Most of the world’s great philosophical and religious traditions attempt to deal with the reality of suffering and the many questions it raises. What causes suffering? How can we make sense of it? How do we overcome it, transcend it, or at least live with grace in the face of it?
“What is the noble truth of suffering? Birth is suffering, aging is suffering and sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering.” Buddha
---------------Suffering has many faces; physical pain, illness, cancer, aging, and death; the individual or collective experience of violence, oppression, social injustice and inequality; stress and conflict in relationships, grief at the loss of a loved one, and anguish in parenting; unfulfilled dreams and expectations. Take your pick. The experience of some form of suffering in our lives is inescapable, try as we might to avoid it.
Franciscan priest and teacher, Richard Rohr, has said that one of the common denominators in all human suffering is the experience that we are powerless; we have been overwhelmed by circumstances and events beyond our power to control. The ancient psalms of lament often expressed this with words like... “I sink in deep mire where there is no foothold. I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me…”
One of the other thoughts that Richard shares about pain and suffering is… “In many ways, spirituality is about what we do with our pain. And the truth is, if we don't transform it, we will transmit it.” What Richard speaks of, and what we’ve all seen on many occasions, is the unresolved grief and pain of an individual, or of a group, transmitted through acts of anger, hatred, and violence towards others. Simone Weil puts it simply this way... “A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves.”
We also see many examples of people who have endured horrible suffering and yet who have found ways to transform their pain and affliction into wisdom and grace. Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor…
“I have learned two lessons in my life: first, there are no sufficient literary, psychological, or historical answers to human tragedy, only moral ones. Second, just as despair can come to one another only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.”
----------------"Breathe in suffering...
...Breathe out compassion."
Rob; in Vancouver
“Although the world is full of suffering,
it is also full of the overcoming of it.”