Monday, August 31, 2009
When Things Go Wrong...
Last week it seemed as if everything we owned broke. Two cars were in the shop for repairs; water (a large amount) started leaking out of the dishwasher; the dryer stopped working; and yesterday at 5 a.m. a section of baseboard heat ruptured with water pouring into our living room! This photo of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" captures my emotional state at 5 a.m.
This last malady was the worst. Although I shut off the water, gallons of filthy radiator water drained out of the baseboard and it took nearly 2 hours of wet vacuuming to clean it up. Now, carpets and drapes will need to be cleaned and the leak repaired.
After so much breaking down, I wondered: Were malignant forces in the universe conspiring against me? Should I hire an exorcist to drive out the evil spirits inhabiting our cars, appliances and heating system?
Upon further reflection, I decided against the exorcist. I really don't believe that the "universe" or "evil spirits" are conspiring to break my things. Rather, I believe that bad things sometimes happen in clusters. This is simply a case of "life happening."
When a cluster of bad things happen, it's an opportunity to practice some good ole Buddhist detachment. Rather than blaming malignant spirits, God, karma, the universe or yourself, it's much better to view these things non-reactively. These are simply problems to be solved, not personal attacks on our psyches.
Dealing with broken things helps us recognize that life isn't perfect and its imperfections can be opportunities to test and expand our souls. It's also an opportunity to express gratitude that these things can be fixed because some things can't.