One of my biggest challenges as a Zen student and one of my most significant personality flaws is my passionate thirst for "answers."
My first reaction to a new situation is to find words to frame what is happening, to analyze and find a satisfying overall "answer" not only to what is happening, but why it is happening. This is especially true when something riles my emotions. If I feel attacked, my best weapon is my answer, my damning conclusion toward whom or whatever I perceive as causing the emotion.
Of course this requires many layers of delusion... first and foremost attributing the cause of my reaction to someone or something else, rather than my own conditioning. Most of my emotional pain comes from the conclusions I force out of situations, not the situations themselves. But I am addicted to those conclusions, I want them even at the cost of everything. The result is believing in a lot of
things that are no more than opinion and conjecture, and taking those for truth.
I think of the Lojong slogan: "Don't bring things to a painful point." I do this all the time. Even when every signal I could possibly receive from life is that I need to wait before things become clear, I still try to wring an answer or conclusion out of the moment. I want to know what I'm up against. The problem is that the conclusion of "what I'm up against" is something I've forced onto the situation. I feel satisfied that I've understood something when all I've done is kill whatever the something actually was with the mess of conjectures I've formulated.
Sometimes a theory, or an explanation, is useful. Perhaps sometimes even necessary. But most of the time it isn't. Especially in our usual basic day-to-day stuff. We're not usually trying to build a better rocket or to stop the oil spill in the Gulf. We're usually just trying to make it through the web of relationship, to navigate the emotional waters of our connections with our friends, family, coworkers... and perhaps that is where this fierce hunger for answers is most destructive. In relationships, we lose our connection with others, say hurtful words, cause harm, out of our need to formulate an elegant explanation of why our emotions are someone else's fault.
I feel fortunate even just to be able to see this a tiny fraction of the time... and come back to the sanity of admitting to myself that I don't know, and that maybe there really isn't even something to know, at least not in a way that can be put into words.