On the Suspension of Order (Part 3)


There is a very thin line between resignation and acceptance—slender enough, at the very least, that not even my word processor’s thesaurus recognizes it. Microsoft Word’s list of synonyms for resignation includes, in the following order: acceptance, acquiescence and acknowledgment.

The distinction is important because it will entirely determine how the coming week will go for me. This afternoon, my contractor cheerfully notified me of the following facts in almost regular thirty-minute intervals:

1:29 pm:  Ma’am, we ran out of wood, so I’m going to go to the store to get some.

2:04 pm: Ma’am, the store ran out of wood, so we’re going to stop working now and continue tomorrow.

3:32 pm: Ma’am, the work tomorrow’s going to be noisy and the association’s not going to permit it. So we’ll resume Monday instead.

The fact that I did not hit him with a piece of wood was what led to the subsequent inquiry: Was I resigned to my situation? Or had I merely accepted it?

The difference goes well beyond semantics. There is a saying in Zen Buddhism that goes: “No resistance, no suffering.” Resignation and acceptance have the same public face—they evince “no resistance.” But resignation does resist; it merely harbors its opposition on the inside.

But you look completely resigned! A friend tells me bluntly. My shoulders hunch even further. Apparently, a year of zazen (Zen sitting meditation) is not proof against the iniquities of renovation. Give me a break, I sigh—then remind myself to relax. The very tenseness of my shoulders is evidence of yet more resistance.

Out of sheer desperation, I review my Buddhist manuals—and immediately hit upon a gem:

“When something unexpected happens, use it as a means to practice meditation.”        

And because Buddhism is far-sighted in that way, another proverb advises several pages after: “Abandon hope of any result.”

In which case I can only hope my contractor isn’t Buddhist.

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