2009-10-12

Breaking the Cycle

I’m not a believer in karma to any great degree, just because i’ve seen too much consistently bad shit happen to people who really deserve to catch a break from fate once in a while, and i’ve seen too much consistently positive fortune heaped upon people whose sum abuses against their fellow human beings should see them have their genitals hacked off with a blunt knife and fed to them while they’re still twitching. (The genitals, i mean; i suspect the person they were once attached to would be way beyond twitching.)

However, one thing that the whole karmic ideal touches on that i find myself buying into with greater frequency these days is the concept of cyclical fate. The idea that whatever happens to us is, on some very real level, going to happen to us again, and again, and again after that. On the highest level (or the lowest, depending on how you’re discussing it), there’s the concept in reincarnation theory that a person’s goal throughout his or her many lives is to learn some Really Important Secret Thing, and that our failure to learn that  Really Important Secret Thing is what keeps us coming back, life after life, to suck it up again. Once we gain the super-secret knowledge that is our destiny, we get to move onto something else. (I’ve never been clear on what that Something Else is, which is largely why i’m not really into reincarnation theory. I like to know the full itinerary before i commit to booking the trip.)

Anyway, the point is that life is cyclical and the point of the cycles, it seems to me, is that it should be easy to learn something by virtue of having knowledge handed to us repeatedly in the same fashion. We do something, we fail, we should be smart enough to learn to do it differently the next time out. The problem is, we don’t. We try things, we fail, we try them the exact same way the next time. We make a plan, the plan turns bad, we vow to not follow the plan the next time but we invariably do. We constantly make choices we know are bad by virtue of having made them before. We constantly succumb to our vices only to promise ourselves we’ll do better next time, in the same way we promised ourselves that last time. We constantly revisit the same landscape of failure, dread, and self-loathing that we’ve visited already, like we’re on some never-ending package tour of our own worst instincts.

And it’s taken me a long time but i think i’ve finally sorted out why this is.

As human beings, we have this built-in need to hope. And though hope is a great thing when it helps to focus our drive and ambition, it occurs to me now that blind hope — hope that is its own beginning and ending, its own only point and purpose — is actually fucking us all up.

Blind hope is a drug, but not the Nyquil kind of take-a-shot-of-this-tonight-and-sleep-your-way-to-feeling-better drug. Blind hope is like heroin, sucking us in by virtue not so much of how it makes us feel, but by letting us turn off all the other feeling for a while.

Someone has a job they hate. Focused hope lets them think about what they’d rather be doing, and to subtly analyze the things that need to happen in order to exchange what is for what could be. Blind hope simply tells them that something better is out there and it’ll show up eventually, and it gets them through the day. Someone’s in a shitty relationship. By blindly hoping that the person being shitty to them will change, it gets them through the week. But the thing is, as long as it’s enough to simply hope for a better job, a better boyfriend, a better life, people have no reason to actually seek those things.

The more you hope that things will change without letting hope drive you to effect that change, the more you can turn hope into an excuse to not change things. And so the cycle repeats.

As long as everybody’s hopeful, there’s no reason to actually break the cycle. Everybody works under the grand assumption that things will be different next time. But the only way to really ensure that is to make sure there is no next time.

Blind hope is easy. Realizing that hope alone is a waste of fucking time and that you need to let the things you hope for draw you on, become the beacon for the life you want to live, is tougher. But worth it in the end. Hopefully.