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Sunday, May 10, 2009

I'm Just Soooo Mad

I've finally figured out why we sound so pitiful when we complain about our little troubles. Please notice I include myself in this guilty party of whiners. The answer is, "Because we are so pitiful." We are honestly satisfied being silly, little, dreary ingrates who complain constantly about our minor troubles. I feel bad about myself just writing this diatribe, but it's true. While we are surrounded, on a daily basis, with people who deserve our solace and pity, we selfishly turn away or make some unmindful, offhand comment about how sorry we are about the real misfortune of others who dare enter our self-important paths. Out of our lack of understanding for misery and compassion, we find it easier to treat the "real thing" with aloofness and neglect than with genuine love. Then, as some twisted defense mechanism, we find something in our lives we perceive to be equally distressing and contritely complain about our own modest problems. And do we complain! About the weather, the ache, the economy, the job, the gas prices, the unappreciated word, the simple injustice, the unkind people, the broken computer, and the simple inconvenience. I'm guilty-- I squeal like baby when something falls upon my toes. I know I shouldn't, but usually, I do. Let's consider real suffering for a moment. S.C. Kleinhans reminds us that people, animals, other living creatures and even machines all suffer. People suffer because vicious animals and other people attack them: physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and sexually. Some suffer serious injuries and deaths in encounters between people and machines. Other people are badly hurt and die due to their own stupidity and carelessness. For example, drug addicts and alcoholics most often know the dangers beforehand but eventually didn't care that those habits will lead to extreme suffering for them and those around them. Many other people suffer due to genetics. There are people who can't avoid this acute suffering no matter what they do, how much they weigh, or what they eat. Essentially, they are victims of congenital circumstances beyond their control. They live lives distorted from unseen tragedies within their own systems. Misunderstanding their plights, others mock them for lack of self discipline. Mistreated by society, these people then dig deeper holes in their rejection. Then, others suffer because of natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, forest fires, earthquakes and tornadoes. Particularly terrifying because some weather is so unpredictable, people who face these disasters often have no notice and suddenly, their lives take terrible, tragic twists of fate. People lose family members in these catastrophes as well as homes and personal possessions. Some are left behind in complete ruination, penniless and destitute. In addition, people often suffer because of unfulfilled lives. They dwell in the past, reliving all the mistakes they have ever made. These people feel trapped and condemned to live a life of misery. Becoming recluses or mental patients, they experience severe anxieties and depression. As suffering becomes daily reality, they exhibit bizarre behaviors as symptoms of their sickness. Other victims of nerve disorders suffer from unbelievable stress. For example, soldiers who experience extreme violence suffer from Post traumatic Stress Syndrome as they suffer shell shock, battle fatigue, and traumatic war neurosis.

Age, itself, makes people suffer. Babies suffer from the effects of unhealthy and dangerous activities that are not always their own. Innocent fetuses may suffer due to maternal neglect while the babies are still in utero. Teens suffer from internal and external conflicts leading to depression and/or suicide. Then, of course, most people eventually suffer from the results of old age: all kinds of abuse, imaginary (Alzheimer's) or real, and losing valuable working parts that are vital to their existence. For instance, diabetics often risk losing one or both of their legs. Also, older people may feel like outcasts, and they suffer even more due to this, some in horrible isolation.

Death does not necessarily bring a cure to suffering. Because any death: that of a person, an animal, another creature or a beloved machine only brings more suffering to those left behind. The suffering of grief is a natural part of the process of acceptance, but a very painful reality none the less.

Now that I have discussed many troubled circumstances, I'm sure I need to support my view that we are normally whiny babies about what we perceive to be tragedies and terrible injustices in our personal lives. Most of us, my 58 year-old self included, have never suffered repeated, severe trouble or unbearable, constant pain. Although the activity is essentially harmless, we still spread our displeasure about small pains and discomforts to any and everyone who will listen.

We must try looking at the real world of painful, tragic existence. I know it is something we find distasteful and shocking, yet I think we agree: most of us are lucky to have the problems we normally face. We should give thanks for a measure of difficulty in our lives and thank God for letting us suffer the things we do.

In plain language, we must stop bitching so much about the trivia. We could have it much worse. And, what would it hurt for us to take compassion for the needy a step beyond recognition and simple pity. Many of these souls could benefit from a call to our own actions.

In the end, problems we overcome allow us to experience the richness of life and its accompanying joy. As Chuck Gallozzi points out, "Adversity adds spice to life and makes a wonderful teacher. A life without difficulties is a classroom without lessons." Remember the words of Bias, a sixth-century BC Greek sage who was considered one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece: "The greatest misfortune of all is not to be able to bear misfortune."


"Dr. Arthur Wentworth Hewitt suggested some reasons why the good suffer as well as the wicked: 'First: I don't know. Second: We may not be as innocent as we think. Third: . . . I believe it is because He loves us so much more than He loves our happiness. How so? Well, if on a basis of strict personal return here and now, all the good were always happy and all the bad suffered disaster (instead of often quite the reverse), this would be the most subtle damnation of character imaginable.'" James E. Faust, 2004.

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