Tag Archives: question

No answer to suffering

I thought I’d ask the age old question: Why do we suffer?

This question came to me tonight after talking with a friend who’s recently lost his mother to cancer, who’s father is a survivor of cancer, and whose uncle is slowly dying from cancer as well.  They were all healthy, good people.

My friend is struggling for meaning in his life, for hope, for the energy to cope with the pain that’s been unceasing the past few years.  He simply cannot comprehend why this tragedy has struck his family, and it’s lead to his declaration of atheism and his overall indifference toward the joys of life.

My friend is a good man, in no way deserving of this pain, of these hopeless circumstances.

People have struggled with the problem of suffering for thousands of years.  Hindus credit it to bad past lives, to Christians it’s the ultimate mystery.  If God is so great, why is there so much pain? So much doubt? So much terribleness?

I, for one, have no idea, and will never claim to have the answer. It’s plaguing me this evening though, and I wish I had something better to say to comfort my friend.

I know that one should treasure life and live each day to the fullest, yada yada yada, but that’s not good enough. Not when so many people feel their mortality approaching faster with every breath.

Why is there so much pain? Why are entire families wiped out by this silent, painful killer?

How can one remain hopeful when so much despair looms in every facet of their life? How can one confront and challenge such despair?

All I know to do is, hold on. Hold on and surround yourself with goodness. And breath.

We don’t know why life can be so egregious, but I do know that if we still have breath, we should savor it, take it in deeply, and feel it.

Hold on.

A line from a script I read in theatre camp went something like this,

“Life is like a swing. It goes up, down, back, forth. We can just hold on and wait for life to swing back up, that there will always be highs and lows and they are in constant flux.  Hold on to the swing.  Hold on. ”  

 

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Do people change?

Do people ever really change?

Or do we just evolve, learn and grown in small ways while remaining the same essential person?

I mean, even after a tremendous heartbreak or the loss of a loved one, do we ever truly change from the experience?

Does our essence ever change course or are we destined to have mostly the same thoughts, feelings, perspectives, and attitudes for the rest of our lives?

Even if these things change, will we act differently? Will we see the world anew?  Will we be better people after such change?

Will we stop making the same mistakes?  I’d like to think that people can actually change, but I just don’t know. Evidence seems to suggest otherwise.

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If I could change one thing…

“If you could change one thing about our life right now, what would it be?”

The answer to this question eludes me. I have so many regrets.  I wish several things were different.  I would change the way I’ve treated people. I would change how I’ve let other people treat me.

I would wish I had a good-paying job. I would wish that the dog I care for could be truly my dog.

I could change my occasional shitty attitude. I would change the way I tend to judge people right off the bat, and harshly too.  I would be more social. I would change the fact that I procrastinate.

I would change the fact that I’m lonesome. I would  prefer to not secretly wish that I had a significant other as the nights get darker, colder, and increasingly desolate by myself.

I would change to be nicer. More patient. More kind.

I would change and take a bit of my own advice.

I would not live in this house with people that increasingly piss me off. I wish I didn’t get so pissed off.

There’s an awful lot that I would change…

The big one that keeps popping up in my head is my wish that I had treated people better in the past few years. Hell, the past decade. I was a shit head to my parents for the longest time. And then I had a high school sweetheart whose heart I essentially broke. I was a crazy person for a years that followed. Failed a couple classes and got involved in bad stuff before hitting rock bottom and finally learning that my actions have consequences, for myself and others. I could take away that year and be a bit happier, that’s for sure. Later I met a good man. An impatient, grumpy asshole to be sure. But overall he was a good man. That ended horribly. And I often look back upon the way I handled situations and wish I said or done something different to change what I know now was an inevitable outcome.  I haven’t always been kind to one of my best friends. And I’ve been too hard on my mom. Shit… now the thoughts just keep rolling in. There is a lot I could change.

But, at the same time, I guess I’m this person because I’ve messed up so many times. I mean, if I didn’t have these regrets or realizations of my own flawed, wild, sometimes stupid, simply wrong, and utterly plagued self, I wouldn’t have learned a damn thing. At least I’ve got some experience under my belt.

So I guess if I could change one thing, to get this ordeal over with, I wouldn’t change anything about myself. I’m fine right where I am.

Instead of me, I would change something for someone who really deserves it.

I would change the fact that my folks aren’t rollin’ in the dough any longer and secretly grant them a bunch of money.  I don’t know how much is a ‘bunch’, but I want them to have all their debts paid (my college loans especially), and I want them to take an awesome vacation for their 25th wedding anniversary.

My mother and father have put up with a lot of shit because of me. From my overall crazy, rebellious, stubborn, center-of-the-universe attitude to the actual trouble involving the law, police, and the ridiculous amounts of stress that occurs as a result of dealing with our glorious criminal justice system, they deserve a lifetime of vacations.

They have saved me in more ways than I can count.  Financially, emotionally… they’ve stuck by me through thick and thin. My parents love me despite things I’ve done that I don’t share with anybody.

So screw changing my situation. I just want my parents to be happy and comfortable for the rest of their lives. I want to fill their bank accounts and shoo them off to Hawaii where they can eat bon bons and snorkel and hike… anything they want to do. God knows they deserve it.

My folks. They rock. And they deserve a vacation.

 

I don’t know if that’s the answer the prompt was looking for, but that’s all I can come up with.

 

 

 

 

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A little help goes a long way

Today I woke up, groggy and annoyed by that certain I don’t know what.  I had a HUGE list of things to do. Write a resume, read a billion pages, write three papers… fun stuff.  So, naturally, I sat on the couch and watched football.

The anxiety continued and I just felt “ugh”.

I finally plopped down with bad TV on in the background and began typing up a resume I’ll be needing for several endeavors in the coming weeks.

It was being a complete pain in the ass. Do I say this? Do I add this? Do I sound too vague here? Do I sound like an egotistical turd here? I had no idea what I was doing.  On top of that, getting the format just right had me so frustrated and mad I had to open the window to let the Autumn air cool my boiling blood.

Then, like a little answer from the spirits above, somebody came home and with only a smile and a bottle beer, turned my horrible mood around.

We sat on the couch and while he watched some silly action flick, I continued to type away, and as I encountered a roadblock and made disgruntled noises, my friend would say “Lemme see. Try this, or this… that looks good, change that…”

Slowly but surely, a beer, one glass of wine, and a couple slices of pizza later, my resume was complete.  And it wasn’t awful, in fact, it was pretty alright, and I feel fairly confident in applying to a program mentoring troubled youth tomorrow.

I know I could have done this myself, but the truth is that my friend helped me more than they know.

It’s wonderful how kind words of encouragement and couple helpful pointers can truly transform a daunting and unenjoyable task.

Thank you friend, I owe you one.  And if I get accepted to this program, I owe you a dozen.

It’s wild how one person, a couple kind words, a little help, and good company can really brighten someone’s day. How much it brightened mine.

Humans really are social creatures, imperfect creatures.  And sometimes it’s not wrong to ask for a little help sometimes.

My father has always told that people depend on each other, and it’s okay to ask for help.  You’re right Dad, I have to say, you won that one.

Tonight I would’ve ripped my hair out and cursed a bunch and killed a puppy (just kidding) if I hadn’t had a little help.  So many other nights too!

Whether it’s schoolwork I need help with from a professor, man-advice from my best girlfriend, life-advice from my parents, or spiritual advice from a dusty book on my shelf, it’s there to be lovingly used.

A little bit of help goes a long way, and I am so thankful to have these resources.

Thank You.

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The Silencing of the Humanities in Our Education Systems

In my experience the arts and humanities are often seen as fun and interesting, however a dead end if one wants to earn a living and buy the newest gadgets and biggest homes.  We may absolutely love writing fiction and debating philosophy, but what in the world will we do with ourselves post-college if we don’t start a business or join corporate America’s zeal for materialism? After all, making money is the key to happiness and sustaining a healthy democracy, right?  Get a job and make money. Consume, vote for the prettiest politician, listen to your elders, obey the law, pay taxes, shop, and then shop some more.

As a society we’ve grown accustomed to this pattern and expectation.  We watch the news as if it were Divine information and command, without asking, what is really going on here?  What is the true situation over there in the Middle East or what does this politician REALLY stand for?

We take so much on faith because someone tells us it’s the truth.  Rarely do we engage in healthy, logical arguments and discussion over topics as important as war, the effects of consumerism, the accuracy of our historical texts, or the actual beliefs and practices of our foreign “enemy”.

We engage in “othering”, in seeing the person on the other side of the world as separate, as less human, as associated with disgust, alienation, and lower bodily functions.  Our authority figures tell us it’s this way or that, and just because they studied at Harvard or are grossly rich, we believe them and go on dehumanizing people different from us.

I’ve begun reading a book entitled Not For Profit, by Martha C. Nussbaum, which discusses the importance of a well-rounded education including not only technology and science (which are indeed very important) but one that involves creativity, imagination, constructive debate, arts, and writing.  Too often in the face of budget cuts and pressures to make more and more money, crucial aspects of a well-rounded education are being forgotten.

The arts and humanities foster individuality, critical thinking, discussion, and also involves the studying of different religions, cultures, and practices all over the world, teaching compassion and understanding.  With this compassion and critical thinking students learn to respect others rather than “othering” them, and are equipped with better skills to analyze political debate and think for them selves rather than take orders from an authority figure.

In a compassionate, kind, and Socratic learning environment, members of a society are taught to self-examine as well as challenge norms in day to day life.  Nussbaum explains how easy it is to fall into a subservient and sheepish mode of living, simply absorbing what is the supposed truth.  We see time and time again the dangers of blind following, as in the case of the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, and even with such experiments as the Philip Zombardo prison experiment.

Technology and science are increasingly important facets of the education system, and with good reason.  However we must not forget the importance of creative innovation and the art of the argument.

We must constantly question authority, question what we see on TV, question what our professors tell us, question what we read, CHALLENGE what we think we know.  Foster debate within your self and within your community.  Question yourself when you stereotype, when you hear yourself  “othering” a person that is different from you.

Transcend the norm and rise above the obedient follower.

For further investigation:

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9112.html

http://www.harpers.org/archive/2010/06/hbc-90007141

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbcGbflpFzI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

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