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The Uncertainty Problem

How to Maintain Perspective and Stave Off Depression

At the bottom of this short post I'm going to paste a parable for you, one that will be included in my upcoming The Essence of Lightness, one that I use as a discussion topic in my programs, and one that I've been ruminating on for almost twenty years. It's been a useful tool when things get heavy and I start to mistaking bullshit for things that matter.

It addresses the perspective problem. We might also call it the uncertainty problem. We're all window shopping in life - for the right career, car, house, partner, dog, drinking buddy, whatevs. But until we open the package and live with it a while we know very little about where each road goes. We chase the rainbow and the pot of gold keeps moving.

And with each effort we either feel reassured that life is good, or depressed at how hard life is. But we have no fucking clue. The hardest year of your life can lay the foundation for the best. The best act of fortune can bring with it comparison-based depression, cause everything that follows pales in comparison - the football quarterback who can't forget the glory days, the guy who can't move on from the perfect girl.

And so we get stuck. We get stuck thinking that all we see is all there. We believe the emotions we feel are meaningful, rather than fleeting reactions to a small subset of information that we choose to focus on, information that we value more than anything else. But what if...

What if just one more piece of information could change the meaning (our interpretation) of every experience? What if we could remain ever aware that all we see is not all there is? Would it change the way we view pain and suffering? Success and failure? Good fortune and bad? Would we be more weightless?

The Parable of the Farmer's Son
One day in late summer, an old farmer was working in his field with his old sick horse. The farmer felt compassion for the horse and desired to lift its burden. So he left his horse loose to go the mountains and live out the rest of its life.Soon after, neighbors from the nearby village visited, offering their condolences and said, "What a shame. Now your only horse is gone. How unfortunate you are!. You must be very sad. How will you live, work the land, and prosper?" The farmer replied: "Who knows? We shall see".
 
Two days later the old horse came back now rejuvenated after meandering in the mountainsides while eating the wild grasses. He came back with twelve new younger and healthy horses which followed the old horse into the corral. Word got out in the village of the old farmer's good fortune and it wasn't long before people stopped by to congratulate the farmer on his good luck. "How fortunate you are!" they exclaimed. You must be very happy!" Again, the farmer softly said, "Who knows? We shall see."
 
At daybreak on the next morning, the farmer's only son set off to attempt to train the new wild horses, but the farmer's son was thrown to the ground and broke his leg. One by one villagers arrived during the day to bemoan the farmer's latest misfortune. "Oh, what a tragedy! Your son won't be able to help you farm with a broken leg. You'll have to do all the work yourself, How will you survive? You must be very sad". they said. Calmly going about his usual business the farmer answered, "Who knows? We shall see."
 
Several days later a war broke out. The Emperor's men arrived in the village demanding that young men come with them to be conscripted into the Emperor's army. As it happened the farmer's son was deemed unfit because of his broken leg. "What very good fortune you have!!" the villagers exclaimed as their own young sons were marched away. "You must be very happy." "Who knows? We shall see!", replied the old farmer as he headed off to work his field alone.As time went on the broken leg healed but the son was left with a slight limp. Again the neighbors came to pay their condolences. "Oh what bad luck. Too bad for you"! But the old farmer simply replied; "Who knows? We shall see."
 
As it turned out the other young village boys had died in the war and the old farmer and his son were the only able bodied men capable of working the village lands. The old farmer became wealthy and was very generous to the villagers. They said: "Oh how fortunate we are, you must be very happy", to which the old farmer replied, "Who knows? We shall see!"
 

Be weightless!

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