May 12, 2008

On Not Minimizing Human Suffering

"Confusion is the only suffering." —Byron Katie

Is that true? I am not sure of this when I read things like "China Quake Toll rises to 10,000."

I'm sure that many people in Asia whose lives are now unquestionably changed are experiencing what I would call "suffering." Who am I to say that if they suffer, they are confused?

I can't know that those who died suffered, true enough.
I can't know that death is a tragedy.
I can't know that earthquake devastation isn't for the planet's highest good.

And I can't know the opposites either.

Perhaps Consciousness doesn't give a damn about good and bad, right and wrong. Perhaps we are not the body, so if bodies die, it's fine. This is beyond me; I sure feel like a body today. Mine is tired and is seeing a cobweb in its right eye from what may be a retinal tear. I'm told I should do something about that right away, and I have also read on opthamology websites that seeing floaters and flashing lights doesn't necessarily mean the retina is torn, that people with the kind of eye condition I have (posterior staphyloma) will inevitably experience this kind of thing as they age, and that surgery can make it worse or do nothing at all. That's confusing.

I'm not joyful about it, but I'm not exactly suffering over it either...except when I tell myself stories about what I ought to be doing and am not doing, and what might happen whether or not I do something. Same old story, different armature.

It all seems terribly unimportant when I consider what has just happened in China and Myanmar.

Both earthquakes and and a messed-up macula seem terribly unimportant in the face of the unknown vastness.

Tonight, however, that feels a little too spiritual.

Am I suffering? Not right now.

Am I confused? Often.

Tonight it doesn't feel like confusion though. It just feels like not knowing...not knowing anything at all.

Far be it from me to say that anyone who suffers over these events is confused. I'll leave that to others...and I don't wish to hold it against inquiry.

I see suffering, and I understand. I think I can be there for you as you suffer, and grieve with you, and even suffer alongside you, and still be available, of service, and loving you. You don't have to end your suffering for my sake, or, for that matter, for yours. Suffering comes, and suffering goes, like everything else in this ephemeral existence.

Tonight, I honor those who suffer. Suffering is "what is" too. Can we—I—allow it and not try to push it away with what "ought" to be understood after all this meditation?

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.


Jon said...

Feels like suffering depends on the definition - my ex-wife used to go to a yoga class and one of her instructors used to say:

"Pain is a part of life, but suffering is optional"

I guess where I go with that is the suffering comes about when I think it shouldn't be the way it is right now, which includes believing that I shouldn't be in pain when in reality I am.

Deborah Osborne said...

I think that pain and suffering ARE different. The pain of the loss of a loved one is pain - and it comes and goes in varying intensity - like physical pain - but suffering is in the guilt, in the self-hurting that comes from revisiting the past and punishing oneself. Pain is real and it is something to sit with, to accept as part of being human as much as any of our senses, but suffering is an add-on produced by our thoughts... Pain can last a while and is quite real, but can be less scary without the extras.