“Suddenly you’re ripped into being alive. And life is pain, and life is suffering, and life is horror, but my god you’re alive and it’s spectacular. ”
I know many people who can say that they’re enjoying their life and they find this current period of their existence to be sweet but I have yet to meet anyone who believes that life is easy. Heartbreak, pain and suffering happen to us all and with any luck they are only occasional visitors that drop off their gifts and leave. I know for many they move in and linger. They eat all the good food, wear our clothes and leave gray muck in the bathtub. Eventually tho if only for short respites they leave. Even when the vicissitudes of life are with us tho, life is pretty amazing and if we let ourselves be swept along with it we can forget about the things that drag us down and appreciate the sun on the waters, the breeze in the air or the smile of a baby. Even our suffering can be appreciated because if nothing else it is ours and we are alive to feel it.
“The only people I would care to be with now are artists and people who have suffered: those who know what beauty is, and those who know what sorrow is: nobody else interests me.”
— Oscar Wilde
Yes the only people who interest me are artists and and people who have suffered. Considering that I consider everyone to be an artist and have never met anyone who’s life has been suffering free, that does not narrow the field very much. Still tho people who have come through fire tend to fascinate me especially those who have come through it and have learned without fearing future fires when they come in turn. Fire can temper as well as burn and I would rather know people who bear their scars proudly rather than those who pass unaffected by it. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with going through life unaffected by it. Susan Sarandon’s character in Bull Durham says the world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self awareness. Perhaps that’s true. Yet I believe we make our worlds and having met many with little awareness beyond themselves. I prefer otherwise.
“Happiness consists in realizing it is all a great strange dream”
― Jack Kerouac
What? A dream? All of it?
What about the bad parts?
“That’s part of the dream. You’re working out what you need to.”
You make it sound like its all my fault.
“I said nothing about fault. Merely that you have been able to give your true self exactly the experiences you need to balance and grow”
That sounds an awful lot like you are blaming the victims here. Are you saying that a child who is being abused or who lives in a war-torn land and suffers has chosen it.
“Haven’t you told me that you believe that we have existence beyond the physical? That you believe that we live many lives? Suffering exists here on this world. It would be better if it didn’t. Until the human race gets past its need to inflict suffering on others without realizing how truly everyone is connected. Suffering will happen. Perhaps to understand the concept some have incarnated both as sufferers and those who inflict suffering on others. If this is not your true self, if this life is just a dream then we can all live many rolls. Each time putting on the costume that will bring the most understanding. If each physical lifetime is just a moment in eternity and one aspect of your totality does suffering still hold the same meaning? ”
Still that kind of sucks. I hate knowing that people are in pain.
“You say that yet you constantly expose yourselves to the sight of the pain of others. Whether it be in pursuit of entertainment or of news, you bombard yourself with so many examples of so many kinds of misery, it becomes astonishing that you have any sensitivity towards it at all. Also, you show compassion for those in other lands, yet how often do you walk by someone homeless in your own town or city without stopping or even looking at them? It seems you become highly selective with your outrage. In truth tho, they too have chosen the dream that they live.”
er… I do what I can.
“You do what you wish to do and see what you wish to see. That is ok. You, like they are learning. It is why your spirit has picked the physical experience it has just as they have. I can guarantee if you look at the world you will find much to displease you. There are many who seek to make their own dream a nightmare for others. There are ways in which you do this also. One of the most interesting things about the human experience is the tunnel vision. The ability to point out the flaws in the world as a way to avoid working on one’s own life lessons”
You sound awfully judgemental.
“Yes we do. Perhaps its a lesson we both need to learn.”
“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.”
― Alan Wilson Watts
Heading towards destruction or salvation
Circling the drain or raising up the spiral
Is it the end of the world or the caterpillar’s cry
as he weaves his cocoon?
What if we lost our sense of right and wrong
and saw everything as being the path?
What if we stopped judging ourselves, our society, our planet
and worked on ourselves
in kindness and compassion towards others?
If we are all stars
then there are no wrong constellations.
If this is all illusion
a play put on for cosmic edification
then does it matter how the play turns out?
Will we not all take off our costumes
and makeup for the cast party at the end?
Is the difference between us and the stars
that we lend such gravity towards our existence?
Where we see injustice, is it truly part of the dance?
What is it meant to teach us?
“Pain is a relatively objective, physical phenomenon; suffering is our psychological resistance to what happens. Events may create physical pain, but they do not in themselves create suffering. Resistance creates suffering. Stress happens when your mind resists what is… The only problem in your life is your mind’s resistance to life as it unfolds. ”
― Dan Millman
When I first heard the concept that suffering is optional and that it shows resistance to life as it is, I immediately began to protest.
“Sure try telling that to people who are homeless and have nothing. Tell that to someone who is out of work and doesn’t know how to feed their families!”
Then I met people who’s lives seemed so much harder than my own and yet they had a joy that I don’t think I could match on my best days. I met people with death sentences from cancer hanging over their head who wanted nothing more than to tell jokes and misbehave. I learned that it was possible to hurt but not suffer.
It was then that I understood what Bruce Lee meant when he said “Be Like Water.”
I love the perpetual nature of my journey. That I have no real knowledge (tho lots of clues) about any eventual destination or way station makes it all the more fun…It seems so many people of a spiritual bent seem to be so focused on either getting off the Wheel of karma or ascending to the fourth or fifth dimension or any one of a number of admittedly worthwhile goals that they miss the point of being here in the first place. They see this world as being a rather horrid place and just want to leave. This may be true but since we’re here, there must be a reason for it. I don’t believe suffering to be it.
Funny thing about suffering. It seems that the people I have known who have suffered the worse (poverty, ill health etc) seemed to be the most focused on finding moments to enjoy. The people who seem most focused on the amount and duration of their suffering seem to be the ones for whom suffering is an option. Oh I’ve had moments of suffering and moments of joy. I also realize that I’ll have more of both in the future. I’m open to it.
But then as a tramp on the journey, my prevailing attitude has mainly been curiosity about what may come next.
“While pity shows a lack of respect for other human beings, compassion has its roots in a deep respect for others. Pity is an emotion; compassion is a connection. Compassion sees the other as equal. Compassion happens when we care for another person enough to make his or her problems our own.”
― Matt Litton
In the past couple of weeks I have met people who have presented me with an interesting paradox. They simultaneously demand both pity and respect and tho I try hard I just can’t do it. Oh I can feel compassion for them easily enough. I know their lives and know that while they have it rough, so much of their suffering is self-inflicted. Yet they don’t seem to wish for their suffering to end as much as they want people to feel sorry for them and take care of them. Then they resent the people helping them and push them away and then berate their would be benefactors for their lack of respect and bemoan their fate. It’s a cycle that’s rough.
But then we humans are a contrary lot and often the major things we have to work out end up paradoxical in some way. Whether we need self-esteem, connection or openness, we find the oddest ways to stop ourselves from getting them. May all beings be released from suffering indeed. Especially that which we inflict on ourselves.
“”My argument with so much of psychoanalysis, is the preconception that suffering is a mistake, or a sign of weakness, or a sign even of illness, when in fact, possibly the greatest truths we know have come out of people’s suffering; that the problem is not to undo suffering or to wipe it off the face of the earth but to make it inform our lives, instead of trying to cure ourselves of it constantly and avoid it, and avoid anything but that lobotomized sense of what they call “happiness.” There’s too much of an attempt, it seems to me, to think in terms of controlling man, rather than freeing him. Of defining him rather than letting him go. It’s part of the whole ideology of this age, which is power-mad.”
— Arthur Miller.
Would you give up all of the moments that have given you pain for a life of bland happiness? I know I wouldn’t. For in those moments that have hurt the worst I learned to claim the largest parts of myself. From thoughtlessly betraying a friend, I learned how certain rifts can never be fully healed and to trust my judgement just a little bit more. From the moments I felt the most alone, I learned both self-reliance and an empathy for the lonely. I learned how to love another by doing it wrong and causing pain both to myself and others and I learned that kindness goes a lot further than anger tho both have their place. I would never wish to be spared the tears in my life or heart for those have taught me the greatest compassion.
I would never wish to spare my son the pain of his mistakes tho I will feel it along with him. It would be the greatest disservice to him to try, Rumi said that the cracks are where the light comes in and I have learned that to be true. Gratitude ensues.