Tag Archives: achievement

All Things Must Pass

A Facebook friend posted this article entitled 18 Spiritual Teachings That Will Alter Your Mind and Improve Your Life. The third item on the list reads:

All things must pass.

My first bout of depression in my early 20s was the worst, because I seriously believed it would never end. I thought, Okay, this terrible, listless, sad, anxious state is adulthood… Of course, I turned out to be wrong. The depression lifted (and came back and lifted again, over and over).

My dear friend Liz has a tattoo that reminds her, “This too shall pass.” Depression will pass, but so will joyous times. Our beloved pets and friends and family will pass, and so will we. Rather than hiding from this morbid truth, I now embrace it and live my life more fully because of it.

I am mortal and I will die someday but I still want to achieve things in this life. How do I square these two seemingly opposing notions? I don’t really. I recognize that they are in opposition but I don’t really take the next step (whatever that may be). I ask myself what meaning or value these achievements could possibly have if they are fleeting? The achievements will pass as surely as I will. I want to achieve and be successful partly out of the fear that if I fail to achieve or succeed I will have wasted my life or perhaps I will have lost this game called life. This outcome will be humiliating in a permanent sense and will not pass (that is the fear anyway).

Because there is the hope for things that do not pass such as God and the soul. The notions of a failed life and an un-passing humiliation seems like the concept of hell. The notions of a successful life and an un-passing triumph seems like the concept of heaven. There is something unsettling about looking at heaven and hell in this context however. It seems like the realm of heaven and hell (if they exist at all) are the more important sphere and should not be dependent on the less important earthly sphere.

So maybe it is better if all things truly do pass including myself, my achievements and my humiliations. Perhaps the concept of forgiveness exists in this space. Perhaps without the passing of things there can be no forgiveness.

And ultimately I cannot know if there are things which do not pass until I experience them first hand. In the same respect I cannot be certain that all things truly do pass because I have not experienced everything. All things appear to pass in this material world but do all things truly pass in an ultimate sense? Does it really matter? Is the problem not so much that all things must pass but rather that I cling to things that do pass? If I stand in opposition to the true nature of reality I will always be disappointed. But does it automatically follow that if I embrace reality’s true nature and accept that all things must pass that I will then live my life more fully? Perhaps. At this point I cannot be sure.

 

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The Myth of Achievement

In this life, can I really achieve anything?  I think of achievement as if it is something important with intrinsic and lasting meaning.  But someday I will die and whatever achievements I have made will be forgotten over time.  Not even the Earth will last forever.  Not even the universe will last forever.  And yet I feel the need to achieve something in this lifetime.  I want to leave my mark.  I wonder, however, how much of this desire to achieve is motivated by shame and ego.  In other words could my need to achieve actually be the need to avoid humiliation of not achieving brought on by comparing myself to others or some idealized version of myself?

If I remove the ego from the equation then I can see two legitimate reasons to achieve in life.  The first reason is the awareness of being in the moment and enjoying the act of achieving.  If I am enjoying what I am achieving while I am achieving then that has value regardless of whether it lasts in time.  The second legitimate reason to achieve is true compassion.  This can be compassion for others but also includes compassion for the self (which may be the same thing – see The Universe is Solipsistic).  For example I might choose to achieve to make a living to support my family (and myself).  This seems to have value as well.  I call this true compassion, as opposed to false compassion which is motivated by ego or shame.  For example I might choose to appear to be compassionate to make myself look good in the eyes of others.

So it seems that achievement for its own sake or out of compassion is good perhaps because it is truthful.  And achievement that serves the ego is bad perhaps because it is untruthful.  It is untruthful because there is an implicit assumption that life will go on forever (which it will not) and achievements are stored like wealth forever (which they cannot).  It is also deceptive about what its motive appears to be.

What about no achievement at all?  I suppose this could be either desirable or undesirable.  Obviously if I do nothing for too long I will starve to death.  That is not desirable.  I could also become a drug addict and loose all motivation to achieve.  That also seems undesirable.  I could simply “be” without achieving for a period of time not long enough to starve to death.  There is something desirable about that akin to meditation.  Although I would probably struggle with that because sometimes when I am not achieving I feel lazy (a shame based emotion) and it becomes difficult to enjoy the act of not achieving.  That is not a desirable situation either.  And even if I could not achieve without feeling shame then it becomes some kind of spiritual achievement.   That sounds desirable.   Spiritual growth comes from venturing out of my comfort zone.  But why do I need to grow?  Is this not also the need for achievement, only bumped up to the spiritual level?  I suppose there is the expectation that the spirit exists eternally, so maybe that is the difference and the motivation appears to be true.  I suppose when I boil it all down it’s about Truth.  If achievement is true then it is worth pursuing and if it is untrue it’s not but I still feel like I’m missing something here.

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Filed under Shame