Amounting to Something

There is a deeply ingrained unconscious expectation that something will eventually happen to make life worthwhile, i.e., that we will do something or find someone exceptional. We search in many ways for satisfaction, recognition, success, and accomplishments.

Implicit measures of amounting to something permeate the media. In terms of these measures, we all fail miserably, e.g., in comparison to an acquaintance who made millions, or is well known. Even in relation to our peers we may feel miserable, in failing to have a beautiful house and car, or stable relationships and a happy family, or an important job. And even if we have all these things, we still lack the feeling of personal accomplishment, of amounting to something.

Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese Zen master, says, in "Being Peace" (p. 6) that "we tend to be alive in the future, not now. We say, "Wait until I (grow up and) finish school ... and then I will be really alive." After we have it (our degree), and its not easy to get, we say to ourselves, "I have to wait until I have a job in order to be really alive." And then after the job, a car. After the car, a house. (After that, children). We tend to postpone being alive to the future, the distant future, we don't know when."

One can hypothesize taking care of one's need to amount to something by living fully in each moment, and participating completely in each relationship. Nevertheless this ideal hypothesis simply creates another reason to feel failure, since most of us are unlikely to attain the ideal. If we pursue the ideal we will only make ourselves feel less ideal, and we may behave like zealots.

After we have done the education/degree, job, car, and house things, we may try to live in the present moment. Meditation relates to this in many ways; one of which is the possibly unconscious faith that motivates the meditator, i.e., to eventually "succeed" and realize everything in the future. Meanwhile the meditator is unlikely to experience the present, much less the ultimate moment, while wanting and expecting the ultimate makes his/her life unreal in the present.

Some of my favorite books, and teachers, on meditation are linked from my brief poem Books and Teachers

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