What can we do about suffering?
Possibly one of the major questions of human existence, which I’m going to solve right here and now so nobody need ever bother their heads about it again. No, just kidding.
Other animals don’t do much thinking about suffering, I guess – they just suffer. But WE – being cleverer than the other animals and able to contemplate the past, present and future, think ‘why should I?’ and ‘how can I get out of it?’ and ‘why me?’.
A friend of mine gets very upset about this whole question because he’s had a crappy time recently and is convinced that he must deserve it. Worse, the person who meted out much of the crappiness is having a fine old time. Why? He asks. Where is karma when you need it?
As an atheist, I answer him thus:
My dear friend, turn to your bible and you will see that, although the good may suffer and the wicked prosper on this earth, in the next world, that woman will be writhing in agony and you will be sitting pretty on the right hand of god. I mean God.
As a Catholic, this answer doesn’t seem to satisfy him. I can’t think why not! So I appeal to his Buddhist roots (he’s of Asian heritage) like so:
Look not for rewards and punishments in this life, my friend, for the law of karma may take many lifetimes to fulfil. In any case, I’m pretty sure wanting your ex to get his come uppance is not part of the Buddhist Way.
That doesn’t work either. So in the end I say ‘Look mate, you’re having a crap time, but that’s up to you. Don’t worry about stuff you can’t influence. You can’t make your ex get leprosy (if you could, mine would have been walking around on his stumps years ago). The only person who can mitigate your suffering is you and your psychiatrist and/or drug dealer. Live with it.’
And that doesn’t work either. Disclaimer: before anyone can say ‘all the poor man wanted was sympathy’ let me add that large doses have been administered over many years and I’m afraid he may be addicted.