Nov 5, 2004

all comparison leads to suffering

I was riding the bus this morning next an acquintance of mine whoo suddenly started making lots of comments about my being “lucky”.
At first I was flattered and agreed...but then I got to thinking.
Now, on one hand she is right: in a relative global kind of fashion I AM lucky…educated, comfortable and born white into a first world country I am fortunate. Even in a less comparatively extreme fashion I am lucky: I mean, I’ll be the first to admit that I am lucky to have the friends I do and have met who I’ve met and done what I’ve done. I am lucky to be reasonably intelligent, healthy and attractive enough to not be the victim of people’s visual discomfort. I am lucky to have a family who cares about me.
But my luck was pinpointed with a certain envy and annoyance, leading me to pursue her comments to greater clarity. This from a girl who was also smart and pretty and relatively rich and educated, whose parents were supporting her education and who seemed like she had a reasonably profitable trade. But she was stressed and struggling and lonely at the moment. So I could understand how she might express some frustration.
But as I sat and listened to her comments I began to realize that she meant my life was easy…or rather things came easy to me, that I have somehow came to some of my fortune without effort, or even despite a particular lack of effort.
This is an assertion I WOULD call into question.
Now, I don’t want to seem like I have a bad attitude. I know on most days that I truly am fortunate. I AM grateful for what I have. And I certainly would not assert that I have struggled in any significant or extreme way to come to my current way of life.
But on the other hand, I suspect my relative fortune has certainly been tied to an fairly relative level of effort.
So I wondered to what she was referring
She might have been talking about my intelligence or education or my job, which is a much better job then working in a McDonalds (in my eyes). For this I am grateful But, I mean, I’ve had atleast one job and/or been in school my entire life. More than once I have had several jobs while in school. I have supported myself pretty much since I left my parents home after high school. And I’ve had some very very unpleasant jobs on the way to having this one. I’ve telemarketed and cleaned out koi ponds and shelved books for 14 hours on end daily. Iahven't worked the salt mine, but I've done lots of jobs I really hated and lots of people work very hard to never do again.
She might have meant I was lucky on an interpersonal level, and I am. I repeat, I am very very lucky to have many close intelligent savvy friends and my current beau's pretty special. However, I put a great deal of effort into my relationships because they matter to me. I work on keeping people in my life. And while I am lucky that occasionally close friends cut me some slack or float me a free dinner, I certainly do the same.
She might have meant my academic prowess. To this I’ll give a little credence. I seem to be intelligent enough to handle my chosen area of study without it breaking my back or significantly stressing me out. However, it's fair to note that I paid for my education and certainly put time and effort into it. I changed everything in my life to pursue a degree and stuck with it. I went deeply into debt and had some real psychological distress during portions of my Masters study and continued on. And I studied, man. It wasn’t like I absorbed my lessons through osmosis or got by on my charms.
And she might have been referring to the divine fortune of my stunning beauty. Can't really argue with that... Thanks mom and dad. You produced a hottie. My splendor will be remembered by generations to come.
kidding, aside:
What is the point of all this? This post in which I protest perhaps too much that I am not “lucky”?
Well, the point is that I AM lucky and fortunate and all that. But that I also wish people would fucking chill the hell out and get some perspective and quit their whinging. If you don’t have the friends you want or the job you want or the education you want, maybe you consider whether you have made these things a priority in your life and pursued them. And while I feel sorry for people who always feel stressed about how hard they work, it's important to evaluate sometimes whether the work and stress you exert in your life is exerted towards what you really need or want.
But more importantly, my point is that it’s a deathtrap to assume it’s easy or a free ride for anyone else.
A wise friend of mine once reminded me of the addage: all comparison leads to suffering.
You don’t know how easy or hard someone else’s life is. You don’t know how much effort one might put into their own existence. And you don’t know who is handed what on a silver platter behind closed doors.
It's fair to say some people experience more unearned grace than others, that they are more fortunate, and more blessed. But it's probably best to concentrate on what you can have and want, and what you are willing to work for, and your own divine fortune when you find your work paying off.


Bjetsey said...

ohoh! was I the wise friend? I think the phrase "all comparison leads to suffering" is the absolute best (um, not that I'm comparing, of course). I can't remember if Shunryu Suzuki said it or if it is just a zen saying.

anyway, I hear you about the "you're lucky" or the "you're sooooo smart" or the "you're a great big happy phat pig," whatever one might be it's weird to be labeled by someone else.

Angry Hickeys said...

"All compassion leads to suffering" is a central tenant of Buddhism. I guess it would be attributed to siddartha - the "buddah".

OK - I admit that I too have also thought occassionally that you were one lucky lucky ducky. Mostly because your so darn intelligent and fortunate enough to live in a time and place in which you can benefit from your skills.

You do, of course, work hard for what you have achieved. Of course.

Then of course there are your...oh, nevermind.

Anonymous said...

"If you don’t have the friends you want or the job you want or the education you want, maybe you consider whether you have made these things a priority in your life and pursued them."

Sometimes the biggest problem is knowing what we want. It's something that anyone can pursue, but when it so consistently eludes, despite intense amounts of effort and varying perspectives, there's not much one can do.

As far as friends, I don't feel that it's a matter of just working hard. Maintaining friends might fall under that one, but making them in the first place is much more complex.

Bjetsey said...

ahem. I think that all compassion leading to suffering is a hilarious freudian slip. thank you Angry Hickeys.

daff0dil said...

hmm,I don't know that such was a slip on hickey's part

so on further exploration I can find no evidence of either sentimatent presented in religous/spiritual text

either of you care to share the source of compassion or comparison and it's relation to suffering

Angry Hickeys said...

Bjetsy Is right!
It was not a freudian slip...I swear! The suffering in my life is usually not due to compassion - rather the lack of it more often than not.

The correct saying is all DESIRE leads to suffering. Compassion leads to handouts for the homeless or something of that sort.

That was funny.