Reflections

Can Anything Good Come from Suffering


My previously described encounter led me to wonder, why do these people want to kill themselves so badly? Not long after I stubbed my toe and the answer became evident: suffering is not cool.

So what’s the answer: avoid it at all costs, even to the point of ending it all? If the answer is yes, well, that’s it, thanks for reading!

Or, instead, is there meaning in suffering? Some subscribe to a Christian, particularly Catholic, point of view known as redemptive suffering. Personally, I think it makes a lot of sense, the Christian God chose to redeem the human race through His personal suffering. However, at this point, I do not wish to make this the focus of my thoughts.

I would like to articulate the reasons why I think modernity abhors suffering. Let me give you an example; 9 out of 10 unborn down syndrome babies are aborted. Who is suffering here? To me, it seems that the parents and family of the downs baby perceive themselves as the ones that are to suffer. Granted, the baby will grow and mature while experiencing specific suffering because of downs syndrome. But, I don’t think the person with downs syndrome will see life as not worth living merely because of the particular difficulties life has given him or her. Yet for 90% of parents with a downs baby in the womb, the only way to avoid that baby’s and the parent’s perceived suffering is to eliminate it.

Let’s mine into this. What is the root motivator of a reaction so extreme as to take a baby’s life or to get excited about a physician assisting with a premature death at the other end of life? I think Walmart’s slogan, “Live Better” best encapsulates my point. Walmart is taking advantage of modern societies’ pride and joy: quality of life. At no time in history have we ever experienced the quality of life we enjoy today nor have we had the abundant availability of everything, from food to ceiling fans, hip transplants to highways, spa treatments to speed boats. Using many of these things is good and often even necessary, but what kind of message is being sent when we build life around non necessities and call it quality of life?

Another message is being sent which I believe is not so novel, but is definitely unbalanced. This is a message of success. Our world is filled with perfect outcomes, from the fitness magazine to Fortune 500, the message is if you want to be fulfilled you better look great and get rich. Let me be clear, success is and should be our goal, but what motivates our thirst for it and what defines success? If success is modernity’s “quality of life” then we will be left without any way to deal with suffering because we have spent our whole life trying to avoid it. It seems to me that we ultimately set ourselves up for failure when we simply practice and experience success over and over because when the necessity of death (the ultimate reality) sinks in, no preparation has been made. We merely grasp at straws seeking to exert control over the very thing we cannot control.

What balance should be struck here? For every achievement a failure? Maybe. Whatever it takes to remind us that in the midst of seeking success and “quality living” we are dying. I think this will soften the blow and ultimately give us the tools to suffer well; the understanding that we do not control the universe and the humility to embrace that reality. Let’s not wait till we are dead to start making our eternal escape plan.

See the Original Article here.

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