Why is there suffering?

October 18, 2013

Some Mormon Elders who used to visit me asked me to answer that question after reading one of their texts and praying on it (or some sort of equivalent).  Being a cooperative person, I undertook the task.  I would not have on my own initiative taken on the issue.

So what I came up with, which probably is not very satisfying (win lose or draw on whether it is not wrong), is that we have suffering inasmuch as we have beauty, that we live in a dualistic world.

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8 Responses to “Why is there suffering?”

  1. Matthew Says:

    I used to entertain the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I tried to get them to meet together, but it never happened.

    My wife said I was trying to convert them.

    Somewhat true, I suppose. Any time people with a difference of opinion discuss their differences of opinion, there are efforts on each side to convince the other. It didn’t work, of course.

    You’re probably right about that in most cases. An hour long visit once every other week or whatever isn’t likely to be sufficient to dislodge all the conflations that make up a modern self. Most people are stuck in their molds. There’s a good song on that;

    It a beautiful adaptation of a simple Rolling Stones melody (the violin).

    Anyway, I dunno. I feel as if I’m wasting time in idle contention, arguing mostly trivialities. The same kind of nonsense day in, day out. Few people change their minds, and they wouldn’t likely admit it if they did (or necessarily even be aware of the fact). It’s almost as if this is all prelude, mere entertainment even. The world changes when it’s ready;

    “For it is a question not of man’s doing but of time conditions, which, according to the laws of heaven, show an alternation of increase and decrease, fullness and emptiness. It is impossible to counteract these conditions of the time. Hence it is not cowardice but wisdom to submit and avoid action.”

    I think I’m going to do just that.

    Btw, I like Leibniz’s explanation of suffering.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gottfried_Wilhelm_Leibniz#Theodicy_and_optimism

    • Diana Moses Says:

      I think small perturbations can be important. And I also think it’s always a team effort, and the team spans the globe and goes back into the past and forward into the future. I think about layers, as when you do some kind of household project that involves putting down successive thin layers of concrete or some kind of filling compound. We do our layer. And it may be a coarse one, because that’s what’s called for, or it may be quite refined (now I’m on to a sandpaper analogy). But they are all important.

      • Matthew Says:

        Not all perturbations are small tho. I see catastrophic changes ahead. We’re on the Titanic and I’m arguing with people about the color of the drapes.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        I was trying to say that if we in our own lives do small things that make small perturbations, we are making helpful changes. We should not conceptualize in a way that makes us feel defeated.

  2. Matthew Says:

    Or even arguing about the icebergs with no way to reasonably influence the captain to deviate from his course (which implies we can successfully deviate at this point; I doubt it). Everything in its right place in good time.

    • Diana Moses Says:

      But none of that level of thinking tells me what the next right thing to do is anyway, and that, for me, is part of the calm center I can return to. Gotta try to keep the beat even when there’s cacophony around us.

      There’s no particular captain and we aren’t responsible for another person’s actions, despite the fact that we do engage in behavior modification with children and their banana peels. We figure out what is ours to do and we try to do it. People get sunk trying too hard to fix X or Y in someone else; it actually helps the entire situation to keep the focus on improving the self — I learned that in a support group for family and friends of alcoholics, and it actually is helpful in general. I think that one of the reasons that Al-Anon encourages daily reading of their literature is that it is difficult to keep a helpful perspective that is not swept away and up into the chaos of others when others are engaged in harmful ways of thinking and behaving. (Unlike political literature or other media, which will, I think, put you in an airtight bubble if you let it, it is a porous perspective that allows for (and facilitates) personal growth and the personal growth of others. There exist other such systems, too.) Figure out the perspective that makes it possible for you to be wearing that oxygen mask, and what you need to do to maintain it, is what I would say. Coming out of her tradition, Gita recommends to me strengthening my daily spiritual practice, and that, I think, is also the 11th step.

      • Matthew Says:

        >I was trying to say that if we in our own lives do small things that make small perturbations, we are making helpful changes. We should not conceptualize in a way that makes us feel defeated.

        I agree with this, and I intend to help where I can. I suppose it’s a matter of where is my energy most helpful? I don’t feel defeated, but I does seem I’m largely wasting my time in contention that feels more like sport than something constructive.

        Also, the focus is on current problems and how to resolve them (who to blame for political maneuvering, etc.), where I think it is probably a better idea to focus on solutions outside the system (because practically speaking we can’t expect it to fix itself) – or rather adaptations. One does not prevent a hurricane. One learns to live with it, or escapes it.

        >But none of that level of thinking tells me what the next right thing to do is anyway, and that, for me, is part of the calm center I can return to.

        Right. I think it’s best to plan for viability. Contention and blame is not generally constructive, especially in online forums where there is no leverage to do anything and the vast majority of people are set in their perspective. One of the problems is I’ve been spending too much time on Politico – it’s a madhouse. Then again, it also clarifies the absurdity involved.

        >it actually helps the entire situation to keep the focus on improving the self

        For now I think that’s all we can do. In a different setting where efforts to improve the system would be viable (on the way up, rather than on the way down), then I would engage in them. For now imo it’s best to make like Lot or Noah, not Jonah.

        I’m planning on winding down all my current discussions then closing my account.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        Well, you write very clearly and cogently, and I enjoy that, even when I don’t agree with what you say, and your spiritual bent interests me, so I would miss all that. Maybe this is about conserving your energy? Or taking the challenge of figuring out when to engage and when not? We don’t have to go to very fight we are invited to, as they say.


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