Growing up, my father had a signature phrase that my sisters and I despised absolutely. This is just and right, as most children are wont to feel about those parental lessons that drag offspring kicking and screaming into the realm of responsibility. And that cringe-worthy phrase? His own Hoosier-raised, preacher-wisdom version of the popular Nike slogan, “just do it.” None of the upbeat, inspiring energy of a Nike commercial, however. Daddy always expressed his maxim in a matter-of-fact tone, bordering on exasperation: “you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.” Homework, bedtime, chores, death and taxes alike; the truth of my dad’s phrase popped into my head after I launched last week’s post on the inevitability of angst in our lives.
Life is hard and our task is simply to get through it. To survive. Permission to dislike whatever “it” might be, while persevering in the face of “it” seems particularly aligned with the Buddhist view of life as well. Pain is a universal process. You can’t live life and avoid pain. Connecting with others emotionally, striving to better our lives, truly all the worthwhile activities that bring joy to life have the inherent potential for causing pain as well. Suffering is attachment to the pain. In non-Buddha speak, suffering is when we get stuck in that pain process.
We can wallow in our dislike of the trials life casts on our path, lamenting and worsening the inevitable blunders of life. Or we can just do it: deal with those painful pieces and keep moving. I heard somewhere this week that blunders are how we evolve. Just a fancy way of saying we can learn from our mistakes. And Daddy knew best: the only way out is through.