Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Discussion of Suffering and Desire - and Salvation and Redemption

The following is a short conversation among some friends of mine about suffering.  I hope it makes sense and helps someone in some way: 

Friend 1) I posit that we suffer because we want suffering more than not suffering. We will suffer and cause suffering until we decide (collectively) to stop. This doesn't require a central authority (God) directing and orchestrating the suffering. In my own view, we can decide to no longer suffer. We can still experience physical pain, but spiritual suffering is a choice we make. We experience and cause suffering by wanting something else (anger, violence, revenge, theft, etc.) more than peace, especially more than giving up our mortal life.

Friend 2) This sounds like a Buddhist idea. I haven't studied a lot of the ideas, but a friend of mine was a Buddhist. He said that much suffering comes from wanting things. Fix your "wanter" and then you replace suffering with happiness. Not happy you don't have a nice house to live in? Then stop wanting it. Unhappiness gone.
Friend 3) To me suffering just is.  I know little about Buddhism but agree that all life is suffering, that it has a cause, and there is a way out of it.
Me) Rather than "fixing my wanter", I have worked on being at peace with the gap between what I want to be and what I am. Notice, I did not say "between what I want and what I have." There's an important difference. I also beleive there are plenty of people who simply are wired genetically to emotional suffering and others who aren't.  It's easy to overlook that.  It can be addressed and overcome, but it's not easy or natural.
That's where the idea of grace and mercy amid "failure" resonates so strongly with me. I live a life full of paradoxes, and it isn't easy to recognize them and strike an appropriate balance between competing extremes. It's the idea that there is "salvation / redemption" IN AND DURING what I call the "muddle in the middle" (the suffering) that inspires me to strive to become perfect ("complete, whole, fuly developed") while not letting my inability to do so in the here and now keep me from trying, regardless. (Personally, I like "redemption" more than "salvation".)
It's finding peace in the journey and letting go of the need to fight or struggle or suffer - and that isn't a natural thing, especially for those who are less inclined to let go than I am.


Patty said...

I think in some ways it is about finding peace in what you have versus what you want, especially when the suffering comes from a loss. It doesn't matter if I'm at peace about who I am versus who I want to be if I'm still not at peace about something I want but that has been taken from me. In that case the suffering is real but is also something I can overcome with time and understanding. The suffering itself wasn't my choice and wasn't caused by me but I still deal with its effects, and it's up to me to decide whether to stay in the suffering or to move on, if that makes sense.

Matthew said...

Something else that I think about when I think about these things is that in loving others, we deliberately open ourselves up to suffering. When those we love are hurting, so are we. By loving them we also open up our defenses and make ourselves vulnerable to being hurt by them when they act imperfectly. Love and suffering simply go hand in hand.

And so a God of love must necessarily also be the weeping God of Mormonism.