This Very Sad No Problem

“This very sad no problem” is apparently something a monk said about not having seen or heard from his family for a number of years. He had accepted his situation, that he was very sad to have not spoken to them, and was not resisting the reality of his sadness or the cause of his sadness. He just wasn’t going to make it any worse than it had to be by having a problem with it. In his view he didn’t have a problem, he was just very sad.

The quote resonated with me for a few reason. First off, living where I live and having the life that I do, I really don’t have any problems. My problems are first world problems which means that if I have one, the root cause is that I have very badly lost perspective. People who have actual problems don’t care that someone finished the coffee and didn’t make more, they’re too busy trying to stay alive to worry about that kind of thing.

The next reason I actually heard it is because I have had times when I view my transient emotional state from moment to moment as a problem. It is a problem that I am sad, it is a problem that I am not as happy today as I was yesterday. I misidentified my emotional state as the state of the world and then took this as an indication that there was a problem.

The final reason it stuck with me is the fact that the things that happen are just the things that happen. The meaning we put on them indicates the role they are going to play in our future. When faced with a challenge we are free to view it in a couple of ways and the impact it will have on our life is determined by the way we chose. We can see it as it is, a meaningless happening, one of the many things that happen in our life. Or we can see it as a big deal, as a problem to work and solve, and if that isn’t possible, to suffer it until it or we are gone. This is all the more troubling when we consider that narrative problems only go away when we reframe them as irrelevant.

Don’t get me wrong, there are problems in the world, just not that many and not nearly as many as people have. In fact, the main problem a person has is their ability to convince themselves that the things that occur in life are bigger than they are and that they matter more than they do, and then in their conclusion that they are problems that need to be addressed.