The problem of pain (being one, that is)

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.

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13 comments

  1. I think it was Abe Lincoln who (amongst others) said (to paraphrase): We’re as happy as we want to be. Easier said then done during trying times, but no less true.

    • I wish! But I’ve noticed that people are pretty much programmed – unhappy people can’t help it any more than happy people can, and I’m very lucky to have been born with an ability to be more or less cheerful through lots of things. Then again, nothing that terrible has happened to me just yet.

  2. HA HA HA! A sympathy addict. Rat bastard! KIDDING.

    I just love your stiff upper lip B.I.B. And you make me laugh.

    BOY OH BOY do i ever try to get the fuck out of it!!!! Why am i suffering … Alas. Most of it is shit i create on my own. Some of it is real shit that happens. Either way, i’d rather have fun, wouldn’t you?

    Meantime, i agree with everything you said. Suck it up. I can do it … and sometimes i blow it! 😉

    • Boy oh boy I do too! I hate being down. Sometimes I think ‘I’ve got it – I’ll just do THIS!’ and that works for a couple of days and then I’m just back to teeth gnashing. Well, my fingers are crossed for you, Melissa, and maybe you can do the same for me!

  3. It’s a big battle, isn’t it? Sometimes I think that even if I had some dream career, got to see my daughter at least as much as I do now, had some nice funny woman to talk to and hang out with every night, etc, would I still have a big dark cloud hanging over me much of the time? Who the heck knows? Would I be happy if my ex-wife had just gotten fatter and dumber over the years since she left me? Well, yes I am, but it’s not quite enough. There are several things which continually make me unhappy, and might not ever be “fixed”, so what does a person do–be happy despite all that? I don’t quite trust happy people.

    • Me neither – trust happy people, that is, and that’s kind of funny because I sort of am one. I don’t think you can decide to be happy but some people seem to shoot themselves in the foot, they’re just determined to dwell on stuff that makes them miserable (maybe that’s a rotten cheerful person’s perspective). Like, I’d be pleased if my stupid ex got fat and ugly and nobody liked him – but I’m not going to spend time dwelling on it, I KNOW that’s not the way up. I know I like cuddles and compliments and love, and if i get those things I’m happy enough, so I try to arrange it one way or another – but then again I can’t altogether dodge the random blows either. Maybe if you did have that nice funny woman, things would look sunnier regardless.

  4. Rose,

    My sympathy only goes so far, while I understand the unhappiness of some people, and how their lives are not going well. I also firmly believe that we are not riding on rudderless ships. We can make choices, we can change our circumstance. These choices may involve pain as well, but it’s better in my mind to choose the options than accept them from others when you fail to act.

    I also believe in look back to learn from my mistakes, not to bitch about them. So what, I had a few failed relationships, made some mistakes. That doesn’t make every woman I’ve dated or broken up with a bitch, no does it mean that I am sitting here feeling sorry for myself. No I learn and more on, and no that doesn’t meant that I don’t feel pain or regrets, but it does mean that I learn from the experience don’t dwell on it.

    But I do agree, sometimes I do wish some of my ex’s could catch some nasty disease (just occasionally), but who said I’m perfect…

    Capt. Savage
    (Always moving forwards, never retreating from his life)

      • You’d be happy and they’d be sad… No knowing you, you’d be straight round to their place offering sympathy and hot soups… Well maybe not hot soups…

        Capt. Savage
        (I’ve been innculated, so don’t bother with me…)

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