The most intelligent response to Life is to stay stoic despite its upheavals.
“What do you do when you have a problem with accepting this God theory,” asked a young lady, when we were introduced to her (by a mutual friend) as Life Coaches and Happiness Curators, at a café the other day. She went on to say that she debunked the entire God “story” as proposed by Zeno, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, who lived around the 3rd Century BC. Zeno championed the belief that God determined everything for the best and holding on to that view was a virtue sufficient for happiness. Zeno’s followers were called Stoics – some of the more popular followers were Seneca and Epictetus. The lady said that it was impossible for her to accept that God controlled everything and so she felt that she could not accept the God theory as a pre-requisite for happiness. “How do I make peace with myself, when I am not able to accept a majority opinion or belief,” she asked.
I replied: “Simple. Replace the word God with the word Life. Now, consider this statement – Life controls everything and understanding this truth holds the key to happiness.” I then asked her: “Do you have a problem in accepting Life as a more intelligent energy than you?”
The lady replied: “No, I don’t. I surely feel the presence of a Higher Energy. But I don’t like the idea of God.”
“So, just go with what you believe in. Why do you complicate your Life by questioning the belief systems of others,” I asked.
The lady said she got the point.
Many people are like this young lady. They are spending too much time analyzing what needs no analysis. The truth is that there is a Higher Energy – call it Creation, call it God, call it by whatever name – that powers our lives. I have learnt to simply accept this truth and trust the process of Life. I realize that the best way to live Life is to, as Zeno championed, be stoic in the wake of Life’s upheavals. The Roman philosophers who followed Zeno too advocated the calm acceptance of all occurrences as the unavoidable result of divine will or of natural order. The second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita ends with describing the highest state of consciousness a human being can attain. Krishna, replying to Arjuna, says (presenting here only the relevant extract): “…He lives in wisdom, who sees himself in all and all in him, Whose love for the Lord of Love has consumed every selfish desire and sense-craving tormenting the heart. Not agitated by grief, nor hanker after pleasure he lives free from lust and fear and anger. Fettered no more by selfish attachments he is not elated by good fortune nor depressed by bad. Such is the seer….” The key operative part is to be “not elated by good fortune nor depressed by bad”.
In our lifetimes, we are seeing stoicism all around us as people deal with publicly visible tragedies – like the Las Vegas shootings or the questionable incarceration of the Talwar couple over the unsolved murder of their child, Aarushi. We also see people deal with their private tragedies stoically – a health challenge, a relationship issue, the passing of a dear one. There is immense pain for those who are caught in these Life situations. Yet we don’t see them beating their chests and wailing. They see no point in grieving and suffering endlessly. Instead, we see them, almost prayerful, moving on with their work, seemingly unaffected by the pain and grief. This is the highest spiritual quality individuals can acquire. In learning from them, we can find a better way to deal with our own, smaller, calamities.
So, God or no God is not the debate really. Seriously, why blame (an imagined) God for the inscrutable nature of Life? The most intelligent response to a Life that you can never make sense of is to accept whatever comes your way and to stay stoic, stay anchored. This is what Zeno told us centuries ago. And if we internalize that Life lesson, we too can be happy with what is!