Earth Hour and Suffering
In my post, Four Weeks. One Month., I talked about how I have begun to question my beliefs and I spoke about how I needed to do some reading and thinking about what I believed. My friend, Deena, lent me a couple of books and last night, by candle light during Earth Hour, I picked up The Art of Happiness by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D. I flipped right to the chapter titled Facing Suffering and began to read.
The Dalai Lama talks about how suffering is "a natural fact of human existence." (Page 136) This idea is part of The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.
The Dalai Lama talks about how we shouldn't ignore or avoid suffering. We need to face suffering because it is part of our daily lives. People suffer in many different ways. Death is just one of the ways. The book talks about how Western Society has done it's best to remove any suffering from our lives. We have nursing homes for the elderly and poverty doesn't exist here the way it does in other countries. The book also suggests that "Eastern cultures appear to have a great acceptance and tolerance for suffering." (Page 146) Many of them see "hunger, poverty, and illness" (Page 147) on a daily basis. This has allowed Eastern cultures to learn to cope better with suffering. I can honestly say, that for the most part, my life has been quite sheltered from suffering until now.
"As suffering becomes less visible (in Western society), it is seen as a sign that something has gone terribly wrong. . . an infringement on our guaranteed right to happiness!" (Page 147) This line really hit home for me. I have been feeling that this kind of thing isn't supposed to happen and especially not to me. I have been chanting, "why me" and "this isn't fair" from the moment I found out how sick Tripp was. This line has made me realize that I am not immune to suffering just because I haven't experienced a great deal of it before now. Everyone suffers. It is part of life. It is part of my life. It is part of everyone's life. I was not, and am not, immune to suffering.
The Dalai Lama says, "I believe it can be useful to prepare yourself ahead of time by familiarizing yourself with the kinds of suffering you might encounter." I didn't think about the possibility of losing a child until it was a possibility, but I did think about euthanasia and I questioned if modern medicine sometimes keeps people alive too long. I wondered if sometimes that means people live with a low quality of life or that their suffering is prolonged. I thought about Robert Latimer and the difficult decision he came to. I wasn't prepared to lose a child, but because I had thought about some of these things, I was prepared, in some ways, for the situation we found ourselves in.
I also think that by reading my blog and accompanying me on my journey, many of you are thinking about things you may not have thought about before and by doing this, you are preparing yourselves for suffering. You may not suffer the exact same way I am suffering, but everyone faces suffering of some kind.
This chapter has made me realize how universal suffering is. Last night, I saw suffering in a greater context than just what is happening in my own world. It felt good to think about suffering. I want to think, write, read and talk about my suffering and I want to learn about how others have suffered and how they have coped. It makes me feel good to know that I'm not alone in my suffering.