I am here to learn lessons
Once I have learned what I need to learn
The bad things related to the lesson won’t happen to me anymore

By a spiritual person

Sounds familiar?
It sure does to me.
I have heard it in my own mind for decades
and nowadays I hear my clients say some version of it.

There is word for a society where this is a core belief
And the word is meritocracy
That’s a place where people can make it, if they just work hard enough
Which is the non-spiritualized version of:
Where people can create whatever they want, if they just evolve themselves out of the bad stuff by learning their lessons

Merit
In Dutch, ‘verdienste’
“By your own doing”

It is almost, but not quite, funny how this beliefs does two totally opposite things,
often to one and the same person.

It gives us way, way, way more power than we actually have.

And by implication it makes us completely powerless.

It says we can create anything
and so the people who do
have done so by their own merit.

I am here to learn lessons. Really?

It also implies that all the rest of us
who haven’t been able to
or can’t seem to work ourselves through a particular nasty lesson
haven’t done so through our own doing.

It is nice and orderly
I like it
It sounds like we all have completely equal opportunities
And isn’t that a beautiful dream?

I am here to learn lessons
Once I have learned what I need to learn
The bad things related to the lesson won’t happen to me anymore

A capable person


Let’s say I want to create this wonderful thing
And it seems I have, all by myself, managed to learn all the lessons
because I have accomplished it!
Yes, I have personally-developed myself into a better me
who is actually able to create this wonderful thing

Now let’s say you want to create the same thing
Only you have one more lesson to learn than I do
namely how to love decent lovers
You had a bad father
and you took that to mean ‘that’s how men are’
and spend many draining years
hurting yourself against bad men
before you learned how to love wisely
Which is not to say we should feel sorry for you
It just took half your energy
While I got to spent that half on my accomplishment

Oh and there is this other tiny lesson
that landed on your plate and not on mine, you say.
Part of the people and many of the systems treat you as inferior
because you are born into a darker skin than the majority
and it took you a few tries
also known as half your life
to stop listening to that voice in your head
which agrees with the judgement

No need to feel bad for you
Just the math: you could listen to your desires and dreams only on half capacity

And what, you say there are more lessons
that I was exempted from
due to my middle class upbringing,
good education,
stable family,
skin tone,
smart brain,
generally accepted gender id and sexuality,
average size body,
pretty enough looks.
able body,
all privileges which were non of my doing, you say
no merits of mine ..

Ok, so were I had to learn, say, 10 lessons
you had to learn, say, 30
because I had a huge-not-by-my-doing-head-start
where you did not,
that made it way easier for me to accomplish this thing
than it was for you.

I am here to learn lessons. Really?

You were born to alcohol, drugs and poverty, you say?
Your mother fucked men for pay so you could eat, you say?

Yeah, we are here to learn lessons
Once we have learned what we need to learn
The bad things related to the lesson won’t happen to us anymore

A privileged person

Ok, so this lovely dream has a few thorny edges
Beneath its shiny surface
But nevertheless, it is useful to learn lessons, right!?

Ok, let’s speak to a client of mine for an answer to this question.

This client had had a rather shitty life
As he pictured for me in detail
That was a painful reality
One that he’d rather not see
(as I can imagine)
So he clutched to ‘the lesson belief’
in order to put a bit of shine to the shittyness,
to polish it up one step higher on the ladder of worthiness.
A desire which I totally get, btw
Yet that polishing, that softening kept him from making life better for himself.

Religion is often used for the same purpose
It’s called the glorification of suffering
Yeah, the idea has been around for a few millennia ..
So much for spiritual originality

He told me what his life lesson was
And sure enough, many of his years showed this theme,
his particular flavour of suffering.
What should I learn?
he asked of me and the session.
Peculiar, given that he just told me what he needed to learn.

How about that there is no evidence that lessons need to be learned?
How about that we can learn stuff from stuff if we want
and in doing so we can make our or other peoples lives better
If we choose to
How about that hunting for lessons takes us away from making choices and possibly living a good life?

How about getting the difference between what we can change
and what we can’t?
where we actually do have power
and where we don’t?

Oh and how about distinguishing between what is knowable
and what is unknowable?
Knowing the meaning of life
definitely belongs in the latter category
Because humans are part of nature
Part of reality
Part of the whole
So tell me, where,
within all this seamless oneness,
do we hide the tool
that makes it possible for us
to step out of that wholeness
and see its meaning?

Where is the back door out of all that everything-ness?

I am here to learn lessons. Really?

We took some time walking around
the reality hidden under the wonderful lies
but then he got it
the trap of thinking himself powerful
which made him powerless in actuality

He saw his options
Got real with what had not been
and most probably could not be
And changed course

It seems all we have is the power we actually do have
And if we’re lucky that’s enough


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    Picture and style credits

    All drawings: by Leonie de Bot which is me
    Photo cat busy learning a lesson: by Tranmautritam from Pexels

    The style of writing in this post is inspired by the wonderful weekly Mind Ticklers by Judy Cohen