Metamorphosis

 

It’s official:  I’m an ex-psychologist.  My license to practice expired last month.  It’s been a long time coming.

I first aspired to become a psychologist forty-three years ago.

 

VA Traineeship 1971

Graduation 1977

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming and then being a psychologist was an important part of my life. I gave up practice over four years ago but hung onto my license. Maybe I’d come to regret giving it up.  Maybe I’d need to return to work.  Letting go of the “maybes” was a slow process.

When I started college I planned to become a biochemist.  It turned out I was more interested in Civil Rights and the Vietnam War than equilibration constants and soon switched majors to political science.  When I became disillusioned with improving the world through political action I turned to saving it one-life-at-a-time through psychology. It was a slow way of fulfilling the Bodhisattva Vow to liberate all beings, but, hey, it was a start.

Preparing for my preliminary exams stressed me out so much I was developing an ulcer.  My wife asked “what would be so terrible if you failed the exams?”  “Then I’d never be a psychologist!” I whined. “Poor you!” she replied with benign sarcasm. “Then you’d just be like the other five billion people on earth who aren’t psychologists.”

I’ve finally joined the five billion.  Only now it’s nearly seven billion.

Letting go of my license isn’t the end of it, though.  Like everything else in life, it’s a process. Yesterday I was in the garage looking through piles of old lecture notes, publication drafts, correspondence with editors, and xeroxed copies of articles I’d used for teaching.  Was I ready to put them in the trash?  And what about the hundreds of books taking up valuable real estate on my bookshelves? I’ll probably never read them again.  Am I ready to donate them? Will anyone have them?

Let go.  Don’t hang on.  Be ready for what’s next.

A friend of mine, the son of an African chief, had a mother who sang a Praise Song to him every morning while growing up.  The song was sung at his wedding and one day will be sung at his funeral. The song existed long before he was born, but when he was born a new verse was added specifically for him.  The song defines him.  It tells how his ancestors came to the valley to become warriors and chiefs.  It tells what his qualities are, what his duties are to family and tribe, what he will one day accomplish.

The song is a powerful metaphor for identity:  the narrative we create and reinforce about ourselves.  We can allow that narrative to define us.  We can treat it as real, as if it had totemic power — or we can see it transparently as story, aware of how it fails to define and constrain our complex, elusive, ever-changing selves.

Life is never static, but flows like a river.  It’s essence is change.  We shed identities and try new ones on for size like snakes shed their skins.  Last month I was a psychologist.  Who am I now?

Already a new narrative takes its place — grandfather, writer, piano student, cancer survivor, diabetic, social activist, Buddhist — a new set of identifiers.

When I’m on the cushion, though — who is it that sits?

“Eno said, ‘Do not think good, do not think evil.  Now, what is your real self?’

Myo asked, ‘Beyond these secret words is there a secret deeper still?’

Eno said, ‘I have told you nothing secret. See your true face, it is all there.’”

— From the Mumonkan, Case 23

 

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On Aging

From the time I was sixteen until the time I was fifty my inner sense of myself remained unchanged.  I never felt like an “adult” inside, whatever that was supposed to feel like.  Although I’d worked as a professional for two decades and had grown children of my own, I still felt like an adolescent.   It wasn’t until I reached fifty that I truly felt like an adult.  And I wasn’t sure I liked it.  Would my life become static and stolid; would I become staid?  I needn’t have worried.  It didn’t, I didn’t.

At fifty-five I started accumulating medical diagnoses: the relatively benign (BPH, GERD) the relatively ominous (diabetes) and the potentially catastrophic (liposarcoma).  My list of prescribed medications grew long enough that I needed to write them down to remember when I visited my doctors.  I became aware of how dependent I had become on them.  What if there was some kind of global catastrophe and I couldn’t get my insulin any longer?  Interesting — worrying more about getting my insulin than about any possible global catastrophe (nuclear war? bioterrorism?) itself.  I had become an insulin junkie!

My external body changed as well: a balding head, a graying beard, occasionally swelling knees, unsightly keratoses.  Impermanence with a vengeance!  Vanity has not liked any of it one bit.  I began to feel, if not exactly ancient, then on the road to  antiquity.  How my mind resists it!  I want to hold on to my youth, appearance, and good health as long as possible. Who wouldn’t?  Wouldn’t you?

The trees in my neighborhood are now bare of leaves.  Last Friday I helped my family bury another family member, the fourth this year.  The days have shortened, the weather outside is colder.

Does this sound grim?  Do I sound unhappy?  It only causes unhappiness if I make it into a story: My Saga of Decline and Decay starring Me.  Or I project into the future:  “If this is how things are now, how will they be when I’m 90?”  “If I’m a bit forgetful right now, is that the onset of Alzheimer’s?

But actually, in any given moment, I’m okay.  Right now is just fine. I’m in good shape for the shape I’m in.  My heart beats, my lungs breathe, my legs carry me where I need to go, my eyes see.  All systems are go.  Beautiful moment, perfect moment.  And if vanity doesn’t necessarily like what it sees in the mirror, I remember that all the people who love me love me still, despite my mirror narrative.

And that’s the way it is for all of us, really. If we count up all the minutes we’ve lived and put them in the denominator, then count up all the minutes we’ve endured genuine agony (not mental agony due to projected fear about some future moment, but boiling-alive-in-oil-this-very-moment agony) and put them in the numerator, what is our suffering ratio?  As bad as they’ve been, the truly awful moments have been few and far between, and most moments have been okay in and of themselves.

Imagine being pushed out of an airplane without a parachute.  It might take several minutes to hit the ground.  The only moment of true physical pain is the last, and it is over in the blink of an eye.  All the rest of the journey is free fall.  You can spend the entire trip worrying about how much that last moment will hurt, screaming as you go.  Or, if your Buddhist practice is very good, you can enjoy the feeling of the wind through your hair.  How do you want to go?

Aging is like that.  What is there to be afraid of?  It’s a natural process, the way things are.  You can resist it if you like, but what’s the benefit in that?  Or you can let go and experience life fully the way it is, without the story.

As the cold weather sets in we put our garden to bed.  Today I cut back the rosa rugosa, already bereft of leaves, only a few bright red rose hips reflecting the sun’s light.  We rake up the sweet smelling salt hay we only last month laid down to protect the newly spouting grass.  No sign of the thousand flowers that bloomed this spring and summer.  The bulbs are all asleep, awaiting the return of spring.

We, the garden, the world, all one ongoing process of change.  Coming and going.

Be present.  Breathe.  Drop the story line.  Beautiful moment, perfect moment.  Just as it is.

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Cancer Lessons

Varanasi

Passing by
Silver and gold sari
Covered corpse
Dawa
Hip 20 year old
Dharamsala girl
says:
“Tibetans say
When you see dead
It’s good luck.”
“Why?”
“Makes people pray.”

-Rick Fields

I got to hear Rick Fields only once.  It was at the Buddhism in America Conference in Boston in 1997, two years before he died of lung cancer.  The above poem is from his book entitled Fuck You Cancer and Other Poems, published by Crooked Cloud Projects in 1999.  (Rick was also the author of a history of American Buddhism entitled How The Swans Came to the Lake.[1] You could always count on Rick to come up with a good book title.)  I admired Rick’s openness and courage in his writing about his battle with cancer.

Many of us are able to go forward each day maintaining our illusion of immortality, but I have the good luck to have biannual mortality reminders.  Every six months I return to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to have my oncologist prognosticate about my future.  Last week he again gave me a clean bill of health.  I asked him about the risk/benefit ratio of continued chest x-rays every six months, and he advised me to continue them, reminding me I had a 20% chance of metastasis to the lungs.  I should have been happy that my odds for remaining cancer-free were 80%, but instead my mind glommed onto the 20% figure.  My glass was 20% empty.

Five years ago my first wife began the one-year cancer journey that would take her life.  I had the gift of spending that year in her intimate company.  I was fortunate that my job allowed me family leave to accompany her to her surgeries, chemotherapy and radiotherapy visits,  ER visits and re-hospitalizations, and in the end, when she could no longer be alone, to be constantly by her side until she died peacefully at home.  We were never as close as we were in that last year.  It’s as if the “I” disappeared and there was only me in service of her.  Despite the agony, drama, and tears, there was a genuine happiness to be able to be there for her and make her journey as easy as possible.  She was ready for death when she finally passed on; going on living was a torment.  And I was ready for her to go too.  How could I wish her to go on given how things were?   She died surrounded by family and friends.  Our daughter, an artist/musician, brought her band members to sing to her mother as she lay in coma, and later to sing at her funeral: “May the Circle Be Unbroken,” and “I’ll Fly Away.”

My formal meditation practice took a hit that year: no time for retreats, no ability to keep a regular schedule.  But being mindful of each moment together and focussing on meeting her needs was my Buddhist practice.  I didn’t need anything else.  It felt like all the years of practice up until then had been preparation for meeting that moment with equanimity, no complaints, and a good heart.  Do what is necessary in the moment.  Each moment.  Every moment. Moment after moment.  It’s all good.

Now I have my own cancer journey.  A year and a half ago I was diagnosed with a rare cancer, a liposarcoma.  My journey is easier than my first wife’s, my surgery just a walk in the park compared to hers.  So far no recurrence, no chemo, no radiation:  Just watchful waiting.

What do I do with my glass 20% empty?  It’s a blow to my ego.  There’s a heavy feeling of sadness in my chest that goes along with it.  There are questions I push out of my mind because now it is not time for them: “What would I choose to do if there was a recurrence?”

But cancer has a lesson to teach: “Don’t waste your precious human life,” it says.  Do what is necessary in the moment.  Each moment. Every moment. Moment after moment.  It’s all good.

This is the Dharma, plain and simple.

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  1. [1] Fields, R. (1986). How The Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America.  Shambhala: Boston.

The Great Matter of Life and Death

Life is like getting onto a small boat that is about to sail out to sea and sink.”  -Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

This past week I attended two funerals, one for an an uncle, one for a cousin.

This coming week I’ll be attending a birthday party for one of my grandchildren.

My family shrinks as elders depart, grows as children enter the world.

This week was also the autumnal equinox: the end of summer, the beginning of autumn.

The world ceaselessly instructs us in impermanence.  Nothing remains the same because there is no “thing.” Every “thing” is always a process in transition to becoming some “thing” else.

When I was young, my extended family seemed to be a stable, unchanging entity.  It was filled with uncles, aunts, and cousins. Two decades went by with only minimal change.  It felt like I could count on it forever.

Now all the uncles are gone.  Every one.

Now all the aunts are gone except for one.  She is ninety-four and suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease.

And now two of my own generation, my cohort of cousins, are gone too.

But those cousins have had children, and their children have had children.  One branch withers, another blossoms.

My body also gives me daily lessons in impermanence.  It reminds me of it when I take my insulin for my diabetes.  It reminds me of it when I visit my oncologist for my six-month check-up.  It reminds me of it when I wake in the middle of the night to pay obeisance to the prostate gods.   Ceaseless change.

Four years ago my first wife, the mother of my children, passed away after enduring the ravages of cancer.  Two months before she died, our son’s wife gave birth to twins.  One warm, bright April morning my wife and I took a cab from the emergency room at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center where we had spent another traumatic night to go to the neonatal ICU at Beth Israel Hospital for a first look at our beautiful new grandchildren.  Was there ever a day more filled with intense, contradictory emotions?

Now I’m remarried, and my new wife brings me the joys of her children and their wives and children.  My family contracts and expands.

This is what I want you to know.  We had no beginning.  We are part of a ceaseless chain of events that began, this time around, with the Big Bang.  We came from our parents’ DNA, and they from their parents’ DNA. The effects of our actions reverberate throughout time and ripple throughout history.  We are part of the vast tapestry of being.  In the absolute view of things, we have no end.

Therefore, O Sariputra, in emptiness there is no…. decay and death, no extinction of decay and death. There is no suffering, no origination, no stopping…   (The Heart Sutra)

But from the relative point of view we have an end. The fact of our impermanence, of death-in-life, can sharpen our awareness of the limited time we have available to make use of our precious human lives.

Cambridge Insight Meditation teacher Larry Rosenberg tells the story of meeting Tara Tulku Rinpoche who repeatedly fingered the beads of his mala while reciting a mysterious mantra.  When Larry asked the meaning of the mantra, the lama replied “I’m going to die. I’m going to die.”  We all need reminders to focus on using our life wisely. When we realize our time is limited we can ask ourselves how we really want to spend it.  What’s really important?  We want our loved ones to know how much we care about them.  We want to improve things around us.  We want to leave something of value to those who come next.

As Dogen Zenji reminds us:

Life and death are of supreme importance.  Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost.  Each of us should strive to awaken.  Awaken!  Take Heed! Do not squander your life!

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Why Aren’t We Happy Yet?

So why aren’t we happy yet?  What’s the problem?

Well, as it turns out, there isn’t just one problem, but a whole bunch of them.  (Things are never that simple.  I’ve gone ahead and bundled them into seven categories. I’m a bit of a category nut):

  1. The Problem of Conflicting Desires
  2. The Problem of Illegitimate Desires
  3. The Problem of Enchantment: Translating Desires into Needs
  4. The Problem of Supply and Distribution
  5. The Problem of Impermanence
  6. The Problem of Other People’s Imperfections
  7. The Problem of Our Own Imperfection

Each of these problems needs a little bit of explanation and elaboration.

The Problem of Conflicting Desires

We sometimes have several desires at once which are incompatible with each other.  For example, we want to eat everything that appeals to us, but we also want to be thin.  Or we want to have lots of money, but we don’t want to work too hard.  Or we want to have a relationship with Sally, but we also want one with Joan.  Or we want to please our parents, but we also want to do things our own way.  We want to have our cake and eat it too. This is our unfortunate human condition.  The world seems to have been arranged so that we just can’t have everything we want because the things we want are contradictory and exclude each other.  In fact, it seems to be a general rule that whenever we chose something, we are not choosing something else.  Every time we make a choice we are closing off other options.  There is nothing we can do about this problem: this is something we just have to suck up.

The Problem of Illegitimate Desires

Sometimes we have a desire, but we’ve been told by our parents, partners, or teachers that we shouldn’t have it.  We’ve been taught that the desire is illegitimate.  When this happens, we may blame ourselves for having the desire, or we may pretend the desire doesn’t really exist.  For example, you may be told that you shouldn’t have certain sexual desires: you shouldn’t feel like masturbating, or having sex outside of marriage, or having sex with a member of the same gender or a different race.  Or you may have been told that you shouldn’t be selfish, or acquisitive, or independent, or aggressive.  Or that you shouldn’t be soft-hearted, trusting, or sentimental.  Or that you shouldn’t be curious, questioning, and innovative.

If one is going to think sanely about this issue, it is important to make a distinction between having desires and acting on them.  Desires just happen, and we don’t ask to have them.  We don’t ask, for example, to be homosexual or heterosexual, or have high or low sex drives.  We just have certain desires or we don’t.  We also can’t ask not to have them without ending up pretending and lying to ourselves.  We do have the ability, however, to decide whether to try to fulfill those desires or not.  A person might discover, for example, a desire for sex outside of his or her marriage and decide that it would be morally wrong to act on that desire.  The important thing here is not to blame oneself or someone else for having the desire in the first place. So much human misery has been caused by the self-blame and low self-esteem that comes from believing one is bad because one has illegitimate desires.  It is wiser to accept oneself fully in terms of recognizing one’s true desires; then one can control the satisfaction and frustration of those desires in accordance with the way one wants to live.

It’s a simple fact that we can better manage our desires when we see them and understand them correctly and without blame.  The alcoholic who denies he’s really an alcoholic doesn’t make the decision to avoid alcohol at all costs.  The alcoholic who is honest but not self-blaming can make wise choices and stay out of the bar.  The alcoholic, however, who recognizes the desire but labels himself or herself as “bad” for having it just has one more reason to go out and get drunk.

When we don’t properly appreciate and understand our own desires, we often end up making our lives and the lives of others around us miserable.  Think for a moment of a male homosexual who denies to himself that he is “gay,” and marries a woman just to prove to himself that he is “straight.”  You can predict the results a few years down the road: an unhappy husband, an unhappy wife, and in the wake of the probable divorce, unhappy children.  You see this same predicament in people who choose the wrong profession for themselves, or in couples who marry when they only think they are in love.  Socrates’ injunction to “Know Thyself” involves our ability to know our true desires.

The Problem of Enchantment: Translating Desires into Needs

One problem with desire is that we often magically over-evaluate the thing we desire.  On a ten-point Intensity of Desire Scale, we often assign the desired object a score of “11”.  When we are in love, the person we love has no flaws, and is more wonderful than any other person who ever lived.  We would give up everything to win their love in return; sometimes we do.  When there is stylish dress, or a new cutting-edge electronic device, or a classy automobile we just have to have, the item we want changes from an object to an obsession, and there is enormous energy that arises as part of the yearning and wishing.  Once we actually possess the loved one, or the dress, or the car, our evaluation of it begins to decline: our desiring loses some of its charge, excitement, and energy.  How often have you noticed that our anticipation of attending a social event, for example, is often more fun that the event itself?

This initial intense charge, this infatuation, makes for a certain kind of enchantment by things: the desired object has us in its power.  We are bewitched.  What ought be just a desire has become a need in our own mental calculus.  Once a desire has been turned into a need, it takes on a pre-eminent importance to us above what it should have, and this means that we will give more to obtain it than we ought to.  It also means that if our attempts to obtain it are frustrated, we become angrier and more frustrated and upset than we would otherwise be.  It can become something we would die for, or would kill for.

Learning to see desires as just desires and not as needs is an important part of making things right-sized in our lives.  We can see how irrational our teenage children are when they need a special brand of clothing, or need to attend a particular party.  From our special place of hard-earned maturity, we can see how childish they are.  What is harder to see is just how childish we are when we need that bigger house, or that boat, or that promotion, or that elective office, or that early retirement.  Or when we need to be thin, or to not look old, or to not become infirm.  Learning how to live with what is reasonably possible, and to accept what is inevitable is an important part of learning how to be happy.

The Problem of Supply and Distribution

Economics has been called “the dismal science” because one of its central axioms is that desire always outstrips the ability of the world to satisfy it.  There isn’t enough money, oil, gold, or diamonds to meet everyone’s wishes for them.  There aren’t enough supermodels and hunks to go around as spouses for everyone.  There aren’t enough brainy genes to make everyone a genius.  Scarcity often makes things more valuable: the more rare it is, the more people want it.  On the other hand, if something isn’t desirable, there often seems to be more than enough to go around: more than enough flu viruses, more than enough dust, more than enough mosquitoes.

To make things worse, when things are desirable, they aren’t distributed evenly.  The powerful and important people get more than their fair share of things, and the rest of us make do with less.  Or none.  That’s not just true in capitalist societies.  In feudal societies the nobility had it all and the peasants had next to nothing.  In communist countries, the commissars had their dachas (vacation homes) on the Black Sea and the special schools for their children, and the best of healthcare, and the masses shared the poverty of the collective farm. The old joke has it that under Capitalism man exploits man, while under Communism, it’s just the opposite.

While some societies share the wealth more fairly than others, Western Europe, for example, is more equitable in sharing its wealth than is the United States, no society has even remotely done away with inequality.  Some people are born into more advantaged families, genders, nations, or races, or they are bigger, faster, brighter, stronger, more beautiful, or more unscrupulous than others, and voila, there you have it: inequality.

As a result, you will never have everything you want, and there will always be someone who has something more than what you have. For some people this is an unmitigated  tragedy and a cause of unending bitterness, for others it is “just life.”  You get to choose which attitude you want to take towards it.  Guess which one makes you happier?

In saying this I am not arguing in favor of inequality, and I am not suggesting we should not make real efforts to try to make the world fairer.  I am just arguing for the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer that is recited in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings: May you be granted the serenity to change the things you can, accept the things you can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference between them.

The Problem of Impermanence

If you succeed in getting the thing you desire, your next problem is that it won’t last.  Nothing lasts forever.  People grow old and sick and die.  They fall out of love and they move away.  You get that great new job, and the boss changes, or the company gets bought out or folds. Houses need painting and repair, car engines wear out and get thick with sludge.  Mountains erode, climates change, nations rise and fall. Objects decay, entropy intrudes, times change.  Eventually the sun will burn out and the universe will run down.  Trust me. The Buddha said that all “compound phenomena are subject to decay.”  By “compound phenomena,” he meant things that were made up of other things, namely, everything.  Heraclitus said “You can’t step in the same river twice.”

Not only is the world constantly changing, but our feelings about the world are constantly changing too.  There is a psychological law called habituation which basically says that the brain tires of responding to the same old same old.  The first bite of Ben and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk Ice Cream is sublime.  The 100th bite, not quite as delicious.  The first time you hear that new hit song, it’s delightful.  After a while you feel like you’ll scream if you hear it one  more time.

Not only is the world always changing, and our emotional response to it always changing, but the contents of our minds is always changing, too.  If you just sit and observe your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, you will see how they are all constantly changing.  We are continuously learning new things and forgetting old things (unless we have Alzheimer’s Disease, in which case we forget the new even faster than we forget the old).  We change our moods, our opinions, and our minds.

Our desires change as well.   The books and movies we love as teenagers are not the same books and movies we love in old age.  As a youngster I hated olives and anchovies, now I love them. The vocation you aspired to in grade school is not probably not the same vocation you are in, or want to be in, today.

While the law of impermanence says we can never be permanently happy because what we want changes and the things we acquire change, there is a bright side to it: it’s not all gloom and doom.  If there was no change, we would never grow wiser or smarter, we would never overcome bad habits, and we would not learn new skills and information.  We would never better our condition or invent or create something new.   Change allows for the good as well as the bad.  So let’s hear one cheer for the Law of Impermanence: Hooray.

The Problem of Other People’s Imperfections

Nobody’s perfect.  And when it comes to other people, nobody’s even close.  In fact, to tell the truth, most people are disappointing and annoying a reasonable percentage of the time.   Even, or maybe especially, the people that you love.   They have all these bad habits, and they do all these dumb things.  Part of the problem is genetic.  Half the population is below average.  And humans share over 99% of their DNA with chimpanzees, so other people really aren’t much smarter or better behaved than chimpanzees.  How could they be?  Their biggest problem is that they don’t always put our own interests first.  They often care more about themselves than they do about us. How selfish!  And they aren’t always sufficiently attentive and appreciative of us.  Can you imagine?  They don’t hang on our every word, they don’t think all of our ideas are great ideas, and they don’t always anticipate our every need and satisfy them.

Even the best of people have all these flaws.

The Problem of Our Own Imperfection

There’s no doubt about it: We’re not perfect either: We’re not powerful enough to control the world.  We’re not powerful enough to control our bodies and stop them from aging or becoming ill.  We’re not even powerful enough to control our own minds.  If you need proof of this, just try counting from one to ten without thinking about a white rabbit.  Or try to have no thoughts at all for the next ten seconds.

There are certain kinds of errors we’re prone to making just simply because we’re human beings.  As a species we tend to be irrational, impulsive, and overly focused on short-term gain.  Think of those as design flaws.

In addition, we have limited vision and tend to be short-sighted.  When chess masters are playing an opponent, they try to anticipate how their opponent will counter their next move, and what they will do in response, and how their opponent will respond to that.  But even the best chess masters can only see several moves ahead.  Our brains are only so big.  As a result, our actions often have unintended consequences which we failed to anticipate.

As a result of our limited vision, all of our solutions to problems seem to create new problems.  This is why there will never be a problem shortage.  When the automobile was invented it was seen as an ingenious and affordable method for getting rapidly from Point A to Point B.  No one back then guessed it would contribute to global warming, to air pollution, to dependency on the Middle East for oil, or to tens of thousands of deaths and brain injuries per year.  When Thalidomide was prescribed by European gynecologists for morning sickness in their patients, they didn’t anticipate it would lead to an epidemic of birth defects.  When air conditioners and cooling systems were invented to make the summer heat more tolerable, no one anticipated that they would become reservoirs for the microorganism that causes Legionnaire’s Disease.  When Paris took Helen to be his wife, he didn’t expect the Trojan War.

As much as we try to think ahead and come up with “environmental impact statements” or other guestimates of the future impact of our decisions, we’ll always be woefully wrong.  The variables that affect the future are so numerous, we can never fully take all of them into account.  We’re like people lost in the night-time fog with little flashlights.  We can shine the flashlight on the ground and see a few footsteps ahead, but not much further.

So there you have it.  The seven reasons why you aren’t permanently and deliriously happy yet.     I hope you’re satisfied.

I wish I could be satisfied with the list, but I’m not.  I must have left something out, given my own imperfection.  If you come up with any additional reasons, please post them here.

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