Wednesday, May 6, 2009

take this cup

I find myself thinking a lot about suffering. Usually my thought process goes something like this: "Why do I have to go through this?! Don't I deserve better? Doesn't God want good things for me? Haven't I been told over and over again in church that God is willing to give me every good thing, I have only to ask?" Then why the hell do I have to suffer?

This week I have been thinking a lot about suffering, but not so much "why do I have to suffer?", as "why is suffering so unacceptable to me?". When I look at the development of Western culture, specifically in North America, I realize that we have been tirelessly working towards our ultimate goal of personal happiness. Convenience, efficiency and entitlement are three of our most cherished values.

Having experienced significant loss in my own life, I am always shocked and amazed at the way in which grief and loss of life are dealt with in other cultures. The acceptance of illness and death in traditional cultures is worlds away from my own experience. I do not understand, but am drawn inexplicably to public displays of grief; oh to have permission to scream, tear your clothing and ultimately to share your emotion with others.

But we are islands here in North America. We do not expose ourselves unnecessarily. We, in our pursuit of individual happiness, have actually condemned ourselves to individual and isolated pain.

How can I get outside of my Canadian-raised brain, and accept that suffering is part of the deal. I am not entitled to a free and happy existence. I have to slog through the crap like the rest of the world. And maybe, there is an upside, (because we North Americans have to find an upside) which is that my experience of suffering and isolation can move me towards compassion and empathy for someone else.

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