Today is 9/20/20 as written out in the U.S. date abbreviation format. The 20/20 immediately stands out in my mind and I shudder at the reminder about this being the year 2020. This has been a nightmare of a year for so many of us. It’s quite forgivable if we yearn for it to be over. 2020 has been a year most of us want to escape.
We’re eager to latch onto solutions to our difficulties and problems in life. This is completely normal. The ongoing search for solutions is how civilizations advance. Sometimes though, we are overly eager to solve a problem. In our haste to resolve the situation, we neglect to study and contemplate the problem. The answer might not be what we need. The problem itself is what we need.
Too often, an answer is only a cosmetic solution. We treat the symptoms and not the root cause. Too often, the solution is irrelevant to the original difficulty. Without an educated understanding of the problem the difficulty will continue, albeit sublimated. There will be an almost compulsive search for solutions to the problem. The search becomes an escape.
With certain stubborn problems there comes the time for silent awareness and passive observation. Society denigrates passivity as an escape from actively solving problems; therefore, it seems difficult to purposely shift into that mode. However, sometimes it’s essential to do so. In difficult scenarios, mindful observation is the only way to understand. This passive observation frees the mind from justifications and condemnations. The passivity allows greater objectivity.
We see the conundrum of 2020 in much the same light. We have an exceptionally serious health pandemic that everyone rightfully wishes would go away. Much thought and research about the virus is taking place in passive and active ways by medical experts. Yet, authority figures who are anxious about their re-election chances assert their power and influence to apply band-aid solutions to problems the virus has enabled, such as a suffering economy and social unrest. The superficial solutions do not help solve the underlying problem. Such quick-fixes actually exasperate the spread of the virus. In trying to deny and escape the main problem, the movers and shakers make everything worse.
This situation of wanting to sweep the pandemic under the rug is understandable from a political standpoint. The politicians want the problem to go away so they won’t be saddled with having to deal with the worried public. The expedient political solution is to obfuscate and to create distractions. The desire to escape from the problem is to blame the experts. This is why such escape measures only serve to make the original problem much worse.
We can take this real-time, real-life crisis as an example and apply it to our individual, personal lives. We may wish to consciously or unconsciously refuse to passively contemplate a big personal problem. Do we want to expedite an escape? This quick-fix serves to put the issue on the back burner.
On the other hand, do we postpone the careful contemplation of the central problem because we are subconsciously attached to keeping it? What would life be without the problem? It seems less painful to cling to the problem and identify with it. The risk of solving the problem may bring discomfort. The identity as a sufferer is hard to release. The expedient solution is to “let sleeping dogs lie”.
Our minds feed upon problems. There are household and family problems. Difficulties with personal adversaries and acquaintances. We have concerns about ideological, religious, and political concepts. The problem with escaping into worry is that the mind remains burdened with fear.
For many of us, it’s much easier to repress than to pursue understanding. Many people have been conditioned to do this by parents and other authority figures. Even though the impulse to repress has become habitual, the practice of contemplative understanding can also be turned into a habit. The state of mind that allows alertness, watchfulness, sensitivity and warmth can be encouraged.
We can observe our ideological refuges, opinions, wariness of authority, addictions, and alibis. To understand the how and why of these is liberating. We come to realize that suppression leads to and sustains fear. Escape into distractions causes the original problems to fester and become more difficult to solve. The suppression could even lead to ideological illusions or even a physical illness. We can pay a heavy price for our escapes.
It seems that the heart of the matter is seen through alert yet passive awareness and observation. An objective state of mind is the way to view problems from different angles. In letting go of escape, the truth is easier to comprehend. The ancient philosophers reminded us that the way to liberation is the truth. The truth is what will lead us to learn important lessons from the year 2020.