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Apology to Suffering

A counterintuitive appeal from a veteran sufferer.

Apology to Suffering

d.s

In the effort to understand our existence and why it can be so painful, sometimes it's helpful to turn our concepts upside down and inside out.


Dearest Suffering,


Thank you!

And I'm sorry that I've maligned you. It's been a long time coming, but I'm beginning to recognize that I've misunderstood you all these years – judging you so harshly, constantly rejecting you, failing to appreciate the meaning you bring to my existence – and that I can't live without you. Please forgive me.

I'm seeing now that when it comes to living a beautiful and meaningful life, you are my ally. Not that you would be my companion in peaceful times – when I'm in conscious harmony with all that's so unselfishly Given. Armed with pain and dissonance, what use are you in the realization of beauty and meaning? But in the awakening from insentience, then you would faithfully come to my aid. When I impetuously judge the Given as not enough or not acceptable, when I desert the abundant beauty and meaning of life to pursue my barren discontent – there you are to guide me back to peaceful harmony.

I've always judged you to be a mindless brute. I see now that you are not only an ally, but also very wise counsel. You teach me about the essential nature of existence and what is required for my successful participation. You defend me from ignorance of the world, that I may know and appreciate the truth of it. Ever anticipating delusion, you have always championed my enlightenment; even when I, not so loyal to the truth, would distain your advice and rather curse the world than better understand it. Through all hardship and misery you unyieldingly insist I witness life honestly. Ever patient, no matter how much unease and conflict I bear to hide from the realizations I imagine would harm me, you give me no refuge in lies. I've always feared the unknown Given. But thanks to you, my very obstinacy beaten and bruised, having no will left to defy the truth, it washes over me, and I find that my fears all along were appealing to my courage, saying "You must know what's Given! Existence allows nothing else. So be aware and follow the truth – it will light your way." Suffering, what unimaginably deceitful and wretched world would I inhabit without you?

Misreading you as callous, I've wanted to trade your company for pleasure – claiming it's the better motivator – and repeatedly I've fallen for its charms, only to have it wander carelessly away, leaving me alone with you. You though are devoted and sympathetic – always showing me what of the Given I'm in need of most; compelling me to recognize that wanting anything that doesn't already exist as Given could never be satisfied. I get it now: desire by itself can't keep any promise of fulfillment – it requires the company of suffering's hard-won wisdom and a tempered and seasoned will. How would I have known that in becoming grateful for your companionship, you would so readily depart, leaving me in the midst of contentment or joy or delight or any of the Given's many harmonious guises – for whose company pleasure's made so many empty promises.

And through all the heartbreak I've ever endured, I desperately wanted nothing of you – though it seemed you were all I had. So personal, I felt I was you, and held so unjust, I even doubted the worth of existence. "Why" I cried "must I bear this loss? It's too much for me!" But as I struggled on with life, you never were too much to bear, and I came to see that heartbreak is not even my pain to claim as my own! Life, always Giving, could never remain as it is, and must continuously let go of what it's been. And I, as embodiment and conscious witness of the Given, must bear what the Given has lost. It wasn't my heart, but the Given's that broke, and not my grieving, but the Given's that is necessary to heal the heart – to accept what must be. I've survived what's been Given and lost, and my heart, with all its scars, still beats as the Given's – with all the promise of what life could be.

Once existent, I've no choice but to suffer existence to grow within it. The Given doesn't necessarily favor my existence over another, and as I look beyond myself I understand that I'm not alone in your company. You are the confidant of all human consciousness. And watching you work among us, now I realize how self-centered we've been – all these years trying to alleviate you, but assuming you are unnatural to the Given. Are we so arrogant as to pretend we're advanced enough to not suffer the consequences of our heedless behavior? You're inseparably woven into our lives and we can no more spurn your existence than reject our own – though in the mindless pursuit of comfort, the effort to eliminate you, we seem well on our way in that regard. Will the Given eventually find us insufferable?

Yes, sacrificing the prospective existence of our entire species, not to mention other life on Earth, for the short-term comforts of the individual human is very unenlightened behavior, and worthy of tremendous suffering! Thankfully though, hubris is one of your favored targets, and the harder we try to eliminate you on individual terms, the more prevalent you become for everyone – sooner or later to overwhelm our insistence that we don't need your enlightenment. Generous Suffering, you would have me appreciate not just what's Given to me, but us all; and have us all awaken to what we risk squandering together. For our own sake we should be praying for your efficacy.

But wait – what praying could ever be done but our own? What responsibility to the Given could I ever justly assign to another that I would avoid myself? I've too eagerly tried to blame on another the suffering required of me. In my effort to escape pain and absolve myself of culpability, I've willfully overlooked the suffering of others so I may pretend it is their misdeeds I suffer, and not my own – compounding the suffering required of us all. And there you always are in the anguish of guilt and accusation to inform me of such futility. Would I just be accountable for the rebuke I myself add to the world, perhaps then I could assist another in coping with you.

You yourself are so utterly blameless. When have my reproaches or incriminations of you ever soothed you? What happiness has ever come of resenting your ache? – resentment itself being among your many painful and inescapable tolls for attempting to reject the only source of happiness: the Given. Honestly, when has it been that you weren't warranted? And what's the point of my begrudging suffering for mistakes made? No doubt my past wrongdoings occurred with little consideration of your future involvement, and hindsight could never prevent your requisite comeuppance. No past wrongdoing could ever be corrected now. You've always been impeccably present, just near enough and in the exact measure needed – perfectly Given in response to my ongoing imprudence.

You are timeless – permanently current. You are innocent of the past, nor can you be held accountable for whatever form of misery I imagine you may take in the future. "What future?" you say. Tomorrow isn't Given beyond the idea of it, and you know nothing of my apprehensive imaginings but that the error of waiving the Given to indulge the unfounded must be felt now in the form of worry and dread. You'd say the pain and fear necessary to adapt to the ever changing Given is enough to bear, so why do I invent and suffer so much more in the form of mental conjurings that never have and never will be Given other than as self-tormenting ideas that demand your immediate intervention?

Through my willful lack of understanding I invite far more of you than is necessary for harmonious existence, but I've found hope and encouragement in the realization of one simple, if ironic, truth: There's no suffering that could ever be alleviated in the present – the precious and immutable moment of actuality where all suffering occurs. As I've falteringly learned to cease blaming and opposing you, I'm realizing it's not your troubling presence but your latency that is of most concern – the potential of your presence in the continuous unfolding of the Given. And latent suffering is the only sort that anyone could ever alleviate.

So what are the seeds of your necessity? What understanding of the Given am I missing that imperils my being? What do I, as one of us, need to learn that I may alleviate the conditions that you would rather not have the Given bear?

Where is the latency of my personal suffering? Is it simply in my unwillingness to forgo my expectations that the Given should unfold on my terms and not its own?

To ask these questions, to seek the answers even in the midst of pain and dissonance, is my purpose – the motivation to succeed is yours. We are partners. To live in harmony I would not overcome, appease, indulge, or even merely endure you, but excel in your class; surpass you as a student would a teacher in the subject of the Given. Together our's is the study of what it is to be consciously alive – while I still have the privilege of being so. In the fulfillment of harmony our goal is the same.

I began this apology by asking for your forgiveness – but what really is there to be forgiven? You, me; what of the Given could be pardoned for being Given aside from all of it? You already know what I am and what I could be, and could hold no anger or resentment toward me for this, or for not understanding what I've yet to understand. Your only care is improvement, and with whatever progress I make, what insight, humility, and reverence I acquire for the ever challenging, varyingly troublesome, latently dreadful, but always wondrous Given, you are more than satisfied – you dissipate, leaving me in the Given's wholehearted and perfect embrace. What are you, Suffering, but love wanting fulfillment? It's a miracle that you would engage disharmony to teach me the way of harmony; that you would sacrifice yourself for my enlightenment – and succeed.

That you would teach me compassion and love for all that is Given – I am eternally grateful!


Sincerely,

Your ever more adept Sufferer