Life is what you make it, or are you what life has made you?
We often hear the saying “life is what you make it”. While we can make our life what we want it to be to a certain extent, the saying is rather simplistic, if not a half truth. We are all confronted with constraints, many of which we cannot change or remove from our lives. We have to learn to adapt to living with these onerous constraints. Consider the child who is born blind or with cerebral palsy, or the victim of an accident or of violence or war-time injury that maims or cripples or paralyzes his/her body. As well, we have to accept constraints upon our behavior and actions in society so that we are not incarcerated or placed in an institution for the mentally or psychologically ill. We confront limits each and every day in the struggle which is life. These limits serve to shape or influence our expectations.
Our experiences do indeed affect us greatly, especially the painful, trying experiences. Tragic, traumatic and painful experiences suffered through when one is young can and do leave rather lasting effects (scars) on us that we may not even be fully conscious of. These experiences shape our thinking, our view of the world perhaps more than we care to admit to ourselves.
It is very difficult for we humans to cultivate a certain level of detachment from life, from the world, such that we would not permit external circumstances and painful events from influencing our thinking and feelings, and shaping our hopes and fears. For the ascetic who renounces the world, this may not be hard to do. But, for those of us immersed in the daily struggle it is a real challenge to achieve the detachment, to cultivate a more spiritual level of consciousness.
We cannot control the process of life. There are too many variables, too many unknowns that are not within our ability to control. Tomorrow, I may cross the street and be hit by the proverbial bus (or a drunk driver). There are no guarantees in this ongoing struggle we call life. Safety and surety are only, can only be relative in this world.
Painful, trying experiences may build character strength in the individual. Some suffering may indeed have “redemptive” value. And, we humans often times have to learn “the hard way” by making costly, painful mistakes in the course of our lives. Yet, I look back over the course of my life and do not see why certain experiences or certain trials that were not of my own making had value or were necessary. I think to myself “Why did I have to have that experience? What was learned or gained through it?”
Some seekers, some thinkers speculate that our lives are prearranged for us either by God or by powers we cannot perceive. (Some will point to the Law of Karma here.) Some will assert that we have some say or input in what is planned for us, in what is to befall us in our earthly life. This is unpalatable to me as (knowing myself) I don’t see how I would have voluntarily taken on some of the constraints and bad experiences that were forced on me. But, that is just my view, and these are my musings.
Thus, one might opine that we are not really free while we progress on our life’s journey in this flawed world. Freedom may be an illusion. Of course, it depends on one’s definition of freedom, or how one chooses to think of freedom.
end of essay
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