radək(ə)l / adjective
1. (especially of change or action) relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.
1. the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered.
Acceptance is a word that carries a pejorative meaning, at least as far as I’m concerned. There is a sense in its general use that whatever our circumstances are, we let go of desire for things to be different and acquiesce to things as they are. In so doing, some would say, we relinquish the thirst that creates suffering. I get it and it does make sense. However, maybe it’s because I am an American, raised in a democratic and capitalist society, that I have so much trouble with submitting. Like it or not, I’ve been steeped in a culture based on the idea that you should “raise yourself up by your bootstraps” and grab hold of the bounty that exists for those with the innovation and work ethic to take it. It’s a mesmerizing idea that has served as a catalyst for the creation of “winners” and a justification for the existence of “losers.” And when one thinks of himself as one of the winners, it’s a very empowering premise. Standing up in the midst of mediocrity and proving oneself superior is a goal most Americans, while they may deny the desire, cannot help but acknowledge the impulse. It is against this backdrop that I’ve generally viewed the idea of acceptance. Namely, that there are two choices: 1-submitting to the, generally uninspiring, reality at hand, or 2-grabbing what’s mine in a consumeristic and capitalistic frenzy, besting my peers, and winning.
But is there a third option? I guess the very question presupposes its existence. Radical Acceptance is an alternative form of submission, optimistic in its outlook, and brave in its step. If we take the definition of acceptance as “something being offered,” then it makes sense that we would have a sense of positivity in its regard. The question then becomes, “What is being offered?” The answer: a far-reaching and fundamental change in the very nature of whatever is at hand. I can’t help but feel that this is something to be optimistic about. So, when I “accept,” I am not limply submitting to the present moment as it is, come what may. Rather, I am embracing and producing (there’s that capitalist spirit!) a reality that is fundamentally different from what has been. Acceptance comes in the opening up to what is produced. Then the cycle begins anew.
Radical acceptance, in its most basic form, represents the Hegelian idea of synthesis. Namely, that in the coming together of opposites, a new and heightened reality blossoms. The wonder and optimism comes from the idea that the cycle never stops, and if one is brave enough to press on, something new, something fundamentally different, will be offered. The power of radical acceptance is that it gives us a reason, a motivation, to press on under any circumstance. For example, if I’m on a run of victories, it calls on me to press on toward ever greater and fundamentally different heights. It creates an invigorating mystery to my success. Conversely, if I’m mired in a state of depression, I know that if I press on, something else will be offered. I don’t know what that “something else” is. I don’t have to know. I only need to know that it will be fundamentally different, and possibly less painful, maybe even pleasant. So we step forward with the optimism of children, carrying with us the “beginner’s mind” of Suzuki-roshi.
We step forward again and again in full faith that the earth will hold firm and something new will again be offered. This, for me, is a version of acceptance I can get behind, or maybe even in front of.
Take good care…
The Bellowing Angels