Has nothing to do with why God allows it. A mythical being, if He’s to prevent suffering, would have to prevent living. Living involves suffering and try as we might,, we can’t avoid it. And that’s the real problem that we humans just can’t get our heads around.
I used to think all that was rubbish. Suffering obviously happens, to other animals, in other places. I’d never really experienced it, aside from the odd infected toenail and some snide remarks at school. I’m one of those people who approaches pain much as a goldfish is reputed to do – oh, pain! Wait a minute, what pain?
My son was consumed with the problem of suffering. Not so much with his own suffering – although, living in constant anticipation of illness and death, he undoubtedly did suffer – as with the idea that terrible suffering is all around us and we barely notice. We traipse through the natural world, gawping at koalas and wondering at the beauty that surrounds us, without realising that inevitably just around the corner is some poor old creature dying of starvation or mange or being eaten alive by termites, and she’s not alone. There is awful, unimaginable pain everywhere. Elephants with toothache. Mexican torture czars. Third world organ ‘donations’. Inevitably it begs the question, how do you live with that knowledge?
When Felix died, I learned suddenly about suffering. That it’s ruinous. That it’s inescapable. That time doesn’t make it better. That the more completely you love, the more completely you suffer. When it happens to you, it’s not an option to look away.
So what the fuck do you do about it? Drugs make it worse. Wealth can’t protect you. Sex, pleasure can only distract for a while. Religion may be a comfort but not even the pious are happy when their kids ascend to Heaven. Philosophies advise us – tough it out, pretend it isn’t real, pretend you don’t care. Art beautifies it. Novels can’t exist without it.
Felix used to say, what if you could take a pill and feel as if you’d achieved something tremendous, even if you hadn’t? Wouldn’t you take it, rather than go to all the bother of actually doing the thing? What if – he used to say – we abolished nature and put all the animals in delightful zoos, where nobody would ever get eaten alive by termites? Since our entire life is bent towards having more happiness and less pain, wouldn’t that make sense?
What if God finally listened to the unrighteous and abolished suffering?
But that’s not the deal. If you’re capable of feeling, then you’re capable of feeling shitty. Right? Or…maybe…wrong?
What’s your preferred solution to suffering? Does it need one?