If you must suffer, Suffer Well

One of Monet’s works Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

It is curious that if ones looks hard enough threads of humanity link us together. At the core of nearly every philosophy there is a supposition, a rule, a dictate, or a truth.

One must suffer.

This is not exclusively an eastern philosophy, and it can be found in the works of Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankle, and in the works of many Existential philosophers of the western cannon. This consistent thread is one of the reasons I am currently convinced of it’s veracity.

Now many take this truth and turn it to Nihilism. They learn like the dog in the electrified cage that there is no escape from suffering and so fall into learned helplessness.

However, unlike the poor abused animal in that horrific experiment in the past, we are not bound by our physiology, instead if we allow ourselves to we can learn we are helpless to suffer, but able to choose the type of suffering.

“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”

― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Why does this matter? Because not all suffering is made the same.

Suffering is not some meaningless thing thrust upon us, but our perception of change. The world changes. I often struggled with the idea that accepting everything as is without judgement would be impossible.

Would I not simply stagnate?

How could I accomplish such an insurmountable task?

To answer my own questions:

No, the world will not stop by accepting it, by accepting it you instead become able to respond better and more efficiently, change is not optional, though you can choose to grow.

To be frank, you cannot do it. I know sounds super Kooky right? Well it’s not. You can simply try and practice at it, each time moving away or from it, but moving none the less.

Suffering is the price of admission to life.

Though there are some that might scoff at it’s simplicity, it is my current belief that you could not know that something was pleasurable if you did not know what pain was.

I think this is why we have what we generally call first world problems. Suffering always measures itself in relation to the situation. If one is hungry they suffer, if one is fed they might complain about the quality of the food. If one has nothing but high quality food they might suffer the dread of boredom.

By being cogniscient that suffering will come along, we are no longer at its behest, and instead greet it as an old friend, knowing that our labors have been paid for and any boons or banes we earn are our own.

So if you must suffer, choose to suffer well, but if you can change something, then do so!

Advice for young men: It’s all a Practice

Watchmen by Alan Moore

In Western thought, a single pervasive fallacy, largely perpetuated by a long-running obsession with the Judaeo-Christian end of the world, is that things end.


While the science of the Heat Death of the universe is compelling for instance, there are some rumblings that not even that is the true end of the universe.


This obsession with ends trickles down through our culture, permeating the sociology and priming it for dissatisfaction.


The truth is that nothing really ends. Nothing is finished, simply abandoned. No project reaches completion.


A common Buddhist metaphor is a floor. One does not sweep a floor with the intent that it will never need to be swept again. Instead, he or she decides to sweep the floor because it needs doing in that moment, and for the immediate gain of having a clean floor. The floor will always get dirty again but that is not the concern of the sweeper. The only concern that particularly matters is the doing.


I bring this story up to deliver a simple message that is supremely difficult in today’s world to follow that nothing really ends.


And if nothing really ends, then well, it’s all a practice, it’s all a skill, and there is always the next time until there isn’t.

Hubris and other drugs

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”

Robert Browning

The heat death of the universe is appealing to the mind that is predisposed to Nihilism.

In a world where ultimately everything will die and end, what is the point?

Not to be unkind, but there are of course several problems with all of this.

The biggest of which is the hubris of man to assume he’s cracked the code of the universe. The second is a problem of context.

It is an easy trap to become enthralled with the scale of things. The mind damned in it’s ability to conceptional on some level huge things, but not to actually understand them, to say nothing of manipulating them.

It is a special skill, and it is a skill, that each man must cultivate to admit his own smallness in the face of the universe.

The first time I conceptualized how small I was, and I did not realize this until much a time after, came on the fourth date with a girl I loved. We stood on the Santa Monica pier at night, and looked out across the ocean. Behind us humans bustled and played, but before us stood the ocean.

She was talking about moving out of California, but I found myself distracted listening to the crash of the waves, and I in the dark of that sea knew what it was to stand before an unthinking god. I knew what my ancestors worshiped.

Man is such a small fragile creature, yet we can think of huge impossible things, and consequently become overwhelmed and consumed by them.

My first rebellion against Nihilism began with the admittance of how small I am in the face of the universe, and how thought I can reach for the concepts of infinity, I could never manipulate them.

We can conceptualization the death of the universe but none will be around to see it. To us, thought quite finite, our lives are our own practical infinity. They are all we will ever know, to the best of our knowledge, and they go on forever, until they don’t.

Mindfulness as a way out

Most people misunderstand mindfulness.

In most people’s mind meditation is a check-mark on the to-do list.

the most common refrain, and the refrain i used as a shield from the terror of mindfulness, and it is terrifying, is that “i cannot concentrate.”

this is because the modern mindset is one lived in the shadow of the ego. The internet in all it’s fantastical power has done much to help us, but spiritually it drains us.

Each day it unveils another horror perpetuated by man on man. It is easy to become disheveled and depressed at the sheer number of horrors. Not only that the various social media platforms program themselves to feed a steady serving of this bad news to us, as our minds are naturally problem solvers.

The problem with that is of course that these problems are nuanced, layered and complex. They require systemic solutions that will take years, and in the mean time we are ultimately powerless.

But the actual issue, is of course the modern human rarely pulls himself out of this world of symbols.

To Paraphrase Milton ” the mind is a place unto itself, it can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.”

People fundamentally in this world of horrors, to-do lists and constant movement lose sight of the true goal of mediation.

Meditation is practice in waking up, over and over, each day knowing that it will never be the last time until we live this mortal coil. Mediation, is trying to stir yourself awake enough times so that at the end of your life you can look back at it and think yes I lived.

Mediation is a practice.

The best metaphor I heard about meditation was this ” meditation is like sweeping a floor. One does not sweep a floor once, and think there it is done, I shall never have to sweep the floor again. Meditation is the acceptance that though the floor is clean temporarily it will need to be swept again.”