Stubbed Toes And Too-Tight Clothes
from Back To Godhead Magazine #33-03, 1999
In writing about Krishna consciousness for Back to Godhead, I sometimes browse through books of quotations from famous people. I recently came across this quote from an American comedian: “Most of the time I don’t have much fun. The rest of the time I don’t have any fun at all.”
The power of wit is in delivering the unexpected, and also in saying something we can all agree with. Wouldn’t we all like to be happy all the time? Why does full satisfaction escape us? And what does our desire for unending happiness say about who we are?
Some people say we evolved from chemicals. I’m not a scientist, but I’d suggest that the theory of evolution can’t explain why we want happiness in the first place. If we’re adapted for this life, and this life can be pretty miserable, why wouldn’t we evolve with the desire to be miserable, and then be satisfied when we are?
Other people say we’re spiritual beings, created by God. That explanation makes more sense to me. We’re after happiness because our original nature is to be happy. We’re not these bodies but eternal happy souls locked inside unhappy bodies.
Think how much misery the body can bring. My big toe gives me pleasure indirectly by making it easy for me to walk. But when I stub it I feel the direct misery it can bring. In fact, the body, with all its demands, constantly gives misery. Try fasting for a day and see how much distress your stomach and tongue can give you.
We’re always trying to pull pleasure from the body, but it costs us. The currency? Disease, aging, and finally death.
But we don’t give up the quest for happiness even though the body won’t cooperate. Even in the most horrible situations, we cling to the hope that things will get better.
Granted, life’s not all misery, but why settle for imperfect happiness? A healthy dose of pessimism about material life is a good first step toward spiritual awakening. The material world is designed to give us misery. Someone once said that maybe the earth is another planet’s hell. In fact, the whole material world is a kind of hell, compared to our original home in the spiritual world. We’re not supposed to be happy here. No matter how many adjustments we make, we’ll always feel something’s wrong, as if we’re wearing clothes a few sizes too small.
One message of Back to Godhead is that sensual enjoyment is a waste of time. But we’re not trying to spoil the party. We’re saying that this party’s an illusion and the forces of nature will inevitably crash it. There’s another party across town at the Hare Krishna temple. Singing, dancing, and feasting in relation to God—a taste of a way of life that will prepare you for a one-way trip back to the eternal party you left long ago.
Even while in this world, an awakened soul tolerates bodily suffering and takes pleasure in Krishna consciousness. He might say, “Most of the time I don’t suffer much. The rest of the time I don’t suffer at all.”