Monday, October 29, 2007

If You're Under 30, You May Not Want to Read This...If You're Over 30, You Likely Don't Have To

I've got a new theory. Working title: The Cross to Bear Hypothesis. All of you out there who are older and wiser can let me know if I'm getting warm.

Basically, the theory hinges on the fact that life sucks. I know that sounds juvenile, but I mean it in more of a Buddhist "the only certainty is suffering" kind of way than in an adolescent "whatever" kind of way. Nor do I mean that because life sucks, there's no pleasure or happiness. There's pleasure and happiness in spades, it's just interspersed with (or even overlapped by) periods of colossal, unmanageable, truly heart-shattering pain.

I don't mean damn-it-I've-got-to-go-to-the-dentist pain or I'm-fighting-with-my-significant-other pain or even where-the-hell-will-I-find-rent-money-this-month pain. I mean the sort of pain that is so bad you're 100% sure there's no way you can make it. The kind of pain where you keep your cell close at hand, because you many need 911 any minute now. The kind of pain that makes you sure no one else in the entire world is hurting as much as you are, because if they were, you'd be able to hear their screams.

So my theory is that, despite our seeming uniqueness and depth of emotion and confidence that no one else could possibly have it this bad, we all are suffering. All of us. Bill Gates. Paris Hilton. George God-Help-Us Bush. Our human capacity for suffering far outweighs any stockpile of money or guns or critical accolades. Them, me, you, we are all walking around with the most unbearable load on our backs, sure that we're going to break any minute now. And if you don't believe me, if you don't have some burden that makes it hard to breathe, don't worry. You will. You'll get a horrible disease or your house will burn down or your brother will fall over and die. Divorce. Bankruptcy. Suffocating loneliness. It's just a matter of time.

I know, I know. I'm a depressed bitch. But I bring this up only to help. Because the thing I'm coming to realize, the thing that's really amazing, is not that we all have our crosses to bear. It's that we're able to bear them. The world is so much more horrible than we ever could have guessed at age 5, 15, 25, but what makes us as humans so miraculous, so capable, so strong, is that we can handle the horror. We can deal with the very thing we're terrified of. That which doesn't kill us, we can live with. I'm not sure how, except that it has to do with evolution, religion, and anti-depressants.

And hope. Our capacity for suffering may be outweighed only by our capacity to imagine what it's like not to suffer.

7 comments:

cynthia said...

i'm not sure at what age i came to this conclusion that life is a process of island hopping, where we attempt to jump over the Very Hard Parts (ocean) and land on the Joy & Happy Parts (little islands). we spend a lot of time in the drink and if we've been taught or discovered how to swim, we can get to dry land more frequently. and some of those islands are pure paradise.

robin said...

...from an over 30...there's a member of our family who liked to say, "Life sucks and then you die"....yikes...

....my perspective was always "Life sucks and so then, you MUST live!!!".....

....it's always perspective...it's always what we choose to do next...it's always about the people we love and the people who love us....in the end, that's all there is and that's all that matters...

....and hugs..... : )

Sallie said...

"There is also purpose in that life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and which admits of but one possibility of high moral behavior: namely, in man's attitude to his existence, and existence restricted by external forces.... Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete"

prisoner 119,104 -Viktor Emil Frankl..

David said...

You've made a discovery that can, I think, save you the equivalent of years of wasted wonderings and misspent emotional turmoil. I boil it down to this: Life isn't about happiness, it's about serenity. Happiness as a natural state is a lie fed to us by people who have convinced us we can buy it. And serenity- calm acceptance of the way things are, including ourselves in the midst of it all- does not make it necessary for us to want, need, lust for, or be envious of that which we don't already have. It's bad for the GNP.
Shit happens, you know that. But so does happiness. And we are- amazingly- able to rise to both!

Sallie said...

"SERENITY NOW"

George Castanza's father
(spelling????)

Another State of Mind said...

From another over 30 (God how did I get SO old!!!)...

Life is frequently horrible, long periods of pain that when it comes doesn't seem like it can be borne for more than a moment - but it goes on and on and on... Long periods of alternately the death of sleep and depression or the constant moving - gotta gotta gotta - do...

What the amazing part of all this isn't so much that life is so painful or that other people don't seem to experience the same kind of pain (especially if you hate them :P). It is that we do it - we put one foot in front of the other, take the next indicated step - and beyond that - we help other people, and by helping other people we redeem our own pain.

I was in parent hell for a very long time - my youngest child lost all of her skills (walking, talking etc.,) after a vaccine - she was diagnosed with Autism, but I got "those looks" and "those comments" because she "looked normal"... It was so painful, especially when people refused to listen or understand what had happened to her - people who had known her and then hadn't seen her for awhile and pronounced it "bad parenting"... Years of therapists, IEPS, due process, services etc., - and she is recovering. I realized that it was all worth it recently, when asked to mentor two parents just starting on the journey of parenting a child with autism... How amazing... How worth it!

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