The two fundamental, foundational, rules for life have been true from the start. "Know thyself!" "To Thine Own Self Be True!" That is all there is to it! And we can't do even that! Every other species has no trouble with it. "The oak tree and the pine grow not in each other's shadow, and the pillars of the temple are together, yet not too near togetherness, and the strings of a guitar are separate though they vibrate with the same music" (The Prophet--Kahill Gibran). Lions are lions and not tigers or goats. Whales do not aspire to be pigeons. Prairie grass does not wish it were giant sequoias. But rock stars want to be movie stars, and baseball players want to be politicians. And who is happy where they are? Everybody wants to be somewhere else. It is never enough to be who we are. And here we are, wishing we were there. With human beings, the two rules of life are the first things that go. And getting back to the start and beginning again as willing servants of the two rules of life is the sum total of the spiritual journey, the hero's journey, the quest for enlightenment and illumination. But. The way back to the Garden of Eden winds through the Garden of Gethsemane and across the face of Golgotha. Do we have what it takes to be who we are? Is the question we live to answer.
We give up this to have that. This is the third rule of life. Know thyself. To thine own self be true. We give up this to have that. Those three rules of life constitute the pathos and the agony of the human condition. We live to integrate, balance, harmonize, realize, express, exhibit the three rules of life in a working relationship with each other. We live to get the ratios right. The catch is that in order to do it, we have to bear the pain. The pain of contradiction, disharmony, discord, conflict, polarity, opposition, angst and anguish. We want to be the best parent in all the world, and we don't want to be a parent at all. Work that out if you dare! You can't do it without breaking your heart. We break our heart in the service of what? Is the question. Where does our highest allegiance lie? Our filial devotion and liege loyalty goes to what? We live to find out. We cannot think our way to the answer. We have to live our way there. That's why it is called "The Hero's Journey." The other term for it is Growing Up. We grow up against our will all the way. Are we going to be who we are, or who we also are? That is the essence of the existential dilemma. The gauntlet, the ordeal, only humans have to bear. How well we square up to the task and live it out tells the tale. And we walk with a limp across the finish line.
The Kindle Books description of The Complete Works of Zhuangz, reads, in part, “To be free, individuals must discard rigid distinctions between good and bad, right and wrong, and follow a course of action not motivated by gain or striving. When one ceases to judge events as good or bad, man-made suffering disappears and natural suffering is embraced as part of life.” Doing what needs to be done in each situation as it arises requires us to be free from all expectation, judgment, opinion regarding what ought to be done, and requires us to be free for doing what is called for here and now, regardless of what that might be, or who stands to gain or lose, benefit or be ruined. Suffering follows right action as surely as it follows wrong action. What is right for the lion is wrong for the antelope. "Life eats life" is the fundamental fact trumping all moral/ethical considerations. Something dies in order for something else to live. What are we going to do here and now? In light of what do we decide? What is called for? What needs to happen? How do we know? How do we determine what must be done? Bear the pain! Bear the pain! Bear the pain! Bear the pain! And allow the mud to settle, and the water to clear. Time after time. Bringing forth the best of your original nature each time. And letting the outcome be the outcome-- which is always merely a threshold to the next moment with its conditions and requirements and its call for something to be done. Where we act again in that here and now to do what needs to be done.