At a recent dinner party, I had a conversation with a friend of mine, a Buddhist who was raised in Australia, about the differences between Western and Eastern reactions to tragedy, particularly from a Buddhist versus monotheistic perspective. My friend is of the belief that the current Western culture amongst the educated class is a fix-it culture. Instead of sitting with and reflecting on the inevitable unpleasant realities of life and then choosing a course of action, Westerners immediately react. They ask themselves what can we do to fix this, where can we volunteer? The fix-it reaction results in band-aids, not long-term solutions. Eastern philosophy would say let the reality and pain of a situation wash through you. Only after accepting it can you move on from it.
Regardless of your religious views, I think something can be said for accepting that unpleasant realities are unavoidable and a strategic course of action is more likely to result from reflection than an immediate reaction. “Let it wash through you,” my friend explained, does not mean sit in a dark room and stare at the wall. It means allow yourself to experience the grief and uncertainty that comes with the reminder that many of life’s circumstances are out of our control.
The Western approach to job hunting mirrors our modus operandi response to tragedy and social inequities. We send out our tailored resumes and cover letters expecting to fix the problem of our unemployment or our dissatisfaction with our current job. Even though we’ve heard the statistics – there is presently around four people for every one available job – we persist in our efforts, only to be disheartened when we are not the exception.
So how should we approach our unemployment or our dissatisfaction with our current job? I would suggest that while we do all the things we know we should – send out our resumes and cover letters, attend networking events, and connect with old and new colleagues through social media – we should sit with our situation. Allow ourselves to experience our reality, which is only partly the result of our choices. Examine it. Mediate on the idea that fixing it may only come after acceptance.