Living Without The Burden
A friend of my parents once somewhat critically observed of me, “what a serious young man!” In my late teens, I took this as a compliment. Life seemed to be a very serious affair. I believed I needed to get the right grades, get the right job, get the right girlfriend, know good from bad, and be only good. So many seemed to have failed at this. If I tried really hard maybe I’d get close to having a good life.
When we imagine our lives this way, we cannot help but feel burdened and pressured. Even if we imagine things are “going well” we feel pressed to continue our vigilance because things are always shifting about. This way of thinking makes even our “leisure” into hard work. We’ve got to work on our relationships, exercise our bodies, spend our time wisely, make sure we enjoy our weekend.
This belief that we’re responsible for “a self” that needs to become good, happy, wise, successful, loving, healthy, and useful creates a relentlessly oppressive burden. Some of us withdraw into depression, some of us are hounded by continuous worry, some of us blame others for our apparent failure, some of us stoically perservere hoping that we’ll get there one day. But of course, no matter what is accomplished, the self we imagine we should be never arrives.
But what if we don’t need to become anything? What if “me” and “my need to be something better” are just repetitive themes in the stories we tell about ourselves and the stories others tell about us? What if our existence, exactly as it is right now, doesn’t really need any justification at all?
What if we just take a break from the burden of believing that we’re supposed to be what we are not? What will we become? When we see that we don’t need an answer to this last question, it will stop coming up, and we’ll finally be living without the burden.