Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The art of action

Everyone knows that a glass of water between each beer or gin’n’tonic can prevent hangovers. Nobody likes hangovers. Yet if you visit a busy bar late at night, how many people do you see ordering water?

In 2007 I wrote THE LITTLE BUDDHA, the story about a young Buddha (not Mr Buddha himself) who starts to feel lonely and disillusioned sitting all day long under his tree and so decides to go travelling. On his journey he encounters lots of different people and situations and learns about what really matters in life.
During the last couple of years the book has become quite popular, with lots of fans all over the world and up to now over 25,000 copies sold. Not bad considering that several people had told me ‘you can’t write a book just like that – stop dreaming and focus on a normal job!’ All those disencouraging voices may be reminded of John Lennon’s words: 
“Those who say it cannot be done shouldn’t be interrupting those doing it.”

Anyways, a while ago I’ve talked to a friend who read the book and didn’t think much of it. His comment: “It’s like spirituality for dummies. You don’t say anything new Claus, we know all this stuff already.”
You know what? He’s totally right. THE LITTLE BUDDHA talks about nothing new – no ground-breaking theories, no secret keys to eternal happines. It’s just a nice story that uses long-known wisdoms. In fact, pretty much all ‘spiritual’ books talk about stuff that has been talked about at least a thousand times before. Even the bible – or do you really believe that Jesus and his mates came up with all that clever shit all by themselves? Very unlikely…

Here’s a question: if we already know how to lead a happy life, as my friend suggests, how comes everyone is so messed up? How comes the world is in constant crisis if we know all the solutions?
The answer, or at least part of the answer, is that the human being is highly talented when it comes to forgetting. For example, we all know that life is much more enjoyable and meaningful if we live in the Now. A pretty simple concept really. Yet amidst the daily whirlwind of worries and fears, of broken hearts and holiday planning, we forget to take that occasional conscious breath and to put our attention to the present moment.

Different books with the same messages have been and will continue to be written because we need to be reminded of those messages, over and over again. It’s human nature: we only learn through repetition, no matter whether it’s memorizing vocabulary, mastering a craft or embracing the present. 
Some skills naturally require many repetitions, like when you want to be become a really good musician; other skills require simply awareness – that is, becoming aware of the benefit or necessity of a certain action and then to do what needs to be done.

So coming back to the water and alcohol: until we put a valuable life lesson into practice, we’ll have to keep on suffering. Unless knowledge is applied, even the most intelligent person will remain an idiot.