I hate the rain… I hate how it gets you wet. With every single drop that hits your body you grow colder. I hate how the drops fall down and smash in to the pools that their predecessors left behind, creating a small crater followed by expanding rings, each ring in turn gets hit by another tiny meteorite of water. I see people rushing around with anxious looks on their faces. The rain makes them hurry even more to get to their destinations. Even nature tries its very best to hide itself during a storm like this — there are no birds singing, no cats wandering the streets, there is not even one insect flying around. I hate the rain, how the pools reach every small corner of every street, how they fill up every hole they can get their watery gaze on. I hate that I am getting colder and wetter with the second, I hate how it is ruining my plans. God, how I hate the rain…
That was my thinking a few mornings ago while I was stranded beneath a tree, seeking shelter from the rain that was falling down from the sky. I was on my way to the city, for reasons not important (catching Pokémon) when it started raining — a lot. This summer is a wet one for the Netherlands, but it had been quiet some time since I’d seen it rain like this. I stood there, beneath the dense undergrowth of the tree in just the right position to be hit by the least amount of rain drops — my back pressed against the stem, my shoulders straight and my arms behind my back. I thought to myself that I should’ve looked up the weather predictions and just stayed home — but this is the story of why I do not regret standing beneath that tree in the exact same position for a whole hour.
Standing there, alone, with not even being able to turn to my phone to seek refuge from being alone with my thoughts (it broke down because of the rain) was an experience I am not really familiar with. It gave me time to just think, not about that show I’m watching or that book that I’m reading, just think. Just me, my thoughts and the rain. It was then that it dawned on me that I had read about a man that was in a similar situation that I was in, being alone, under a tree. I am hesitant to compare my situation to his, but it was the connection my mind made, and it gave me a powerful insight. The name of that man was Siddhartha Gautama, a prince from modern day Nepal/India. He is may be better known by the name ‘Buddha’.
I want to tell the story of Siddhartha Gautama. He was a Prince in what would be modern day Nepal/India, born in the 6th century BCE. His mother died a few days after giving birth to him. His father later got the prophecy that Siddhartha would one day either be a great king, or a great spiritual leader. While we all know how that turned out, his father did not and tried his very best to shield Siddhartha from things that would turn him into a spiritual leader, and put him in a huge palace. His feasts were great and Siddhartha could enjoy the pleasures of many women. He did not know what suffering or even discomfort was. Until one day, when he got out of his palace.
He was driven around in his chariot, when he caught sight of a strange looking man. He asked his driver what was wrong with him, and the driver was surprised that he did not know — he told Siddhartha that the man was sick, and that everyone gets sick. Later on they stumbled upon another strange looking fellow, and again Siddhartha asked what his deal was. The driver answered that that was an old man, and that everyone gets old. Even later they came across a man who was not moving or even breathing. Siddhartha asked again, and the driver told him that the poor guy had died, and that eventually, everyone will. All these events shocked Siddhartha to his core, and he took it upon himself to rid the world of suffering.
He went to the Ascetics and gave up all lively possessions and nearly starved himself to death, yet he found no satisfaction with them. Having lived life in abundant luxury and in scarcity of any possessions at all got him no further to rid the world of suffering. He wanted to find the answer and decided to sit under a tree and meditate. He sat there for days, and finally he reached Enlightenment, or Nirvana, and became the Buddha, or the Awakened.
This is why I drew this silly little parallel while I was under that tree. It was while I was standing underneath that tree, that I realized something that is immensely important in not only Buddhism, but also in Stoic philosophy. As Marcus Aurelius said, the Stoic Roman Emperor:
“If thou art pained by any external thing, it is not this that disturbs thee, but thy own judgement about it. And it is in thy power to wipe out this judgment now”
It was under the circumstances that I found myself in, that I not only understood what Marcus Aurelius meant, I realized how I could use this philosophy of his, and Buddha’s and of countless others. It was under this tree that I understood what it was that would erase at least my suffering at that moment, and the answer was to look around, for which I had plenty of time. I came to realize how beautiful life was — not ‘life’ in the clichéd way, but how absolutely wonderful it was that it actually got here. I needn’t think about how the rain is ruining my plans. I need to think about how lucky I am, to be in that very rain, under that very tree, getting soaked. The majority of people that have ever lived, can’t enjoy the rain any longer. And soon, we will join these legions of the dead.
Every one of us has life, and an urge to continue that life — while the majority of the people do not get to live in their lives. Go. Live. Go outside, into the rain. Feel the rain on your skin, while you can. Look up and admire the process by which that rain is brought to the place where you are as well. Look around and be fascinated by how life has evolved through far worse conditions than this, and that every single tree, every single blade of grass, every person, is the product of millions upon million years of evolution — which in turn is the product of pure and utter luck, in a ginormously large universe that is in turn billions upon billions of years old. Look around. Be glad that you are here, in the rain, that you are intelligent, that you are feeling, that you are thinking. Appreciate. While you can.