On Suffering

To become a spectator of one’s own life is to escape the suffering of life. — Oscar Wilde

I’ve come to see suffering as being like the weather; you can bitch and moan about it if you like, but it still has to be endured. The Buddha said “Life is suffering” and it was neither more nor less than the truth, simply an absolutely factual statement.

What I find so poisonous about modern life is the tendency to put our suffering on a pedestal, to compare and contrast in a sick game of one-upmanship. I suffered more than you did! Such is our sense of privilege that we resent the people who don’t seem to suffer, realizing at some level that the vast majority of our suffering is self-manufactured.

I’ve really made an effort to step out of that cycle and not make more of it than it is. For goodness sake, weather isn’t out to ‘get you’. It’s our reaction to it that makes it so terrible.

Yes, suffering exists, and actually, it exists under circumstances that we with our internet connections and full refrigerators can scarcely imagine. But most of our suffering, our fear, our pain, our angst and our grief— are constructions of our mind. Yes, they’re real. They’re very real. But focussing on them, making it a competition, is what really hurts us.


4 thoughts on “On Suffering”

  1. Indeed!

    How many times have we heard old-timers say “… but we didn’t know we were poor… ”

    I’m not sure I I don’t even buy into the “Life is Suffering” outlook … it seems to assume that there’s some universal rule about the approach… that we *must* start at ‘woe is me’ and *then* move out of it.


    1. Hi Karen,
      My point is less that suffering is the only way, but that suffering is not bad. It’s not that it’s good either, it just is. And most of what we experience as suffering is simply “the overwhelming desire for things to be different than they are”. In other words “…but we didn’t know it was hard”

      1. I see that.

        But , but – (here’s my “your words make all the difference” thought):
        Maybe it’s the “overwhelming” that creates the “suffering”? Otherwise, we’re back to It is what it is and the difference comes from one’s reactions …

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