“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Why are we here? A good question, but the wrong question. It is one we have asked ourselves for the many millenia in which we have been here on Earth— in all of which, we have yet to understand life’s true nature: and we may be here for millennia still, before we accept its truths and lay our woes to rest; but, it is important to note that we are all not still bathed in the showers of ignorance as we once were.
We have traversed hardship, and famine, and drought, and disease, and epidemic: we have persevered through natural disaster and climate shifts: we have overcome war, and hatred, and fear, and despair.
The difficulties we have now, the goals of peace and justice that we seek; a world free of tyranny and greed and oppression and inequality — this is a place that we have attained, if only temporarily; but it is a place that we have arrived at more times than I can count. In fact, throughout the existence of mankind, we have come to terms of peace far more often than we have come to terms of war.
Those who have experienced the most, have suffered so much that they have ceased to hate. Hate is more for those with a slightly guilty conscience, and who by chewing on old hate in times of peace wish to demonstrate how great they were during the war. -Thor Heyerdahl
It is human nature to be good and great to one another, but it is also human nature to be broken, and hurt; to be hateful and spiteful and feel neglected and overlooked; to be cast out and forgotten. It is human nature to feel the sting of the oppressor’s hand, or the injustice of inequality, or the agony of another’s hateful actions.
I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. -James Baldwin
We tremble under the burdens of our despair and our tragedy, brought down like a crashing Berlin wall when overrun. We cave and are enveloped and we become tainted. Bits and pieces. Here and there. Our goodness becomes hateful. “Queer!” “Retard!” “Towelhead!” “White trash!” And we lash out. Take a few bucks from a friend. Take a wallet. Take a knife and threaten someone. Take a gun. Take a life.
We fall to suffering and cry “woe is me!’’ for our plight is the only plight; our endeavor, the only one that matters. It’s human nature to become self-focused in the dark, for there isn’t enough light to see anyone else. Tragedy and pain and anguish cause us to narrow our focus. We constantly find ourselves here and constantly need to channel our strength inward just to make it through. Our vision is narrowed and our selflessness becomes selfishness, out of fear.
For while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell. It’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness. -James Baldwin
We perceive the subtle differences in our journeys as drastic and incomparable events that do not unite us but separate us. One man has cancer and another heart disease. One child was killed by a drunk driver and another young lady by smoking. A Black friend is called a racial slur and then your Muslim friend is beat up for his race. Equality is born in the acknowledgement that we are all truly the same.
The trouble with the human race, is that we don’t all acknowledge our suffering as a unanimous, earthly, cumulative strength that binds us, but as a tragic, individual, agony that divides us. Buddhism teaches ‘Dukkha‘, also known as suffering, as the path to enlightenment. It is only through our own pain and anguish that life’s truest beauty can be learned.
We learn through suffering. That is evident by our history, by our legacy, by the mere fact of our existence. You raise your children by reprimanding them- suffering. You are penalized for your actions – suffering. When you commit a crime, you pay penance for your wrongdoings – suffering. We learned these behaviors, not from our ancestors, but from life itself. For where would they have learned it from if not from life? We evolve throughout time to better understand the world in which we live, yet, the way we teach ourselves and each other, is the same way life teaches us.
Karma, is a word commonly understood. Karma is denoted as the balance of the collective energies of one’s life. Each action has an equal and opposite reaction. You return a lost wallet and win the lottery the following week. Sometimes Karma is a small loop directly correlating between the individual’s suffering and choice, and others it’s on a grander scale. Where the action of you returning that wallet, may allow its owner to take the person they care for out to dinner, thereby saving a future relationship which becomes a family whose daughter ends up being the doctor that saves your daughter’s life from the car accident she was in because your neighbors kid was drunk driving after he left the party you threw where you allowed under-aged drinking. It’s a small world. Everything is connected.
I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable. -Anne Morrow Lindbergh
If you are having trouble with this, here is a mid-article disclaimer: Cynics go home. Realists, go read some Kant. Logic and reason are both present but jaded minds need read no further, for to think that we are alone in our suffering, or to think that our suffering is that of a single man or woman on this earth is just another commonplace misunderstanding that we foster out of fear— and it only keeps us divided.
The ultimate goal is peace, so peace we must attain.
The simple fact is, if you put a child of every nation together in a village and let them grow up without the socially pre-constructed segregation and injustice and inequality that our broken systems have, you’d see something amazing as a result. Peace. And that is because the problem isn’t our differences, but our interpretations of human existence.
We suffer, and in suffering there is chaos. Chaos needs order. Poorly established order creates unequal satisfaction. Unequal satisfaction breeds hatred and anger, it breeds selfishness and greed. We take from each other. We hurt each other. We drive each other away because we feel that we do not have what we are owed, or that we are treated unfairly; and an unfairly treated person treats others unfairly. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. How can one expect the sun when they shoot all the stars from the sky?
It is important not to allow ourselves to be put off by the magnitude of others’ suffering. The misery of millions is not a cause for pity. Rather it is a cause for compassion. – Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
To understand another, you must first understand yourself. Because we are all different pieces of fabric cut from the same tapestry. We are all different collections of matter particulates, of star dust, grouped together; but, we were all once stars— and one day we will be again.
Life is a cycle. Existence is a cycle. Not in a re-cycle manner only but in a looped sense—that all things are connected. To understand one’s self, is to understand the world.
You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering. -Henri-Frederic Amiel
It is through our suffering that life lessons are learned. It is through our trials and our failures and ours deepest and darkest pains that the truest truths shine out like beacons in the night to guide us home, if only we look to the shore with hope instead of to the sea with spite. As if we are owed this land. As if we are owed a calm voyage simply because we bought the ticket on the boat and endured this leg of the journey. To expect the sea to serve us the same as it takes away is the expect the sunset to think that you, too, are beautiful.
We are not owed anything other than what we earn. Life is not a religious pondering of “Why?” but an everlasting quest for “What is?” When we ask the wrong questions, we tend to get the wrong answers. Neil deGrasse Tyson said this exact notion in reference to consciousness, but in equal measure— how can one find an answer to a question when one isn’t even sure what the question is?
Our search in life should be one we take together. It is the search for a greater tomorrow. One where we achieve equality for all. That day will be a glorious day, but it will not be the last day.
Equality must lead to peace. Peace must lead to unity. Unity must lead to exploration and understanding. We must yearn to live together; to experience the magnificent beauty of this world and every world beyond. To explore the universe as a species united. We must gaze in awe, adventure with excitement, remain compassionate and vigilant in our stead— for we are not destined to suffering and destruction.
We are destined for greatness.
For all of life, is wonder.