One of the main causes of our suffering is how we view ourselves, the people around us, and reality in general. We are deluded. We live as if we have forever. The next minute is not certain to ever arrive. We attach such meaning to the material things we accumulate, but in the end we can only own our actions and thoughts.
Reality is not the solid world we believe it is. Reality is a mirror that reflects deeper existence. For example, when we look at something we don’t actually see what it is. Our eyes only pick up light reflected off that object. That reflected light is interpreted and we perceive the object. Without perception, that table isn’t a table. It is just wood, sunshine, soil, and labor formed into a shape that is useful. The label our minds place upon the object defines how we perceive the object’s reality. I could just as well stand on the table; it becomes a stool. I could use the table to block an entrance; it becomes a door. However, it doesn’t change the basic reality that what I consider a table is just the sum of how sunshine, soil, atoms, and light all contribute to my label of “table.”
Likewise we label people. People are the sum of all the other people and events that shape them. They are the result of the concepts they carry around in their minds. We observe them and draw conclusions, labels, based on those observations and the state of our own mind. If we are having a bad day, we tend to notice people doing bad things and label them as “bad.” Labels do not determine reality. ‘Bad’ people are simply people doing people things from their collected experiences. If you lived life exactly as they did, you would act the same way.
Notice I use the word “sum.” Everything in life exists as a total of it’s components. Nothing exists by and of itself. Let’s revisit the table. A table consists comes from a tree. A tree lives and grows because of soil, water, air, and sunlight. The tree needs to be cut down, and the wood cutter uses a chainsaw to help. A chainsaw is made from metals and other components that need to be mined. Those miners also use machines made from yet more metal. Behind all those machines are engineers that designed them. They also used paper (from another tree) to draw up the designs. The carpenter shapes the wood using various tools, which have more people designing them and extracting the needed materials. Finally, behind all of them are the farmers that feed everyone, the teachers that taught the engineers and carpenters and miners, and their families.
Also, our background defines how we think of a table. Above is a typical Western design. Other cultures have different ideas of “table” design. Likewise the label varies based on the language you speak. The configuration of wood and labor that creates a table isn’t a “table” as we view it. It doesn’t exist inherently. Our ideas of reality are like an illusion.
Now this isn’t to say the table doesn’t exist. It does, but only as the total of all influences behind it. Our idea of “table” makes it seem like that particular configuration of wood exists of itself.
Finally, the harshest truth of reality: all things decay and die. This seems self evident, but as we live through each day we can lose touch with this fact. We live like we are immortal, and this prevents us from fully embracing life. In the end, the type of job we work and the amount of money we earn mean little. What matters is how well we lived. What matter is who we helped with our short existence.
All of this sounds trite and tired. Yeah, we know we have to die. Yet, we fail to live like this is a fact. Each moment is passing, never to return. How are you spending it?