Tag Archives: suffering

Sorry I’m Late

He’s in the woods, probably looking for a place to, you know.

I’m late because I had to go to Arizona to collect some rent yesterday. On the way, I started seeing double, and the faster I drove, that is, the faster my field of vision slipped past me, the worse it got. No way that’s a problem at 80 mph, is it? Something to do with sinus congestion, I believe. Swiftly may it pass.

Besides contemplating language in general, I’ve also been thinking about ways to be genuine. Successful artists of any stripe are those who are simply true to themselves whatever else happens. Which makes me think: what am I, then?

Well, I have never had what most people would call a “real” problem in my life. I had pneumonia once, M, M, and R. Hepatitis A, Pertussis, and a bunch of broken bones, all of which cause problems, but only the temporary sort that go away with care and time. If you look at that list, you’ll see that I was born before the vaccines for those diseases became available. Why anyone would want to contract one of those when one doesn’t have to is beyond me, but I digress. Those have been my problems. Well, that and the fact that mom was too cheap to let me buy the briefcase I wanted in elementary school. Or the pool table I wanted for Christmas (I told Santa he could set it up in the basement, for cat’s sake!) I wrote a song about this situation, I call it the I Ain’t Got No Troubles Blues. I sang it as part of a stand-up bit, and it worked.

I’ve always been led to believe that the best artists suffer, either for the art, or their art arises out of their suffering. Which means that a guy like me, a man of great privilege, probably can’t be a good artist of any sort. I’m more of a Nero type, maybe, but not really an artist.

Or am I?

Well, you tell me. It’s as existential as I can get, given my fortunate upbringing. I am, I must admit, fascinated as to where this line of thought will ultimately lead. Stay tuned, dear readers (you know, both of you.) We’ll find out together.

Anger and Suffering

I came across the book Anger by Thich Hahn while reading a list of fifty influential books. I can see why it appeals to a lot of people, but it has, for me, a fatal flaw. Actually, it’s not the book that’s flawed, it’s Buddha. I say Buddha because unlike with some other popular religions, Buddha did at least write the book himself. And Buddha’s first principle is simple: to live is to suffer. That’s the first principle of Buddhism. Okay.

So, the key to being less angry is to suffer less, saith the author. Fair enough. And the key to suffering less is to be mindful. Fair enough. I’m willing to believe that by practicing mindfulness in all things, and taking care not to absorb anger and negativity, one can suffer less, and therefore be angry less often. All fair enough.

But, the thing that gets me is, if To Live is To Suffer, then isn’t trying to lower your suffering trying to live less? And if you’re living less, aren’t you also enjoying less, since suffering has a counterpart in the pure joy of living, which is also an important thing to experience, at least it is for me. So, what Buddha is teaching is a way to live less. That might be okay if there were any actual evidence that we live over and over and over, but I’m afraid that empirically there isn’t a shred of evidence for that idea. Which leaves me, a man less of faith and more of empirical evidence, with only one life to live. With only one life to live, it is extremely important that we be nice to each other, respect each other, and tolerate each other’s foibles, because not to do those things simply creates misery, and Buddha and I agree completely that misery begets misery, because, after all, misery famously loves company.

But, reduce my suffering through mindfulness? Nah, I think I’ll take the suffering, and the unbounded joy. It’s a nice package, and I don’t want to mess with it.