In Viking times, when young men reached that awkward stage (too old to be a kid, but still too weak to fulfill the duties of manhood), they let them tend the fires in the longhouse. They’d live “with the ashes”. They could stay “with the ashes” as long as they wanted (living, eating and sleeping by the fire, tending the coals, never leaving), but once they left, there was no going back. They were then expected to act like proper men.
It’s Buddha’s biggest insight, one of The Four Noble Truths: “Life is suffering”.
And no amount of wealth or good fortune or sex or drugs or food or drink is going to change that. We all have disasters enter our lives. We all get sick, we all got old, we all die.
“Life is suffering” is not a philosophy, it’s the human condition.
So now what?
Well, you either curl up into a ball in the corner and get your pity party on… live with the ashes, as it were.
Or, to quote the elders, you gird up your loins and get on with it. “Carry a load, Bucko!”
Which means, once you realize that there’s no saving yourself, at least you can do is save others… at least, save them from EVEN MORE suffering.
Which means you have to be a net positive in the world. Which means you have to build something, contribute something valuable. Protect the weak, and leave the world in better shape than you found it.
Without effort, you’re just living “with the ashes”. Exactly.