Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Why does life hurt so much? OR, Why is life so mean?

A certain amount of pain of one sort or another goes along with conscious living. Pain teaches us to avoid certain types of injury very efficiently. Suffering comes in two basic flavors: physical and emotional.

Was the Buddha right to suggest shedding desire (attachment) if we wish to be free from emotional suffering and, through the discipline of meditation, to become hugely indifferent to physical suffering? Buddhist practices work. The freedom they deliver is extraordinary and can immunize one against all manner of manipulation by people and events. For me, though, the choice to desire the best for others seems right, even though doing that exposes me to pain. It seems likely that I am misunderstanding some or many of the finer points of Buddhism, so if you can enlighten me, please comment away!

What do the Abrahamic faiths (Judiasm, Christianity, Islam) say about suffering? A great deal! It’s impossible for me to imagine the anguish the patriarch Abraham must have faced on his way up the mountain to kill his only son at his God’s command. The Abrahamic faiths seem to view suffering as inevitable. They encourage us to “suck it up” and take on our share of pain as an offering to God. OUCH!

Does any of this explain why life can hurt so much? No. Life is mean for perhaps the same sort of reason that a proton weighs 1836 as much as an electron, but has the same, though opposite, electronic charge. Neutrons weigh almost exactly what protons do, but have no electronic charge. Go figure! When you’ve got it figured out please let this bunch of protons, neutrons and electrons in on the reason. We want to know!

(P.S. If it were up to me, kids in school would be encouraged to meditate as part of their gym classes. Of course the exercises would be of a non-religious nature designed specifically for helping the muscles of concentration, relaxation, insight and equanimity. The strenght and flexibility gained by good meditative exercises can be as important to mental health as physical exercise is to body health.)

No comments:

Post a Comment