Fatal Flaws


I remember a story about the famous Thai monk named Ajahn Chah (wearing sunglasses in this photo), from the book Everything Arises, Everything Falls Away. In that story, he holds up a clay cup to the other monks and asks them to find the flaw. The cup wasn’t broken or chipped, so obviously he meant something else. ;)

I once heard some very good marriage advice: you are guaranteed to marry the wrong person. Everyone realizes sooner or later that their spouse isn’t perfect as they thought they were, and the advice was to accept this and learn to work together as adults to build a healthy relationship. Inevitably, no matter how smart, attractive, or funny your partner is, you’ll eventually fine some kind of fatal flaw that can’t be fixed. You might try to fix it, but it probably won’t work.

Likewise, when you start a new job, it feels nice to try something different, or to start over. But sooner or later, your job has some kind of fatal flaw, and you either have to find a new job, or accept what you have and make the most of it.

But as the Buddha taught, everything in existence has a fatal flaw. Good food is bad for your health, or too expensive and you can’t keep eating it everyday. Good TV shows have to end, pretty wives get old, handsome men get cranky and childish. No matter where you live, there’s always something wrong with your city: too cold, too hot, too many earthquakes, too many hurricanes, too much crime, too boring, too big, too small, too much snow, not enough snow, etc. In 2008, I moved to Dublin, Ireland to get out of Seattle and to see life in Europe. I was so excited to leave Seattle behind, but after I arrived in Dublin, I was soon missing Seattle again and hoping to go back soon. And then when I returned to Seattle, I found I didn’t like as much as I thought I would, and missed Dublin, Ireland again.

Dublin, Seattle, good food, wives or husbands are just what they are. The problem is not them, the problem is our expectations. We develop expectations about things, and thus we inevitably get disappointed when our expectations turn out to be wrong. This doesn’t mean being a pessimist either, it means not trusting your expectations so readily.

Everything has some fatal flaw: Seattle has fatal flaws, Dublin has fatal flaws, your wife has a fatal flaw in her personality, your husband has a fatal flaw in his personality. Your house or apartment has some fatal flaw. Your neighborhood, your job, etc. Everything has some fatal flaw.

You just have to learn to live with it. You can’t make the world around you perfect, so instead you should be like a blade of grass that bends with the wind. Even a big hurricane can’t blow down a blade of grass because it just bends with it. There’s a good quote by Bruce Lee that says:

If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo.

Seems like good advice to me.

About Doug 陀愚

A Buddhist, Father and Japanophile / Koreaphile.
This entry was posted in Buddhism, Religion, Theravada. Bookmark the permalink.

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