“Most people think life sucks, and then you die. Not me. I beg to differ…
I think life sucks, then you get cancer, then your dog dies, your wife leaves you, the cancer goes into remission, you get a new dog, you get remarried, you owe ten million dollars in medical bills but you work hard for thirty five years and you pay it back and then one day you have a massive stroke, your whole right side is paralyzed, you have to limp along the streets and speak out of the left side of your mouth and drool but you go into rehabilitation and regain the power to walk and the power to talk and then one day you step off a curb at Sixty-Seventh Street, and BANG you get hit by a City bus and then you die…Maybe.”
— Dennis Leary, Comedian (born August 18, 1957)
30 May 2019
First of all, the title of this entry is the “Long O”, old testament Job. Not the short O “job” as in “work.”
The NIV, or “New International Version” of the Christian Bible shows Job as a long suffering fella, just minding his own business and getting in the middle of, what is essentially a bet, between God and Satan. Nice.
And before you think I am getting all religious on you, note that this blog entry is not a plea to end all the suffering in the world, as there has been and always will be suffering. Instead, it is more of a “work through it all” personal observation piece. Done in one afternoon skirmish.
For the Buddhists (and, frankly, how can a thinking person not appreciate the Buddhists?) it gets more nuanced, if not a slow meander on a Mobius strip-based pathway:
The Four Noble Truths comprise the essence of Buddha’s teachings, though they leave much left unexplained. They are the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering. More simply put, suffering exists; it has a cause; it has an end; and it has a cause to bring about its end. The notion of suffering is not intended to convey a negative world view, but rather, a pragmatic perspective that deals with the world as it is, and attempts to rectify it. The concept of pleasure is not denied, but acknowledged as fleeting. Pursuit of pleasure can only continue what is ultimately an unquenchable thirst. The same logic belies an understanding of happiness. In the end, only aging, sickness, and death are certain and unavoidable.
The Four Noble Truths are a contingency plan for dealing with the suffering humanity faces — suffering of a physical kind, or of a mental nature.
The First Truth identifies the presence of suffering.
The Second Truth, on the other hand, seeks to determine the cause of suffering. In Buddhism, desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering. By desire, Buddhists refer to craving pleasure, material goods, and immortality, all of which are wants that can never be satisfied. As a result, desiring them can only bring suffering. Ignorance, in comparison, relates to not seeing the world as it actually is. Without the capacity for mental concentration and insight, Buddhism explains, one’s mind is left undeveloped, unable to grasp the true nature of things. Vices, such as greed, envy, hatred and anger, derive from this ignorance.
The Third Noble Truth, the truth of the end of suffering, has dual meaning, suggesting either the end of suffering in this life, on earth, or in the spiritual life, through achieving Nirvana. When one has achieved Nirvana, which is a transcendent state free from suffering and our worldly cycle of birth and rebirth, spiritual enlightenment has been reached.
The Fourth Noble truth charts the method for attaining the end of suffering, known to Buddhists as the “Noble Eightfold Path.” The steps of the Noble Eightfold Path are Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. Moreover, there are three themes into which the Path is divided: good moral conduct (Understanding, Thought, Speech); meditation and mental development (Action, Livelihood, Effort), and wisdom or insight (Mindfulness and Concentration).
For me, I just try not to whine too much, a far-too-easy reflexive action I have been honing for decades. Yes, I am terribly guilty of it. As one of my close friends says, “Yes, we dwell at length on our ridiculous first world problems.”
Especially now, in an era that seems amplified beyond all capacity with the “End of Everything”.
Frankly, I personally have come to feel that the Apocalypse, as it were, may not be as instantaneous as many of us have been taught.
“The Greek word for Revelation is Αποκαλυψις or Apocalypse. Revelation always implies the unveiling of something previously hidden, in this case, future events. As the final book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation brings to fruition symbolism found in Genesis 3:15 in the first book of the Bible. “
I didn’t know that… that “Revelation” in Greek is “Apocalypse”, which is a rather rewarding piece of information and elevates my point:
What if the “Tribulation” portion of St. John’s Revelation lasts ten centuries?
Sure, there’s all these quite apparent signs… the collapse of bees and other pollinators, the critical fulcrum of human development and the resulting pollution of the small, isolated planet we live on (don’t poop where you eat), the political mayhem and insidious leveraging of speeding technological expansion and instantaneous communication pathways, and the ongoing lack of integrity of so many in such high positions of authority.
I wonder what folks thought in the late 1700s. The mid 1800s. The Late 1800s. The early 1900s. The mid 1900s. Etc., etc., etc.
I also wonder if we as a species have done this before — whacked a planet into near nothingness and then simply moved. (Think long and deep about Mars, for example…)
These are hardly original thoughts, but I often think them none-the-less: we all see our own truth through our own eyes, filter and shape it through our own experience, and ultimately funnel it down our own faith and belief. I think that if all of a sudden, humanity was zipped in its entirety to a new home planet, this one would likely recover quite nicely. (Probably be a battle eventually between the big cats, the big bears and the big apes, but then again, they might respect the twins of death and destruction a little more than we do.)
A very close friend of ours recently disclosed his fresh diagnosis of multiple cancers. I am thinking currently that this diagnosis is his own apocalypse, his own revelation, and we who love him will try to do what we can to help… which can be difficult to achieve if the afflicted individual, and he is, has been highly independent his whole life.
Another close friend was at one time going through an absolutely painful and traumatic divorce. Referred to spouse as “my Buddha”. Sometimes suffering can be so visceral it sounds like a hard cracker being halved.
Another non-original tidbit: “What happens to the human soul as suffering becomes increasing ordinary?”
At the foundation of being a true human being is to be able to offer our best, most sincere attempt at providing comfort to those who are suffering, to accept it with grace from others when we are suffering, and to try our best to impart our experiential findings of that process to our family members, offspring and friends. That’s about it.
(That last paragraph is way more wordy than “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I would say that the simple version credited to Jesus is more succinct.)
As I type this, from one of multiple computers, in a funky, low brow but comfortable home, looking out the door at several vehicles in the yard, taking in the luscious, vivacious greenery that is northern Vermont in almost-June, sure: I could think about my troubles. My debts. All the cleaning I have to attend to. The work I have to complete by the end of the week. Or, I can realize just how good I have it. I will rise up and attempt the latter…
Disagreements abound. But, with a slow, mindful inhale and a hopefully generous dose of perspective, we might all find that we, as humans, as society, as a civilization have much more to agree about than disagree… and concentrating on this – the agreements – will likely make the disagreements more malleable.
At least it’s a hope. Or as Dennis Leary says, “…maybe.”