Advice for Living

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D.

 Nope, not advice from me.  Advice from Sheldon Kopp, a psychotherapist who lived from 1929 to 1999.  Kopp believed that people find their way in life by living fully and by facing reality squarely, without illusion.  The title of his book – “If You Meet The Buddha On The Road, Kill Him”- reflects his belief that there is no higher authority than you when it comes to figuring out your own truth.  These 43 statements are pretty deep, Imo.  Kopp wasn’t a romantic – check out #10, one of my faves, which basically says life is unfair, bad things happen to good people and nobody ‘makes up’ for your losses.  Or #4 – we’re dying already and we’ll be dead a long time. Or #12, the world is random.

And yet Kopp is anything but a pessimist.  He’s an old school Existentialist.  He’s big on taking personal responsibility for  your own life, on facing the irrationality of the world and on finding a way of accepting it.  And he believes that we bring our own meaning to life.  This is a scary idea – we can’t rely on religion, leaders, or gurus to tell us how to live.  Most of us want to believe that somewhere there are REAL ‘grown-ups’ who ‘know’, and if we find these folks, they’ll tell us how we can be happy, safe, and loved.  It’s frightening to realize that no one like this exists.  And yet it can be a freeing and empowering idea, too.  If we are the highest authority in our own life, we don’t have to worry about other people’s judgments, we don’t have to live up to others’ expectations.  We create our own beliefs and credo along the way.

I hope you find this list as inspirational as I do.  These 43 concepts don’t soft pedal reality, but they have a comfort of their own.

An Eschatological Laundry List by Sheldon Kopp

1. This is it.

2. There are no hidden meanings.

3. You can’t get there from here, and besides there is no place to go.

4. We are already dying, and we’ll be dead a long time.

5. Nothing lasts!

6. There is no way of getting all you want.

7. You can’t have anything unless you let go of it.

8. You only get to keep what you give away.

9. There is no particular reason why you lost out on some things.

10. The world is not necessarily just. Being good often does not pay off and there’s no compensation for misfortune.

11. You have the responsibility to do your best nonetheless.

12. It’s a random universe to which we bring meaning.

13. You really don’t control anything.

14. You can’t make anyone love you.

15. No one is any stronger or any weaker than anyone else.

16. Everyone is, in his own way, vulnerable.

17. There are no great men.

18. If you have a hero, look again; you have diminished yourself in some way.

19. Everyone lies, cheats, pretends. (yes, you too, and most certainly myself.)

20. All evil is potentially vitality in need of transformation.

21. All of you is worth something if you will only own it.

22. Progress is an illusion.

23. Evil can be displaced but never eradicated, as all solutions breed new problems.

24. Yet it is necessary to keep struggling toward solution.

25. Childhood is a nightmare.

26. But it is so very hard to be an on-your-own, take-care-of-yourself-cause-there-is-no-one-else-to-do-it-for-you grown-up.

27. Each of us is ultimately alone.

28. The most important things each man must do for himself.

29. Love is not enough, but it sure helps.

30. We have only ourselves, and one another. That may not be much, but that’s all there is.

31. How strange, that so often, it all seems worth it.

32. We must live within the ambiguity of partial freedom, partial power, and partial knowledge.

33. All important decisions must be made on the basis of insufficient data.

34. Yet we are responsible for everything we do.

35. No excuses will be accepted.

36. You can run, but you can’t hide.

37. It is most important to run out of scapegoats.

38. We must learn the power of living with our helplessness.

39. The only victory lies is in surrender to oneself.

40. All of the significant battles are waged within the self.

41. You are free to do whatever you like. You need only face the consequences.

42. What do you know for sure…anyway?

43. Learn to forgive yourself, again and again and again and again.

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