That world is a dizzying place, almost stifling in its complexity. My place in it---and what I do with that place---is really all I have. As Robert Fripp once said, "May my living repay the debt of my existence".
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