the same in honor and disgrace

August 21, 2019

Self-reliant, impartial to suffering
and joy, to clay, stone, or gold,
the resolute man is the same
to foe and friend, to blame and praise.
The same in honor and disgrace,
to ally and enemy,
a man who abandons involvements
transcends the qualities of nature.

Bhagavad-Gita, translated by Barbara Stoler Miller


for a long time, equanimity was my main word. to stay level-headed in the face of all situations. specifically ones where i was disappointed in my performance.

one summer a few years ago, i played pool every single day. i was determined to be great at the game, or at least as great as i could be. months of hard work later, i still wasn’t very good. that infuriated me, and almost every time i missed a few shots in a row, i lost my shit.

i immediately started with the negative self-talk: i’m shit. i should never be allowed to touch a cue ever again. i have no business doing anything if i can’t pot a ball. i don’t deserve anything in this world.

yes—over a game of pool. and i wasn’t even playing against anyone; just practicing.

i acted this way because i thought it made me better. i thought that if you could be equanimous through your failures that it meant you didn’t care enough. if you didn’t care enough, didn’t have enough passion, and you could never get better. 

i was right, sort of. i did get better—though it cost a lot. it cost me happiness, joy, equanimity, peace. i did this with pool, chess, debate, sports, anything that i was striving at, i made my life a living hell because i was focused only on the outcome. instead, i should have realized: i’ll never become perfect. knowing that first is the foundational peace that allows one to move on.

it’s like moving away. if you move away from home angry at where you came from, you’re fixated on the hopefully better outcome of a new place. but you have to come to peace where you are before moving, otherwise you bring your misery along with you.

and so, knowing that in the end there is no perfection, i come to peace first and only then decide to strive. now, that striving takes on a whole new meaning—not one focused on results. 

a striving that, in the face of both success and failure, honor and disgrace, ally and enemy, remains the same steady striving.