Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled
The Road Less Travelled was first published in 1978. I don’t remember when exactly I first tried to read it, but it was sometime shortly after its publication, sometime in my first five years in Los Angeles, a time I was desperately seeking here in the land of opportunity and illusion the happiness that had thus far eluded me in life. The me of that time was in almost continual depression and despair, interrupted by occasional, widely-spaced and short-lived moments of peace and clarity, most brought on by just the right combination of drugs and alcohol or the occasional experience of ‘falling in love.’ In short, I was a mess.
Someone I knew, seeing my almost complete bewilderment toward life, suggested the book to me and, being on some level the still-diligent student of an earlier time in my life, I found my way to the Bodhi Tree Bookstore in West Hollywood and bought it. I remember getting home to my little sub-basement apartment on Highland Ave., sitting down in my salvaged-from-the-sidewalk armchair with a cigarette and a cup of coffee and cracking it open.
Like above, the first line was set apart as its own paragraph. There it lay, thumbing its nose at me, giving me its literary finger, telling me once again as if I hadn’t heard it enough from myself and the rest of the world that all was hopeless, nothing ever would change and I might as well die.
Life is difficult.
I remember hurling the book–a hardcover–across the room, bouncing it off the opposite wall where it flopped to the floor face down and lay there in what I thought was its superior smugness. Life is difficult indeed. Screw you. I was so angry I could barely see straight. So I did what I did at that time: had another cigarette, had a joint, had a drink, had another cigarette and thought and thought and thought about the unfairness of this bastard world and what was I going to do now.
Eventually I got around to reading beyond that first line and being led to the beginnings of a new understanding of the world, thanks at least in part to Dr. Peck’s groundbreaking writings; and today I know that in fact he was right–life is difficult and remains so until we begin to see the difficulties for the opportunity they present: the opportunity to choose, again and again, love over separation and judgment, life over death, oneness and identity as the Self over despair and identity as the smallness of the ego.
This is why we are in these bodies: to learn how to love; to exercise our free will, sometimes toward God and sometimes away from God; and as the teacher Dr. Hawkins has said, if we had a life that was easy and smooth and without difficulty, if we didn’t have this world with these myriad opportunities for growth and change, we would have to go and build it for ourselves.
Life is difficult. Once we accept that as a given, we can move on to the good stuff.
Today I will see each ‘problem’ as an opportunity to find compassion–for my fellows and for myself. I will ask of myself to love where it seems impossible to love, to accept where acceptance may feel like losing the game, to celebrate this life of possibility when it feels like there is no good option left for me to try. In the midst of hopelessness and despair, I will say something like, ‘Well, it will be interesting to see how this turns out. Help me, God, to stay present and aware and willing. Amen’
Butler, Muddy, Studio City, CA
All original material copyright © 2018 Jeff Kober