We have reached the contemplative part of the year. As many embark on a well-deserved break from the never-ending everyday toil that is work, school and subsistence, many find some time to reflect on the year that was. We should be doing this on a regular basis, but hell, we are simply to busy.
Every year is different, yet every year is the same. There is the good, and there is the bad. Crying with the laughter. Pain with the joy. And although, this year, the blend of ingredients might have been different from last year, or the year before, or the year before that, the core ingredients remain the same. Always. That is the human condition.
Inevitably, as we reflect, we develop expectations for the future. These forecasts are always optimistic. No one wants a second dose of the same hardship, a repeat of the same pain. We all feel we had enough and deserve a break from the stress and discomfort. If you had a good year, you’ll be thankful and wish for things to remain at least the same. We only want the good and the positive, and none of the hardship and pain. That is human nature.
The space between the human condition and human nature is filled by the Ego. That void that knows no limits, and, if allowed to go unchecked, will do nothing but harm and cause nothing but pain.
It is the Ego that causes us to hope that we’d be spared the human condition, and, perhaps even, convinces us that we are better than that. When we ponder the reasons for the pain and hardship, we feed the Ego. When we seek justification for our actions and reactions, we soothe the Ego. Is it not fascinating how we never ponder the positive? Because the Ego is appeased, we seek no justification; no understanding; no reason why. It’s just the way it is supposed to be. But when the Ego is not appeased, that is when we experience pain, disappointment, stress and anxiety. That is when the unhappy pondering starts.
Naturally, it is difficult to see the value of the hardship and the pain, and hence, we let it affect our sense of self-worth.
Just recently, a friend shared this story, which I hope brings you insight during this time of reflection. I know not the author, nor the original source. All I know is that is a great story, one that helps us to understand the human condition.
“There once was a water bearer who every day to earn a living carried water from the distant river into the town where he lived. To do so, he owned two ceramic pots, which he hung at both ends of a pole he balanced over his shoulders.
While one of the pots was bright red, smooth and perfectly waterproof, the other was old, discolored and a bit cracked, in fact it dripped water on the way. Each day the pot became a little more porous, and dripped a little more, till came a time it was only able to retain half of its content by the time they’d reach the town. This caused the pot great shame, and so finally, unable to contain its embarrassment, the pot addressed the water bearer: “Master, please break me! Throw me! Dispose of me! I can’t stand this misery any longer, I’m unable to hold water, and every day my imperfections cause you to work twice as hard, you can replace me and get a more efficient pot, this way you’ll earn more working less…please put me out of this misery”.
“Oh”, replied the water bearer, “Is that what you think of yourself? Then please, let me show you something on the way back from the river tomorrow.”
And the next day, after filling both pots, and hanging one on the right and the cracked one on the left side of his pole as he always did, the water bearer pointed to the right side of the path and asked: “Tell me, what you see?”
The pot replied: “I see dirt, I see stones, and dust”.
Upon hearing this the water bearer pointed to the left side of the road and asked: “what do you see on that side?”
“Oh there I see grass, weeds and wild flowers”, answered the pot.
“Yes”, replied the water bearer. “This is the beauty you have created by dripping a bit of your water by the side of the path everyday. You quenched the thirst of the soil; you gave birth to the sleeping seeds, and nourished the blooms. Every week, from this side of the path, I pick a few flowers, bring them to my wife to let her know this beauty reminds me of the beauty she brings to my life […] and that’s why there is so much laughter in my house. Yes, cracked pot, you may not be efficient, but by randomly sharing your water with the soil you feed this land we all live on”.
I wish everyone a very happy festive season. May you all embrace the human condition in the year to come.