is life truly a gift?

I think most of us would agree that life is full of suffering.

Most things happen by chance. And yet, we spend life wondering – What is perfection? What is happiness? How do i give my life meaning? And then we find a dream and kill ourselves trying to get there.

For others, there’s not even that chance. for others, life is spent trying to survive. and for what?

So I was inspired by this New Yorker article on anti-natalist David Benatar: “The Case for Not Being Born”

The case is that life is full of suffering. and we spend it trying to defend our children from suffering when the best case would have been to prevent it in the first place. That the gift of being a sentient being is truly a curse.

“While good people go to great lengths to spare their children from suffering, few of them seem to notice that the one (and only) guaranteed way to prevent all the suffering of their children is not to bring those children into existence in the first place”

And truthfully, it’s hard to defend against such a case.

There is so much suffering in the world. And all everyone is trying to do, is to make a case for themselves. A reason for being on this earth that makes all the suffering worth it. It’s why we seek simple pleasures or why we strive for the unattainable goals. Power and money and a belief that we are better than others. That somehow our life was worth a little bit more.

I mean in figuring out the question, what would make me happy, I’m really trying to answer the question, what makes my life worth it? Ironically, a lot of people have kids because that becomes their reason for being.

I don’t have a good answer to “is life truly a gift”, but I wonder if there’s a way to use this line of thinking to better humanity.

The thing is, at least in the US based society, no matter how much you care for others, your first priority is your family, your children, giving them the best that you can and giving away the leftovers if you feel that you have enough. It’s a sentiment of self-preservation and security first and then maybe, just maybe, if you’re feeling generous enough. Even charity is interesting because those who give often take away a good feeling for themselves, that we were generous, that we provided for others. It’s nearly impossible to commit a selfless act.

Perhaps there is a way to ignite a culture of being selfless and to incorporate this into our daily lives beyond what I would call “leftovers”. A shift in frame of mind I suppose. One way would be to somehow boost the power of giving where the “good feeling” that you get from giving is somehow worth significantly more than the good you get from spending on yourself. The other way, which is significantly more difficult, is to somehow get people to care about strangers the way they would care about their own family. I mean, what is it about blood that makes one human’s life more important to us than another (I suppose I wouldn’t understand seeing as I’m not a parent). If we had that perspective though, we would never let others be homeless or to sit in the conditions of prison, or to be refused entry into a country. There must be a way to shift a society’s perspective so that the security of others is closer to being equated with the security of ourselves and our families.

I don’t know what it is. And to be quite honest, I don’t even come close to that level of selflessness. But there must be a way.


I don’t know when it happened

I don’t know when in my life I somehow convinced myself that I wasn’t worth it. That I would never amount to anything. That I didn’t deserve anything. So I stopped trying, doing the things I loved, striving, being who I was. I guess it was fear of inevitable failure. I’m not exactly sure what led to this. I mean I have a vague idea, but it wasn’t one thing in particular. And anyway, it doesn’t really matter.

I’ve turned a corner recently. Actually it was a really long corner. Razor sharp edges. But somehow I made it. I began to realize that this life was mine to live and striving for failure is inevitable. It is a rarity in life to be the best at something or to be perfect or to be the person that you want to be. But being able to experience and grow and change, that is living.

Life is shaped by those tiny glimmering moments, when a smile creeps up your lips unexpectedly. When you feel that little flutter in your gut and that warm glow in your chest. It’s the anticipation in your beating heart before you do something exciting or nerve-wracking. Life is sitting down with a cup of tea after a long day’s work and being proud that you went out and did it. Or spending the day in bed curled up in a blanket because its your life and fuck it.

I think I spent a lot of my life changing myself to be someone I thought I wanted to be. Trying to find a sense of belonging and self-worth. Maybe it was there all along. Because I’ve never been happier. I’m working hard, doing the things I love, and soaking up the moments.

I guess I’m writing now because I’m heading into a semester full of unknowns. Things that could go fantastically or horribly wrong. I’m taking a risk and doing something that tore me apart physically and mentally years ago. I’m afraid, but I hope that this time, I’ll be able to face everything gracefully, with my head held high, just there to enjoy the moments. But who knows…

To Be Alone

Over the past year, I’ve gotten to a place where I am comfortable with myself. I wouldn’t say that I’ve grown to love myself, because honestly, I still hate the way I look, and I’m not a huge fan of my personality either. I think its more of a feeling of acceptance.

I used to be really afraid of being alone. I’d spend nights crying because I was so alone. Of course I had family and I had friends, but this was different. It was a fear that I would never find anyone who would understand exactly what it was like to be me. To feel these things that I could never explain in words. Someone who could make my decisions for me. I guess, just someone to be me, to live my life and to just let me watch.

But I’ve learned that to be alone is something to be cherished. To know that you are the only one in the entire world who is ever going to feel this way, to have these experiences, to look at the world from this perspective. That is a beautiful thing. I’ve learned that this what life is. To contribute to the world a life that you shape, a life that is limitless. Sure, there are laws, societal conventions, restrictions. But still, it’s crazy to think that as a human being, you have the ability to do anything, to decide to feel whatever you want to feel. To me, that is the gift of being alone. And it’s something that I’ve accepted.

Here’s the part that’s not so great though. I’ve spent a lot of time this past year being on my own, learning to trust myself and appreciate that I have the power to shape my life and decide whether or not I’m going to be happy. But now I’m scared to not be alone.

I guess its because when I’m the only person involved in my life, I’m in complete control. But, when I let other people in, I lose control, and that’s when things get tough. The problem is, the closer people get, the more I care about them. And the more I care about people, the more they have the power to hurt me. And this is the kind of hurt that I can’t control, I can’t turn off.

It’s been three months since I’ve gotten back. I haven’t gotten particularly close to anybody this semester. I’ve met people, made new friends, but I haven’t made any close connections. Part of it is circumstance. But a huge part is excuses, reasons not to commit, not to care, not to ever let anybody have the power to hurt me. It’s not that I love being alone. I’m okay with it, and I don’t mind it. But I’m terrified to not be alone.


I had a rough time in Japan, but there is one thing that I do miss. Awareness.

We live in a culture of rush. It’s glorified, especially here in New England. Trying to make plans with someone inevitably becomes an argument about whose schedule is busier because for some reason, being busy equates to being accomplished..

Kyoto was not a particularly happy place for me. We had curfews and restrictions, lots of restrictions, especially at the monastery. A lot of that had to do with trying to diminish our thinking, decreasing our choices, forcing us to do rather than spending every moment anticipating the future. It was hard, but it worked.

But my favorite part of Kyoto? Every night at 8:00, I set out on my nightly walk. I finished all my work in anticipation of my nightly walk. Then I would set out, headphones in. 20 minutes to the river. Just me and myself. Once I got there, a thirty minute walking meditation. And finally, I would pick my favorite rock, sit, and just watch the Kamo River in all its glory. The lights, the city, the water. Then I would stroll home just in time for 10:00 curfew.

I miss it. And its not like I couldn’t do it here. But, I keep telling myself that there isn’t any time to stop. That I have to keep going even though I know its not really true.

Taking time for yourself isn’t a waste of time. In fact, its probably the most productive use of your time. Those are the moments when you are literally living. You don’t even have to be straight up meditating. Just being aware of where you are, not just physically, but in life. Being aware of the people around you, people with just as many feelings and emotions and experiences as you. There’s this unspoken belief that we don’t want to waste our life and in order to accomplish that, we have to do as much as possible in as little time as possible. We have to avoid failure. I am just as guilty in going along with these sentiments, but lately, I’m trying just a little bit harder not to. I personally believe that we are just passing through. Its okay to take life little less seriously.

Look up.

The river from Gojo Dori

The river from Gojo Dori

The river at night

The river at night

Until We Meet Again

Life is but a fleeting moment in the game of time. It is a second filled with happiness, sadness, anticipation, and pain all rolled into one. It teaches you not to grasp anything too tightly for in the end, you will learn that it is all temporary. You may ask, but what is its meaning? Why are we allowed to live when in the end we are all to face the pain of death? But to me, death isn’t the end. It is only a gate, a symbol of our souls passing through.

Family and friends look on and wave as you pass through. We are sad that you are traveling on without us and we will miss you. But we know that you are moving on to bigger and better things. You’ve accomplished what you needed to do here in this world. One day we will meet again. Until then, we will savor your memories with a smile and keep you nestled in our hearts, right where you belong.

Let it all in

 everybody want happiness nobody wants pain but you can't have a rainbow without a little rain

When hurt and pain approach us, our first instinct is to avoid it, to shove it somewhere deep and hidden where it can’t bother us. No one wants to feel these negative emotions, but they are such an important part of the experience of living.

I believe that those who experience the strongest emotions lead the fullest lives. Consider Van Gogh, Beethoven, Virginia Woolf, who accomplished so much not in spite of, but because of the pain that they experienced. I’m not saying that I envy that lifestyle nor that one ought to lead a life of negativity; however, there is a reason that emotions like these exist. Painful emotions help us explore parts of ourselves and to feel things more deeply than ever before. And when it is all over, we can experience and appreciate our positive emotions with the same ferocity.

One of my favorite articulations of this idea stems from a scene in Louie, a slightly dark comedy through which I have actually learned some fairly deep life lessons. After Louis’ love interest moves away, he is in a world of pain. His insightful neighbor remarks: “This is the good part. This is what you’ve been digging for this entire time. The bad part is when you don’t care about her. When you don’t care about anything. The bad part is coming so enjoy the heartbreak while you can.”

Don’t be afraid to embrace the pain. Don’t beat yourself up because you aren’t strong enough to block it out. Love yourself because you’re strong enough to take it in.