My book The Novice got a great review yesterday. I was happy not just because the reviewer liked it, but because he liked it in just the way I wanted readers to. He got the point, from beginning to end, and appreciated the work I put into it. So for a while I went around grinning like the Cheshire cat, particularly so because the week before, expecting a promised big review, I was let down. It turned out not to be a review at all but a listing—one book among many; yawn!

It got me thinking—you know, that my good humour was actually boosted by the disappointment; the transition was so great. Philosophers including the Buddha have pointed out the cyclic nature of life, how joy and suffering are connected. Like two ends of a single continuum, you can neither pursue one without dragging the other along, nor renounce the rubbish and get just what you want. It’s a bit obvious, really, and yet I still find myself expecting only the good, outraged by the bad. Habit? It’s more like a compulsion.

So what good does it do me, this depressing realization that life’s a vicious circle? I can’t say as yet. I could rationalize it away—sermonize you into kingdom come—but what use is that to anyone? I’ll sit with it and see if I can’t leverage the momentum of that paltry insight against the great bulk of my compulsion.

But look at me—I still try to be happy and not sad, good but not bad, strong but not weak. I know it’s nuts. But I still do it.

Author: Stephen Schettini

Host of The Naked Monk

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