🏆 I provide private lessons on Emacs, Linux, and Life in general: https://protesilaos.com/coach/. Lessons continue throughout the year.

Dealing with hardship

What follows is an excerpt from my journal.

A few minutes ago I threw away the last bucket of water. I stopped counting after the tenth one. This was a long night with two phases of heavy rainfall. It is past my bedtime and I do not feel sleepy anymore. The flood control measures I have implemented around the hut are working as expected. Though the building itself needs more work: there are a few parts in the exterior of the walls’ base that leak water. I need a chisel to carve channels on the concrete floor. These will direct the water away from the construction, preventing it from accumulating adjacent to the walls.

The leaks are a known issue. The hut started off as a fair weather edifice and I am reinforcing it over time ahead of the coming winter. It could not have been done differently, given my limited resources. I do not complain though. It is my shelter and the place I call “home”. I take this as an opportunity to learn and grow as a person. This tests my mettle and I am eager to continue.

Hardship breaks us. Though it can also make us more resilient. We do not get to choose when it happens, nor what the prevailing conditions will be. All we can hope for is that we have made the necessary preparations to be physically and mentally ready for the challenge.

The puddles inside my house did not bother me. Nor was I dreading the continuous rainfall. Nature will do its thing. The soil shall remain fertile and the animals will continue living in their habitat. My trees keep growing and I am happy to see them prosper. I have learnt to be patient and to stay calm, while I recognise the reality of this imperfect setup. Stressing about it does nothing but exacerbate the problem. Dwelling on the past and complaining is pointless as well. What has transpired is immutable. We can learn from it, though we cannot undo it. There is no going back. All we can do is cope with the present.

I keep going because I am not negative about my experience. The momentary inconvenience I felt while dealing with the storm was but a way to train myself to not take anything for granted. Here I witness the phenomena without any filter. I am starting from the basics. I thus recognise better than ever the unsung labour that goes into keeping our communities in a more-or-less viable state. I understand how we earn whatever we have access to. Not in the “American dream” way of rationalising the appropriation of the commons and the ever-expanding concentration of wealth in the hands of few, but in the basic sense of admitting that life is not a walk in the amusement park. We make it easier for ourselves with industry and perseverance.

It is trivial to say things. To tell everyone how it should be done or how you would have done it. People are quick to offer their advice without knowing you and/or without themselves living in accordance with the precepts they purport to uphold. Never heed the words of those who have not taken the time to consider your predicament. I hold no respect for the person who talks big about their intellectual acumen and moral integrity; the one who idly criticises others for the mere fact of being imperfect. I only care about deeds and trust those who embody what they say. It so happens that such people do not talk much, because they know how difficult it is to proceed from ideation to implementation. “What do you say to those who criticise such and such?” Well, what are they doing about it?

Being reminded of hardship is helpful. It keeps us grounded in the reality of the human condition. Unlike our romantic tales, nature has love and conflict, attraction and repulsion, in equal measure. We have to recognise our capacity for both. To survive is to resist the forces that will otherwise undo our constitution. One can claim to be all-loving from the comfort of their little empire, blithely ignoring what went into its original formation and what contributes to its ongoing maintenance. They will have to eat, to preserve their presence, to struggle against entropy. However we go about it, nature balances opposite forces.

Life is neither ugly nor beautiful; life is both ugly and beautiful. No matter how we frame it, we live in the world of admixture. Pure forms are analytical constructs that we formulate by abstracting away from the particularities. The oneness of mind and body is an instance of the cosmic admixture. While our thoughts can be about ideals, our experiences are always incorporating the details we would otherwise prefer not to deal with.

As I was throwing away a bucket of water, I walked a few meters downhill towards the river. It was raining heavily, the wind was strong, and the clouds were low in the valley. I could not see the mountains in the distance. My skin could feel the cold, my ears were hearing the motion all around, while my eyes were seeing the constant flashes in the sky. The sheer force inherent to such phenomena can kill any human. Yet it is what I found most invigorating and enthralling in that moment. I sensed power flowing through every fibre of my being. Never before have I felt so strong, so poised to act, so determined to meet the challenge head on. Every birth involves pain and tears. And so does every rebirth, every renewed commitment to fight. Each time the soul is anabaptised, it is reminded of the immanence of admixture, as it is given the impetus to keep going.

I do not complain. I am content with what I have. For as long as my hands can wield tools, I will keep working hard to preserve my form, to do what my condition renders inescapable. There may be a time of plenty, of idleness, dissonance, and misplaced entitlement, where I will be so bored as to seek controversies to give myself a sense of conflict and adventure. Maybe I too will pontificate about the moral high ground. In this timeline though, I remain calm in the knowledge that whatever comes my way will go. The so-called good and the bad will all be transfigured into something else, per the workings of the cosmos.

I shall tend to my immediate needs. I do it in the same way a bird has to fly, not due to insight into some higher purpose. I do not know the ultimate “why”. Tomorrow will be a sunny day, as will Monday. Once I gather all the tools and materials I need, I will implement the necessary measures. Maybe not this week, nor the one after. It does not matter when. Who says it should be easy? I know what must be done and I have the desire to do it. Thus I will improve my chances of dealing with the heavy winter of these mountains. What happened here is but a warm-up ahead of the real test. Nature gives, nature takes, and we dance while we can. So be it!