life is suffering, so is this hell?

Most, if not all, monotheistic religions believe in a moral dualism. That is, a Good and an Evil. Some of these religions also tend to personify these forces, and give these personifications their own domains – heaven and hell.

Wikipedia’s entry for hell says it pretty succinctly:

In many religious traditions, Hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife…

In Buddhism, and other eastern religions, dualism can best be explained by Yin and Yang – two opposing forces that together create the whole. One cannot exist without the other. There is no “heaven” or “hell” in Buddhism or other eastern systems.

Yet in Buddhism there also exists the four noble truths, of which the first is called Dukkha. Dukkha is loosely translated to English as suffering. This first noble truth states, basically, that life is suffering. Period. Simply put. Life is suffering.

My question is this, and its the same question asked by countless philosophers, theologians, and religious scholars for centuries:

Is this hell?

According to Dante Alighieri there are 9 circles to hell. Maybe we’re stuck in one of thbraccio_lucasignorelli_paradisesanbrizio_clr_full_1499-1502_itallyese circles of hell. Perhaps the demons that are torturing us are not of physical form. Perhaps these demons are inside each of us, torturing us, relative to our own deserved level of hell.

Yet if this is hell, it would imply that there also exists a heaven, and a place of eternal bliss and happiness. Why isn’t this that place, heaven? Because we are, in fact, all suffering.

For those who don’t believe in heaven, according to the world’s most popular and time-tested belief systems, it’s hard to argue that this is hell. You must have one to have the other. Likewise, if someone doesn’t believe in God, this can’t be hell either.

So, I ask you, is this hell? Defend yourself. Speak intelligently.

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Choices and Decisions

decisions1A choice is not the same as a decision. The two are very different. A choice implies you have options, and doesn’t have a sense of conviction. A decision, on the other hand, is very much a choice with conviction. Should I have the vanilla or the chocolate? That’s a choice, but not one of conviction, I don’t suppose. Voting for Obama was a decision, a big one, and one that carried with it some strong convictions.

Today was a very difficult day for me, as founder and as CEO of CitySquares. In fact, today was one of the hardest days I’ve ever had at CitySquares because it was the culmination of some very hard decisions, decisions that affected everyone, yet that also protected everyone. These decisions challenged me in the roles of CEO and founder. Wow, how different they really are. Recently I’ve been wrestling with this for the first time. I never saw it coming.

You might suggest that the CEO says, “I look out for the bottom line” and the founder says, “I look out for the company.” The two are not the same!

As founder, I have a big vision, a huge amount of passion for this, and I’m insanely optimistic. These things can blind me. And as someone reminded me today, “that’s really your job, Ben. No one else can do it” These things are essential.

As a CEO I have to execute on the vision, harness the passion, funnel the optimism. These things, too, are essential.

Today I found myself caught in a limbo between Founder and CEO. The founder in me wants to protect everyone, make them believe that the world is a good place, that everything is going to be just fine, and shelter them from the debris and the noise and the dust being kicked up all around us. The CEO in me wants to tell it like it is and let them face these decisions on their own, and test their commitment to the company, test their will, and test the guts and passion that we asked for when we hired them.

And therein lies the point: when the going gets tough who are you? Who are you really concerned about? Who do you look out for? Do you take one for the team or do you just move forward with your own agenda.

I posted a tweet earlier this evening about today, and I was totally taken aback by the responses I got from folks. People near and far wrote me privately either through twitter or through facebook to ask if I wanted to talk about it, just to talk, founder-to-founder, or as friends. I have to say, that, in itself, meant so much to me. It reminded me how being a founder is lonely. But it’s times like these that your tested, yet again.

Choices are easy, decisions are hard. I know I made the right decisions, and doing so resulted in more choices for others. That’s a pretty powerful thing. Now you just have to hope that it all works out.