My friend sighed and rubbed her forehead with her hand, “Man, I just don’t get it. Yesterday was so awesome, and today sucked soooo much.”
I made a noncommittal noise and replied, “That’s the cycle of life. Nothing is ever permanent. Your life can’t be happy all the time.”
That’s when I realized that I have come to accept the concept of life cycles as truth.
It’s an idea that (from what I’ve read) is largely pagan and to a certain extent Buddhist. If you observe the natural world, everything goes through a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. This goes to show that the ultimate state of life is not some perfect stasis like heaven, but in fact is impermanence.
I find this whole idea incredibly comforting on two levels.
First, when life is sucking you know it’s not going to suck forever. Think of it as the inverse of the theory of gravity: what goes down has got to go back up at some point. Everybody has experienced happiness at some point in their life. It will come back around again.
Second, I have the tendency to want to clasp onto whatever I desire when I have finally acquired it so firmly that I manage to choke the life out of it and myself. For instance, when I’m in a relationship, I’m so panicked about keeping it that I miss enjoying it and wind up losing it. (For the record, I think I’m improving on this one). Similarly, when I’m living someplace I enjoy, I never want to move or for it to end. But everything must come to an end at some point. We just don’t know when that will happen. Even relationships that “last forever” end when one of the partners dies.
Accepting the impermanence of everything in life therefore brings about peace of mind. We aren’t blind-sided when things change. We were expecting it to happen since that is the true nature of life. What is really relevant in life is not maintaining some sort of stasis that we think will make us happy. Instead it is seeking in every situation to learn what the Universe is trying to teach us.
After all, in actuality, life is simply an ever-changing classroom.
Allow me to preface this post for those who don’t know me well by stating:
I believe that all religions should no longer exist and be replaced by spirituality and atheism.
Ok. Got it? Good.
Each of the main monotheistic religions has its own problems. You’ve got the misogyny in Judaism, homophobia and child abuse in Christianity……
honor killings, suicide bombings, medeival stonings, and general violent over-reaction in Islam.
Notice the incredibly violent difference there?
I know, I know, most people retort with, “but, but…..The Crusades!”
Yeah, well, The Crusades were hundreds of years ago. Basically the worst form of religious violence you see in Christianity today is the crazy protestors of the Westboro Baptist Church. They may spew hate, but they’re not out there blowing up buildings because someone cracked a joke about Jesus in a European magazine.
However, it is a valid point that both Judaism and Christianity had their violent, nonsensical phase, but this phase was followed by a time when a group of believers went “wait a minute,” and started rationalizing. They had their own thought revolution and intellectualism came to be more highly valued than random violence. This got me to thinking about teenagers.
Teenagers are not the most highly rational people on the planet. They are young, think they are infallible and invincible, and generally have some sort of “wait a minute” crisis at which point they mostly mature into adults.
Basically, Islam is the the teenager of the monotheistic religions.
It’s the youngest of the three. It has not had the thought based factionalization that led to the various sects of Judaism and Christianity. Yes, Judaism and Christianity still have their fundamentalists (Orthodox Jews, Born-Again Christians), but they also have their modern rationalists (Reform Jews, Liberal Christians). Islam has the Shia and the Sunni, but these two factions are based on the order of succession following the Prophet Muhammed. They are *not* based on a thought revolution within the religion.
So while the world is waiting for this to happen, Islam by and large is acting like the crazy teenager living in your household. They get pissed off, throw things, randomly burst into tears, and insist they are always right no matter how you try to rationalize with them.
It seems inevitable that Islam will have the thought revolution that every other monotheistic religion has gone through. But what should the world do in the meantime?
Of course I believe the world would be a better place without any of these religions, but I’m also a realist. I know they’re not going to disappear overnight, so in the meantime we have got to figure out how to deal with them.
Therefore, I suggest we stop treating Islam like our respectable, if a bit quirky, uncle and start treating it like the ridiculous teenager it is.
Maybe we could even get some advice from psychologists who specialize in adolescents.