What Does The Fox Say? SUFFERING
During a presentation on my book tour late last year, someone in the audience asked me what were my thoughts on suffering and nature. To his surprise, my answer was that, as unpleasant and tragic as it is, suffering is part of nature and a necessity. It will always exist and in fact, it has a tremendous value, a purpose. Our goal as individuals and as a society, shouldn’t be to try eliminating suffering, but rather educate ourselves with the tools to manage it, learn from it and grow from it. Not that suffering deserves to be left unchecked, encouraged, and dismissed – absolutely not. It is more like understanding that it exists, much like gravity does. However we wished otherwise, the gift of awareness and consciousness came in a package, and in that package, there was also suffering.
I must share with you how I am currently so enthralled with a tv show – Westworld (Season 1 is amazing! Season 2 is ok. Season 3 is pointless, the show fell victim of its own storyline). I just started to watch it and I haven’t been obsessed with a show like that in a really long time. It is not only that the writing is brilliant, but it is the depth of philosophy it goes after; the themes it explores: disruption, tension, duality, and suffering. Themes that myself have promoted their value and presence in nature. The most profound belief in the show is that suffering is a cornerstone of our awareness, that it is essential for the existence of consciousness. That it is also what gives value to our lives and relationships.
Last week I talked about transformation, its power for greatness but also the pain associated with it. How the ways we deal with pain and uncertainty defines the strength of our characters. Going beyond pain and transformation, suffering is the great unifier. Not everyone is happy. Not everyone is rich. Not everyone is wealthy or successful. But everyone, every single person on this planet, past and present, have suffered, for one reason or another. We all have scars. We can disagree on pretty much everything, but we can all relate to pain and suffering.
Another way that it brings people together is that when we suffer, we are reminded of how much we need each other, how much we depend on human relationships for our survival. There’s this amazing thing that happens where as we suffer and come together, we become super productive, showing extreme resourcefulness, dismissing what we thought wasn’t possible before and forging ahead to accomplish the impossible. We become more resilient and create hope, leading us forward and growing.
Suffering forces us to assess what is important and what is not. Imagine how arrogant we would be if there wasn’t suffering in the world, in our lives!
I am reminded of this video that VICE did about the fires in Australia. This old man was talking about life “popping up” and the support and care all around, how incredible it was to see people from all different religions and backgrounds coming together, helping each other. From his point of view, how could he not be hopeful, this is what humankind is, this is who we are. We rise from the ashes.
Part of the struggle we face in our culture nowadays is that we see a lot of suffering around, on television and on social media. We are overwhelmed, and rightly so. It is visually a challenge to process all of this. But what we don’t see and don’t experience is the aftermath, the upshot, when the communities come together, when people start rebuilding. We are simply left high and dry with doom and gloom.
I have this theory about why meals and good food are important in Europe. Why work, although much important, is not at the center of people’s lives. It is because there isn’t a centimeter, or an inch of Europe that hasn’t been conquered and destroyed, again and again, over hundreds of year. When you have a recurrence of suffering, when what you took for granted is taken away from you, over and over again, what are you left with? Bread and community. And if you have bread and community, then you have hope. And those are the rituals you want to protect and pass down.
Suffering is part of life. Part of nature. Call it a disruption. It is part of evolution. In fact it is a trigger for evolution. It is a cornerstone of evolution. Without it, there would be no incentive for humility, compassion and empathy. Without it we would literally drown in arrogance and complacency.