“All the greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally unsolvable. They can never be solved but only outgrown. This outgrowth requires a new level of consciousness to some higher order or wider interest. Through this broadening the insolvable problem its urgency and the question itself disappear.”
It is important, I think, to understand that the actions we take and the decisions we make are the work of evolutionary genius. They have all been made and taken by one of the smartest organisms to ever inhabit the universe. We have made the decisions of our lives for the good and excellent reason of continued survival – mental, physical, emotional, spiritual survival. There have always been good solid reasons for the things we have done.
Our mind/body system learns that some things in the environment are dangerous and we learn to take certain actions/reactions to protect ourselves, our integrity. The mind/body system tries to protect itself by withdrawing and the next time that situation appears the system is less open to it. Once it does this however, it effectively closes off options and is less free to respond to stimuli which may in some ways remind it of the previous danger – even though some threats are misperceived. The system becomes more closed than it needs to be. After having been traumatized in some way, we become stuck in patterns that do not promote optimal growth and change. Because the environment is constantly changing/evolving, the system needs to be flexible and stay open to the possibility of new experience.
It may appear that some of these actions and decisions were not the absolute best ones we may have taken at the time; this is simply hindsight – a debatable judgment call. That fact is we took them in order to protect ourselves from harm – whether real or perceived. And perceived harm is real at the moment of perception – for no one can know the unknowable future.
In other words, we are here, alive, surviving, because from the beginning through this very second we have done everything right – and the proof is our continuing survival. To think otherwise is merely speculation. This is a fact of evolution, the intelligence of our own body/mind system, the genius of life in the universe, and our own excellence and skill at meeting and surviving the “heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to”.
Does this insight make this the best of all possible worlds? If you have followed my words above in the spirit I intend, then, yes it does; in this moment, this is the best of all possible worlds – proved by our continued survival within it.
Can it be better? Could we be doing better? Could we feel better about things? Might we be happier? The answer to these and other similar questions is probably yes. I say this only because I trust the ineffable power of the universe itself, the genius of life to survive and prosper, the astonishing abilities our minds have shown to continue to achieve balance and integration, and for the whole system to evolve toward higher and more productive levels of behavior, cognition, comprehension, and compassion.
There is a 13.7-billion-year track record of the universe becoming ever more complex, intelligent, and compassionate. Things get better. And they get better in all the ways we wish they would. Our wishing and dreaming and work and effort are all added to the universe every day. Everything you see around you has its beginning in the imagination. We have created the world we have been dreaming about. And our dreams for making it an even better place do continue.
The quote from Carl Jung with which I began this rumination is appropriate here. Seen from particular, limited, points of view, our lives are filled with insolvable problems. And this has always been the case. And yet, looking back, we have moved on from so many of them. We didn’t actually solve them so much as we simply moved beyond them to a higher plane of experience in which they were no longer relevant or where they no longer loomed so large. In short, it looks like much of our dilemma is a matter of perspective.
Changing perspective is doable even when solving problems may seem impossible. In the next several entries I’ll focus on ways to achieve new perspectives, new ways of looking at old problems.
And sometimes, even the simple passage of time allows us to see things in new ways. There’s a clue there somewhere, I think.
Image: “The Positive Flow,” by Tullio DeSantis, digital image, 2010.