I recently finished The Good Place after learning that season four was on Netflix. I really enjoyed the show and watched all of season four in 2-3 days. I got sucked into it quickly and rather shut out the rest of the world. I noticed when it ended I had this clamoring to find another thing to escape into. It reminds me of when I would come off a particular drug there’d often be this craving for something to do after it, rarely would I sit there satisfied, I always wanted something else. Another feeling or sensation to come next.
The show and my attachment to it made me think “Can I really give this up? These shows?” and I keep in mind that it’s trading a smaller happiness for a bigger happiness. I noticed in reflection during my meditation that it felt like the show sent me spinning. Before it felt like standing clearly on two feet and then it’s like getting sucked into a drug binge. The Thai Ajahns talk about dispassion as a kind of sobering up. Right now I feel like I go between periods of sobriety and intoxication with the senses.
Shortly after feeling spun out from the media, craving arises and I find myself coming back to thoughts of “what about this TV show” or “what about this fantasy”. I think this is in no small part due to the extra time I now have. I can’t focus so much on physical van work and I don’t have a job to go to. I see a lot of good reason why monastics have a period of physical work to be done. I end up feeling as if craving is picking at the skin. It reminds me of being tortured by thoughts in early recovery from drugs. That there’s a painful quit period before your energies go somewhere else, the wall after the pink cloud.
Sometimes I’ll think “What if I quit all this, put it all down and went back to a totally worldly life?” I do what Ajahn Lee did where I walk through what it would be like. I’d play videogames, do some drugs again, not meditate, eat whenever, probably get fatter. I tried to think of starting a relationship but the whole idea of that seems so bizarre and strange that I can’t picture it. When I play this tape forward it all feels hollow, like I’d get a job I’d spin myself through and spend all my off time getting high or watching TV or whatever. Spend time with friends doing stupid shit. Go to rallies and yell at people, get riled up about this or that suffering in the world. Yet it’s all so empty, like I’d just be dragging myself through these motions with hollow eyes. Constantly looking for the next good moment that never really comes, constantly trying to be ok with being uncomfortable rather not finding a way to stop being uncomfortable.
Really, there’s doubt. It seems to me that this is the way, generally, to true happiness, nibbana, yet I have this doubt that I can do it, that I’ll find the exact route to the mountain top. That I’m good enough and won’t spend forever banging my head against a wall. I think this doubt holds me back. Years back I had more “experiences” that felt special and novel and were motivating. I have less of those now (none, really) and I think over time the lack of it wears me down. I don’t have a community to really connect to so I lack so much guidance. Another part too is that I just want to play videogames and do drugs and not give a fuck. Do stupid shit. In the isolation it’s all too easy to spend time thinking about this or that worldly thing. I have this doubt but I want to be sure. Sure that doing what I’m doing will actually pay off, that it’s not all a waste of time and effort. The theory makes sense to me but I guess I lack that “verified confidence”. Dropping acid does not a stream entrant make.
So I’m sitting here with all this effort and some times I think of this person a little older who gets asked about their tattoos and feels in a way like they’re looking at an old lover, a parting that was sad and with memories that are pleasant and rosy yet best left in the past. I don’t know if I’ll become that person or if this is just the mind looking for excuses to give up because things are hard. The reality of ordination opening back up has played no small role in this I think, making full commitment that much closer. Really, I’m not sure. Not sure, not at all sure.