Suffering

Technological and medicinal advances have crippled us in a sense. In Stalker the stalker says that technology is just so many crutches. But those crutches can harm us if we rely on them too much. If you grow up using crutches, you won’t learn to walk properly. The past hundred years have given us a great pair of crutches. We don’t expect to suffer at all to a large extent. And when suffering does happen, we’re not prepared for it. We don’t know what do do with suffering and it shocks our system. We’ve built our paradigm around the idea that God doesn’t want us to suffer. But that is just completely wrong. A while back I had a signature on my email that said something like “Life is full of pain, misery, and dispair. May as well enjoy it.” Suffering is unavoidable. We may be able to put it off for a few months or a few years, but in the end, the Tsunami will come, the Hurricane will strike, the Earthquake will shake us, Fire will destroy everything we own, and Cancer will eat away at our body. We should expect suffering. Not just the suffering of others, but our own suffering. I’m not suggesting that we welcome suffering. No one wants to suffer. But we need to know that suffering will happen. We must expect it. I think we don’t know how to suffer. We’re caught off guard by it. We think we have everything under control and then — BAM! — something happens that shakes us to our core. Our complacency is disrupted.

5 thoughts on “Suffering”

  1. Hard wired for it

    Last summer I’d lost my car keys somewhere, and even though we live out in the boonies I was willing to get along with out them; I was working from home, biking a bit, we’re a two car household, and the home was in disarray (long story) and I was sure the keys would show up eventually. So I did nothing about it.

    One evening one of the teenagers of my acquaintance showed up looking for a ride. I had no other options, so I grabbed bike lights, just in case I didn’t get home before dark, we hopped on one of my tandem bikes and rode the 10 miles or so to where he needed to go, and I turned around and started pedaling home.

    I ended up on a cell phone conversation with an old friend, hung out around town, and didn’t get back on the bike until after dark. About six and a half miles away from home, coming down a steep hill in the dark, I hit a rock, blew a tire, and discovered that I’d managed to somehow not grab the right bag for that bike, and thus had the wrong tubes.

    It was a long walk home in the dark pushing a tandem with a flat tire, my bike cleats clicking on the asphalt with every step I took.

    But I realized in that stroll that I’d set myself up for that. Somewhere, deep in my psyche, something was pushing me to take stupid risks, to not double-check that I had the right tubes and tools.

    Since then, I’ve been pushing myself a little harder. Ride a little faster, hike a little steeper, work a little more, because I know that I am hardwired for struggle, and if I don’t make it happen in productive ways, I’ll end up fighting the unproductive fights.

    Yeah, we have it easy here in the early 21st century, and historically people have managed to be happy and survive in conditions that barely approach the worst of how almost anyone suffers here in the U.S. And sometimes I have to sabotage myself to re-realize that I’ve become complacent and have taken the world for granted.

    1. Re: Hard wired for it

      Right, we need to continually “sabotage ourselves” in order to reach
      the point that we are created, designed, evolved to live at. That’s
      why we have such a big problem with obesity, for example.

      But sabotage is unnatural, too. And its hard. Very hard. Perhaps it
      is even harder, in some sense, than enduring suffering that comes
      naturally. At least, it feels that way to me.

      Very interesting story, btw. Part of what started me on this train of
      thought was this mornings study group. We got onto the topic of
      suffering. My contribution? “The worst thing thats ever happened to
      me was a flat tire while driving down the Interstate in Rural
      Mississippi. I didn’t have a good tire iron.”

      Not entirely true, of course, but it left an indelible mark on my psyche.

      1. Re: Hard wired for it

        “Perhaps [self-sabotage] is even harder, in some sense, than enduring suffering that comes naturally.”

        Absolutely. I think that it’s those moments that leave humans screaming “why, God, why?” (and the times when us atheists are most likely to believe in a deity). When the world gets us we can generally find a reason for it, when we get ourselves we’re usually in a state where we won’t acknowledge are own contribution to our situations, at least consciously, thus at best it’s random, at worst it’s deliberately unfair.

        Grins on the synchronicity of the tire-iron story. Yeah, mine was two hours of walking on a nice starry night, in the overall scheme of things remarkable only for the fact that I realized I’d set myself up for it about a minute after I discovered I had the 26″x2.25″ tube in that bike bag…

        But you’ve seen the journal I don’t attach this name to, so you know that most of the suffering in my life is self-inflicted by some sick duty, and the backstory would take too long to explain anyway. My first take at this final sentence was “I’d assume that in these modern times it’s that way for most people.”, but as I think about it further…

        Frustration is that thing that happens when our expectations of what should happen diverge from what does happen. I don’t know how we differentiate suffering from frustration, because clearly there are aspects of physical pain that make all of this theoretical, but perhaps it’s always been that way for most people.

      2. Re: Hard wired for it

        “Perhaps [self-sabotage] is even harder, in some sense, than enduring suffering that comes naturally.”

        Absolutely. I think that it’s those moments that leave humans screaming “why, God, why?” (and the times when us atheists are most likely to believe in a deity). When the world gets us we can generally find a reason for it, when we get ourselves we’re usually in a state where we won’t acknowledge are own contribution to our situations, at least consciously, thus at best it’s random, at worst it’s deliberately unfair.

        Grins on the synchronicity of the tire-iron story. Yeah, mine was two hours of walking on a nice starry night, in the overall scheme of things remarkable only for the fact that I realized I’d set myself up for it about a minute after I discovered I had the 26″x2.25″ tube in that bike bag…

        But you’ve seen the journal I don’t attach this name to, so you know that most of the suffering in my life is self-inflicted by some sick duty, and the backstory would take too long to explain anyway. My first take at this final sentence was “I’d assume that in these modern times it’s that way for most people.”, but as I think about it further…

        Frustration is that thing that happens when our expectations of what should happen diverge from what does happen. I don’t know how we differentiate suffering from frustration, because clearly there are aspects of physical pain that make all of this theoretical, but perhaps it’s always been that way for most people.

  2. inevitable and sought

    And people do not want the absolutely easiest way out. We want to grow. we push and pull ourselves into something else. Simple analogy … how many people with a college education only pull children’s books off the shelf at the library. We learn a bit, we want something more, deeper, harder, diverse.
    We play a game, as we learn the skills, we stand back further away, create further distances to traverse, carry a heavier ball or game piece.
    Even the video games are built on the concept of easier on the lower levels and harder on the top ones. Some of the best games facilitate skipping the lower, easier levels once they are conquered.
    Suffering in one sense is simply stretching our souls, our beings to the next level of play … except usually someone or something does it to us … and hopefully we are ready for it and grow to meet the new challenge.

    It is part of our growth in the Christian walk. As Paul says, ” I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” Phil. 3:10

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