Life can be a beautiful thing, but if we don’t understand life, we might end up fighting it. More often than not, it’s you and I against the world. Making a living, holding on to our relationships, to our wealth, our political and spiritual beliefs, these can become monumental struggles. Worry and fear is the classic result, followed closely by anger. When someone cuts us off in traffic, it’s not that one incident that sets us off; it’s the accumulation of pressures that have been simmering in our minds for quite sometime.
Some of us are fortunate; things go well enough that we develop expectations that our good luck will continue indefinitely, and we are able to create buffer zones. Then disrespect from other angry people doesn’t cause severe reactions, and the cycle of anger, where each tries to regain respect by diminishing the other, is disrupted, and things don’t spiral out of control. If the cycle of anger isn’t cut by someone by backing down, violence results, maybe even war.
But if life creates a majority of people who are dissatisfied because of a disparity of wealth, or a lack of freedom, or many of the inequities we see around the world, then violence becomes a way of life, and suffering can become widespread. The trouble is; we never know exactly how life will play out for us. It’s a crapshoot.
If we are intelligent at all, we know that our good life is susceptible to erosion, so we attempt to shore it up and secure ourselves. The definition of secure is “firmly attached, " and being firmly attached to anything means that we cling to it desperately. In other words, we fear losing it; therefore, security cannot exist without its companion . . . fear.
If we don’t understand our thirst for security and the resulting fear, then, although we are extremely intelligent in other areas, we are ignorant of the basic mechanisms of our heart, and when we are ignorant of life at this basic level, we make bad decisions. One bad decision is becoming angry when that which we cling to is threatened. Clinging is the first bit of ignorance, and anger merely compounds it.
This plays out all the time. Look at anybody who becomes angry, and underneath the anger you will find what it is they depend upon, what is threatened. We must investigate in this manner if we are ever to become free and see the beauty of life. Only when we understand our underlying motives and urges can we unchain ourselves. If we don’t understand our motives, how can we not blindly continue down the same roads that have caused so much of our worry and fear in the past?
This lack of understanding, and especially the lack of interest in understanding, is ignorance, an insidious ignorance, because we don’t realize that we’re ignorant; we think that we are extremely intelligent. Our intelligence, unfortunately only goes as far as our brains, and not our hearts. We are blind to the workings of our hearts. The heart to us means emotion, but this is not the heart at all, the heart is intelligent beyond emotion, beyond animal instincts of survival, of greed, hatred, and illusions. When we are able to develop this kind of intelligence, not only will we end our anger, but we will end our fear and conflict as well.
Copyright © E. Raymond Rock 2007. All rights reserved
E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center (http://southwestfloridainsightcenter.com/ ). His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers (http://ayeartoenlightenment.com/ ).