Friday, January 22, 2010

the solution

What a lot of dictionary definitions there seem to be for the word "solution." I don't know about you, but the more anyone explains a subject, the more I suspect they don't know their ass from their elbow ... but that may just be my suspicious nature.

Anyway, here are an internet dictionary's definitions for the word "solution:"

▸ noun: the successful action of solving a problem ("The solution took three hours")
▸ noun: a method for solving a problem ("The easy solution is to look it up in the handbook")
▸ noun: a statement that solves a problem or explains how to solve the problem ("They were trying to find a peaceful solution")
▸ noun: the set of values that give a true statement when substituted into an equation
▸ noun: a homogeneous mixture of two or more substances; frequently (but not necessarily) a liquid solution ("He used a solution of peroxide and water")

Of course no one cares about the definition or the etymology of the word "solution" when life's problems come along. Where difficulties come up, well, we've probably all wished we could be like the Mafia don whose solution required nothing more than a bullet in the malefactor's brain. When anyone wants a solution, where the problems press in like angry bees, well it can be a desperate race for a solution ... not a discussion and dissection of something called a "solution."

Pressed for money?
What's the solution?
Unfortunate relationship?
Gimme a solution.
Finding a solution is important.
Unsure about one thing or another?
What's the solution?
Uneasy about death, disease, drugs, divorce or even delight?
What solution will ease the dis-ease?

Solutions are as serious and urgent as the problems that suggest we seek them out. They are a personal matter. Sometimes we find a solution. Sometimes we find a compromise that we are willing or forced to accept as a solution. And sometimes we never find a solution at all. But whatever the case, the notion of a solution seems to be entwined in our DNA.

Spiritual endeavor is no exception. For some, such efforts are an answer to questions that arise from deep and specific uncertainties ... real tree-shakers like death or disease or loss. Sometimes it's just an overarching malaise that calls out for something that will be a solution to "everything." Sometimes it is an excuse for a smarmy or rigid moralism. And sometimes spiritual endeavor is just a good way for guys to get girls ... or a good way for girls to get guys. Whatever the problematic impetus, spiritual endeavor may seem like a pretty good solution.

The difference between spiritual endeavor as a solution and other more ordinary solutions is that, assuming anyone is serious about a spiritual endeavor, there is a requirement for honesty. Yes, we can all be pretty solemn about spiritual endeavor, but there is, for those inclined, a time to serious up: When has solemnity ever assured any peace, any real solution?

And so, in seriousness, it can be instructive to investigate our willingness and longing to solve the problems at hand. First there is the problem, whatever it may be. And then, our DNA tells us, there is a solution. But looking back over our lives -- just taking a look -- when has a solution truly solved, completely eased, or utterly erased any problem that preceded it? Did the answer completely answer or do the echoes and shadows of the problem remain ... if only in informative memory?

From such an investigation, I think it becomes obvious that solutions don't really solve anything in the perfect sense our DNA may suggest. And if this is true, then it is obvious that such a solution can only be found in the problems themselves. Perhaps, instead of seeking out the solutions, we should be seeking out the problems. What IS the problem? Whose problem is it? Is it really a problem and if so, who says so?

Such an investigation is not for sissies, not for the solution-prone, not for the spiritually-lyrical. It takes some courage and it takes some patience. If solutions rely on problems and problems call out for solutions, then problems and solutions are a package deal, as tightly entwined as wetness and water, as inescapably woven as a strand of DNA.

I'm not sure which takes more courage and which takes more patience -- investigating our problems or investigating our solutions -- but I do think that there is no escaping the need for investigation if any satisfactory solution is to be found.

And what's the carrot in all this effort, all this so-called spiritual endeavor? What do I get out of the deal? What's the brass ring? What solution does all this sweat propose?

Well, perhaps "peace" is one way to put it.

Of course "peace" probably has more dictionary definitions than "solution," but dictionary definitions never solved anything.

Peace is more interesting than that.

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