We humans endure much pain in our lives. There really is no denying this. Let’s briefly look into these different kinds of pain and see if a moral to the story can be found.
pains of the flesh
Who has not suffered pains of the flesh? The young child with an ear ache or ear infection, the child with a toothache, the adult with a migraine headache – all know first hand of physical pain. The pain of hunger and thirst and of disease are every day realities for many people right now in the world. There is no escaping at least some physical pain even for those in the best of health.
sorrows of the heart
Yet, there are things worse even than physical pain. On, yes. Consider the loss of a loved one to the cruel hand of death. Death can strike unexpectedly and bring down even the young and healthy. Dreams, aspirations, relationships can thus be abruptly severed never to be restored. Consider also the sorrow that loving, caring parents feel when children that they have sacrificed so much for enter adolescence and go through the phase of being so rebellious, impulsive and ungrateful to their parents. As well, when you love someone, there is no guarantee he or she will love you in return. Some say that love is the riskiest of investments because you are so vulnerable when you love, when you confide in and bear your soul to another. Another sorrow of the heart, and one that can drive a person to despair, is that of being aware, acutely aware of so much suffering and tragedy and injustice in this world for so many.
longings of the soul
But, there is yet another source of discomfort for us, albeit not always perceived in specific experiences or thought of in concrete terms. At times, it is more or less a vague uneasiness we feel at being in this world. As we go through life, there are times when we wonder what is it all for, what is it all about. At a deep level of our consciousness, we intuitively feel that there is a larger picture that we cannot see. If we could see the larger picture we might find a little meaning for our lives here in this world.
We have a spiritual dimension to our being. Many will deny this, but they are in darkness, nescience (i.e. spiritual denial or ignorance). When seeing so much suffering, tragedy and injustice in this hellish world, one may begin to doubt the goodness of God, or even His existence. (Many religions and denominations too often blame the victim and try to make one feel guilty for having been born.) We long to make sense of what we see but we cannot. The constraints of the human condition are such that we cannot “know”, but we can choose to believe or choose not to believe. In what? Or, in Who?
We have spiritual longings (yearnings) that nag at us over the years. Even the rich person, the worldly person, the sensualist, feels these longings at times – even if he/she does not recognize these longings as being of the spirit.
The process is difficult. In other words, life is tough. Life really is tough. Since, we really cannot know the final outcome, what lies beyond the grave, we can focus more on the process. This can be, really has to be, a conscious choice. Whether you think of eternity as being a timeless state, a state or condition that transcends time and temporal limitations, or you envision eternity as an infinite number of years, or eons, stretching away into the endless future makes little difference. Our lives are short, just the blink of an eye when compared to eternity.
To those who say that “He that believeth not shall be damned.”, I counter with “He that believeth but does not love will be damned to a lower level of Hell.” Yes, belief is important (I have battled with atheists before), but acting on that belief is critical. As pointed out in an earlier essay on Radhakrishnan, the faith which saves is the faith that is lived. One’s faith should be a vibrant, dynamic, living thing not just a mental “head game”. (Christians ought to consider that Jesus’ 2 commandments both involve love in an active sense.)
As to suffering and sorrows in various forms, the Vedic philosophy of India informs us that the soul (or jiva from the Sanskrit), by nature wants to enjoy, wants to experience bliss. That is why suffering is so anathema to us as spirit souls. Suffering interferes with enjoyment, with bliss. Suffering can at times push out or expel pleasure from our lives.
Is there a moral here, a lesson to take away from these words?
Even with all the suffering, the daily frustrations and disappointments, the pains, sorrows and longings we feel, the rejections by those we had loved, etc., we can actively work in the process of life, in the process of living, to be more loving persons. Those who suffer or who have suffered can feel empathy with other suffering individuals and can be motivated to offer help, counsel, solace and comfort. Be a loving person. I am not talking here about “fellowship” for an hour or two each week with your co-religionists at your local church. Show kindness, give of yourself even in small ways to make this world less hellish and less miserable. Will you change the world? Sadly, no. But, you can make a positive difference in at least a few people’s lives. You may find that love, even when it is not returned, can be its own reward. One may find meaning in their life by loving. Love opens you to the possibility of being hurt, yes, but love also opens you to becoming more fully alive and helps to expand your consciousness. Try it and see.
This essay is largely the product of a bout with insomnia last night. Perhaps these ramblings will be of help to some readers.
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