A Micromanaged Life?

A Micromanaged Life?
by Art Ticknor

                     
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Darin Knight is 34. His wife Keri is 32. They live in Vancouver, Washington with daughters Julia, 5, and Lauren, 2. Darin's plan is to retire in 2029, when he's 55. Household income is currently $110,000 from Darin's work as a marketing manager. Keri is resuming work, as a part-time teacher, at $12,000. When Lauren begins school, Keri will become full-time with a salary of about $50,000. With the stock market decline over the past year, Darin says he's losing sleep at night: watching $18,000 of his 401(k) disappear has left him uncertain and disillusioned. "I just lost an entire year's worth of savings in equities, and it just keeps going down…. Yeah, it scares me to death."[1]

Darin Knight and familyWhat kind of reading do you get on Darin's life from that description and the accompanying photo? It leads me to speculate on his life-focus. He looks like a solid guy, a good provider, somebody who's trying to do all the right things to build a secure future so he can retire at 55 – and then do what?

Apparently he doesn't like his work very well since his primary objective is to be able to stop doing it or stop being encumbered by it while having the financial security to do something else. But what is that "something else" that he can't do now? My guess is that he doesn't know. He probably feels hemmed in by his current and projected responsibilities and has some vague desire of returning to a childlike freedom at age 55.

Vagueness is the curse of the mind. It leaves the vast majority of humanity content to live in a cloudy state of misery that they feel they either can't clear up or can only do so at some time in the future. Will Darin be better able to address his lack of clarity in 21 years?

If he has a definite plan that he feels will provide a satisfying life when he can activate it in two decades, he may have to wait to find out if his projection is accurate. Retirement may relieve the daily grind that chews up so much time and energy – and then what? Will the activities he finds to fill that void yield a satisfactory life? Or will he still have a vague sense of something missing or lacking? Will his misery decrease or increase?

The real problem of human vagueness is the lack of self-definition. We struggle to find what will make us happy without getting around to the real problem of not knowing what that "us" is. We wallow through life acting or reacting on the basis of subterranean beliefs about what we are, the most basic of which are held universally and thus not questioned. We try to compensate for the implications of those beliefs, but it turns out to be impossible.

That make-believe self we live (and die) trying to satisfy is the house[2] that Gautama Buddha described as the limited self he believed himself to be before he realized the truth. As Gautama and others throughout history have testified, there is a way to the end of human existential misery, and it is to pursue the investigation of what we are to a realization or recognition of the truth.

How? There's no stepwise program that will take you there. The process is one of investigation and retreating from invalid beliefs. Richard Rose's "Threefold Path"[3] is the best metasystem, or guidance to approaches, that I've come across. Douglas Harding's "Eight Steps of the Headless Way" (from On Having No Head) and this summary matrix "The 8x8-fold Plebeian Path"[4] (an appendix of The Trial of the Man Who Said He Was God) are a map representing, as Douglas wrote, "just one of the countless variations on that archetypal Way which leads (in the words of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad) 'from the unreal to the Real, from darkness to Light, from death to Immortality.'"



[1] From Money magazine, October 2008.

[2] "O builder of the house, Thou art now seen! Thou shalt build no house again. All thy rafters are broken. Thy ridgepole is shattered. My mind has attained the unconditioned [nirvana]." From the Dhammapada.

[3] See Rose's "Threefold Path" at www.selfdiscoveryportal.com/arThreefoldpath.htm

[4] See Harding's "8x8-fold Plebeian Path" at www.selfdiscoveryportal.com/arHarding8x8.htm


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