Of Desires, and Of Sorrows
By Ken K. Gourdin
Another poster at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion has suffered some kind of a reversal of fortune lately which he implied has affected both his outlook and the tone of his posts negatively, for which he posted an apology. In response, I posted a Reader’s Digest ™ Condensed version of my own tale of woe—some might even call it a “sob story,” and I’ll be the first to admit that this might be an apt description. I wrote:
I hear ya.
Every morning, I wake up and I’m still breathing. I can still move (usually), so I figure I might as well trade my horizontal state for a vertical one. [Referring to my decision to attend law school, I continued:] Longer ago than I care to admit, I left the drudgery of answering phones (all workday, every workday) and eventually decided to go back to school in hopes that it would prompt someone to hire me to do something else. Initially, I lost my nerve, withdrew before receiving any credit, and got a job … answering phones (all workday, every workday).
I said, “OK. Well, I may not be sure about this other thing [law school], but I am sure as heck that I don’t want to answer phones (all workday, every workday), for the rest of my life.” So, I swallowed my pride and went back. After several years of emotional and intellectual carnage, literally* against all odds, I finally got the degree. Then I was denied admission to my would-be chosen profession. After ten years of earnest rehabilitation, I thought I might venture to reapply to my would-be chosen profession … Only to have those efforts blithely swept aside by a careless evaluator.
In July of 2015 … since it seems to be the only thing anyone thinks I’m good for, and since, if ya can’t beat ’em, ya might as well join ’em … I took yet another job answering phones. Since, last time I checked, whoever does that was still willing to keep signing my paychecks, I show up for work at my assigned hour … and answer phones for another eight hours. It’s far too little, far too late, but I have an appointment with an attorney who represents my state’s Protection & Advocacy Agency tomorrow. (I dunno what she’s gonna do for me now, but … finally, finally, finally … at least someone’s gonna listen. ) The sheer shock alone almost killed me. In a way, I wish it had!
Yes, yes, yes, I know! No, I’m not planning anything drastic. Yes, I’ll talk to someone if I need to (But the last time I did that, I got into deep trouble; that’s how this whole mess started!) I shoulda simply said, “Welp, I have an eval from 2006 that says my behavioral health diagnosis is in ‘sustained full remission’! We’re just gonna go with that, and even though it’s [at that time] 2014, if the Bar’s not impressed, the Bar’s not impressed!” But I had no reason to think that this idiot would undo all of that. He had me sign a malpractice waiver, and in the back of my mind, I’m thinking “Should I?” I should’ve listened better to that faint little voice, but, 20/20 hindsight.
The whole damn thing feels like “Groundhog Day,” [The movie starring Bill Murray in which the protagonists relives the same day over and over] except, rather than reliving the same day over and over, I’ve come full circle right back to where I started 20 years ago.
Now? My much more modest aspiration is to work one day in any full-time, benefitted position for which my employer thinks I’m good for something … besides answering phones!
OK, I realize this is turning into the old joke where a guy spots another guy who’s about to jump off a bridge, so the first guy thinks he can help the second guy, stops and gets out of his car, and they talk for two hours … then they both jump off the bridge.
I wish you well.
*Yes, I realize the word “literally” is overused … literally. But it applies in this case … literally.
Someone else recommended two General Conference addresses by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, formerly of the Quorum of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “Sunday Will Come” (from October 2006 and available here (this and all other links last accessed April 16, 2017): https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/10/sunday-will-come?lang=eng); and “Come What May, and Love It” (from October 2008 and available here: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/10/come-what-may-and-love-it?lang=eng).
I replied, “As long as we’re looking for Conference talks to read so we can avoid doing any actual work ,” and posted a link to President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s address from October of 2014, “Grateful in Any Circumstances,” https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/grateful-in-any-circumstances?lang=eng.
Another poster said he planned to call me that evening and talk to me on the phone for hours. “I’m sure you won’t mind,” he assured me. I responded, “OK, as long as you don’t mind if I answer the phone by saying, ‘Lexus Enform ™, this is Kenneth. Where would you like to go today?’ while I look at Google Maps ™ on the Internet.”
In response to the general tenor of the discussion regarding unfulfilled desires, another poster, quoting the Buddha, wrote, “Desire is the beginning of sorrows.” I responded, “Yep. If I don’t want, I don’t have to be disappointed about not getting.” The thread’s originator responded, “A life without desire is bereft of joy,” and signed that “quote” with his screen name. Then he continued:
This is why I cannot stomach Buddhism. It implicitly concludes that between joy and sorrow sorrow is the more prevalent and powerful and it is better to kill both. I would rather be a human who weeps and smiles and laughs with all the pain and rapture that involves than to cut out the potential for both.
You (and [another poster, who upvoted his comment opposing the Buddha’s teaching]) misunderstand the Buddha, my young Padawan. (And I’m treading in very deep water here, since I’m sure that the venerable [poster who posted the quotation from the Buddha] has forgotten more about Buddhism … among many other things … than I’ll ever know: By contrast, one can fit everything I know about Buddhism in a very small thimble!)
While I believe (as I’m sure you do) in the principle of opposition in all things as taught in the Book of Mormon and in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ [see 2 Nephi 2:11], and while everything does have its opposite, the absence of [x] does not necessarily dictate the presence of [y]. [Not x] is simply [not x]. Thus, one need not be sorrowful even in the absence of joy. One can, for example, be content, even if one is not necessarily joyful. The Buddha was teaching a principle similar to that taught by the Apostle Paul: “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11). Daniel, Meschach, Shadrach, and Abed-Nego taught and adhered to a similar principle: They didn’t want to die in King Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, but they were prepared to accept whatever came (see Daniel 3:17-18). And while I may not agree with it in every particular (and while it’s a bit too “New-Agey” in spots for me), there’s a lot of wisdom in Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata”: http://mwkworks.com/desiderata.html.
And if our overarching purpose in being here is to learn to subject our will to God’s (see Matthew 26:39), perhaps that’s why “desire [at least, if our desires and God’s desires are different] is the beginning of sorrows.”
Then, I concluded, ‘I expand a bit on the idea of a neutral between extremes (opposition in all things notwithstanding) here,” and posted a link to an essay I posted earlier on the Blog, “I’m Okay”: https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2015/05/23/im-okay/.