I came across the title quotation–“reality is unforgivingly complex”–reading Anne Lamott’s bestselling book, Bird by Bird. This observation will be the basis for my reflections today. What does she mean by this? As a shorthand, we’ll think of reality as the things that happen to us–weather, accidents, medical events, how dinner turns out.
I think we’d like things to be simpler, clean-cut, black and white, yet how often are things actually so? We lump things into categories for efficiency, yet the things we lump are unique. We overlook the differences for the sake of simplicity. Maybe the differences don’t matter, but in some cases–especially when it comes to our relationships and emotions–it does matter.
Whatever experience you are having right now is one that you’ve never had before. Perhaps you’ve had a similar one, but not this exact one. Can you find the singular aspects of what this moment provides?
Mindfulness helps us to see that reality is complex, and unforgvingly so. Things happen that we don’t want to happen, we make mistakes, we lose things dear to us. The world is a mess, environmentally, politically, and economically. Polticians reduce the complexity to sound bytes. Something important gets lost in the process.
Reality is unforgiving because it does not care about us. Of course, we are part of reality, it does not stand outside of us. We participate in the unfolding of reality. Life is a mix of randomness and intention. Mindfulness will help us to have more intention and less randomness (or at least randomness that can be averted through thoughtful action). When reality intrudes itself upon us without compunction, mindfulness will help us to cope with the consequences of this moment.
Mindfulness can help us to be okay, no matter what is happening, no matter how “unforgivingly complex” reality might be.