Life, and real life

Shohaku Okumura, from The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kodo, p62

   "We human beings have the ability to think of things not in front of us.

   "We create stories in our minds in which the hero or heroine is always us. We evaluate what happened in the past, we analyze our present conditions, and we anticipate what should happen in the future. This is an important ability. Because of it, we can create art, study history, and have visions of the future. Without it, we couldn't write or enjoy poems or movies. Almost all of human culture depends on seeing things not in front of our eyes.

   "This means almost all culture is fictitious. Our ability to create such fictions is the reality of our lives. We cannot live without it. But this ability leads to many problems. We have certain expectations of our stories. If things go as we expect, we feel like heavenly beings, but if not, we feel we're in hell. Often we desire more and more without experiencing satisfaction, like hungry ghosts.

   "It's important to see that it's not life that causes suffering but our expectation that life should be the way we want. We can't live without expectation, but if we can handle the feelings caused by the difference between our expectations and reality, that's liberation."