Tuesday, July 19, 2005

On Romance and Suffering

After being questioned about the idea of deeply falling in romantic love with one's partner...
Without hesitation, the Dalai Lama said, "I think that, leaving aside how the endless pursuit of romantic love may affect our deeper spiritual growth, even from the perspective of a conventional way of life, the idealization of this romantic love can be seen as an extreme. Unlike those relationships based on caring and genuine affection, this is another matter. It cannot be seen as a positive thing," he said decisively. "It's something that is based on fantasy, unattainable, and therefore may be a source of frustration. So, on that basis it cannot be seen as a positive thing."
p. 104

As Western society gained the ability to limit the suffering caused by harsh living conditions, it seems to have lost the ability to cope with the suffering that remains. Studies by social scientists have emphasized that most people in modern Western society tend to go through life believing that the world is basically a nice place in which to live, that life is mostly fair, and that they are good people who deserve to have good things happen to them. These beliefs can play an important role in leading a happier and healthier life. But the inevitable arising of suffering undermines these beliefs and can make it difficult to go on living happily and effectively.
This kind of thinking poses hidden dangers. If we think of suffering as something unnatural, something that we shouldn't be experiencing, then it's not much of a leap to begin to look for someone to blame for our suffering. If I'm unhappy, then I must be the "victim" of someone or something- an idea that's all too common in the West. The victimizer might be the government, the educational system, abusive parents, a "dysfunctional family," the other gender, or our uncaring mate. Or we may turn blame inward: there's something wrong with me, I'm the victim of disease, of defective genes perhaps. But the risk of continuing to focus on assigning blame and maintaining a victim stance, is the perpetuation of our suffering- with persistent feelings of anger, frustration, and resentment.

p. 147
And the note I wrote to myself that evening reads, in part, "Finding meaning in suffering- I am learning to do without many of the things I want: Love, money, material things. It used to come easy to me, and I always wanted 'more'. I was greedy, lustful, vain, gluttonous, lazy, angry, and jealous. Now I have nothing and am doing without. My suffering is not punishment. My suffering is antidote."

Please vote on the next book I read:
The Last SamuraiMolvaniaLearning to Bow
The Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori, by Mark RavinaMolvania: A land untouched by modern dentistry, a jetlag travel guide by Santo Cilauro et al.Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan, by Bruce Feiler

Note: Voting will end at midnight July 19th.


At 8:16 AM, Blogger Badaunt said...

Molvania, because I've never heard of it and I want to learn something new.

Good stuff about suffering. The Man calls guilt 'The Great Western Disease,' and I didn't really understand what he meant until after the head injury when I was in constant pain, and one day whined, "What did I do to deserve this?"

He was shocked. "It's only pain!" he said. "It's what happens when you're alive. You do not 'deserve' it. It's just life."


After that the pain became more bearable. It still hurt just as much (i.e. way too much), but it stopped being personal.

Sometimes it's good to have a non-western viewpoint.

The history of romantic love is an interesting one, and worth looking into. It's a new idea, historically.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger tonia said...

Molvania - because I have been wanting to read it and maybe you having read it will get me off my ass to come get a personal review.

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Sass said...

Very introspective note suffering isn't always bad. Like I have said so many times before - it's not what happens to you but how you deal with it and the lessons you pull from the experience
I vote on Learning to Bow.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger tinyhands said...

Theic- Do you think The Man gave you that perspective because it's part of his Eastern upbringing or because he's particularly insightful? There were techniques in the book for dealing with physical pain, but I haven't been lucky enough to try them out (and I may still wait until I have Western medical insurance).

Tonia- Help me understand, I've had these Cheesecake Factory gift cards for months and seen you twice...

Sass- I get it, I get it. I'm a caveman, you're enlightened. What's today's lesson, sensei? ;)

At 2:38 PM, Blogger Sass said...

not a lesson but a task - all i can focus on right now is my massage this evening - trying to learn to relax when the walls are falling is easier to type than do

At 3:17 PM, Blogger Zelda said...

Maybe you should be a priest. I hear they're looking for a few good men.

At 3:23 PM, Blogger Sass said...

Me too - but with a different type of collar.

shut up sass. That was just wrong.

At 5:00 PM, Blogger mellancollyeyes said...

i really liked this post. quite a bit.

At 6:20 PM, Blogger tinyhands said...

Sass: Walls falling? I've missed something...

Z: They're looking for men who WILLINGLY take a vow of chastity, not those who have it thrust upon them. (Oh dear, don't think about 'thrusting')

Sass: I...I...I... (or maybe 'aye aye aye')

Aide: Yes

At 8:31 AM, Blogger Badaunt said...

I think it was a bit of each, plus since meeting me he'd become something of an expert on the many and varied ways there are to feel guilty when you come from a particularly extreme fundamentalist Christian upbringing. (My mother couldn't get a hangnail without engaging in extensive soul searching to find out what she'd done to deserve this punishment from God - and she always found something.)

When I met The Man, I was still feeling guilty about compelling my family to excommunicate me. I also felt guilty for making my mother feel guilty about the way she had raised me (wrongly, obviously, otherwise I would have been a good little follower and never left). It was all my fault that they had to feel bad about not having anything to do with me, you see. When The Man pointed out how ridiculous this guilt was, I also started to feel guilty about feeling guilty. I tell you, I had the guilt thing WRAPPED UP.

The Man pointed out once that pain was the fastest way to learn. I felt compelled to respond that it is also the most painful. I can't say I recommend it, but I think it worked quite well for me. I'm at the point these days where I feel guilty about not feeling guilty, which is quite a large step in the right direction.

At 7:27 PM, Blogger DeAnna said...

After learning that life is suffering, it has helped me realize that it's not just ME. We all suffer.
To suffer is to live.

I'm glad to see how much you've taken from reading that book!


At 6:37 PM, Blogger Oorgo said...

You're right De, he posts good things, I arrived here from your blog.

First time reader, many time pain bearer. I know exactly what you mean about pain and the victim. I fell into a pity spiral where because of all the painful things that happened I thought everyone should pity me and that I deserved it along with the sympathy. I also blamed God and blamed this and that, and I was angry. It wasn't religion (Christianity) that gave me answers, because they had to find meaning in the death of my son, some even said there must be a reason why it happened. How can you find a message or meaning behind something which has none?

Then I met other people who also shared the same experiences and pain and I finally realized things happen and people live on. If you dwell too much you die a little inside, your world becomes darker and less optimistic. Life is life and it continues with or without you.


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