Life

Dissatisfaction and Fate

One thing that’s been dominant in my experience lately is dissatisfaction. To be clear, it’s not the dissatisfaction is a new, or novel, or rare sensation for me, it’s just been really dominant and prominent in my conscious mind lately.

Dissatisfaction, to risk stating the blindingly obvious, is wishing that things were other than they are. That is to say, it’s seeing things like this but thinking that they’d be better like that. It requires then, a non-trivial bit of imagination to become dissatisfied. One must be able to imagine things being different than they are in order to wish that they were that way. The need for us to jump this imaginative gap is probably the nugget of truth underpinning the constantly repeating phrase “ignorance is bliss”. Truly, if we were unable to concieve of ways that things could be different, we’d meet them without the dissatisfaction so many of us know.

This gets to the point of fate. I have no wish to go deep into the conceptual and logical validity or implications of the idea of fate. I just think it’s interesting to realize that if we truly believed in the right kind of fate, we’d automatically banish the feeling of dissatisfaction from our experience. If the world is as it is meant to be, then there’s nothing to worry over, wish were different, or feel a desire to modestly tweak.

People often marvel at the persistence of the caste system in India, or the notion–common in Europe, the Far East, and elsewhere–of a divine right of kings. But they make a certain amount of sense. If we’re where we’re supposed to be, we’re inherently free from the “status anxiety” that gives rise to so much modern dissatisfaction.

Obviously, as I said, this is to make no claim as to the logical coherence or practical usefulness of fatalism, it’s just to note that one of the easiest ways to free yourself from dissatisfaction is to accept the notion that things should be as they are.

The practical point is not to do whatever you want, because after all things will turn out as they were predetermined to. It’s rather to say that when you can divide clearly in your mind the things that your efforts can change and the things that your efforts can’t you start to get a healthier sense of your role in your universe, and to make a little more rare your expience of dissatisfaction.

Surely there’s use in effort, and the belief in your non-zero ability to have an impact. But surely abandonment of the desire for things that your action will never change to be different than they are is also useful. And understanding that distinction seems to me the foundation of almost all wisdom.

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