Today, I am posting "An Eschatological Laundry List" from 'If you Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him' by Sheldon Kopp. Sheldon Kopp was a psychotherapist and author. He died at the age of 70 in 1999.
Eschatology is defined as: any set of doctrines concerning final matters, such as death, the judgment, afterlife, etc. While we may not agree with every item on Kopp's list, it makes for a provocative read. This list was clearly composed from an existentialist point of view. Thoughts on the list can be used as triggers for reflection on the following:
~ freedom which asks us to look at responsibility
~ isolation or aloneness which illuminates the role of relationship
~ meaning and meaninglessness which forces us to look at our levels of engagement
~ death which demands that we deal with existential anxiety
Whether we choose to address these issues consciously, or not, our psyche is always addressing them and creating compensations or defenses for what is left unacknowledged. We can use Kopp's list to get a glimpse at what we may not yet have addressed. Usually the information we resist or react to contains the information we most need to approach, reflect upon and come to terms with. What points in this list do you notice yourself reacting to? What might that mean for you?
Reading the list today (I have read it many, many times as for years I had it as a hand-out in my waiting room) I noticed I reacted to #22 "progress is an illusion". I was sure I witnessed progress in a small way with myself and someone else last week! Hmmmm - a little more thought required. Thinking ... thinking ...
It just occurred to me as I type these words that a core belief of mine has just been brought to light while contemplating Kopp's list - I think I have believed that with enough study, work, energy, effort I can make 'progress' toward understanding - and that understanding will attenuate anxiety. Hmmmm - that would indicate that contrary to Kopp's #2 I do think there are 'hidden meanings' and I have been on a quest to unearth and understand them. It would be so much easier to accept what I can never know and embrace the mystery of it all. Thank you Sheldon Kopp!
I hope you will share any insights that come to you as you take a moment to ponder any of the thoughts on the list that you react to. The reaction is valuable information FROM yourself TO yourself! If you don't want to do that much work - simply enjoy the read.
(P.S. Some of you have mentionned in your comments that the list seems so black and white and full of absolutes, and you are absolutely right. This book was written in 1976 and Kopp was perhaps not sensitized to the importance of diverse perspectives and the value of 'grey' between the extremes of black and white. In spite of that, it remains a good read, so please - give it a try. :-)
An Eschatological Laundry List
1. This is it.
2. There are no hidden meanings.
3. You can't get there from here, and besides there is no place to go.
4. We are already dying, and we'll be dead a long time.
5. Nothing lasts!
6. There is no way of getting all you want.
7. You can't have anything unless you let go of it.
8. You only get to keep what you give away.
9. There is no particular reason why you lost out on some things.
10. The world is not necessarily just. Being good often does not pay off and there's no compensation for misfortune.
11. You have the responsibility to do your best nonetheless.
12. It's a random universe to which we bring meaning.
13. You really don't control anything.
14. You can't make anyone love you.
15. No one is any stronger or any weaker than anyone else.
16. Everyone is, in his own way, vulnerable.
17. There are no great men.
18. If you have a hero, look again; you have diminished yourself in some way.
19. Everyone lies, cheats, pretends. (yes, you too, and most certainly myself.)
20. All evil is potentially vitality in need of transformation.
21. All of you is worth something if you will only own it.
22. Progress is an illusion.
23. Evil can be displaced but never eradicated, as all solutions breed new problems.
24. Yet it is necessary to keep struggling toward solution.
25. Childhood is a nightmare.
26. But it is so very hard to be an on-your-own, take-care-of-yourself-cause-there-is-no-one-else-to-do-it-for-you grown-up.
27. Each of us is ultimately alone.
28. The most important things each man must do for himself.
29. Love is not enough, but it sure helps.
30. We have only ourselves, and one another. That may not be much, but that's all there is.
31. How strange, that so often, it all seems worth it.
32. We must live within the ambiguity of partial freedom, partial power, and partial knowledge.
33. All important decisions must be made on the basis of insufficient data.
34. Yet we are responsible for everything we do.
35. No excuses will be accepted.
36. You can run, but you can't hide.
37. It is most important to run out of scapegoats.
38. We must learn the power of living with our helplessness.
39. The only victory lies is in surrender to oneself.
40. All of the significant battles are waged within the self.
41. You are free to do whatever you like. You need only face the consequences.
42. What do you know for sure...anyway?
43. Learn to forgive yourself, again and again and again and again.