Suffering is simply an unavoidable part of life. It’s an indispensable movement of growth and being. It is not something to fear or try to avoid at every turn, but a simply the cost of happiness.
I don’t know how the universe works. I have some idea and a whole lot of faith, but I definitely know less than a mouse’s fart about anything of substance or importance. The inner and outer workings of all existence is really quite complex, but I do know, and it is really clear that everything is in some kind of balance, even though it appears not to be.
Fire consumes cut pieces of wood for example, and in turn this sacrifice creates warmth and light for those close enough to reap the benefits. Even the act of cutting a tree required physical labour, someone to make a chainsaw, and some gasoline. Many things, infinite number of hands and circumstances go into every little thing we get tangled up to at any given moment.
I could give you more examples about the sacrificial nature of all creation but I’m quite confident that you get it and could very easily dream up your own. What truly fascinates me, and what a lot of people never take the time to examine, is the importance of suffering for something.
That makes all the difference in the world. Suffering for something. Giving something or going through hell because there is a meaning on the other side makes an immense difference in our lives. Just compare the war in Vietnam to the Second World War. World War Two, besides the irony that allows us for a third, served a real purpose. The suffering was for something. Stopping Hitler and the Nazi party was worth the sacrifice and the sacrifice was great. The war in Vietnam had a meaningful purpose as well, but it was fought differently. Soldiers would sacrifice their lives to take a hill, and after only a few hours leave that hill for their enemy to return. It was a war that made no sense. This doesn’t mean that the sacrifices on an individual level on both sides were not meaning. They were absolutely some of the most meaningful stories you will ever have a chance to experience, but on the whole the war in Vietnam had no aim. The suffering was misdirected. It had no purpose. It lacked meaning, and the consequences of that war are still being felt today.
Think about the suffering in your own life. Are you suffering for the sake of suffering, or are you suffering for something? If you’re in an abusive relationship, you’re probably suffering for no reason and are sacrificing your life just like the warriors in Vietnam. On the other hand if you have a mother who has Alzheimers and no longer recognizes who you are, when you visit her and keep her company, you are suffering for something. She may no longer know who you are, but the fact that a human being has visited her, makes all the difference in the world.
It is important to identify why we suffer. It is more important to cease any suffering that has no value or little meaning. It is most important to identify why you’re suffering and if its actually meaningful and to endure it so that your sacrifice can provide the heat and light that might be very much missing in this world.
Learn to suffer for something.
She who has a why can bear any how as Nietzsche pointed out.
Suffer for and never suffer without a reason.
Cover photo generously provided by photographer Brian Patrick via unsplash.com