Aldous Huxley, taking us on a tour of the wisdom literature of the world, finding uncanny parallels in essential insights, despite different vocabulary and mythical tales, points out that "the capacity to suffer arises where there is...disunity and separation from an embracing totality..."
In other words, suffering is a war we wage against reality and ourselves. When we are in harmony with our essential selves, which "tunes" us in to larger "Divine" (if we choose that description) frequencies, "suffering" ends. Huxley describes an "infatuating urge-to-separateness" which only a sense of "unity" and connectedness can cure.
The remarkable dean of human mythology, Joseph Campbell said, "Participate joyfully in the sorrows of life." The German President recently speaking on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II clearly had taken this to heart. He spoke of his country's shame and the millions of deaths caused by their actions at that time. He said, "The only way to love this country is with a broken heart." We could all learn from that courage, humility, grace and candor.
Joy is the only fitting response to injustice and agony, it is being suggested. It is what waits beyond our suffering when we dive into it, rather than duck it.
We wish for a Santa Claus in the sky who will rain down "presents" for goodness (defined by us) and "suffering" for those who don't behave (said behavior also defined by us). What if the universe is not set up as a gift-dispensing or judgement-dispensing slot machine?
Pain is part of the fabric of this world. And yet we know people at peace with their pain. And those of us largely pain-free, would do well to be inspired to be in grateful harmony with our relative health and well-being rather than wailing and railing via the ego tantrums that come so readily.
We lose loved ones. The mystics tell us nothing really dies, and they agree with science that energy is not destroyed, it just migrates, moves on, finds new forms and expression. We keep those we mourn alive in us, with us...and perhaps our energies will indeed be reunited in ways we cannot fathom.
Our poverty can cause us suffering, but so can our riches. "Wealth" is choosing and living a life that energizes and inspires you, and that can happen at virtually any income level. We also might wish to encourage a society where collaboration and support and not "competition" is the primary vantage point.
Perhaps those gifted in creating wealth would more naturally, as those in some of the most enlightened countries do, be happy to invest some more of that abundance (rather than finding ever more devious ways to hide or to hoard it), so a "society" worth living in can be endowed.
If we wish to "show off" our love to our family by the mortgages we take on, and the material glitter we can shower them with, the word surely for said motivation is not "love." When countries are investigated to see where people are most happy, the material well-being of the country is just one variable, and almost never the most decisive.
There are those called to create enterprises and build wealth, and that's a great gift. And those blessed with richer experiences are ideally called on to evolve taste, which should be an obligation if you have plenty, rather than just mindless consumption. But all this is to be shared in different ways to uplift society as a whole.
We have conflicts, we are hit with lawsuits, we are fired. This is all part of the playpen, part of the human experience. And if we were more merrily but attentively (so we can learn) along for the ride rather than calling it "reality" we would be engaged, but less in thrall.
Perhaps we will grow into a society where there are fewer lawyers and fewer disputes, as we will be anxiously looking to take care of each others' needs; from making amends for things which reciprocally would be readily forgiven, to creating value for others as an expression of ourselves and as a way of honoring our shared humanity.
We keep perpetuating a contentious, litigious, violent, cruel state of affairs, bequeathed to us by instincts forged by preceding societies, and so this crazy baton keeps being passed on. Gandhi said, "We must become what we want the world to be." Amen.
Can we redial these assumptions, and let teachers teach humanity along with facts? Can we together define what that is, and then celebrate it for all we're worth?
It is not to a God out there somewhere, but the demons that collide inside us, we must ask, "Why is there so much suffering?"
Here is a suggestion from a spiritual master, "My formula for success was very simple. Do whatever is put in front of you with all your heart and without regard for personal results. Do the work as though it was given to you by the universe itself. Because it was."
Or as a sage so astutely said, "Each day bite off more than you can chew, and chew it with love." The "you" you will transcend, is the suffering self.
And instead of vainly seeking the tinsel gods of vanity, and control and fake security, we can as Huxley also said "cherish" that inward fire, always there, waiting to be kindled, that illuminating Promethean flame that sparks our creative humanity. And that flame is the essence of life. It is simply love.