I want an owner’s manual

Do we choose our life experiences?  Does it matter if we do or don’t?  If we do choose, where’s the fairness in some people getting a user’s guide and others not – it sure seems that way.  Or is it karma that determines our challenges and our outcomes?  And if so, could some of us really have screwed up that badly in the past?  And what’s the logic behind paying for something in one body that you did in another (and don’t even remember doing)?  Maybe we can blame human suffering on God?  Or maybe there’s some Universal Senate making up new rules that even God has to follow?

A dear friend recently died and her passing has thrown off my already precarious balance.  I’ve read the books, I know what I’m supposed to be doing and supposed to be thinking, but I’m still questioning and wondering and doubting.  I mean, I get that we have an opportunity in every minute to choose happiness.  And I get that a lot of what we see as reality is really illusion, but shouldn’t that be something we learn in preschool so we don’t have to spend the rest of our years feeling put upon by the world?  It’s too easy to explain the vagrancies of life as “Universal Laws” or “karmic debt.”  the truth is that it seems plenty unfair that some gentle and loving people carry heavy burdens all through life while egomaniacal miscreants seem to get an easy break.  There are lots of explanations out there, but I think our assignment of cause and effect is really just a mental exercise to relieve our own need for an explanation.  Really, just because some old guy in a cave 1000 years ago said something that sounds profound, does that make it true?

And where does that leave us?  If we don’t rely on explanations like “karma” or “Universal Laws” how do we make sense of all this craziness that we call Life?  Truthfully, I don’t think we can.  The trying to make sense is in itself crazy-making.  But can we live with all this craziness without it taking a toll?  At some point you have to put a stake in the ground and just decide on a perspective that makes you able to move on with energy and enthusiasm.  Isn’t that what we do as humans?  Isn’t that what religion, science and politics are?  Just ways of trying to make sense of the craziness in the world.  In the end they’re all just perspectives – different ways of trying to make logic out of a weave of events that could as easily be attributed to cause and effect, as seen to be chaos.

And so I choose my perspective and hope that it will not only help me, but also those with whom I come into contact.  Today, I choose, instead of grieving the loss of my friend to honor the gift of our friendship and the blessing of knowing her.  She was a gentle, kind soul who even in the midst of her own suffering was always looking out for others.  Instead of regretting not spending more time with my friend, I choose to cherish the time we did spend together, including phone calls and a visit with my parents a month before her death.  Instead of viewing it as tragic that her baby boy will not know his mother, I recognize the blessing that he has an entire lifetime to experience because she gave him that gift.

Even so, in the midst of all this I think of her family and the loss they must somehow make space for in their lives and sometimes it still doesn’t make any sense.  I find myself having to release the need for it to make sense, or else sink into despair.