Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Shit Happens

El Dorado Kitchen, Sonoma, California, USA

May 24, 2013

"Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should." ... Max Ehrmann, Desiderata - 1927

This essay, Shit Happens, is the companion piece to
  1. You Are A Machine II
  2. Light On Things
in that order.

It is also the sequel to You Don't Ask "Why Me?"  When It's Raining.

I am indebted to JoAnne Bangs who inspired this conversation.

Collage by Laurence Platt
Classic T-Shirt
I've checked, and there's no real certainty or agreement as to who first popularized the phrase "Shit happens" - and no, it wasn't Forrest Gump. Laying claim to it ie attempting to patent it at this stage would be like trying to patent the word "the"  - it's simply too embedded in our popular culture by now for anyone to trademark it as their own. Therefore it's really OK to attribute its source as I'm doing here to a bumper sticker or a T-shirt.

There are two ways you can say "shit happens", one of which is actually very good Zen. The two ways you can say it are the profane way and the sacred way. The profane "shit happens" is dismissing, inconsiderate, vulgar, and uncaring. The sacred "shit happens" is profound, compassionate, observant, and enlightened. It's the latter way, the enlightened "shit happens" way ie the good Zen "shit happens" way which interests me.

The sacred "shit happens" resembles "it's raining". And you don't ask "Why Me?"  when it's raining, do you? You can't use the sacred "shit happens" to pass the buck, to avoid responsibility. You can however use it as a light under which to look at episodes and incidents in Life which happen yet which defy both explanation and reason and which even defy logic. You can use is as a light under which to examine the way we expect all things to be explainable. And well they may be. But given our skewed view of the world, the truth doesn't fit.

Listen: shit in the cosmic  sense has been happening for millennia  - in fact shit in the cosmic sense is all that ever happens. Gee! I hope you get this. One way of avoiding dealing with ie one way of avoiding confronting  the cosmic such-ness, the cosmic thus-ness of "shit happens" is to use the doctrine of karma  as a filtering tool to explain the apparent randomness of happenstance. It's built into the machinery of the mind to insist  "There must  be a reason ..." even when there aren't any reasons. Self, on the other hand, is unreasonable ie it's beyond  reason. The doctrine of karma is the balm for ie it's the antidote  to the mind futilely insisting "There must  be a reason ...".

A shortcoming of the doctrine of karma is it avoids being responsible for what's happening now, instead assigning payback  for something which happened previously ie for something you did  previously. "Being responsible for what's happening now" is being willing to be cause in the matter. Being responsible is senior  to and doesn't require the karmic escape of payback ie "you get what you deserve", or blame or fault or guilt (as Werner Erhard" may have said).

Consider what's so is this: in the cosmic sense, nothing but  shit happens. That's all that ever  happens, and that's all that ever will happen throughout all the millennia. It's not that Life happens, then within the context of Life happening, from time to time shit happens. No, shit is always  happening. But our relationship with things unfolding this way lacks the maturity required to work effectively with it. Our lives don't work because we're too busy assigning blame, fault, guilt, payback, and meaning, and we're too busy figuring out ways to avoid being responsible (I mean "being responsible" here in the same way Werner Erhard distinguishes it) to really appreciate and enjoy the good Zen when shit happens, its sacredness, the such-ness of it, the thus-ness of it.

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